Stick Man Live – the perfect first theatre experience for toddlers

Stick Man Live – the perfect first theatre experience for toddlers

What toddler doesn’t love Stick Man? Actually, what adult doesn’t love Stick Man? If you have no clue what I am on about, let me quickly fill you in. Stick Man is a children’s story written by the brilliant Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, the people who brought us the modern day children’s classics of The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom and so many more beautifully imagined story books. The story of Stick Man captured my Leo’s heart a couple of years a go and when I saw Stick Man Live was coming to our local theatre I just HAD to take him.  If you have a Stick Man fan in your family then you are definitely not going to want to miss this. View Post

A day out at the Roald Dahl Museum with Mr Kipling

A day out at the Roald Dahl Museum with Mr Kipling

If I had to write a list of all the things I love to do in life, two things that would make it pretty close to the top are reading and eating cake. I have been a massive book worm for as long as I have been able to read and my all time favourite author as a child was Roald Dahl. So, I am sure you can imagine how excited I was to receive an invite to an event celebrating the collaboration between Mr Kipling and Roald Dahl this summer at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre. A chance to get to know more about my favourite children’s author and the opportunity to eat loads of cake? Obviously I said yes and this morning the kids and I headed off to Great Missenden, Roald Dahl’s home and inspiration for several years, to discover more about the wacky world of Roald Dahl and to find out all about the Mr Kipling Splendiferous Summer. If you are partial to a French Fancy (or 5), would like to find out how to win some amazing prizes this summer holidays and love the children’s literary mastermind that is the amazing Roald Dahl, then you are definitely going to want to read on.. View Post

Cycling in the New Forest – Our child free weekend

Cycling in the New Forest – Our child free weekend

On the weekend Oli and I had our first night away since Alex was born last October. Obviously, we have had nights away from home since becoming a family of four but the kids have always been with us. Last Saturday was the first time we have had a whole night child free since our babymoon in Reading last June and it was so needed. If you read my blog regularly you may have seen my post the other week about how I have been desperate for a break from parenting these last couple of months. To make the most of our freedom, Oli and I decided to do something we are nowhere near brave enough to do with our 3 year old and baby – we spent the day cycling in the New Forest and decided to drag out our child free time even more by camping just half an hour from our house. View Post

Pumpkin picking fun at Pickwell Farm

Pumpkin picking fun at Pickwell Farm

Don’t you just love autumn? The crunchy leaves, the beautiful colours, an excuse to drink hot chocolate whilst wearing your favourite jumper and scarf? One of the reasons I love autumn so much is because I love Halloween and what better way is there to get the whole family into the spooky spirit than to go pumpkin picking. After reading about Pickwell Farm over on the fabulous Dear Mummy blog and knowing how much Leo loves going to pick your own fields, on Saturday I knew exactly how we would be spending our morning and we all had a great time searching for the perfect pumpkin. View Post

5 reasons you need a National Trust membership

5 reasons you need a National Trust membership

Family days out are just the best, aren’t they? There is nothing like getting everyone in the car and heading off somewhere in search of adventure and fun. There are loads of free things you can do as a family out of the house, trips to the beach, country walks and so on, but some days out can cost a small fortune. I don’t even want to work out how much money Oli and I have spent on trips to the zoo, farms, aquariums, theme parks and activity centres since we had Leo 3 years ago. My guess though is that it would be a lot! When my super generous sister bought Oli, Leo and I an annual membership to the National Trust earlier this year I was so happy. What a fantastic way to get us out and about and exploring new places as a family. Since March we have visited lots of National Trust properties and we will most certainly be renewing our memberships when they expire next year. If you don’t know what the National Trust is all about you should check out their website and see if there are any properties near you waiting for you to explore. I love my National trust membership and here are 5 reasons I think you might just love having one too. View Post

Animal fun at Kington Small Breeds Farm

Animal fun at Kington Small Breeds Farm

I honestly don’t think there is a better day out for a toddler than visiting somewhere with animals. They get to see the real life versions of all the animals from their books, they can stroke them’ hear them and if they are lucky they even get the opportunity to hold and feed them. A day out with animals is a full on sensory experience for your little one. Zoos are great fun but can be a bit pricey and I am not ashamed to say sometimes I class a trip to a garden centre to look at the fish and the rabbits as a fun day out. Leo loves animals and a family trip to a farm always brings a smile to his face. Last weekend my mother in law and I took Leo to Kington Small Breeds Farm and Owl centre , we had such a fabulous day and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. View Post

Our day out at Paultons Park and Peppa Pig World

Our day out at Paultons Park and Peppa Pig World

It was Leo’s third birthday a couple of weeks ago and to celebrate a group us headed off to Paultons Park in Romsey for a day full of pig and dinosaur fun. We have been living only 15 minutes away from Peppa Pig World for nearly a year and I honestly can’t believe it has taken us so long to go. Like most kids his age, Leo is obsessed with Peppa Pig and I’m sure spending a day completely immersed in a world based on his favourite show is like some kind of dream come true. Paultons Park is not just about Peppa Pig World though, there are loads of rides to suit all ages and the new Lost Kingdom part of the park is a must for any dinosaur fan. For anyone planning a trip to Paultons Park you can find out all about it here and my thoughts on it as a family friendly day out. Spoiler alert – we LOVED it. View Post

Thomas Land, a fab day out for toddlers

Thomas Land, a fab day out for toddlers

On the weekend Oli, Leo and I were up in Leicester visiting our lovely friends for their little boys 3rd birthday party. As we were up in that part of the country we decided to head on over to Thomas Land on the Sunday for some locomotive, tooting good fun. We have previously visited Thomas Land in December on one of their magical Christmas days, Leo loved it and I couldn’t wait to take him back to meet his favourite engines all over again. If you have a toddler who loves trains and is also a Thomas fan, I can’t recommend Thomas Land enough. I have decided to write about our day to convince any parents out there that a trip to Thomas Land is always a good idea. I hope you enjoy reading about our fun filled day and I have also chucked in a few tips to help make your day as fun as possible too. View Post

A day out with Thomas at Eastleigh steam railway

A day out with Thomas at Eastleigh steam railway

My boy Leo loves Thomas the Tank. If you have read my blog before or if you know my family in the non-blog world then you will know just how much my boy adores that little blue steam engine. In December we took Leo to Thomas Land in Drayton Manor as an early Christmas present and he loved it. Unfortunately, it is quite a drive for us to visit Thomas Land so when I saw Thomas and his friends were coming to play at the steam railway just 10 minutes from our front door, I just had to book tickets. View Post

Our camping holiday in Somerset

Our camping holiday in Somerset

It has become a kind of family tradition for Oli and I to go on a summer holiday with my parents every year. Last June we went on holiday to Majorca without them, whilst I had a great time with Oli and Leo I did miss having my Mum and Dad there. When it came to booking a holiday for this year we all decided a UK break was the best option and we booked 5 nights camping in beautiful Cheddar, Somerset. View Post

The Vyne, Basingstoke – #mynationaltrust

The Vyne, Basingstoke – #mynationaltrust

Recently, my sister bought Oli and I a National Trust membership as a belated birthday present, this is my idea of a perfect gift. There are so many National Trust properties in the Hampshire area, so many places to explore and thanks to my sister, lots of free family days out for us to enjoy. I am going to make it my mission for us to visit as many as we can before our membership runs out next March. On Saturday we decided to see what this National Trust thing was all about and headed off to The Vyne in Basingstoke for an adventure.

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Woodland adventures with Trespass – Toddler rain suit review

Nothing beats a nice, long family walk, don’t you agree? There is just something about exploring the great outdoors, soaking up nature’s beauty and enjoying the peace and freedom of the countryside that I absolutely love. Put Leo in a forest or on the beach and he is in his element, his curiosity free to run wild and his inner explorer unleashed. If you follow me on InstaGram you will know that Leo and I are always off on little outdoor adventures, splashing in puddles and navigating our way through various local woodland. Being a family that loves the outdoors, I was so excited when Trespass, one of the most successful outdoor clothing companies in the UK, asked me if I would like to review one of their products.

It was so hard to decide what to review as there is so much amazing choice for outdoor clothing on the Trespass website. Eventually, I decided this would be a great opportunity to get Leo a new rain suit. His old one has got too small and, with the amount of time this boy spends in puddles, it seemed only logical to get him a new one. The Dripdrop navy waterproof suit is £26.99 and is available from age 2 up to age 8. Leo is small for his age so the age 2/3 suit was a bit long on the arms and legs but apart from that it fits him perfectly,

To give his new suit a proper test run we spent Saturday afternoon exploring a forest 10 minutes away, one we have not visited before. I was very impressed with how easy the suit was to get on, sometimes getting a toddlers wiggly limbs into all in one clothes can be difficult but I had no trouble zipping Leo in. As it was quite a chilly day Leo had a jumper and jeans on under his suit, he said he was ‘very cosy’ and the suit slid on easily over his bulky clothes. The fleece lining helped keep Leo nice and snug and the suit is also windproof. There was a chilly wind, rattling through the trees and rustling the leaves but Leo was happy exploring, the cold not bothering him at all.

Leo sure put the rain suit through it’s paces. He was climbing over tree trunks and running down steep slopes with his Daddy. Even though the suit was a bit too big Leo had no trouble moving around in it and running through the trees. The elasticated waist means the suit fits like a dream, not too tight and not too loose, making it easy for your little one to explore in comfort.

Unfortunately, the weather has been uncharacteristically dry for the UK so we were unable to discover the full potential of the Dripdrop rain suit, We had hoped to find a stream or something in the woods but no such luck. Just by looking at the rain suit I am very confident in it’s waterproofing abilities; the elasticated wrist and ankle cuffs will effectively keep little arms and legs dry and the hood is a good size. The polyester outer coating is waterproof up to 2000mm, perfect for keeping your little one dry in a rain shower, or if they get a bit enthusiastic with their puddle jumping!

The rain suit also has reflective piping along the back, a great little feature to make sure your child is always visible even on the dreariest, rainiest walks you go on. It is really easy to roll up the rain suit and pop it in your bag if the sun starts shining and your toddler gets too warm. The Trespass Logo is stylishly placed on the front and the suit looks great, just look how cute Leo looks in it.

Leo loves his new ‘splash suit’ and I am actually looking forward to a bit of rain so we can see how it holds up during a toddler puddle splashing marathon. Even with Spring tantalisingly close, a rain suit is a must when you live somewhere with unpredictable, often rubbish weather like we have here in the UK. This boy’s rain suit makes a cosy alternative to a traditional rain coat or jacket and knowing your little one will be nice and dry, hopefully you will be encouraged to get out exploring, whatever the weather may be,

What do you think of the Dripdrop rain suit?Would you consider buying one for your little one?Do you like exploring the countryside too? It is our favourite way to pass the time 🙂

Disclaimer: I was sent the Dripdrop rain suit from Trespass in return for this honest review, All words and opinions are my own.

This post is linked to..

Cuddle Fairy

WHATEVER THE WEATHER LIFE UNEXPECTED

Diary of an Imperfect Mum: Family Fun Linky
A Cornish Mum

A frosty walk at Titchfield Abbey

Brr, it is getting cold out now isn’t it? The in-laws have been staying with us this week and on Wednesday morning I decided we should all go out for a nice walk and enjoy the crisp fresh air. It was really frigging cold out but there was white frost coating the grass and it looked so pretty outside, it would have been a shame to stay in. I decided to take them to see Titchfield Abbey, it is not too far away, it is free and the Abbey was bound to look impressive surrounded by a gloriously blue sky, with a sprinkle of white over the ground.

We all got seriously wrapped up (I think Leo had about 5 layers on!), I scraped the ice off the car and we headed off down the M27 to check out Titchfield Abbey – or the Thomas Castle, as Leo insisted it was called.

What is behind the massive door?
Finally starting to look like winter.
When we arrived at Titchfield Abbey, Leo was very excited. He immediately declared he was going to go and hide in the castle and that is exactly what he did. There is a small car park on the abbey grounds and, even from the car, the view was spectacular. Although they are extremely old, the ruins are still amazing to look at and the walls are so tall. Leo looked smaller than ever stood up against the massive entrance door.

So high!
I want to live in a castle…
Blue sky.
Titchfield Abbey is a ruin so there is not that much to see but there are little plaques dotted about with information and facts about the buildings history. The Abbey was built in the 1200’s and was home to several canons. It has switched hands a lot over the years and was suppressed during the reign of Henry VIII. There are original tiles preserved and roped off outside, they were not protected enough for Leo, who attempted to stomp all over them. That boy clearly has no respect for historical artefacts.

Facts about the tiles.
Castle selfie.

Leo loved running around the Abbey grounds, hiding in the ancient chimney flues and opening and closing the massive door. We lost sight of him at one point, we ran around in a frenzy shouting his name only to find he had managed to get down the extremely warn away staircase all by himself. He was really pleased with himself but I was so mad at myself for loosing sight of him as he could have so easily fallen.

Exploring.
Going down stairs with a worried looking Nanny.

In the grounds surrounding the Titchfield Abbey there is a funny looking path. My mother-in-law and I decided it must have been a maze once upon a time, there was no other explanation for the way it was set out. Leo enjoyed running around the ‘track’, crunching the frosty grass as he went. We  found a small icy puddle and Leo was quite confused when no splashing occurred when he jumped up and down.

Ice puddle.
Walking around ‘the maze’.

We were wandering around Titchfield Abbey for about 45 minutes but we were all starting to get really cold, I definitely could have done with some gloves and an extra pair of socks. We said goodbye to the Thomas Castle and popped in to the garden centre next door for a nice hot coffee and Leo got to feed the fish.

Feeding the fish.

Titchfield Abbey is a lovely place to visit if you are looking for something free and fun to do in Hampshire. It is open 10am-4pm from October to March and then from April to September it is open 10am-5pm. Leo really enjoyed exploring the Abbey, I think he would have stayed there for hours if we hadn’t have bribed  him away with milk and biscuits!

Have you visited Titchfield Abbey before? Does your little one like castles? I can’t wait to take Leo to a proper castle, one where you can climb up twisty staircases and have lots of rooms to explore.

A Cornish Mum
Life Unexpected

River Cottage Canteen Winchester review

My lovely sister and nephew came to stay on the weekend, it is the first time they have visited us since we moved to Hampshire in September. As a late Christmas present, my sister paid for us all to go out for lunch at the River Cottage Canteen in Winchester. There are a few other River Cottage restaurants dotted about the country, my sister had tried them all apart from this one in Winchester and she said we were certain to have a lovely meal. I was very excited to eat lots of yummy food and maybe try something new.

Winchester is a really beautiful city – Oli, Leo and I have only visited once before when we went to the Christmas Market in December. Our lunch was booked for 12.30, we got to Winchester about 11 so we had a lovely little stroll around the shops and took in some of the sights.

winchester cathedral
Winchester Cathedral
Jane Austen hose
Jane Austen’s house – my sisters favourite author 
Me and my lovely nephew.
winchester catherdral
Walking around the Cathedral grounds.
The River Cottage Canteen is situated in the lovely Abbey Mill Gardens, before we went in for lunch the kids played in the playground. Leo loved the slide as usual but there was lots of other play equipment to keep him busy. Unfortunately, our walk through town had worn Leo out and by the time we arrived at River Cottage Canteen he was in an awful mood.
river cottage
River Cottage canteen. 
When we arrived we were greeted by a lovely member of staff, she showed us to our seats and got Leo some crayons to keep him entertained. River Cottage Canteen is set out over two levels, it is very big but feels cosy at the same time. There are exposed beams on the ceilings, lights bulbs hang from ropes and none of the chairs match. We were sat on the lower level and we could see into the open plan kitchen where the chefs were all busy at work. As we sat browsing the menu, Leo decided to kick off..big time.
Oli drawing pictures to keep Leo happy.

I think a combination of hunger and being completely knackered were the cause to Leo’s horrendous tantrum. He screamed his head off for about half an hour, nothing was cheering him up. The lovely waitress came and brought us some bread so he didn’t have to wait for us to order but he wouldn’t eat it. The brilliant waiter made Leo a warm milkshake and let him play with the card pin machine but that didn’t work either. Amongst all the kicking and screaming we managed to place our food order.

Leo and his milkshake.
The menu at River Cottage Canteen is different from anything I have seen before. Oli and I rarely go out for fancy food, we barely even get the chance to go for a pub lunch these days. At first I wasn’t sure what to go for, there was nothing on there I would normally eat and I wasn’t sure what I would like. The menu changes frequently at River Cottage Canteen and the food is locally sourced, organic and all freshly prepared (here is a sample menu). I decided to go for the venison  salad with cinnamon apples, hazelnuts and cheese. I had never tried venison before so I wasn’t sure what I would think. My sister ordered the same and Oli ordered smoked mackerel. My nephew and Leo ordered flat bread, carrots and hummus to start from the children’s menu, kids get 3 courses and unlimited squash for only £7.
After we ordered, Leo’s tantrum escalated into hell like, never seen before territory and I was ready to just leave. If the staff had not been so amazing I think I would have just taken him outside and joined in with Leo and started crying. As it turns out though, the two people looking after our table were amazing. They didn’t give any grumpy looks or quietly ask us to remove the screaming demon child from their restaurant. They instead brought Leo some chocolates, gave us apologetic smiles and asked if we were ok and if there was anything they could do. It was the milkshake that saved us in the end. Oli managed to get Leo back into his highchair, he then snapped out of whatever angry feeling had consumed him for the past 30 minutes, said ‘sorry Mummy’ before drinking his milk and falling asleep in his highchair, right in the middle of a not exactly quiet restaurant. That is how he stayed for the rest of the meal! It was such a relief.
My very sleepy boy. Tantrums are exhausting.

So, back to the food. Our starters arrived and they were amazing. They were a perfect size and the venison was gorgeous. The hazelnuts and cinnamon apple slices worked really well with the meat and fresh leaves. I am so glad I tried something new and didn’t just go for the soup.

Yummy starter.

For our main course, Oli and I had the pulled pork bap and my sister ordered the plaice with roasted cauliflower and cauliflower puree – cauliflower is clearly easily sourced in Winchester! Oli loves pulled pork, I have never tried it but decided to put my trust in my husbands taste buds and give it a try. The pulled pork came in a yummy lightly toasted bap with pickled red cabbage, bacon mayonnaise and perfectly seasoned chips. I should listen to Oli more often, the pulled pork was so good, it was really tender and sweet. The bacon mayonnaise made a great dip for the chips but also tasted amazing spread inside the pulled pork bap. My sister really enjoyed her plaice and apparently cauliflower puree is awesome. My nephew enjoyed his fish and chips, it was a decent sized portion as well considering it was from the kids menu. The staff kept Leo’s main warm and said he could have it once he had woken from his highchair slumber.

Pulled pork, better than your average burger and chips.

We were feeling fit to burst at this point but when the waitress asked if we wanted to see the dessert menu, well, we thought it would be rude not too. My sister had the honey pannacotta with prunes and a spicy biscuit and I had dark chocolate orange cake with orange syrup and cardamom cream. I don’t like ice cream (I know, I’m strange) so it was nice to see the cake came with something else. I have never tried cardamom cream before but it was really nice. It wasn’t what I was expecting, it wasn’t sweet like regular cream and it wasn’t like clotted cream either. I can’t really describe it but I can tell you it worked so well with the cake and the orange syrup, the flavour combination was perfect. Oli declared himself full to the brim so he opted for a Gaelic coffee instead of dessert, who doesn’t like a little, hidden shot of whiskey on a Saturday afternoon? My nephew had his ice cream and honeycomb that was included in his £7 lunch meal.

Droool..
Oli’s coffee.

Pretty much as soon as we finished dessert Leo decided to wake up and, to everyone’s relief, he was in a much better mood. He asked for chips as soon as opened his little eyes and the waitress went and grabbed his food from the kitchen. It was still lovely and warm and had been put in a little box so we could take it with us. As the meal was a Christmas present I don’t know exactly how much the food came to. The starters were about £6 each and the mains varied in price but I would say the average was about £13. Considering the high quality of the food and the excellent service, I think the menu was very reasonably priced.

This is his ‘I’m sleepy and eating chips’ face,
Lovely sister and nephew,

Apart from Leo’s tantrum when we first arrived, we all had a really lovely time at River Cottage Canteen. I would definitely recommend it if you are looking for somewhere a bit different to eat in Winchester. The food is amazing, you can really taste that it has been freshly made to order, and the price is not extortionate. There are also a selection of soft drinks made of locally sourced produce as well as a selection of ales and ciders. I was concerned it would be a bit too upmarket for a family meal but the staff were so, so lovely (I really can’t stress that enough) and the children’s menu had a few good options to choose from. I would definitely go again but maybe next time Oli and I will go on a date night, that way we are guaranteed a tantrum free meal!

Have you been to the River Cottage Canteen in Winchester? Did you have a nice meal? If not, would you consider eating at a River Cottage Canteen? It’s a nice place to go if you fancy something a little bit different.
My Random Musings

My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows

Family Fever

A walk along The Stick Man trail

‘The Stick Man lives in the family tree, with his stick lady love and his stick children three..’



Has anyone else’s little one become a bit obsessed with The Stick Man, another brilliant creation from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler? Leo got the book for Christmas and he loves it. Obviously, he has also watched the BBC animated adaptation of it about a hundred times since Christmas day.

You can imagine how excited I was when I stumbled across a Stick Man Trail in a forest not too far from us while I was browsing online for fun walks to do in Hampshire. The trail has been running in Moors Valley Country Park since the beginning of December and yesterday we all got our wellies on, jumped in the car and set off to have some fun with The Stick Man.

As soon as we parked up we headed to the visitor information desk to grab a Stick Man activity pack for Leo. The pack was £3 and included a list of things to find along the trail, a sheet and crayon to make a bark rubbing, a sheet of games to play as well as two pipe cleaners to help you build your very own stick man. Oli and I both attempted making one for Leo, he seemed to fair pretty well considering Leo kept dropping him and chucking him in to puddles. If we went again I wouldn’t bother buying the activity pack as Leo is a bit too young to understand the games and activities, we only used the pipe cleaners!

This boy is never happier than when he is in a puddle.

The trail is very clearly sign posted and there are lots of little information boards to find and read along the way. Each board has a different illustration from The Stick Man book on it and interesting facts about woodland wildlife and habitats. Each board also featured  an idea for a stick related game, these included pooh sticks, building a stick house and seeing who could throw their stick the furthest. Leo couldn’t really be bothered with the games, he was having too much fun splashing in puddles and attempting to shove his poor stick man into ‘caves’.

Leo and his ‘map’.

‘;;

Checking we were going the right way.
One of the information boards.
Along the trail there are pictures to find hidden in the woods of some of the characters from The Stick Man story. Leo got excited every time we spotted them, he was particularly happy when I pointed out the picture of The Stick Man, Leo waved his very own stick man at him while saying ‘hello stick man’ repeatedly – my boy is so cute.
The dog was our first discovery, spotted by me – yay!
It’s the Stick Lady Love!
The Stick Man trail is less than a mile long but it took us over an hour, Leo is a little explorer and it is always hard to get him to walk in the right direction. As we were nearing the end of the trail Leo was growing very concerned that we were yet to find the family tree, he was worried The Stick Man would never get home to his family. Fear not, we eventually found the final board saying we had arrived at the family tree, hooray! The tree looked very similar to something out of The Blair Witch Project, with all the creepy, twiggy little men hanging off it. Leo was so happy (and relieved) we had got The Stick Man home and he let Oli tie him to the tree with all of the others – this is where Stick Man’s legs snapped off but at least he was back at the family tree, luckily Leo didn’t notice..oops!

The Family Tree.
We did it!
Once we finished The Stick Man Trail we went to the on site cafe and had a big yummy lunch followed by some cake, we deserved it after all that walking. After food, Leo wanted to do the trail again so we went and had another little walk. We missed out most of the trail the second time around as it was pretty freezing by this point and we were all tired. Oli found a stick for Leo that looked exactly like the one from the book, we thought Leo would like to take this one home but he instead chose to shove it in a pipe in the ground, he has ‘gone on venture’ apparently!

Obligatory family day out selfie.

We all had a lovely day exploring The Stick Man Trail at Moors Valley Country Park. If you have a little one who loves the story of The Stick Man then I am sure they will find this trail really fun and exciting. The trails can be found at several Forestry Commission woods and forests, you can find your nearest one here.

Have you been on a Stick Man trail or something similar? Do you think your little one would enjoy something like this? Leo had a great day and kept saying that he had lots of fun, he loves a walk in the woods and I think seeing one of his favourite story characters there made it even more exciting.

My Random Musings
My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows
Life Unexpected

A magical trip to Thomas Land

If there is one thing Leo loves more than anything else in the whole word, it is Thomas The Tank. Regular readers of my monthly Leo updates will already know that my boy is some what obsessed with the blue steam engine and his friends. As a special Christmas treat for our Thomas super fan, on Saturday we travelled half way up the country to have a Christmassy, train filled day at Thomas Land at Drayton Manor.

As it turns out, Drayton Manor is friggin miles away from Southampton! We left the house, blurry eyed and still half asleep at 7.30 in order to arrive at the park for opening at 10am. We told Leo we were off to Thomas Land and he was so excited. The journey took nearly 2 and half hours and although he was sleepy from the early start, Leo was no way going back to sleep.
A face of pure wonder.
That little face.
Once we arrived at Drayton Manor we headed straight to Thomas Land and Leo’s little face lit up when he saw where we were. The Thomas engine was parked on the track right at the entrance and Leo ran straight up to him, you could tell that he was just so happy to see his hero in the flesh (kind of). We jumped straight in the queue to have a ride of Thomas but by the time we got to the front, Thomas had already set off and we had to ride Percy instead. Obviously, Leo had a bit of a meltdown about this but we promised him we would ride Thomas later.
The Dino Trail.
Riding on Percy. Leo had his mouth open in amazement most of the day!
The train took us up to the Dino Trail and the Thomas themed outdoor play area and tea rooms. The weather was pretty rubbish so we had a quick walk/run around the dino trail and then it was back to the station. It is a shame it was raining because the play area looked really impressive and being a little bit geeky myself, I would have quite liked to have read about all the dinosaurs.
Knapford Station.
Percy
We managed to hitch a ride back to Knapford station on actual Thomas this time so Leo was in a much better mood and he kept going ‘We’re riding Thomas..We’re riding Annie’. When we got back in to Thomas Land we met up with one of my lovely friends who I haven’t seen in over a year, with her 2 year old boy and fiancé. The boys weren’t too keen on each other to start with as they haven’t seen each other since they were babies, as the day went on they interacted with each other a little bit more though.
Driving Harold the helicopter.
Diesels Locomotive Mayhem.

Flying at Jeremy’s Jet Flying Academy.
Now we were all together it was time to go on all the rides. As with any theme park, even in winter time, the queues took nearly 5 times longer than the actual rides themselves. The kids were surprisingly well behaved while were queueing which was a relief, and I guess it gave us mums a good opportunity to chat and catch up. We went on most of the toddler friendly rides, Leo’s favourite was the Jeremy Jet aeroplanes. Pretty much all the rides in Thomas Land are suitable for toddlers as long as an adult goes on with them. There was a runaway train type rollercoaster but Leo was too small for that and I am pretty sure he would have hated it anyway!
Waiting very patiently for their turn.
After a busy couple hours going on the rides we stopped for lunch. There were a few different places we could have bought food from in Thomas Land but theme park prices tend to be a bit extortionate so we planned ahead and packed a picnic. As it is the season to be merry, the men bought themselves a mulled wine to enjoy with their sandwiches (I was quite happy with my coffee, mulled wine is gross).
I didn’t manage to get a photo of the real Fat Controller.
Once lunch was finished it was time for more rides. The queuing was a bit of a pain and the rides were short but the kids really enjoyed them. Leo loved spotting all his beloved Thomas characters and telling us their names, did you know the crane is called Cranky? We spotted The Fat Controller wondering about but Leo wouldn’t keep still long enough for a picture.
Pretty Christmas tree.
Christmas lights at Sodor airport.
Thomas looking very festive – blurry!
Giant bauble.
Thomas Land has been made to look all festive for the Magical Christmas season at Drayton Manor. There is a huge, beautiful Christmas tree and at different times throughout the day it flashes all different colours. As well as the Thomas the Tanktheme tune, Christmas classics were being played as you walked around and fake snow fell from the balcony at Knapford station, the whole atmosphere made me feel very Christmassy indeed.
Quick photo op while we waited in the massive queue.
Rocking his 3D glasses
After going on all the rides we went and queued for the 4D showing of the Polar Express. The film only lasted 15 minutes but we had to queue for nearly an hour. If you are visiting a theme park with a toddler I would suggest taking something to entertain them with in the long queues. The boys kept trying to run away and we had quite a few tantrums, when we eventually got into the cinema us parents were quite exhausted! The actually 4D film was ok, the seats moved around a bit, wind whistled around, lights flashed and you got splashed a tiny bit. It was quite a challenge to keep the 3D glasses on Leo but I think he enjoyed the Polar Express, from what he could actually see without the glasses on that is.
In was dark when we came out of the cinema, we had another go on the aeroplanes and the helicopters and then it was time for the Christmas show and parade. Leo didn’t want to watch the show so I took him for another go on the Blue Mountain carousel and then we got back to watch the parade, featuring Santa, The Fat Controller and some Christmassy creatures on stilts.
Thomas the Reindeer?
Before we left Thomas Land, Oli ran to the gift shop to buy Leo a soft toy (this is tradition whenever we go on a special day out) and we all stood and watched the fireworks. When we got back to the car we popped Leo in to his pj’s and he was fast asleep within a matter of minutes.
Snoozing with his new cuddly Thomas.
It was a really lovely day and it felt extra special spending it with friends we hadn’t seen in such a long time. Although the day was not completely without tears or tantrums, Leo definitely enjoyed Thomas Land and he has been chatting about it a lot the past couple of days. I can’t wait to take him again in the summer time when the rest of Drayton Manor will be open and the seats on the rides will be dry, hopefully.
If you have a Thomas fan then you really must visit Thomas Land when Drayton Manor reopens next year. If you want to visit Drayton Manor Magical Christmas, it is open until December 31st so there is still time. For Oli, myself and Leo it only cost £36, it is slightly more expensive if you want to visit Santa in The Castle of Dreams. 
Watch the video below if you want to get even more of feel of what Thomas Land is like at Christmas time…

Have you been to Thomas Land? Or are you thinking of taking your toddler to a theme park for the first time? I was slightly dubious about taking a 2 year old to a theme park but we all had a wonderful, magical day.
Life Unexpected

Welly walking in the New Forest

Oli, Leo and I have not done much exploring since we moved to Hampshire. This weekend was our first opportunity to spend lots of quality family time together and yesterday we decided to go for a walk in The New Forest.

We set off on our adventure yesterday afternoon, the journey was only supposed to take 20minutes but Oli’s phone decided to die. We were left to find our destination with no GPS and no SatNav, who even does that any more? Luckily for us, The New Forest is massive so it wasn’t long before we found a car park next to lots of trees – who needs technology, hey?
Once we parked up it was time to get our wellies on and get exploring. It was a joint effort between Oli and I to squeeze Leo in to his splash suit – I think it might be time for a new one, he has had that one for over a year now. 
Leo in his splash suit and beloved Minion welly boots.

Not natural hikers or experts on the forest, we just decided to go for a wonder (without a map!) and see where we ended up. It was great fun! Walking across the fields to the woods we found lots of muddy puddles for Leo to jump in. There was one puddle definitely capable of causing a splash of Dawn French in The Vicar of Dibley proportion if Leo had stepped in it, thankfully I noticed how ominously dark it was before he jumped in.

Leo in the massive puddle!
After dragging Leo away from the puddles, this took lots of persuasion and promises of maybe seeing a Gruffalo in the woods, we went and had a lovely walk amongst the trees. It was so beautiful. All the warm colours of the leaves and the tall trees towering above us. Strange fungi sprouted out of the ground and out of trees, I wish I knew what they were all called so I could teach Leo but, as I said before, I am no nature expert. 
Weird pink mushroom, I doubt this one is edible!

Leo absolutely loved being able to roam and explore without his reins on or being confined to the buggy. We walked through squelchy bogs, climbed over crunchy bracken and Leo even asked to climb the trees. When he got tired he jumped on his Daddy’s back and we made our way back to the car.

Piggy back ride.
Awww.
Explorers.
Pretty colours, trees look cold though!

Before we made it back to the car we stopped off back at the puddles so Leo (and Oli!) could have 10 more minutes of splashing time.
Big boys love puddles just as much as little boys, apparently.
It’s the puddle monster!

If it weren’t for the very real threat of rain, we could have stayed out exploring for hours. Leo was tired though so we got back the car, a mere 10 seconds before the massive downpour started. I can’t wait to see more of The New Forest and to do some more exploring with my little family – Oli picked up a map from the tourist information so next time we can follow a proper route.

A fun family day out.

We had a fantastic afternoon in the woods, have you ever been? Can you recommend any good things to do/walks to go on in The New Forest? Does your toddler love exploring too?

You Baby Me Mummy
Life Unexpected

The Story Museum, Oxford

There is nothing like a good book. If I had a motto or a catchphrase, this would probably be it. I have loved books since I was a child and to my delight Leo loves them too. Children’s books in particular are so very special, they help develop our children’s ever growing imagination through exciting stories, funny rhymes and wonderful illustrations. Of course books are key in developing children’s all important literary skills too.

Leo and I spent this weekend with my sister in Oxford and on Saturday Leo went on his first ever museum trip. After being recommended by friends to my sister, we all went on a visit to The Story museum, a place that celebrates the amazing world of books.

My first impression of The Story Museum was that it didn’t feel like a museum at all. As soon as we walked through the door we were greeted by lovely staff and a very quirky little cafe. We paid for our tickets and sat down for a drink before we went in to the museum to check out the exhibitions. The children enjoyed drawing on the blackboard table tops and my sister and I were able to enjoy our teas in peace. Instead of pictures of art or photographs, the cafe walls are decorated with upside down tables and chairs, it all feels very Wonderland-esque. A magnificent ‘preserved’ cake, made by Winnie the Witch herself (!) stands tall on display in the cafe, my 10 year old niece was very impressed by this, the younger boys on the other hand were upset they couldn’t eat it.

After our tea break we headed into a separate building where all the exhibitions are. Illustrations  decorate the stairwell and the feel of the building is very far away from any art gallery or museum I have visited before, but in a good way. Our first stop was the Draw me a story exhibition, a large room featuring original prints and artwork from children’s book illustrators such as Quentin Blake, Emily Gravett and Mini Grey. As well as all the pictures on the wall, there is a treasure hunt game for the children to play, making the experience more interactive and fun for kids. There is a board at the entrance covered in little pockets and in each pocket are some small objects, you then have to go and find the picture where these objects belong. My niece and my nephew who is 5 enjoyed the treasure hunt, Leo was too busy exploring the vast amount of space to get properly involved.

Museums are fun!

The lovely volunteers at the museum handed out little drawing books to the children which encouraged them to draw their own story. A room was set up with tables and chairs, lots of colouring pencils and even a professional sketching illustrator board. Although Leo had a bit of a tantrum to start with, all four kids enjoyed sitting down and getting some serious drawing done, Professional illustrators regularly visit The Story Museum and are put to work in the Illustrator Zoo, a room where you can watch a professional at work and have a chat with them as well – you can find a list of illustrators visiting soon here. This is a great opportunity for children to find out more about becoming an artist or just a chance to meet the people behind some of their favourite characters.

Drawing a story.

Next we moved on to The Changing Room, a room full of more fancy dress clothes than you could ever imagine. This room is home to the only talking throne I have ever seen and we spent the majority of our visit dressing up, creating crazy names for ourselves, sitting on the throne and listening to it announce us. My nephew and his friend had great fun using all the boards to create silly names and my niece loved trying on loads of different clothes. Leo wasn’t really sure what was going on but he enjoyed attempting to scale the massive throne and trying on lots of different hats – hats are awesome but fairy wings and cat ears are not! My sister and I joined in on the fun too, who doesn’t love fancy dress?

So..many..clothes!

Dressing up fun…

Tantrum avoided, thank you hats!

Once we had finished dressing up we headed on over to the Time for bed exhibition, this was by far the children’s favourite part of the museum. On arriving at the exhibition, we were encouraged to get cosy in one of the dressing gowns provided and the children all chose a book from the varied selection available, grabbed a cuddly toy and snuggled up on the biggest bed I have ever seen..ever. All six of us fit on it with loads of room to spare. The whole room is inspired by award winning children’s book, The Baby who wouldn’t go to bed. There are drapes over the ceiling, fairy lights, a small bed with baskets around it where you can lay your teddies down for a rest, as well as a smaller room with a sensory wall and lullaby’s playing in the background. It was nice to cuddle up and read to Leo and the whole atmosphere calmed down the very excitable older children. We spent the last of our visit in this amazing bedroom, all wishing we could fit a giant bed into our own rooms at home.

What to read? Decisions, decisions..
Everyone loves a bedtime story.

                                                     

I need this bed in my life!
We were, unfortunately, pushed for time so we couldn’t spend as much time as we wanted looking around the museum. As well as the exhibitions we saw, there is also a film den showing television and film adaptations of children’s story books. The Extreme Reading section of the museum is currently closed for building, however, when open it invites visitors to experience stories in a unique, exciting and interactive way – hopefully it will be finished by the time we visit next. 
We will most definitely be visiting again. The Story Museum is a crazy, funny, magical, interesting as well as educational place. You feel as though you have stepped into a different dimension where your imagination is left to run wild and free. The Story Museum is a great place to visit if you are in Oxford for the day and really is suitable for all the family. I went with my sister and children ranging from 2 years to 10 and all of us thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and can not wait to go again. I really can not recommend it enough.
The Story Museum runs several different exhibitions. activities and events throughout the year, you can see all the exciting things coming up soon here.
Have you ever taken your children to a museum? Did they enjoy it? I think The Story Museum is the perfect place for that first ever museum visit.
Family Fever

A trip to our favourite place

Ahh Swansea, how I love thee. It may not be the prettiest of cities and it may desperately be in need of a massive cash injection but this city is surrounded by some of the most beautiful beaches Wales has to offer.

Swansea bay beach is only a 5 minute walk from the city centre. Quite often if me and Leo have been shopping we will just pop across the road and go for a long walk in the sand, collect shells and run away from the waves. Yesterday was one of those days.

Leo loves the beach.

After an impromptu trip to Boots to buy Leo a potty (more about that soon), we decided to head on down to our favourite place. As we hadn’t planned a trip to the beach I was not very prepared, we had no bucket for collecting shells and my pathetic excuse for a picnic was two oranges and a couple of goodies snacks for Leo. We sat down on my cardigan (no picnic blanket either, so unorganised!) and ate our so called lunch. The sun was shining and Leo was in a lovely mood, there is nothing Leo likes more than a run around on the beach.



Once our food was gone, in didn’t take long, we went on a mission to find the sea. The sea seemed to have gone out as far away as it possibly could but Leo was adamant we were going paddling, luckily I had remembered his wellies. On our trek down to the waters edge we found loads of rock pools, a first for Leo. He was so excited, ‘look mummy, look!’.

Rock pools!

Leo was in his element, splashing in the ‘puddles, mummy!’ and climbing over rocks. I was of course a nervous wreck and there were a few trips and stumbles but thankfully no harm done. Once I realised Leo was ok just wondering around the rock pools, I started to relax and enjoy this experience with him. It was so amazing watching him explore and getting so excited every time he discovered something new. I remember exploring rock pools as a child and finding it really fascinating, I have always been a bit of a beach bum!


Best..puddle..ever!

When we had finished our search for sea creatures and shells in the rock pools, we carried on down to the sea. Leo was a bit dubious at first,  as he always is, but then he ran on in and started stomping in the waves. Normally he would stay by me at the waters edge but yesterday he was feeling adventurous, inspired by the fun of the rock pools. In no time at all we went from happy Leo to a full on tantrum all because I wouldn’t let him run off to sea, how evil of me. Like I said, I was not prepared at all for this trip so I had no wellies and I am pretty sure converse weren’t designed for walking in the cold sea.


Definitely not waterproof.

He soon cheered up and after another walk through the rock pools Leo was ready to go, ‘Home mummy, bye sea!’. The beach is definitely my favourite place to take Leo, we always have so much fun and he really enjoys the freedom of just being able to run around. The only down side was that I had to carry Leo all the way back to the car, as I always do – that was something I was prepared for!


Mummy and Leo beach time = the best times!

Do you and your little one have a favourite place to go? I would love to know what you do for fun. I am so happy that we live where we do :).


*UPDATE* – Since writing this post my family and I have relocated to Hampshire. I really miss living by the seaside and having walks on the beach. There really is something special about living by the sea. Hopefully we will find a new favourite place in Hampshire soon.


Life Unexpected

Strawberry picking on the Gower

The sun was shining on Friday and as Oli’s weekend starts on a Friday we decided to go do something different. One of my lovely mum friends had told me that a farm near us was open to the public for fruit picking. As it was such a lovely day we couldn’t think of a better way to spend the morning.

The view from Nicholaston Farm.

In true Reynolds style, we got lost trying to find the farm. Luckily the Gower is a beautiful place so we just took in the lovely views until eventually we found Nicholaston Farm. Once we parked up the car we got two empty punnets and headed off to the fields.

Ready to go pick some strawberries!

The fields were full of black and red currants, gooseberries, raspberries and of course strawberries. Leo struggled to pick any currants, every time he pulled one from its branch it just popped in his fingers, very messy and fun!

Concentrating very hard here!

Once it was clear no currants were going to make it in one piece into the punnets we walked down to the main event, the strawberry field! Leo found this a lot easier and enjoyed eating masses of strawberries as we worked our way through the field.

Caught red handed!
Pro strawberry picker.
Between the 3 of us we collected two large punnets of beautifully fresh strawberries and it only cost us £3. We all had a lovely morning soaking up the sun while doing something different. We just need to eat all these strawberries now before they go bad, shouldn’t be hard for Leo. There is still loads of fruit waiting to be picked at Nicholaston Farm so if you find youself in sunny Swansea then it is definitely worth a vist.
My boys hard at work.
Have you taken your toddler strawberry picking? It’s something fun to do, we well definitely be going again.
You Baby Me Mummy