A Family Day at the Races

The sun was shining in our albeit brief experience of summer a fortnight ago and we had some family guests over from Australia who were keen to experience some English fun and days out, so when the lovely people at Royal Ascot got in touch with us, offering us the chance to come down and experience their family fun day, we leapt at the opportunity.

IMG-20150713-WA0008Royal Ascot is an impressive structure, the kids who had been talking and jumping excitedly from the car, drew silent on arrival when they saw the big buildings and huge union jacks. It wasn’t long before they were back to leaping with excitement though when they saw all the fun on offer.

IMG-20150713-WA0050To the right of course was the family fun area which was fantastic on such a beautiful day. Included in our entrance tickets was as many goes as we liked on (obviously whilst queueing with others which naturally slowed the kids down a tad!) a giant inflatable slide, teacup waltzer, fairground swings and coconut shy. There was also a IMG-20150713-WA0059soft play corner for the little tots and a huge picnic area in the theme of Teddy Bears Picnic, with toadstool tables, giant garden beanbags and benches galore.

Also to be enjoyed around the area was a big character teddy stopping for cuddles, appearances from The Gruffalo for story time and meet and greets and even the chance to meet a retired race horse. The whole day saw me snapping photos away like a paparazzi of the kids, with so much excitement on offer that sadly I ran out of battery just as the kids got their arms around the cuddly Gruffalo strolling around. If not enough we also spotted jugglers and a man creating the most gigantic bubbles, that truly entranced the kids.

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IMG-20150713-WA0033Our absolute favourite part of the family enclosure though, was the pony rides. Eldest wasn’t too sure on a ride (after seeing a horse race, he feared they may go galloping!) but youngest was chomping at the bit! Joining the queue, she was giddy with excitement and squeals of “Horsey Pony!” A little nerves hit when she went to climb the saddle of the beautiful Samuel but after a stroke of the mane, she happily climbed aboard and loved every minute of her lap. The only tears came when she had to get off. To have the chance to let the kids experience a pony ride, all inclusive in our entrance ticket was unbelievable. We’d been wanting to get the kids on a horse for a while now but feared it may be a waste of money if they got spooked at the last minute (as eldest did!) so this was brilliant.

IMG-20150713-WA0010We had the chance to go in to the Premier area, which brings with it a dress code including jackets and ties for the men and no denim or trainers for all. Getting suited and booted for the day was great fun. These days our finery is left sat in the back of the wardrobe waiting for a wedding invitation or very occasionally a landmark birthday in the family. So we enjoyed a trip to the shop to pick out a dapper little outfit for Eldest and a dress to shin for Youngest. The beautiful Premier space also served as the perfect space for our Australian guests, who at a slightly older aged, enjoyed the chance to sit down and enjoy the races in comfort.

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IMG-20150713-WA0056Food was another favourite of the day, as we treated ourselves to a humongous portion of fish and chips each. Although that said, a 21month old, some ketchup and my finest silk dress wasn’t the greatest combination I had planned out but it certainly was tasty, as was our ice cream at the end of the day in the Picnic space.

IMG-20150713-WA0005Eldest loved watching the mechanics of the race, the horses lining up, looking at the names of all the horses in the book and giggling at some that made him laugh. He enjoyed picking the name of the one he thought may win and watching the race play out. Then going down and seeing the winning horses after a few of the races was a real hit for him too!

Ultimately the best part of the whole day though, was those working at Royal Ascot. The staff from the minute we stepped through the gates, till the moment we left were incredible to us and the children. Everywhere we went staff would stop and ask Eldest and Youngest if they were having fun and engage them in conversation. They were endlessly helpful when it came to finding our way around the course, finding baby changing and bathrooms for a toddler in a last minute toilet dash and helping our older guests who needed a little aid in some of the accessibility. Security runs the entire venue making you feel comfortable and safe as a family when there is a large amount of alcohol around, but not one of the staff were intimidating and Eldest was quite enamoured with the bowler hats they all wore.

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Ascot have more family fun planned through out the year, where children under 18 enter for free at all Ascot Racedays.: 

  • The Halloween Raceday and Firework Spectacular on Saturday 31 October
  • Christmas Racing Weekend on Saturday 19th December

There will be fairground rides, a Halloween parade and various other children’s entertainment at the October meeting whilst in December there’s plenty of festive fun including the chance to meet Father Christmas, story telling with Mrs Christmas, funfair rides, reindeer and carol singing to round off the day. All alongside the racing.

More appropriate for older families is the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup and Concert on Saturday 8th August. Where racing is followed by a free evening concert featuring Lulu, Rick Astley, Razorlight, Blue and Hayseed Dixie.

We were invited to come down an enjoy some complimentary tickets with Royal Ascot in exchange for an honest review. We send out a big thank you to all the staff at Royal Ascot for a wonderful opportunity. 

A Waste-Less Journey – Tips for battling food waste!

After seeing AO.com’s exciting campaign a Waste-Less Journey, a mission to alert people to the shocking value of food waste we are creating in Great Britain’s homes; we’ve decided to share some of our favourite waste proof recipes and tips! Check out below for what we do and be sure to share your ideas too!

More than 15 million tonnes of food is wasted in UK homes every year, most of which is still perfectly edible.

Finish the Jar 

When the mayonnaise jar has reached it’s time but there’s still some left in the crooks and crannies of the jar. Throw in a little oil, herbs, vinegar and seasoning. Shake it up to loosen up the left over mayonnaise and keep shaking till mixed and you have a lovely salad dressing.

The same can be said for the last of the Nutella jar. So add some warm milk, shake up inside the jar and it will create a lovely nutty hot chocolate or if it’s summer – throw some ice cream in and eat straight from the jar for a yummy sauce topping.

Fruit to Freezer

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 23.45.01I don’t know about your home but my kids are mad for starting an apple, banana, kiwi etc and changing their mind half way through. Throwing half a perfectly good piece of fruit away, makes me scream inside. So instead we have a smoothie bag, a large resealable freezer bag that all the half finished or on the edge of use fruit lives in, frozen and ready to use for blitzing in to a delicious smoothie or ice cream when the mood takes us!

Freezer Bags

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 23.45.56In fact, it’s not just fruit but we have freezer bags for everything. Some bread on the turn and no time to get up and feed the ducks? Whizz to a light breadcrumb and freeze for a later date (home made chicken nuggets/fish fingers are super easy to make and fun for the kids). Cheese that’s not been wrapped properly and gone hard in the fridge? Grate and again stick in a ‘cheese bag’ in the freezer, perfect for grabbing handfuls for cheese sauces and if you’ve collected a variety of cheese in the bag then even better for a deep mixed flavour for that macaroni cheese!

The UK wastes 15 million1 tonnes of food every year. This is the equivalent of throwing away one fridge load of food each and every month.

Plan Ahead Cooking

Most know that weekly food shops and meal plans can keep your shopping budget and food wastage down to a minimum. However there are many blogs and websites out there, that can help you take it a step further. The theory of ‘Once a Month’ cooking, seems full on but can in fact be a much easier and stress free process than you think. Take one day of the month and pre-bag and prepare a month’s worth of meals. These can be things along the lines of easy to freeze lasagnas, shepards pies, stews etc.

Even easier are ‘dump bags’ – way more delicious than the name implies, a load of ingredients dumped in to a freezer bag and frozen until ready to defrost and pop in the slow cooker (for 4 hours on high) or oven for 45mins. Just make sure the meat you pop in the bags is raw and never frozen prior or is already and still frozen meat. Our favourite recipe is this one below that Eldest refers to as Yummo Chicken, we typically serve this with quick cook noodles, some tender stem broccoli and a sprinkle of seasame seeds:

Yummo Chicken Freezer Dump Bag

Serves 4

4 x chicken breasts or a pack of chicken breast mini fillets
1/2 cup of tomato ketchup
1/4 cup of melted honey
1/4 cup of soy sauce
2 Tbsp of lemon juice

Mix together in the bag and freeze until ready to use. Defrost overnight and place out in a suitable dish in an oven for 45minutes until cooked through or you can decant in to a slow cooker for 4 (high) or 8 (low) hours.

Half a portion of cereal

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 23.50.12So often in our home a measly half portion of cereal finds it’s way back in to the cupboard. Too small for a bowl, it never seems to get eaten again. Asides from adding this in to the new bag, you can also use these little scraps of cereal for cooking. A handful of Special K or Bran Flakes can taste great crushed up and sprinkled over some berries and ice cream. Cornflakes make an excellent crisp crumb for a home made chicken goujon rather than a breadcrumb or try this twist for a yummy alternative to a standard chicken goujon.

Honey Mustard Cornflake Goujons

Cornflakes crushed, with a light sprinkle of slat and pepper mixed through

Honey Mustard dressing

Chicken breasts chopped down to nugget or goujon size

Cooking spray/oil spray.

Simply dip your chicken in to the honey mustard, ensuring all is covered before dipping the chicken in the crushed cornflake crumbs and again sprinkling over if needed to make sure all is covered. Pop on to a foil lined baking tray and once all are prepared, give a spritz of cooking oil and pop in to a preheated oven for 25-30mins until cooked through.

Head to ao.com now for a wealth of tips, free meal planners, freezer guidelines and recipe ideas!

Cut your cake and eat it too

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 23.51.37Once this tip was passed on to me it was like a revelation. Cake, is a favourite in our house, however no one is a huge fan when it gets a smidgen stale so this tip worked wonders. Instead of cutting a cake in to wedges to serve out, cut your cake directly across the middle in a neat half. Then work your way out from the centre of the cake evenly and pushing back together when storing. This keeps the middle beautifully fresh and moist and the life of the cake stretching much further than the usual style of serving.

Ice Cube Tray Versatility

Your ice tray is far more than a tool for hosting boring old ice.

  • Fresh herbs, great for a special dish but can often wilt before you get the chance to use them again. Well chop and freeze them with either some olive oil or melted butter for some on the go cooking portions.
  • If there’s any left over wine, pop them in the tray to freeze for a small portion to use on hand when cooking rather than opening a fresh bottle or for a really refreshing snack.
  • Pop a grape in each one to separately freeze for a wine cooler that won’t distort the taste of your drink.

Yogurt dates a go-go

If there is a few kids yogurts left with time running out to eat them in, once again the freezer is your friend. Stick lolly sticks through and freeze in the pots for mini kids ice lollies in the summer. Or if it’s the tube style packets, freeze and then pop in lunchbags to defrost by lunchtime and act as a cooler keep food cold through the morning.

Iffitt

A term passed down to our family from my in laws. Iffitt, is a dinner that basically translates to “If it is in the fridge, it’s being cooked” This is a meal often cooked the night before the weekly food shop and sees me throwing together anything that may be left in there. It’s created some wonderful concoctions, but often it’s cooked up and served in a fun buffet style. The kids love being able to pick and choose what they fancy and I love that the food doesn’t go to waste just because it doesn’t necessarily make a traditional meal.

The Waste-less Journey has been created by AO.com.

#WastelessJourney

Alfie Outdoors

Alfie Outdoors continues to extend Shirly Hughes literary legendary status even further. The connection to Alfie’s joyful character is still as relative to children today as it was 34 years ago, in his first appearance.

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The summer seems to have made a swift departure just in time for the school holidays and this weekend saw an unbelievable amount of rain hit our doorsteps. We were cooped up in the gloomy rain and boredom was looming, however there was one shining beacon of excitement for the family in store. We’d been sent a copy of the brand new release from literature superstar Shirley Hughes and none other than from Eldest’s all time favourite book series, Alfie.

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Eldest finding out what his surprise was!

Aflie made an appearance in Eldest’s life roughly two years ago, just before he went from being Only to Eldest. When I had spotted ‘Annie Rose is my little Sister’ as being a good read for a big brother about to be on the receiving end of a little sister, I snapped it up. Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 22.01.44

Ever since that book, which swept Eldest into a swirl of imagination and feelings of kinship with Alfie (and that beautiful last line of Annie Rose is my little sister, which always makes me shed a tear) Alfie has been a constant in our family life. Book sets for birthdays, Christmas, special treats, you name it – Alfie is the number one choice in our house, so this new release was a real treat.

Alfie Outdoors once again stole our hearts and imaginations. As always the book softly weaves through the story and comes and goes in to different areas of their lives but always keeps a tight grip on my toddler’s attention.

Shirley Hughes has a way with words that have a superb poetic quality, bringing a beautiful descriptive to the setting scene. You can almost feel the early morning air surrounding you as it does Alfie on the opening page. 20150724_132022

This story focuses on Alfie exploring the garden and his adventures in growing his own vegetables and a special visit to the goat sanctuary. Once again Eldest felt Alfie was in fact living the same path as his own, as it had only been the month before we’d been digging up the end of our garden for play space and planting pots and growing blueberries. On top of this, Alfie’s relationship with his favourite goat from the sanctuary was a reflection of Eldest on our family holiday to a farm in Cornwall in June, where he had built up a loving fondness of a cheeky goat called Midnight.

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Edlest and Youngest feeding their beloved goat Midnight

The illustrations as always are beautiful enough to be hung on the wall and as a special treat the last pages of the book featured an illustrative calendar of Alfie’s year outdoors. This was great fun for Eldest and Youngest to point to each month and spot what Alfie and Annie Rose were up to.

So far we’ve been in possession of the book 5 short days and the book has been read I would say roughly 4 times a day if not including the half pick ups here and there.

Alfie Outdoors continues to extend Shirly Hughes literary legendary status even further. The connection to Alfie’s joyful character is still as relative to children today as it was 34 years ago, in his first appearance.

This is another timeless classic to join the others on our Shirley Hughes shelf of the bookcase!

Alfie Outdoors is published on the 30th of July and is available on Amazon here.

We were kindly sent a copy of Alfie Outdoors in return for an honest review of the book. We are extremely grateful for this wonderful opportunity and thank all involved. 

Summer Holiday Camps across Berkshire 2015

The countdown to the Summer Holidays have begun and with spaces snapping up quickly across the county for Holiday Camps, we thought we would round up and share some of the best listings on our site:

SUMMER HOLIDAY FUN at KOOSA

With 4 locations across Berkshire this summer (Woodley, 2 x Bracknell and Ascot), Koosa certainly have you covered. Their listing includes exciting new additions such as “Special Activity Days, Weekly Themes & Fancy Dress Days” and mentions Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 20.49.02“KOOSA Kids will be delivering an action-packed programme of themed indoor and outdoor activities, including the Olympics and Wet n Wild Days, getting crazily creative with activities such as Cardboard City and Art Attack as well as a whole host of other exciting and challenging activities and games in the Endeavour and Discovery Zones.”

KOOSA are Ofsted approved and are suitable for children aged 4-13 years. Their hours are: Standard Day 10am-4pm, Extended Days from 8.15am-6pm. Holiday Fun from £19.25, 8% discount when booking full week, 3rd child goes free.

For full listing and contact details please visit here.

Claires Court Holiday Activities – Holiday Club and Sports Club

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 20.57.52This fun and affordable childcare option looks great for those in and around Maidenhead. The listing mentions: “For children aged 3 to 12… we provide quality childcare during the holidays that include a daily packed programme of sport, art, craft and specialist activities with a range of significant learning opportunities provided by outstanding carers and staff.” 

Their hours are: Standard Day 9am to 4pm, Extended 8am to 6pm. Full listing and contact details can be found here.

Circus Week at Norden Farm

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 21.00.43Despite this only running for a week, we couldn’t help but add this
thrilling option in to the mix. Held at Norden Farm, children have the chance to learn “Incredible circus skills and performing. Stilt walk, ride a unicycle, perform on a trapeze and walk the tightrope!” 

Running hours are: 10am – 4pm. For full listing please visit here.

Coding, Electronics and Minecraft

Summer camps are often sports themed but for some this can be far from the preferred option. If your child’s a whizz at the keyboard and would feel more at home doing coding, then don’t forget to check out the variety of week long courses being held by FireTechCamp over at Reading university this summer.

The listing mentions “Under the close mentorship of expert tutors, students will engineer their own original work, designing games, building custom projects and upgrading their digital skills in a fun and supportive environment.

The following courses are on offer: Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 21.03.28
*Hardware and Electronics with Arduino
*Coding Games with Java
*Teen Coding with Python
*Minecraft Maker
*Video Game Design”

For the full listing, please visit here.

Kings Camp Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 21.11.00

However if sports are definitely the winning choice for your family then Kings Camp are one of the best around. Kings Camp are hosting two venues around Reading this summer and their listing states “Kings Camps run during school holidays and are suitable for children aged 4-17 years. Choose from flexible daily or week packages, with extended hours also available.”

For the full listing, please visit here.

Bliss at Bluestone: Our Review, continued…

The Village

After a much more rested sleep on the second night, we had a slower start to the morning. Eldest played with his new birthday toys and Youngest tried to run off with them all. The clever living space had two very large sofas around a coffee table and a television with freeview and guest info. Then off of this was a nook with a third smaller sofa and coffee table. This great layout meant we were able to create a little toy/play area off the centre of the lounge and keep all the new lego and wooden cars under control in the living space.

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 10.25.47Mid morning we headed off in to the Village. We had popped here briefly on the arrival day to collect some supplies and then to have dinner and Kids Hour but this was our first chance to have a good old snoop.

The Village Shop was lovely and had everything you might need (or might have forgotten to bring!) The nicest touch we found was that there were the big brands etc but when it came to the sausages, eggs and other fresh produce, they were all local suppliers and brands and they were delicious too. Off the Village shop is an off licence with a healthy selection of drinks, whatever you taste.

Also in the Village there was a toy shop, clothes shop and arcade games room. The Oakhouse Restaurant (which we sadly didn’t get to try with our jam packed visit) and the pub The Knights Tafarn. There was also a lovely bakery/coffee shop with fresh bread, cakes and pastries.

Outdoor Play and Tree House Park

SignThroughout the entire stay at Bluestone, enjoying the landscape is encouraged. Even little signs dotted about the resort make sure you know it is OK to run, jump and roll around in the fun their nature has on offer.

Despite the electric buggies you can hire to get around the resort, the fact the site was car free meant we felt at completely at ease to just let the kids enjoy themselves running around, rolling down giant hills and exploring what mini beasts may be lurking under shrubs and leaves. We even encountered a small cute long bodied creature whizzing across a path to the woods that I can’t say I have ever seen before, we think it was a stoat but being so nippy we never got a good chance to get a good look!

Outdoors

Aside from all play that can be done across the greens in Bluestone, there is also a fantastic chance for children to enjoy a more rustic and natural play frame in the Treehouse Park just off the Village. This brilliant play space kept our two entertained for well over an hour and a half (and they still had to be dragged away home for Youngest’s nap time!) The park has slides and tunnels but a variety of climbing and balancing pathway obstacles to get about and through.

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 10.26.02It is conveniently located not too far from the bakery, meaning my husband was ushered off to collect the coffees to enjoy whilst we watched the children play before getting stuck in ourselves!

Booked Activities/Messy Play

Messy CollageBeing our first trip to Bluestone and wanting to really explore the site for the review, we didn’t book in too many activities bar the Messy Play session. This fun activity was themed around a clowns birthday party and featured several sensory tables full of fun mess for the kids to really explore. Eldest and Youngest were both swayed by the ‘cake’ table, piled with cake dough, cocoa powder, sprinkles, mini marshmallows and flour, all for them to get their hands in and mix about. There was also face painting and balloon modelling happening too! A jam packed hour that we thought was great fun.

We booked this session in before we arrived at Bluestone on their simple and easy to use pre-booking system. Before your holiday begins, you’re invited to log on and browse the activities, spa treatments and meal bookings and purchase these prior to arrival if you want to. For us this meant we knew financially where we stood on the trip as dinners we’d prepaid for via this booking system and it made things simple to manage budget wise. You can still book in to any of the activities once at Bluestone if you prefer, by the visiting the manned desks in the centres or via the phone line on site. Another bonus feature is you can pre-book essentials to be in your lodge upon arrival or for continental breakfasts to arrive to your lodge if you’re not feeling up to cooking!

Woodie’s Wild Café and the Woody Wild Dinner Show

Woody treeThis was our final pre-booked activity/meal and I think a real highlight for the kids. Set in the brilliant Woodie’s Wild Cafe, which brings an enchanted forest style to a restaurant setting, is a live show for little ones. After being shown to your balloon adorned table, they start by inviting  all the children to come and sit on a huge pile of cushion in front of the stage, whilst Leaf the elf reads them all a story.

WoodyI believe there are 4 stories that get rotated through but our story was about Busby the Bee. The children sat entranced in the story and then were all off across the other side of the room to meet Buzby himself! There were some games and dancing with Leaf and Buzby before the platters of dinner arrived.

This was easy going children dining that I think even the fussiest of eaters would be happy with. Despite it’s simplicity, it was as always still very tasty. A big tray of chip, chicken goujons, corn on the cobs, Buzbysausages and baked beans were brought out for each family to enjoy. Then a scoop of ice cream and chocolate sauce for the kids and a brownie for the adults desert. After the meal, a little more dancing with Buzby before they had a chance to take a photo with him and then enjoy a blast of every pre-teens favourite Let it Go, fake snow included!

Circus Room

CircusRoomThis was the hidden gem for little ones at Bluestone. Upstairs in the adventure centre is the Circus Room. After asking on the front desk just what this was, we discovered it was a huge play space and soft play for under 5’s. This gorgeous room was very calm (as we were only one of 2 families in there!) but offered great fun for both Eldest and Youngest. There were rolling ramps, sensory tubes, smaller soft play frames and lots of fun circus themed touches likes tents.

Leaving Day

Cars are allowed back down to the lodges on the transfer day, so we got ours down promptly first thing Monday morning. Thankfully leaving day was the only day we had any rotten weather and so whilst a soggy one, packing the car up was still an easy process. You are asked to check out by 10am but that doesn’t mean you have to be off site at this time. Before checking out (simply dropping your key card through the letterbox on the way out and leaving your car back in the car park) we stopped by the Village to grab some chocolatey goodies for the grandparents and some mini bug viewers for the kids friends. By this point Eldest was quite tearful, he asked if he could please live in Preseli View Bluestone for ever, so to distract him and to enjoy every last minute of our trip we headed off once more to the Blue Lagoon. This was a great thing to do as the Blue Lagoon also has it’s own car park so it meant we could splash, exhaust the kids once more and load us all straight in for the journey home.

Our trip

The Bluestone park had so much more to offer than we even had a chance to experience. There were adventures like the zip wires, climbing walls and high ropes for older children. So many more activities to book in to that I couldn’t possibly list (although the adorable miniature 4×4 driving experience caught my eye for when eldest is 6!) and I didn’t even get a chance to try out the spa. I never encountered one staff member without a pleasant exchange and they seemed genuinely happy to offer help at any opportunity.

Whilst we were out watching the watermill at the Smokey Joe’s Shindig, a little girl and her dad were chatting next to us. The little girl had yawned and seeing this her dad asked if she was all worn out. This had upset her and she was promising that no, she wasn’t worn out. The dad reassured her being worn out wasn’t a bad thing and when asked what he meant, he said “It’s means you’ve had so much fun, more than you can fit in and more than you can possibly think of” That sweet exchange made me smile as it was true for us too. Our 4 days in Bluestone had been more fun than we could’ve possibly thought of.

If there was any lasting assurance that these opinions are all genuine and our feelings for Bluestone weren’t prompted by their generous offer of the stay, I should say that we’ve already booked to go back (using the Mumsnet Local discount of course!! Get yours with the link below, plus the chance to win one of 40 holidays on offer.) We’ve squeezed in another 4 day trip in early September before Eldest begins big school and we’re bound to holiday time tables forever more. So if you’re looking for fun for the little, not so little and big ones that is an easy drive from Berkshire, try out Bluestone. I have a feeling it is to be a family  favourite for us for years to come!

Win 1 of 40 holidays and grab a £25 discount code for Bluestone holidays: http://local.mumsnet.com/Talk/local_reading/2392441-WIN-1-of-40-breaks-at-Bluestone-National-Park-Resort

It is with much thanks to Bluestone for this wonderful opportunity to stay at their resort in an exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. Photos are not to be copied or used for any purpose outside this review. 

Bliss at Bluestone: Our Review

I’m sure you’ve heard us excitedly jumping up and down and repeatedly sharing the brilliant competition and fab discount on offer from Bluestone in Pembrokeshire, Wales on the sites and across our social media over the last few weeks (or if you’ve been hiding under a Mumsnet Berks shaped rock this last month then here is the link giving you a chance to win 1 of 40 holidays with Bluestone and every entrant also receives a £25 discount when booking! http://local.mumsnet.com/Talk/local_reading/2392441-WIN-1-of-40-breaks-at-Bluestone-National-Park-Resort)

Well the lovely people of Bluestone kindly offered my family and I the opportunity to come over and see why this is really quite an amazing competition and enjoy a little time over a long weekend in their beautiful holiday village!

Arriving

Arrival was such a smooth operation that left us hugely impressed. The journey from the centre of Reading took just over 3 hours. A shockingly easy journey of getting on the M4, staying on and just heading West and sure enough finding ourselves in the stunning landscape of Pembrokeshire.

The children had slept most of the drive but having woken up 10minutes prior to arrival, Eldest was almost shaking with excitement. Of course in road trip fashion, he also needed a wee. So we needed haste as we checked in, and we needn’t of worried. As you arrive, you reach an island of pull up windows where a friendly member of staff checks you in, gives you a wallet of information, keys and details where to go.

Phew, checked in under 5 minutes and able to whizz Eldest to the toilet before things got messy. The lovely lady at the check in desk was also kind enough to chat to Eldest too through the whole experience, she was clearly well versed in excited toddler!

Accommodation

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 16.30.44Many sequels of delight came from me and my husband as well as the kids as we reached the beautiful lodge that was to be ours for the 4 days. Number 6 Preseli View was a Dinas. One of the 9 varieties of lodge on offer at Bluestone, the Dinas had 4 generous sized bedrooms (two twins and two doubles). There was a shower room, a traditional bathroom and then a gigantic living space, plus an outdoor area.

The kitchen was crisply clean and loaded with all the equipment a family could need. It’s listed as a self catering break but from my previous experience of self catering this went well and beyond. Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 09.20.49The lodge was stocked with ample toilet rolls, a kitchen goody bag (including a mini washing up liquid, 3 dishwasher tablets, new cleaning cloth and replacement bin bags), every bed had sumptuous bed linen and pair of fluffy towels too.

Adventure Centre

We enjoyed the treat of an early check in (1pm vs the traditional 4pm) and so once our bags were dropped off and car returned to the car park (Bluestone operates a no car policy around the resort, allowing you to enjoy the freedom of the site safely. Disabled badge holders are the only exception to this rule) we set off on our exploration.

AdventureCentre

There was no slowing the kids down, they were dead set on the adventure centre and so that is where we headed first. If there was ever to be an overwhelming start to a holiday, this was it – the adventure centre had it all! Mini golf, an arcade, a lego wall and tables, soft play, slides, bouncy castle… I could go on. Upstairs was the WildWood Cafe and the Circus Room (which I’ll return to later!) Also in this venue was rooms for many of the booked activities for later in your stay.

The facilities were fab. Clean, safe and plenty of sofas for when a rest and drink was called for!

Kids Hour and Dinner in the Village

After wearing the children out in the adventure centre, we headed to the Kids Hour. This was down in the village centre, in a central marque. Two of the happiest ladies I have ever encountered, mesmerised the kids and got them all dancing and jumping about to fun music and games, whilst parents had a chance to sit back and relax with a drink at the benches. Sadly our two only managed half the session before weariness kicked in and we decided we better go and eat before they crashed out. Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 23.40.57

We headed over to the Farmhouse Grill in the village. We hadn’t booked but this wasn’t an issue. The food was actually incredible (I’m not blogger gushing here, it was amazing. I am still craving some of the beef grilled skewers with the garlic and herb sauce over chunky chips!) The staff were lovely and didn’t even bat an eyelid when a bizarre request for some grated cheese came from the toddlers came during their meal. They simply returned a moment later with a pot of cheese to a round of applause from the kids. They understood the often fraught dining experience with toddlers and offered to bring the kids meals out as soon as possible and then gave the children their scoops of ice cream whilst we finished our dinners that had arrived a little later. When Youngest began to fall asleep in her pudding, we headed off quick back to the lodge.

Blue Lagoon

We had an awful nights sleep. This however had nothing to do with Bluestone’s luxuriously plump beds nor the deceptively thin but brilliant blackout curtains keeping dawn light at bay. No, the awful night’s sleep came from Eldest. The Saturday morning was his 4th Birthday and to which he was keen to begin celebrating at frequent points through out the night.

BirthdayOnce we were eagerly parted from the comfort of the beds, all the presents and cards had been opened and a birthday breakfast feast tucked in to, we asked Eldest what he would like to do for his big birthday. This was not a tricky question for him, as he had had his eyes on the Blue Lagoon in the brochure since the moment we knew we were visiting.

We’re luckier than some to have adventure pools like those in Windsor and Bracknell at our doorsteps in Berkshire, but this was by far one of the best pools I had been to with small children. To lead the way, there was ample family changing and all of which we encountered were spotlessly clean.

There was a generous sized main pool with a beach like sloping entrance, a fun infants rock pool with interactive play spaces, a deeper interactive splash zone, flume slides, a wave machine and a lazy river to enjoy. Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 09.35.10The flumes are fairly strict and operate a 1.1m height policy even for those riding on laps. This was something we knew about prior to the stay and ensured not to get Eldest excited about. It wasn’t an issue however as he was in love with the splash zone and pumping the teetering buckets to tip over my head at any opportunity, the forbidden flumes never even received a backwards glance.

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 09.36.14Youngest was a joy scampering about in the rock pools but her affections lay with the lazy river. A soft current drifting you round a path that goes outside and under a few splashing pipes. Armbands on, her swimming confidence soared as she held my hands and followed me round in the flow of the water.

The pools are open from 9am for guests and then open publicly at 11am for nearby residents too. Whilst this sounds like a short amount of time, there was no great stampede at 11am of local residents, so it was never anything we felt pressured about arriving at 9am for.

Smokey Joes Shindig

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 09.43.52This was one of the activities we had booked in online prior to our arrival. The online description is: “Let your wild side loose as you blow the leaves off the trees and party under the stars joining Smokey Joe in his woodland camp for a table topping, foot stomping knees up!” Which we decided sounded perfect for a (noisy!) little boy’s birthday dinner!

Smokey'sDown at the base of the Steep Ravine and the zip wires, is a fun BBQ ranch style restaurant. The shindig was a brilliant live music, family friendly BBQ meal that was an incredible way to celebrate Eldest’s birthday. The music does get loud though, it wasn’t an issue for our two (Eldest even dozed off at one point, despite our table being in the front of the stage!) but it might not be suitable for tinies or toddlers who don’t favour big noises.

The food was once again delicious, a giant plate of a burger, pulled pork, BBQ beans, salad and chicken skewers kept the family very happy. Then a scrummy apple crumble style cake for pudding. The beautiful surrounds of the woodlands fascinated the kids. They decided a troll lived under the trip trap bridge over the stream and were entranced by the movement and noise from the working watermill.

BLuestoneWalking home to the lodge that evening was breathtaking. The landscape of Bluestone is truly beautiful and seeing it at dusk was gorgeous. The rolling hills with charming glowing lodges nestled in and huge green expanses, I felt like I could be a million miles away, not just 3 hours from Reading.

 

bluestonedusk

…. Part 2 of our Bluestone Review to follow soon.

Celebrating as our blog grows!

As we celebrate Mumsnet Reading and Berkshire now coming under the same Editorship, we have decided to relaunch this as a combined blog, offering all the fun to be had and found in Berkshire as well as Reading. However our site address remains the same http://www.mumsnetreading.com

If you would like to get in touch about starring in our blog, please do email us on berkshire.reading@mumsnetlocal.com and we would be happy to discuss our exciting opportunities.

Realistic family meals – quick, healthy and for everyone!

It’s mid-week and by now the evening meal plan can have gone a bit awry! Not a problem as local super mummy, Mummy Nutter Cooks, a fantastic vlogger of all things tasty has created a brilliant midweek life saver just for us to share with you! So do stop by and follow Faith and enjoy some of her incredible recipes.

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Mealtimes for busy families can be a struggle. If you need inspiration for quick, healthy meals/snacks and freezer meals check out my you tube channel (mummynuttercooks).

These are recipes that I cook everyday after work for my two little boys (3 and 1 year old) and one big boy (35!). I’m not a chef/cook but am quite organised so thought i’d share my routine with other like minded families to help ease the load! Tonight’s dinner is Monday Macaroni Cheese! http://youtu.be/kFAf3xWJyL4?ac

Would love to hear comments or suggestions so get in touch on youtube or twitter @mummynuttercook, happy eating! Faith xx

Win a Child’s Farm Rucksack of Goodies

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Happy skin means happy kids (and parents too).

Childs Farm uses natural ‘free-from’ ingredients and essential oils to produce a range of mild, kind and delicious-smelling toiletries that care for the hair and skin of newborns, babies and children.

We are one of very few baby and child ranges that undergo clinical and controlled user trials. These certify that our products are dermatologically tested and approved, and paediatrician approved, as suitable for newborns and children with sensitive and eczema-prone skin.

Unlike other products for sensitive skin, the Childs Farm range smells so delicious and looks so cool in the bathroom, that every child will want to use it. Its natural ingredients are gentle yet super-effective at doing their job of cleaning and moisturising. This means that families no longer have to buy different toiletries to care for the different skin needs of their children, and that little ones with sensitive or eczema-prone skin will never again be left out of bath-time fun.

In a recent user trial, 98% of parents of babies with eczema said they would recommend our products to other parents of children with sensitive skin. Bath time is good clean fun for everyone with Childs Farm.

Backpack prize v2.2 Banner

Back Pack retail value of over £70 it contains our award winning Shampoo, Conditioner, 3in1 Swim, Hair and Body Wash, Hand and Body Lotion, Hand Wash, Detangler Spray, Nappy Cream, Top-totosie cleaning kit and our Childs Farm colouring book, coloured pencils and cap.

To have several chances to win, just follow this link to a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and Conditions: 

All entries to be in by 12am 30.01.2015. The editor retains the right to redraw the prize should the winners fail to respond to our email within 36 hours of the competitions end date. Please see this link for full T&C’s.

Water Babies Berkshire

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Hi, I’m Kate and I work for Water Babies Berkshire. We cover both Berkshire and North Hampshire and currently swimming in 23 venues with a few new ones looking good for next term!

I’m passionate about Water Babies and first heard about it when my Mum bought my little boy, then only 10 months, a term of swimming for his birthday. We started swimming and loved it so much that we asked for vouchers for Christmas presents so we continued onto our second term. My little boy is now three and a half and is still enjoying swimming with Water Babies. The added bonus is that through his swimming I heard about a job opening, applied and now I’ve been here six months!

Water Babies has given us both great water confidence, they actually teach you as the parent to teach your baby to swim. We are a family value-based company and embrace every child that swims with us. We understand that children learn at different speeds and our lessons are taught in stages over a ten week period to encourage all children to move along at the same level. Rebooking for your next term is so easy, if you wish to continue in your class for the following term you don’t even need to remember to rebook since we automatically do this for you!

Kate & Josseph March 2014Water Babies has given me a wonderful bond with my son; he loves messing around with Daddy in the pool but Mummy is for lessons and “proper swimming”! I can actually say, that out of all the baby clubs and courses you do as a parent (and I was lucky enough to stay at home with my son from birth to three) Water Babies was THE best thing that I did with him. Not only did I get lots of cuddles with him in the pool and afterwards to for our “ahem” afternoon nap, but it’s given him a vital life-saving skill. He knows what to do if he falls into water and he is able to swim to the surface, turn himself around, get to the side and hold on! This to me is one of the best gifts he has been given. I wish I had done the same with my twin daughters when they were little.

Water Babies sets your child on a journey which takes them right up until they start school. After that we are lucky enough to be able to refer our little swimmers onto another swim school. Our terms run over 10 weeks during term time only, meaning that swimming does not interfere with your family holidays. At the end of each term we hold an underwater photo shoot, which gives you as a parent the amazing opportunity not only to have an eleventh lesson but to get a forever keepsake of your time at Water Babies. Your little one will never be that small again and seeing them underwater is an amazing experience. We set up a full underwater studio, including a backdrop and lighting and use some great professional photographers that are amongst the best in their field. We always aim to get you at least one fantastic shot however most parents get at least 12 amazing pictures to choose from.

We offer a beginners package, consisting of your first ten weeks of swimming and an automatic place on one of our shoots. All our swimmers are required to wear a neoprene nappy in the pool which we call Happy Nappys. These help to keep the pool safe from any little accidents that might happen during your lesson. These can be bought directly from us at Water Babies when you book on or online from our website www.waterbabies.co.uk. Babies can start with us at any age. We offer hydro pools for those under 12 pounds or 12 weeks old and all of our other pools are heated to at least 30 degrees making them lovely to swim in. Having tried a few out now myself, I can actually say that.

Claire-6548_008-LDN_1841.jpgThe best bit now! We are taking bookings for beginners on Tuesday 13th January for our February term which starts w/c Monday 9th February. All you have to do is call us on 01256 844926 on the 13th and we can find you and your little one the most suitable class for you and get you booked on our next course.
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Please feel free to follow us on Twitter and Facebook you can find us at

https://twitter.com/WBBerkshire

https://www.facebook.com/WaterBabiesBerkshire

 

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Mumsnet Cheshire Blog

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JACK MONROE: COOK, CAMPAIGNER, GUARDIAN COLUMNIST, MOTHER, AUTHOR, ETC.

Winner of the... Women of the Year Enterprise award. Observer Food Monthly Award for Best Food Blog. Marie Claire Woman At The Top award. Fortnum & Mason Food And Drink Award. YMCA Courage & Inspiration Award. Red Magazine's Red Hot Women Award. #17 Independent On Sundays Pink List 2013. And the 100m race when I was about, seven...

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