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Feeding The Family Whilst Camping

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Camping, Holiday, Product Reviews | Posted on 18-11-2013

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You’ll no doubt remember that we went camping a few months ago in Cumbria, staying at the fantastic The Quiet Site near Ullswater. We were well prepared for the trip with air beds and sleeping bags and a well packed itinerary for our five day trip. The main worry I had though was eating. Little Man would happily sleep anywhere and no doubt he’d be that tired after our jam packed days there was no need to worry about him sleeping, and as long as he slept, we’d sleep. Spending five days together in one room would be fine – we’d be spending very little time there outside of bed time to be honest. But I did worry about eating. Little Man rarely stops eating, or so it seems, and Daddy gets a little “tetchy” if he doesn’t eat regularly. We had plans to eat out, but there were going to be a few evening meals on site and I did worry about how we’d cater those and what on earth we’d eat, and how. Three indispensable products meant that my worries were soon unfounded.

Coleman Family Cook Set
Individual mess tins weren’t going to cut it for our family camping trip. I wanted to make sure what I was cooking was Little Man friendly, so I wanted to be able to cook things that we’d usually have at home, albeit on a smaller and simpler scale. I needed good sized saucepans, and I needed them to be space saving. The Family Cook Set  we were sent to review from Coleman was ideal. A 5.7l saucepan, a 2.4l saucepan and a 10cm diameter frying pan was more than sufficient for our needs. They were sturdy, hard wearing, and took up very little room. They each nested into one another as there is just one handle which transferred with ease from pan to pan. The capacities were great – the large pan was perfect for cooking pasta, and the smaller one warmed sauces meaning we had a meal within about 15 minutes. One regret I do have is not getting some eggs and bacon in for a cooked breakfast – the frying pan would neatly fit enough for Daddy and I to have bacon and eggs whilst Little Man stole bits no doubt. Next time definitely.

Camping Az Camping Chef Vario
So our cooking equipment was sorted – with the addition of a few utensils from home – but what were we going to cook ON? A gas stove was essential, and more importantly we needed one with two burners. I didn’t like our chances of cooking meals in just one pot, especially if I was doing pasta with sauce for example, and juggling pots on one small burner would no doubt lead to chaos and potential accidents. Thankfully for us Camping Az came to our rescue with their Camping Chef Vario – a neat compact twin burner gas stove with added bonus of a grill. Three independent gas controls and a single ignition switch, wind protection sides and removable legs make this stove a key part of our camping kit. We set this up quickly and easily on our Pod decking, and it was in use straight away. We cooked a few meals on this, and it was used every morning to heat the kettle for Mummy’s cup of tea. It was simple to use, it was reliable and it was safe. What made it even better was that it folded up neatly into a briefcase style case which made it simple to transport and to carry around the site. An essential cooking stove for any family camping trip, and one I’ll look forward to using again and again.

Look What We Found Ready Meals
So we had our pots and pans and we had our stove. Now what were we going to eat? I wanted quick and easy meals, I didn’t want to be doing much once we got back to our Pod after a busy day in Cumbria. There is however only so much pasta and sauce you can eat. I started looking around for other options. Good quality food that was nutritious and would also be eaten by an intermittently fussy 2 year old. It was a tough ask to be fair, and I didn’t want something dull like beans on toast either, though Little Man would have gobbled it up no question. I wasn’t overly confident when I began my search on the internet, but very soon I came across what looked to be the answer. Look What We Found sell ready meals, meals you can heat up at home on your cooker, or that you can take camping as they don’t need to be stored in the fridge. We were lucky to be sent an amazing selection of meals to try out, some we ate before we went, some we gave to Nana and Pops to try, and some we took with us on our trip. Each pouch contains a meal that serves one person. On the first night we cooked these meals we had the Cumbrian Lamb Hot Pot – well we were in Cumbria after all – and the Yorkshire Pork Sausage Casserole. The meals all contain regionally sourced ingredients, so the lamb genuinely was from Cumbria. Now I’m not going to lie. When I emptied each pouch into a pan I was a little nervous. It didn’t look wholly appetising, and I started to mentally work out how we’d get to the nearest McDonalds if Little Man refused to eat it. A few minutes gentle heating on the stove however and things rapidly improved. We split the two meals between the three of us and with the addition of a nice loaf of bread and butter it was a delicious meal. So simple, so tasty, and so easy to transport. Another night we had Tees Valley Beef Meatballs served with some pasta we got in the site shop. Again, it was delicious. Nana and Pops tried out the a couple of curries for us and a soup and they thoroughly enjoyed them all. We’ll definitely look to them again next time we go camping, or just as meals to have in the house. The full range is available online, and you can also find them in Waitrose, Booths and Ocado.

I can safely say that nobody went hungry on our trip to Cumbria and the meals that we cooked far surpassed my ideas of what we’d be having when we set about organising our holiday. It is possible to eat nutritious foods as a family when camping, even with a toddler in tow. I look forward to more family camping trips – though they may be on hold for a little while yet – knowing we have some great products to use again and again.

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?

Camping Kit: Double Airbed

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Camping, Product Reviews | Posted on 08-08-2013

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I’m not really a traditional camper. I was chatting to someone recently about holidaying and mentioned that we’d been Yurting earlier this year and that in September we’d were off to The Quiet Site in Cumbria to stay in a Camping Pod. “What’s a Camping Pod?” They asked. “Well its like a wooden tent. It looks like a really posh shed to be honest!” Was my reply. “Oh so you’re into Glamping then.” Came his response, and you know what? He’s right. I don’t camp, I most certainly “glamp”. I like my home comforts. I like beds and walls and warmth. The Camping Pods have a solid floor and walls. What it doesn’t have though are any beds. The yurt came with four single beds. Real comfortable beds. The Camping Pod does not, so we went off in search of suitable beds for all three of us, the first of which was sent to us by Coleman to review.

The Coleman Comfort Double Airbed may look like any other standard airbed, but this flocked topped airbed is much cleverer than that. Instead of there being one valve for inflating the bed there are two, and each if fitted with a simple to use Double Lock (TM). How often have you settled down to sleep on a fully inflated airbed at night only to wake in the morning led on the floor as the air has invariably leaked out? Well this airbeds valve prevent that from happening as there are two stoppers on each valve which lock in the air and prolong the life of the airbed. Once we’d inflated the airbed even Little Man rolling around on it didn’t make any air escape!

If that’s not enough the two valves inflate different sections of the bed. The first inflates one half and the edges, and the second inflates the other half. This means that each person sleeping on the airbed can have their side inflated as much or as little as they wish. Not only does this feature allow personal comfort, it also means that should one person get off the bed the other occupant wont roll off or get catapulted into the air. I’ve shared an airbed with my husband on many occasions and as soon as he gets off it I invariably get disturbed. With this airbed I barely notice him move!

The bed is easy enough to inflate with a foot pump (not included) and comes with a puncture repair kit in case of accidents. As with all airbeds you will never be able to get it back into the packaging once its been taken out, but that’s nothing new. This airbed is perfect for Daddy and I to use on our impending camping trip. Little Man will be getting a special bed of his own which I’ll be featuring shortly. The Coleman Comfort Double Airbed retails at £44.99 which is a little pricey for an airbed, but with the features this one has I think its well worth it. I have seen it recently on sale at a couple of locations so do shop around if you are keen to buy one.

 

Camping Kit: Glow Sticks

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Camping | Posted on 24-07-2013

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Camp sites aren’t generally known for their bright lights. Tents certainly aren’t. So if you are back late to your tent and its gone dark, how do you find YOUR tent in a sea of other very similar looking tents? You use Glow Sticks. Yes, those illuminating sticks you find at concerts and in clubs. Whilst I was looking for items to include in my Camping Kit series, the team at The Glow Company got in touch offering me a box of their finest camping products. I had a look on their website and nothing was really screaming “Camping Kit” at me, but I handed over my address and looked forward to seeing what they came up with.

First and foremost they sent me a large box of Glow Sticks. Here’s some more information on these sticks and how they work.

How Glowsticks Work Infographic

So these are pretty clever little sticks, and have loads of uses, including when you’re out camping. The ones I was sent could be looped around and fastened together to form a circle. In this form they can be looped around children’s wrists or ankles, fastened around important kit in the tent, or fixed to the exterior of the tent to make finding it that little bit easier. On our camping trip to The Quiet Site in September we are staying in a Camping Pod which has some electricity and a single light. I can still see me using these sticks though to illuminate items we may need in the dark without wanting to put the main light on and wake Little Man. The ones Little Man tested out – and had loads of fun doing so – lasted really well for about eight hours before they started to dim.

Little Man was also a huge fan of the Glowing Frisbee and the Head Torches. I can’t just see him playing frisbee in the dark just yet, but the head torches will no doubt get a good use when we go camping. Once we’d shown him what the torch did he was happy to wear it and wander around with his light on. He’s obsessed with torches and turning the lights out so he can use his torch to wander around, so I suspect the head torch will get used in the Camping Pod. Its a good secure fit and there’s a sofa pad on the back of the unit so its not uncomfortable to wear. As you can see, he looks very cute with it on and can just about operate it himself.
little man wearing head lampSo our Camping Kit Bag will now also include a box of Glow Sticks and some Head Torches for Little Man. What are you taking camping with you this summer?

 

 

Camping Kit: Yankee Candle Travel Tins

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Camping, Holiday, Product Reviews | Posted on 10-07-2013

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If you are off camping this summer, whether it be in a traditional tent or caravan, or if you are trying out “Glamping” with a few more home comforts there are certain bits of kit you need to take with you. Over the next few weeks I’ll be doing running through items in MY essential camping kit list, in preparation for my visit and review of the award winning The Quiet Site in Cumbria this September. I am so looking forward to trying out one of their Camping Pods, which for me will be a nice step up from sleeping under canvas, but still be more like camping then we experienced in our Yurt Trip earlier in the year.

Yankee Candle Travel Tin Clean Cotton

One of the things that puts me off camping is that after a few days of living and sleeping in a confined space is that inevitably, its going to start smelling. Potentially wet and muddy clothing, the presence of a toddler, and the fact that there are multiple humans cooped up in a very small space makes this all too likely. Not the most pleasant thing to deal with when you are already lacking the modern comforts of home. Now you are hardly going to start spraying air freshener inside a confined tent, and we all know the dangers of naked flames so a traditional candle is out, but what about a Yankee Candle Travel Tin?

Compact and easy to use these tins are the perfect camping companion. They are designed to neutralise odours and freshen up any small space, so are great for camping trips, as well as use in the car or bathroom. You simply slide them open to release the fragrance, and if you don’t close them up again they last for an amazing four weeks! Yankee Candle sent me a couple of these to test out, and whilst one has been safely stored away to take to The Quiet Site later in the year, the other has been being used in the car. I don’t like constant overwhelming fragrance anywhere, but sometimes the car needs a bit of a refresh. The scent is light and airy and I literally have the tin open for a few minutes before closing it again. Its great being able to quickly and easily rid the car of any unwelcome smells.

Travel Tins are available direct from the Yankee Candle website and most Yankee Candle retailers.