Tuesday 30 June 2015

Our first trips camping at Ashurst in the New Forest

Several years ago, Ram and I bought a small tent, with the intention of making camping a regular thing. We spent one night in the New Forest in late September, then it was winter. Come spring I was pregnant with Harry and didn't really fancy it, and camping with our up-all-night-screaming-babies-and-toddlers was out of the question. The tent has since been used for nights with Harry in the garden, but with the lovely weather we've been having lately we decided that it was finally time to give family camping ago.

So a few weeks ago we bought a smaller pop up tent and second airbed, loaded up the car, and headed off to Ashurst in the New Forest for a night's camping. It's where we stayed before, one of the closest campsites to us and has good facilities. When we arrived we drove around the site a couple of times looking for the perfect spot, finding a great space at the far edge of the campsite with a view out across the open land behind us and forest in the background.

Pitching a tent in the New Forest camping

We split up with an adult and a child in each tent. The children loved setting their beds up with their pillows and sleeping bags, and getting all their teddies ready. We let them go running off by themselves across the field, and they absolutely loved the freedom.

Children sleeping in a tent

There is a footpath that leads from the campsite, and a short distance away there are fallen trees to play on and walk across. We spent ages here, and also found a geocache.

Child walking along a log in the forest

For dinner we headed to La Pergola in Lyndhurst just down the road. It was perfect for us, pizza to eat and a playground to keep the children entertained. It's very popular though, we arrived soon after six and the only seats were outside, but I can see why, the food was delicious. Then we had a quick drink at the pub next to the campsite while the children played in the playground there, before heading back to our tent.

Family camping selfie

We got the children ready for bed and then headed out for a pyjama walk with our torches. In retrospect it wasn't the best idea as Harry managed to step into a puddle and soak the bottom of his onesie, meaning that he had to sleep in his clothes as I'd only brought one set! They really loved the experience though. Then we finished the evening playing football in the open area behind the tents while the sun set, it really was quite idyllic!

Tents in the New Forest at sunset

The next few weeks we couldn't stop thinking about how much fun we'd had, but we knew that our tent set up wasn't really practical. The airbed didn't really fit into the smaller tent, and it has no inner lining meaning that everything was wet in the morning. Ram is always keeping his eyes open for a bargain, and was delighted to find a family tent at a reasonable price - we snapped it up, and found ourselves the new owners of an Urban Escape Atago 5 man tent. We were a little daunted by its size at first, but we practised putting it up and then chose another weekend when the weather was looking good (I'm afraid that we are fair weather campers!) and headed back to Ashurst. 

Our new family tent

Our new tent is fantastic! It was so nice to be able to stand up inside and there was loads of room for all our things. The tent has two bedrooms inside, and even the smaller one easily fitted the double airbed. Our camping experience was definitely improved! 

We had another pleasant evening watching the children run about, this time very much enhanced by our fold up chairs and some Pimms from the Co-op down the road. It's such a nice time of year with the long summer evenings, camping is a great way to make the most of them. We'll definitely be back, and we already have a few more possible weekends pencilled down in the calendar. Perhaps next time we might even manage to stay for two nights!

Family sitting outside tent

We paid £23.20 each time for a night's camping at Ashurst Campsite in the New Forest. Ashurst Campsite is run by Camping in the Forest - you can find out more information on their website. 

Monday 29 June 2015

Making a Space Snack with Miles Kelly

To celebrate the release of the three new Miles Kelly's 100 Fact Books, I was invited to come up with my own space themed snack inspired by the 100 Facts Space Travel book. Eating in space is of course quite different to eating on earth, not only do astronauts have to contend with eating in zero gravity, so they can't eat anything that will break up into tiny pieces, the food also has to be easy to prepare, capable of being stored for long periods, light in weight and mustn't need to be refrigerated. Most of the food is served in packets, to which water is added before eating.

To inspire us, we were sent the ingredients to make our very own Space Pudding to enjoy while looking through the books. All you need is some Angel Delight, powdered milk, water, a syringe and a re-sealable plastic sandwich bag.

Making a space snack with children

Harry very much enjoyed making the Space Pudding. First you need to add two tablespoons of Angel Delight and two tablespoons of milk powder to the bag, then add the water using a syringe. When all the water has been added, you squish the bag in your hands to mix it all together, leave it to stand for a couple of minutes, then eat by cutting a corner off the bag and squeezing it into your mouth - great fun!

Making a space snack with children

We watched a few videos to learn more about eating in space, and discovered that instead of bread for sandwiches, astronauts prefer to eat tortillas, because they don't make any crumbs which are annoying to have floating about the space station. They are also light, don't take up much space, and can be stored for a reasonable period of time.

So for our own Space Snack recipe we came up with a tortilla based snack. I had a think about what other foods we had in our cupboards that would travel well and would be sticky enough to stay where they were put in zero gravity and my thoughts turned instantly to our favourite family food - pizza!

So here is our recipe for a Tortilla Space Pizza Wrap:

Tortilla Space Pizza Wrap

One tortilla wrap
Tomato ketchup or tomato puree in a tube or sachet (about three tablespoons worth)
A bag of grated cheese with herbs already added (a large handful). In space this would have to be freeze dried grated cheese as there is no fridge!

Making a space snack with children

We put the grated cheese into a re-sealable bag and added a sprinkle of herbs and a couple of big squeezes of tomato ketchup. If we were really making this in space, we'd need to add some water too, to rehydrate the cheese. Then Harry squashed it up with his fingers to make sure that it was all mixed in. I cut a corner off the bag and Harry squeezed it onto the tortilla. I hope that the mixture would be sticky enough not to float away. Then Harry wrapped up the tortilla ready for eating, making sure that the bottom was secure enough to contain the filling.

We ate it cold, but it could easily be warmed up in the microwave. I think it tasted pretty good! I'm not a big fan of ketchup myself, but if the food was being prepared for space it could easily be made with a more tasty and healthy tomato sauce, perhaps with the herbs or other flavourings already added. I loved this challenge, and it really encouraged us to think creatively, as well as learning a great deal about everyday life in space. It would have been a great activity for our Space Day!

Making a space snack with children

Harry is very interested in space (he even has a space themed bedroom) and he couldn't wait to get his hands on these three fantastic 100 Facts Books from Miles Kelly. As you would expect, each book in the series contains 100 facts about each topic, with each double spread forming a chapter on a different theme.

100 Facts Space Travel talks about the history of space travel, what space travel is like now, and where technology could lead us in the future. Each page is a mixture of photographs and cartoon illustrations. All the facts are explained and expanded upon, and there are a few little quizzes and extra "I don't believe it!" facts added in.

100 Facts Stars and Galaxies looks at deep space, beginning with the formation of the universe, with facts all about the different types of stars, black holes and constellations, finishing by taking a look at the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. There are little activity suggestions added in, like exploring how the universe is expanding by blowing up a balloon, and creating your own constellations by using a torch shining on holes pricked into a piece of cardboard.

Finally, 100 Facts Solar System takes a closer look at our own Solar System. It features each planet in turn, with a fact file, information about what the planet is composed of, and information about their moons.

All three books are laid out really well, with a mixture of fact boxes, diagrams and images, and different sizes and styles of text makes the information fun, and easy to dip in and out of. The books contain a huge amount of information, and I know that they are going to be both an interesting read and a useful source of reference.

We were sent these three books to review, as well as the ingredients for our Space Pudding.

Saturday 27 June 2015

Cardboard tube monsters craft

These colourful monsters are made using cardboard tubes and a variety of odds and ends from the craft box. They make a great Halloween craft for little ones and make for some fun Halloween decor.

How to make cardboard tube monsters

To make these monsters we used some products supplied to us by Bostik as part of the Bostik Craft Bloggers club. Our box of materials was stuffed full of wonderful bits and pieces that we could use to make our monsters. Included was a lovely big cardboard cone that I thought would make a great monster body. I raided our junk modelling supply for some extra toilet roll tubes, and set Mia loose with a paintbrush and selection of different coloured paints.

Painted cardboard tubes craft

Then we looked through our crafty bits to see what we could use. First we worked on monster hands and feet. Mia threaded the colourful beads onto pipe cleaners, which was really easy for her to do and satisfying because the textured surface keeps the beads firmly in place. I cut out some feet from glittery card, and laid out lines of Bostik White Glu for her to stick pom poms in place. The Bostik White Glu was really easy to apply to small areas using the nozzle at the top of the bottle, and once it was dry all the pom poms stuck really firmly.

Monster tube craft

Mia and I had fun gluing all the bits together to make our first two monsters! We finished them off with a feather and some googly eyes. Again, the Bostik Glu worked perfectly for this craft, easily sticking all the different types of embellishment that we used.

Monsters made from toilet roll tubes

Then after school Harry joined us and we completed our Monster Family, using lots of different scraps and embellishments, and the children were so pleased with them! It's a really fun craft for children of all ages, and easy to do with all the crafty bits and pieces that you tend to collect when you have small children around!

Cardboard tube monsters

If you enjoy crafting with cardboard tubes you might also like our cardboard tube owls and minibeasts and bugs made from rubbish.

The box of craft materials was provided to me free of charge by Bostik as part of the Tots100/Bostik Craft Bloggers Club.

Thursday 25 June 2015

Things are actually growing in the garden!

I was quite busy over the weekend so I didn't get out in the garden much, although my parents were here on the Friday to look after the children while I was away at BritMums Live and I notice that they did do a bit of sneaky weeding! The tomatoes are looking nice and healthy now, and some of them have started to get flowers, I just need to remember to keep pinching out the side shoots.

Things growing in the garden, June 2015

I had a big cull of all the pots that we had in the garden, all inherited from the previous owner. I was hopeless at looking after them properly and they were mainly filled with big, dead plants. Most of the large pots were given away on Freecycle, and the rest were filled with new compost and bedding plants from a big pack of petunias that I bought. This planter had been at the top of our drive for the last three years with something dead in it, now it's looking much better with some flowers.

Things growing in the garden, June 2015

Amazingly out of the 24 plants that I bought only one has died so far, the poor thing was eaten by slugs so I've been putting pellets down now. We also inherited a lovely strawberry planter, the strawberries are sadly long gone but I've planted it up again with the petunias and I'll try it again with strawberries next year.

Things growing in the garden, June 2015

I did keep some strawberry plants alive though, and this week we harvested our first - the children love picking and eating them. As long as I look after them I do seem to have a reasonable success with growing strawberries, so I'll definitely be getting more plants.

Things growing in the garden, June 2015

The apple tree in our front garden is also looking good this year. Last year something must have gone wrong, perhaps it didn't get pollinated or something, because we had no apples at all. But this year we had loads of blossom and now I can see plenty of apples growing. I'm not sure what variety the apples are but they must be cooking apples because they aren't very tasty to eat raw. In the past though I've made some delicious apple cake and apple crumble from them, so I'm looking forward to trying that again this year.

Things growing in the garden, June 2015

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Britmums Live 2015

Britmums Live 2015

This year was my third year at BritMums Live, and once again I had an amazing time! This year was a little different for me as I was invited to speak in a session all about Pinterest - definitely well out of my comfort zone but I'm so glad that I was involved and it was such a confidence boost.

Britmums Live 2015

I arrived early at The Brewery as I had been asked if I was able to help out with registration. I eagerly accepted, as it saved me having to worry about walking in by myself, and I loved the chance to see behind the scenes. It was a bit daunting at first when the doors opened and people started rushing in to grab their lanyards, but it was a great way to put some faces to names and I really enjoyed it. I was also very excited to see my badge with the word 'Speaker' on, and to find myself in the agenda!

Britmums Live 2015

It did mean that I missed the initial opportunity to find people to chat to, but luckily my fab blogging buddy Swazi saved me a space for the Welcome and opening Keynote talks. Victoria Wright in particular was excellent and really inspiring. Then came the highly anticipated and closely guarded secret event - an Ice Breaker Guinness World Record attempt. A fellow table member spotted the toilet rolls that were hidden underneath our table so we had a bit of a clue as to our task, which was to wrap as many people up as mummies as we could within three minutes! It was great fun, and we all beat the record by one mummy, wrapping up 51 people in total!

Britmums Live 2015

During the tea and coffee break I found my way to The Hub which is the central area populated mainly by brands. Apart from briefly popping out to check in to the Travelodge down the road, this is where I spent the next couple of hours - not really talking to the brands but mostly taking advantage of the biscuits and free wine from Lindeman's and socialising! In fact I only attended one session over the whole two days which is very different from my previous BritMums experiences. I'm not sure why, there just weren't as many that jumped out at me as before, and because I know now quite a few bloggers I was just having too much fun chatting and meeting people.

One area that I wished I had spent more time in was the Craft Lounge, hosted by Lady Sew & Sew and Make it Coats. It was new this year and a brilliant idea for crafty people like me and people that just wanted to sit down quietly for a bit and occupy themselves with something creative. There were three tables - knitting, crochet and sewing - and you could take a seat at one of the tables and either someone would be along to give you a hand or you could just sit there and work on your own project and chat.

Britmums Live 2015

A lovely lady tried to teach me crochet, and I managed a few sad looking rows, but I just can't get my head around it which is a real shame. All the other bloggers on the table were producing some wonderful granny squares! So I tried out the sewing table and had much more success over there, I made a couple of patchwork hexagons and would have loved to have spent more time here sitting and sewing away. There were also performances from Elle & The Pocket Belles who were wonderful, three glamorous ladies singing away and giving it their all, I really enjoyed listening to them.

Britmums Live 2015

There were some fun stands in The Hub with brands to chat to, I particularly enjoyed the SuperSavvyMe stand where I created a magnetic moodboard, and the ladies at Parragon books were super friendly as always. Every attendee also received a gorgeous keepsake bracelet from Merci Maman which is engraved BritMums Live 2015, what a lovely memento. I'm looking forward to trying out my tortilla goodies from Santa Maria, and as I've mentioned already the Lindeman's wine stand was also very much appreciated!

Britmums Live 2015

We went out for dinner at Wagamama's and then finished off the evening in the Travelodge bar, so when I got up on Saturday I wasn't feeling that great - partly due to the drinking but also feeling a little overwhelmed after the hectic day on Friday and of course nerves due to my session which fell in the last group of the afternoon. Every time I was in The Hub I couldn't miss the sign at one end announcing to the world where to find us speaking about Pinterest! The day went quickly, especially as I found myself joining a group of bloggers for lunch at All Bar One down the road - I've never got on very well with the BritMums lunch before and have found myself wandering aimlessly around with a box, nowhere to sit, and no-one to talk to, so I'm so glad that they invited me along.

Britmums Live 2015

Our session went really well I think, I did my introduction and then Jen Stanbrook and Helen Neale had some brilliant tips to share about using Pinterest to grow traffic to your blog. I hope that we gave some useful information and people felt able to ask us questions. If you have any other questions please do feel free to get in touch and I'll try to help, I'll also be posting some of my notes from the session shortly.

I think that this was my favourite BritMums yet. It felt quieter somehow than previous years, and I felt much less overwhelmed, perhaps because now I do actually know quite a lot of people and I was always able to find someone to chat to. Lots of people also came over to speak to me which was wonderful and made me feel like a celebrity - thank you so much for coming over if you are reading this and I'm sorry if I didn't recognise you straight away, I'm hopeless with faces!

Monday 22 June 2015

Race for Life along Worthing seafront

Yesterday I took part in the 5km Race for Life event along Worthing seafront. Coming the day after the BritMums Life blogging conference I must admit that I was still in a bit of a daze, as well as suffering after two long days standing on feet unaccustomed to wearing heels. But it was a beautiful day, sunny yet cool, and there was the added motivation of trying to keep up with my friend's six year old daughter, who quickly out paced us all!

Race for Life Worthing Seafront 2015

It was a lovely run along the seafront, and we were very proud of ourselves when we finished! It was lots of fun, a great challenge, and we raised plenty of money between us for charity.

Race for Life Worthing Seafront 2015

I was invited to join the Brioche Pasquier Race for Life team, who paid for us to enter the race and started off my fundraising with a £50 donation. They also sent us each a fab t-shirt, water bottle, and some samples of their brand new breakfast brioche super cereals to try, which are also given out to people taking part in Race for Life events around the country.

It was a great atmosphere, it was amazing to see that almost everyone was wearing pink and looked to be really enjoying taking part, and I was proud to be there. There were plenty of crowds to cheer us on, and Harry and Mia even joined in for a little way en route before heading to the playground!

Race for Life Worthing Seafront 2015

Brioche Pasquier covered the entry for me and two friends to the race, as well as giving me a head start with my fundraising.

Saturday 20 June 2015

Our day trip to Rome from Civitavecchia

On our recent cruise, we stopped in Civitavecchia. The reason that the cruise ships stop here is because it is the easiest port for visiting Rome, and you can arrange all sorts of excursions for a visit. They can be pretty expensive though, and after a bit of research Ram found that it would be easy enough for us to organise our own trip there, taking the local train, a journey which takes just over an hour. Luckily we were cruising with my parents and they very kindly agreed to look after Mia for the day so that we could just take Harry (6) along - we did a lot of walking!

Family selfie on a day trip to Rome

From the cruise ship you need to take a port shuttle to the edge of the port and then head for the train station, which is about a mile away. We were hoping to take a taxi to the station to save Harry's legs, but there weren't any to be found so we ended up walking. On the way back though we managed to pick up the bus which cost just 80 cents and was clearly labelled. At the station we bought a BIRG pass which covers your train travel to Rome and back, as well as public transport once there. It cost 12 Euros for an adult and 5 Euros for Harry, with his travel within Rome being free. The staff at the station were very helpful when it came to buying the ticket and reminding us to validate it before we left, and you can find the train timetables online. We took the train to Roma Ostiense which is linked to the Piramide Metro station, and then the Metro to Colosseo which is just a couple of stops.

Ram and I visited Rome together almost ten years ago, and despite staying for nearly a week we still felt that we'd not seen everything. We had places in mind that we wanted to take Harry, but we were very conscious that he's only little, and there would be a lot of walking in the heat, so we tried to stick to just the highlights.

We started our day at the Colosseum. We purchased joint tickets for the Colosseum and the Forum in advance on the official website, which was well worth doing as it was very busy. There was still a queue to collect the tickets, but it wasn't as bad as the queue to buy tickets. It was well organised, and once inside although busy there was still plenty of space to see everything. We didn't do a guided tour and there isn't a great deal of interpretation, so if you aren't doing a tour it's worth getting hold of a guide book if you want to learn more about what you are seeing.

Taking a child to the Colosseum in Rome

Harry was very interested, we have a Playmobil arena set which he enjoys playing with so he had some idea of what to expect. It doesn't take too long to visit and you can have a good look around on the ground floor and one of the higher up levels.

Next we headed to the Basilica San Clemente, and I'd definitely recommend a visit if you are in Rome. We discovered it on our previous visit and it really was a hidden gem. It was a little busier this time, so it's obviously become a bit more well known, but it wasn't at all crowded. When you enter the basilica it looks like a normal old church, although still interesting to visit, then you descend to find the remains of the old fourth century church underneath, and then you go down again to discover the remains of a first century pagan temple and Roman streets, and a villa with a spring, all dug out at the bottom. It really is amazing, and gives a good sense of just how much history is buried underneath modern day Rome. Admission to the excavations is currently 5 Euros with children free, but this will rise to 10 Euros come July 2015, and check the opening times before you visit, as it closes for a couple of hours over lunch. Unfortunately you aren't allowed to take photographs, but you can see some on the website above, it really is a fascinating place.

Next we headed to the Forum. Again, there was quite a queue to get inside even with pre-booked tickets, but once inside it is such a large space that there are no problems with the crowds. Once again, there isn't a lot of interpretation if you aren't doing a tour and we only found a couple of maps on boards, so if you want to know more about what you are seeing but don't fancy a guided tour I'd recommend buying a guide book.

Visiting the Forum in Rome on a day trip

We knew that Harry wouldn't have the patience to stay very long, so we did a quick walk around, stopping at the places that interested him with plenty of breaks for snacks in the shade. He was getting tired in the heat but we still managed to have a good look around and he really was interested in everything. There is a lot to take in, and we found it was a good idea to find somewhere to sit where you can see a lot at once and talk about it, to get the bigger picture.

Child at the Forum in Rome

We finished our day with a walk along Via dei Fori Imperiali, which is a route that we often walked on our previous visit as it was close to our hotel. There are lots more excavations along by the side of the road that you can just wander past, and there is also Trajan's Column to see, which was covered in scaffolding on our last visit so it was nice to have a proper look!

We stopped in at the Vittorio Emmanuele Monument, an imposing structure which you are free to climb for some fantastic views of Rome. You can also take a scenic elevator ride to the very top.

Child at the Vittorio Emmanuele Monument in Rome

Harry was definitely flagging by this point so we abandoned our tentative plan to stop at the Vatican City on the way back. We later found out that was a good idea, as the queues would have been so long by that time that we would have seen very little. So we walked back to the Colosseo Metro station, and it was time to catch the train and head back to the ship after a very tiring day!

Child sleeping on train after a long day

On our cruise we also visited Pompeii, this time with both children, and you can find my post on Visiting Pompeii with small children here.

Thursday 18 June 2015

The littlest one is starting school

This week, Mia's new teacher came around for a home visit. We are quite lucky, because she will have the same teacher that Harry did, and be in the same classroom, so there is some familiarity for both us and her. But I can't quite believe that it's time for her to start school already. Perhaps because she's the youngest, she just doesn't seem ready, even though I know that she is.

She was so excited before the teachers arrived, bouncing about and carefully choosing the princess dress that she thought her teacher would like best. Harry was excited too, to see his old teacher again and show her some of the things in his house. During the visit Mia did clam up a little bit, although she sat there happily playing with the toys that they'd brought along.

The teacher brought along her book bag, a picture book, and a little book about the school filled with pictures of the different areas and what the children get up to. She already loves looking through Harry's book and it's so much easier to prepare her for school now that we all know what to expect.

It will be a big change for us all to have them both at school, but I'm torn - while I know that I'll relish the extra time, I know that I'm going to miss these pre-school days!

Things ready for a child starting school

Tuesday 16 June 2015

Our favourite family attractions in Barcelona

Things to do in Barcelona for families

In May half term this year, we spent a week on the Allure of the Seas cruise ship in the Mediterranean. With the ship departing from Barcelona, we took advantage of a couple of school inset days, and spent a few days exploring Barcelona with the children - Harry was 6 and Mia nearly 4.

We had a great time, and these were some of our highlights:

The Sagrada Familia church

Ram and I visited the Sagrada Familia church on a day trip to Barcelona about five years ago, and it was quite amazing how much it had changed since then. Construction on the church began in 1882, and has progressed slowly over the years, with an anticipated completion date of 2026. When we last visited, the basilica was filled with scaffolding, now that has all gone and you can really appreciate it.

The stained glass windows are absolutely beautiful. We visited late afternoon and the sun was streaming through and the colours were everywhere. The children's favourite part was the doors at the entrance. There are moulded leaves, and in amongst them are all sorts of insects and bugs. They loved hunting for them and picking them out, we spent ages here! Harry was also fascinated by the museum inside which has the original plaster models for the church, it's also a good way to have a look at some of the details close up.

Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona

The Sagrada Familia is very popular and you need to buy a timed ticket for your visit. You can do this easily in advance on the official Sagrada Familia website, where you can also check how many tickets are remaining - we found that mornings were busy but early evenings less so. We bought our tickets when we arrived and we had to wait about 15 minutes to buy the tickets then another half an hour or so for our time slot. An adult ticket without guide costs 15 Euros and you can pay an additional 4.50 Euros to visit the towers, although we weren't able to on this occasion as Mia was too young - only children 6 and over are allowed. Children under 10 are free to visit the church.

Montjuic - by Cable Car

The Montjuic Cable Car links the city to the top of Montjuic and Montjuic Castle. We took the funicular from Paral lel Metro station. The funicular isn't as exciting as it sounds, the train just goes up the hill inside a tunnel so there aren't any views, but it's included in your Metro ticket. Then we boarded the cable car directly outside Parc Montjuic station. We bought one way tickets (Adult 7.80 Euros, Child 6 Euros), return tickets are available for a little bit more. It's a lovely ride up, it wasn't busy and we had car to ourselves. The views across the city to the hills and sea are amazing, and were were able to pick out our hotel and some of the places that we had visited.

Montjuic Cable Car, Barcelona

Once at the top it's a short walk to the Castle with cannons to see and views across the city and the docks. We saw the cruise ships, and the cranes loading boats and trains.

Montjuic - Exploring across the top

We bought our one way tickets to the top of Montjuic, planning to walk down. It's not a long walk (although steep with steps) if you go back the way that the cable car takes you, but Ram wanted to visit the Olympic Village, so after a look at the outside of the Montjuic Castle we walked across the top of the hill and down through the Olympic sites, descending via escalators to the Magic Fountain in Placa d'Espanya.

The Olympic Stadium is open free to visitors, so we popped our heads round for a quick look.

Barcelona Olympic Stadium

Then you can walk down the hill past some very impressive cascades and fountains which the children loved.

Child in front of fountain in Barcelona

It's a really pretty walk, I loved these tiled steps off to one side of our route. There are quite a few steps to go down, but the escalators were brilliant for us at keeping the children interested while we hunted for the next one - it was a long trek for our reluctant walkers but they managed really well!

Pretty tiled steps in Barcelona

At the end of the walk was the Magic Fountain, which is impressive enough during the day but is really something special in the evenings - see below!

Barcelona Magic Fountain

The Magic Fountain

At night time, the Montjuic fountain comes alive with a musical fountain show. It starts quite late, but we managed to keep the children awake and were glad that we did because they loved it. You can see a timetable for the Magic Fountain shows here (English), but we found that although the shows are timetabled half hourly in reality it was running pretty much continuously, with just a few minutes break between songs. The nearest Metro stop for the fountain is Placa d'Espanya, and there are plenty of places that you can watch the fountains from all sides.

Barcelona Magic Fountain at night

La Boqueria Food Market

The food market is located about two thirds of the way up the Ramblas on the left, and it is one of Europe's largest and most famous food markets. It's a maze once you are inside, packed with fruit and veg, meat, sea food, chocolate, biscuits - all sorts of things! I loved the displays of fresh fruit and we enjoyed some mango smoothie for just 1 Euro a cup.

La Boqueria Food Market in Barcelona

The most fascinating part for me was the sea food, even though I won't eat it - as well as plenty of fish there were shelves full of crabs and lobsters, all still alive and twitching. We even saw an octopus. We managed to visit while my parents looked after the children, which meant that we could have a proper look around - it was very busy and it would have been hard work trying to steer little ones around without losing them. I think they would have found it interesting though!

Barceloneta Beach

There are plenty of beaches to visit in Barcelona, starting right in the city centre. We took a tram from our hotel to Barceloneta Beach, which is very central. On a weekday in May it wasn't too busy but I can imagine that during the summer it's packed. It's a nice sandy beach with a calm sea, and we spent a couple of hours here digging around.

Child playing on beach in Barcelona

When I'm at the beach I love walking along the shoreline hunting for shells and other treasure, and I was delighted to find that Barceloneta beach was a fantastic place for finding beautiful, elusive sea glass! I brought a little pot full home and I've plenty of crafty ideas for it.

Our hotel - The Novotel Barcelona City

We stayed four nights with my parents in the Novotel Barcelona City. It was a nice hotel, a bit too far from the centre for little legs to walk to the main sites, but it is close to Metro and Tram lines and next to a large shopping centre with various shops and places to eat. The hotel itself was lovely, with a rooftop swimming pool and terrace, and our room was high up, with wonderful views out across the whole city to the hills beyond. The breakfast was very good (children eat free) and it had free wi-fi too, I'd definitely recommend it!

If you are visiting Barcelona I'd recommend a visit to BarcelonaTurisme to help plan your trip!

I received a Barcelona Press Card from Barcelona Turisme which gave me complimentary admission into the Sagrada Familia and to the Montjuic Cable Car. 

Friday 12 June 2015

The "I'm going to Britmums Live 2015 meme"

Not long to go now until Britmums Live 2015! I'm starting to get very excited, and also a little terrified as I will be speaking in one of the sessions which is a scary thought. If you'd like to come along I'd love to see you, I'll be talking all about Pinterest in the Pinterest: Winning Ideas from Leading Pinners session on the Saturday after lunch.

So I'm joining in with the Britmums Live 2015 meme to share a little more about me. I'm hopeless at recognising people but apparently I look exactly like my profile picture, so if you see me please do come along and say hello! I'm often quite happily wandering about on my own, and if there is any free wine or cake on offer this year then you'll find me close by!


Jennifer Jain


Jennifer's Little World

Twitter ID



About 5'3"


Brown in a pony tail



Is this your first blogging conference?

No, I've been to Britmums Live twice before. You can read about my experiences here - Britmums Live 2013 and Britmums Live 2014. I also went to Blogfest in 2013.

Are you attending both days?


What are you most looking forward to at BritMums Live 2015?

Catching up with some bloggy friends and hopefully meeting some new ones. Also some of the sessions look amazing, it's going to be so hard to choose which ones to go to.

What are you wearing?

Normally I just wear jeans, a top and trainers, but as I'm speaking this year I'm thinking I might need to step it up a little. I might go for black tailored trousers with boots and a slightly smarter t-shirt, possibly even a bit of make up!

What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live 2015?

Last year I came home really inspired with loads of ideas, I completely redesigned my blog and thought a lot more about my posts. I hope to feel the same this year. I'm also hoping that the session I am speaking in will go well - I've never really done any public speaking before, and never anything like this, so I'm very nervous, but sometimes it's good to step outside your comfort zone and I think it will be great for my confidence!

Do you have any tips to pass on to others who may not have been before?

Remember that most people there are just as nervous as you are, even if they look confident. If you are going to a session on your own, look for a table with a couple of other people that are also sitting on their own and introduce yourself. Choose the sessions that you're interested in even if you don't know anyone else going, but don't feel that you have to attend all the sessions that you can, sometimes it's nice to just wander around the stands while it's a bit quieter or even pop outside for a break and some fresh air.

I hope to see you there!

Thursday 11 June 2015

Shopping toys for young children

Last week it was Mia's birthday, and we were quite pleased with a few of the presents that we found for her so I thought that I'd share them. She has been interested in playing shops for quite some time, and I'm finding that it's a great way to start teaching her a bit of number recognition as well as indulging her love for role play.

Shopping toys for toddlers and older children

Mia had been talking about having a shopping trolley for some time, but all the ones that we'd seen were aimed at younger toddlers, quite large and clunky in bright plastic colours. She was also adamant that it had to have a seat for her dolly. So Ram found her this fab realistic little toy Waitrose shopping trolley in John Lewis. Her dollies fit in comfortably, it has a nice padded handle, and there is plenty of space in the trolley as well as space underneath for a shopping basket.

Shopping toys for toddlers and older children

It's great because it's not too large, it looks good, and because it's quite subdued in colour it doesn't stick out too much when it's stored in the corner of the room. It cost £18 which I thought was quite reasonable for a sturdy, well made toy.

Shopping toys for toddlers and older children

John Lewis sell nice baskets of groceries too, but we preferred a much cheaper one that we found on Amazon, at only £5 I think it was a bargain - Child's Shopping Basket. It came packed with plenty of play food inside and it's quite small, which means that it fits on the shelf underneath the trolley and Mia can carry it around easily. Some of the packets have barcodes on them which Mia enjoys placing against her till to 'scan' them like she does when I use the self-service till at the supermarket. The boxes are perhaps a little flimsy for very little ones to play with, but I think that ours are at the age now where they will look after them better.

Shopping toys for toddlers and older children

We've never had any kind of toy till for the children, but I've always known it was something that they'd both love, so we spent a bit of time looking for a nice one. We wanted one that was durable and long lasting, and preferably a bit more grown up than the basic bright plastic toys aimed at younger toddlers. It's quite difficult to find one that resembles the type of tills that are actually used in supermarkets, but in the end we opted for the Calculator Cash Register by Learning Resources.

Shopping toys for toddlers and older children

A big bonus is that it is solar powered so it doesn't need any batteries, and it has a lovely drawer for the money underneath which is easy to open and close with the press of a button and makes a satisfying 'ding'. The till beeps when you press a button and when you insert the credit card, and it's also a fully functioning calculator. The till comes with a full set of play money, both coins and notes (UK denominations) as well as a play credit card. At just over £25 it's a little pricier than some of the other toy tills on the market, but I'm hoping that we'll get our money's worth from it. I've noticed that even though Mia has not had it long she's already starting to recognise her numbers, something that I've been trying to teach her for a while and not found a way to keep her interested. The large flat area on the left is great to press the food boxes up against and use as a scanner.

Finally when you are shopping you need somewhere to put your money, and I love these little purses that my Mum bought for the children a little while ago. I've no idea where they are from I'm afraid, but they are so sweet!

Shopping toys for toddlers and older children

With perfect timing, last week I received a copy of Let's Go Shopping Peppa to review. The book is all about Peppa's trip to the supermarket when Peppa and her family need something tasty for lunch. At the supermarket, Peppa finds everything on Mummy Pig's shopping list, but when they get to the checkout something extra has appeared in their trolley..! I really like this particular story because the scenario of going shopping is something that is familiar to all little ones, even if perhaps in reality they don't all love it as much as Peppa and George do! Mia watches a lot of Peppa Pig, so this book was a big hit, we loved reading it together and because she has seen the corresponding television episode several times she knew what was going to happen and enjoyed telling me all about it. A lovely companion gift!

Shopping toys for toddlers and older children

We've set up a little shop in the corner of the living room and I can see many days ahead of playing toy shops. Mia loved helping me to make the shop (she built the little walls herself out of her coloured blocks) and she's already learned a few tricks of the trade, like placing a few little toys by the till to tempt the buyer, and then trying to sell me something extra while I'm paying for my shopping!

Shopping toys for toddlers and older children

I think that our shopping role play set up is pretty well sorted now!

We received the Let's Go Shopping Peppa book to review, all the other bits we bought ourselves. Amazon links are affiliate.