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.