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Educational Play with Schleich I'm a big fan of learning through play. Unforced educational play. I'm not a teacher and I don't want to be. I want my children to naturally learn whilst they are having fun. When I was contacted recently...

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Say Eh-Oh to the new Teletubbies toys! There back!! Teletubbies made a joyous return to CBeebies last year, and this year marks the launch of the new range of toys. As you know I was sent a box just before Christmas, and today I can finally...

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Travel: Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough Last weekend Nana and I took a rather lengthy journey north for a night away at the Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in Scarborough, with Little Dude in tow. The Ox Pasture Hall Hotel is a luxurious country hotel...

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A Place To Enjoy My Garden I love my garden. I love the fact that I have a garden, especially with the recent gorgeous weather we've been having. Whilst I have a pretty compact garden, there's a lot going on out there. Plants, fruit...

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Cuddles With Ben Cohen Some days I have a really difficult job. Days like this for example. *Ahem* That rather nice young man is former rugby player Ben Cohen. Ben is a bit of an expert when it comes to cuddles. He has...

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Review: The World Of Beatrix Potter, Bowness-On-Windermere

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Days Out, Holiday, Product Reviews, Travel | Posted on 19-09-2013

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No trip to Cumbria would be complete without a visit to The World Of Beatrix Potter, a delightful attraction in Bowness-On-Windermere all about the counties most famous and much loved resident. We were given free entry to the exhibition, but when you read on you won’t be surprised to learn that we returned again during our stay in the area as Little Man loved it so much.

From the outside the venue looks small but it is so well laid out they fit a wealth of information and entertainment in there. Your journey begins with a short film, less than 5 minutes long, talking about Beatrix and the books she wrote. Familiar images appear on the screen and even Little Man was transfixed. Upon ending a door opens as if by magic and you enter the World of Beatrix Potter. Beautifully set out you walk down a path where along the way you meet many well known characters from the books. There are also touchscreens where you can learn more about each book – available in 9 languages – which Little Man did enjoy poking. He merrily walked through the world looking at characters, pointing out animals he recognised, and waving at most of them as he went by.
Peter Rabbit was of course the most prominent character throughout, but you’ll also find Pigling Bland, Jemima Puddleduck, Jeremy Fisher, my favourite Miss Tiggywinkle, and many many more. The whole attraction is beautifully created and a paradise for fans young and old.

Despite the size of the attraction they have even managed to fit in a garden outside, just like Mr McGregor’s. Plants, vegetables and flowers are set about in a lovely compact garden complete with the famous scarecrow made from Peter’s blue jacket and a commemorative statue featuring the famous rabbit and his friends. Keep your eyes open for Mr McGregor though – you never know when he might pop up and find you.

Wandering back inside you continue though the displays before you reach a larger room which tells you more about the life of Beatrix Potter, where she lived and how she fell in love with Cumbria. There are yet more great interactive areas, include a large touch screen table where you can colour in drawings of the characters, and a large wall screen which is controlled by a small touch screen nearby. This takes you on a virtual walk through the much loved parts of the Lake District where Beatrix’s books were set or where she got her inspiration from. You get to see her home there – Hill Top Farm (a National Trust site now which you can visit) – and the stunning surrounding areas. There is also another short film to enjoy as well as plenty details about her long life and the people who appeared in it.

A final walk past yet more models and displays brings you out in the gift shop. It is incredibly well stocked with books, DVDs, ornaments and toys featuring most of the characters you’ve just met. Admittedly its a little on the pricey side – Little Man’s new Peter Rabbit toy cost £14.99 which seemed a tad steep – but its not wholly unexpected. Entry into the attraction itself is great value for money – just £6.95 per adult and £3.65 for over 3’s – so there’s enough left for a little souvenir.

Once you’ve visited the attraction it is suggested you pop downstairs to the tea room. We didn’t do this on our first visit as we had so much to do, but on our return we started out trip with lunch in the tea rooms. It is family friendly of course, with a child’s lunch box available which is always a winner with Little Man. Its very well priced – my High Tea consisted of sandwiches, scone with jam and cream, two small cakes and a pot of tea for just under £8 – and everything we had was delicious and freshly made to order. A great treat.

The World of Beatrix Potter is a wonderful attraction for all ages which even Daddy was happy to do twice in three days. A well organised and well thought out site for fans young and old. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Travel: The Quiet Site, Cumbria

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Camping, Holiday, Information, Product Reviews | Posted on 18-09-2013

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Camping isn’t something we’ve really done as a family. We did a short break in a Yurt earlier this year, but that had luxuries like real beds and a fully working kitchen nearby. Proper camping with air beds, stoves and trips to the toilet block isn’t something we’ve ever considered doing since Little Man’s arrival. Now he’s almost 3 we decided to brave it – sort of – with a trip to Cumbria and a four night stay at the award winning The Quiet Site, just near Ullswater. Situated a short drive from junction 40 of the M6, The Quiet Site is a family run campsite in a truly beautiful part of the country. Set beneath the hills and overlooking Lake Ullswater the site accommodates caravans, motor homes, and tents, and has two cottages available to rent as well as several camping pods. Daniel and the team at The Quiet Site provided us with four nights accommodation in one of their rather unique camping pods, and this is how we got on.

This is what greeted us at the end of our rather long journey north, and after we’d wiggled our way down a narrow country lane and checked in at the site shop. Looks a bit like a shed doesn’t it? Well to all intents and purposes, that’s kind of what it is. Built by a company based within the Lake District itself, the pods are insulated wooden buildings with a carpeted floor space of approximately seven square meters. They claim to be ideally sized for two adults, or even two adults and two children. I must say I thought they looked ample for the three of us, but after we’d unloaded all are stuff, I became a tad concerned! After a couple of days we concluded that the pod would be fine if only we were a little tidier/more organised/less chaotic. There is a roller blind which closes over the doors, a curtain over the small window at the back so its properly dark when you close them and a small shelf with a lamp and small heater just inside the door a long with 1 spare plug socket. Other than that, you’re on your own.

We were very happy in ours, despite our own chaos levels. Our double air bed fit neatly alongside Little Man’s air bed, but to be honest I wouldn’t have like to fit anyone else in there with us. The pods were clean upon arrival, and perfectly warm enough at night. Daddy even complained one night that he was “too hot”. The decking area was nice and big and would have been ideal for sitting on in the evenings if we hadn’t been so tired from our busy days, and it hadn’t rained quite so much. There was a spot by each pod for your barbecue if you had one, but we put our gas stove beneath the roof overhang when we cooked or made cups of tea. The pods are basic, but are effectively wooden tents so you can’t expect mod cons. We would perhaps have liked a large pod and a smaller decking area, but to be honest I think we just need to be more organised in future with our stuff. The site claims to have free wifi in “some areas” and it was intermittent in our pod. I got the best wifi signal in the toilet block to be honest!

Site facilities are very impressive. There is a small shop with a good selection of goods from food, drinks, toiletries and little bits you might have forgotten. For anything major though you’ll need a trip to the nearest town. Prices are reasonable enough and the staff are all very friendly and helpful. Outside the shop is a covered area with a few fridges, freezers and microwaves. We stored our milk in those during the day and overnight, ensuring we could have cereal and cups of tea as and when we wanted. There is a large toilet block split into Ladies and Gents. The ladies room had several toilet cubicles – two of which had basins in them as well – a selection of separate basins, and a row of shower cubicles. These are free to use – rare in campsites – and have an endless supply of hot water. There’s a small partition which you can stash your clothes and towels behind to prevent them getting wet, and when you’re done there are a couple of small free to use hairdryers as well. The ultimate highlights of the toilet block though are the two family bathrooms. Two rooms with toilets, basins and BATHS in – perfect for campers with small children. We used the rooms a few times and Little Man enjoyed nice warm baths before bed. Again all these rooms were clean and well maintained, and the constant hot water was a joy.

The site also boasts plenty of sinks for washing your dishes, multiple water points, a children’s play area with wooden play house, recycling facilities and a designated dog walking field. The most popular part of the site though, is The Quiet Bar. A barn which was converted to a bar in the 1950’s it has to be one of the best campsite bars around. Traditionally decorated and with some very comfy seats made from old barrels its a great place to chill out at the end of a busy day walking and seeing the sites of Cumbria. Not only that but there is a room upstairs with comfy seats and a large soft play area for the children and another play house. Now the bar only opens at 7pm and so this indoor play area is only accessible from then on which could be a bit of a problem if your children tend to be in bed by then. For us it was great, as it meant Little Man could have a last chance to burn of any energy whilst we enjoyed a drink before heading back to our pod. The bar is really reasonably priced, and for the older children and adults there’s an attached games and TV room.

If you are planning a camping holiday to Cumbria I cannot recommend The Quiet Site highly enough. If you’re not planning a trip to Cumbria, do so now. And if all that isn’t enough to convince you, how’s about this for a view.

Travel: The Volvo V60

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Camping, Product Reviews, Travel | Posted on 16-09-2013

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We are just returned from a week away in Cumbria. If you’ve been following me on Twitter you’ll be aware that its been a very busy and packed week visiting lots of tourist spots across the county from our based beside Ullswater. There’s going to be a series of posts on our week away, but first up is my review of the transport we had to get around.

You’ll remember a few weeks ago I borrowed a Volvo V70 for a few days, driving it to Longleat with my family, and then down to Southampton before my trip over to Cowes. Well for my camping adventure to Cumbria the team at Volvo sent me a V60 to use.

I was sent the V60 D2 Business Edition which comes with a built in sat nav, Bluetooth connectivity, six speed gearbox, rear parking sensors, and has no road tax to pay. It’s a diesel engine with amazing fuel consumption and low emissions, so is ideally suited to long journeys. During the course of the 10 days we had the car for we did 1100+ miles so this was the perfect car from that point of view. It was also incredibly comfortable which was essential as we spent many hours in it driving up and down the country, and we found the sat nav indispensable for getting us from attraction to attraction. The car was incredibly responsive whilst being steered on the roads and hills throughout Cumbria, and I felt like the tyres were gripping the road the entire time. The area has a lot of single track roads with passing points and lots of steep hills to go up and down. I always felt totally in control of the car which is of the utmost importance when you’re travelling with your child in the car. The automatic windscreen wipers and headlights also meant I just had to focus on driving.

Whilst I am certain this car was the right choice for our long journey with regards to its fuel efficiency, its comfort and its sat nav, I did have a couple of problems with it.

The boot capacity was dire. You never travel light with children, but we didn’t take anything that we didn’t use. We had clothes and a pile of camping equipment. We didn’t have a tent thankfully as I don’t think it would have fit in! The boot was rammed full, we were unable to close the retractable parcel shelf, and the back seat and foot wells were full too. There was a hidden tray beneath the floor of the boot, but to be fair not much fit in there as it was so shallow. I did like the clip to hold it open though. Packing and unpacking was something of a logistical nightmare to be honest, and I do wonder if the V70 would have been a better choice because of its immense boot space. Saying that we were after something economical to drive, and the V60 was certainly that.

My other main gripe was with the switches. As I mentioned before the headlights had an automatic option, or you could adjust them manually. The dial for this, the release button for the diesel tank cover, and the boot opening button were grouped together to the right of the steering wheel. Unfortunately I couldn’t see these switches without peering around the steering wheel and the windscreen wiper stalk – hardly safe when you’re on the move! The Sat Nav was a pleasure to have in the car, but it was also a menace.  A dozen and one buttons, controls and notifications to deal with. I’m so glad my husband was in the car with me to deal with this. Again, not something you want to be distracted by in transit.

On the whole the V60 was a pleasure to drive, and a great car for long journeys. We had the Business Edition which is primarily marketed as a company car, but also makes a reliable, economical and comfortable family vehicle. Unfortunately though it was a little short on boot capacity which made transporting things an issue. Not the ideal vehicle if you’re off camping, but certainly one to consider if you’re looking for something economical and eco friendly.

Camping Kit: Footwear

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Camping | Posted on 13-08-2013

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Its only a few weeks till we head up to Cumbria to visit The Quiet Site for four nights. I’m remaining eternally optimistic that the weather will hold out, or at the very least remain reasonably warm. As well as making sure we have all the necessary kit for our camping adventure, I also need to make sure we have all the right clothing. Lots of lightweight clothing, waterproofs in case of sudden downpours, and comfortable footwear. Whilst Daddy and I have trainers, hiking boots and wellies, Little Man only really has wellies which are suitable for all terrains. Whilst we’re clearly not about to start hiking the hills of Cumbria, we may well go on a few walks and some lightweight footwear that is suitable for wet or dry conditions would be a bonus. Off to an internet search engine I go, and I found these cute little sandals on the Jelly Egg website.
JellyEgg Keen Kids SandalsThese infant shoes from Keen look ideal for stomping around the countryside and for any trips to the coast we manage whilst we’re up there. The Quiet Site is very close to Ullswater so no doubt there’ll be some splashing around done there by the Little Man. The soles look pretty sturdy so should cope well with the kind of terrain we’re likely to take him on, but should also work fine on trips into towns and villages.

Now I come to think about it Daddy has been muttering that the shoes he currently walks to work in are getting a but tatty and in need of replacement. He’s awful when it comes to buying shoes so maybe it’d be quicker for him and more painless for me if I just get him a pair of these whilst I’m buying Little Man’s?
These boots are waterproof, breathable, and designed for comfort and stability. Whilst Daddy doesn’t tend to fall over much – there was ONE time he did and it was hysterical – he does walk about three miles a day in all weathers so these look perfect for him. Maybe I’ll just forward him the details and let him spend the money eh?