Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Literary Inspired Baby Names.

** This is a guest post from the lovely Jane over at Is That You Darling, the link to her blog is at the end of this post so if you have enjoyed reading please do pop over and check out more posts on her blog**

I don’t have babies, and I don’t know if I ever will. But that doesn’t stop me playing the ‘What would I name my babies game?’ from time to time.

People have lots of different reasons for choosing the names that they do for their children; sometimes it’s a family tradition, sometimes it’s after a loved one that is no longer with them. And sometimes it’s just because they love a name.

I’m a big reader, and so when I’m thinking about names that I love, I often think back on the books I have read, and the characters I have loved. With that in mind, here’s a few names that I love that are inspired by literature.

Darcy Somewhat obvious, maybe, but is there a more iconic character than Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice? I think Darcy is a lovely name for a girl, but I think it could work for a boy as well.

This is a fairly popular name, with John Legend and Chrissy Teigen, and Frank Lampard having daughters called Luna. As a Harry Potter fan, and a Luna Lovegood fan, I think it’s a beautiful name!

Inspired not by a character in a book, but by a poet – W.H. Auden, who is perhaps most famous for his poem Funeral Blues. A perfect name for a little girl or a little boy.

Bronte Another name inspired by a writer rather than a character, a baby girl called Bronte would honour the three sisters: Emily, Charlotte and Anne, famous for such novels as Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

This one would be a little awkward for me, as my oldest sister’s married surname is Sawyer! But I love it as a name for a girl or a boy. It is inspired, of course, by one of American literature’s most famous characters, Tom Sawyer.

Another Bronte-inspired name; Nelly is the narrator of Wuthering Heights, and is a lovely old fashioned name for a little girl.

Ada is a character in Cold Mountain, portrayed by Nicole Kidman in the Oscar-winning movie adaptation. It’s another old-fashioned name, the likes of which seem to be very popular right now!

Pip Would you be setting your son up for a childhood of teasing if you named him Pip? Possibly, but I think it’s ever so cute! Pip is a character from Great Expectations, though you could also go for Pippin from The Lord of the Rings!

OK, so as someone called Jane, it might be going a little far to call my baby girl Janie. But it’s a lovely version of Jane, don’t you think? It comes from a book called Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, a book I studied at university.

This is my all-time favourite name for a little boy; I can’t imagine anything cuter than a baby boy called Huck! It’s obviously inspired by The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but it also doesn’t hurt that there’s a West Wing connection (my favourite show of all time!).

Thanks to Jess for letting me guest post here at Tantrums to Smiles! I blog at Is That You Darling, and it’s mostly about books and general life stuff if you’d like to stop by!


Monday, 19 June 2017

Keeping kids cool in a heatwave

Since last week the temperatures have been rising with summer well and truly on its way! This weekend temperatures hit 30 degrees here in Bristol! It seems all across the country temperatures have been soaring and it can be unbearable when it gets too hot, especially for kids!

With that in mind I have joined up with some great bloggers to share some of our top tips for keeping kids cool in a heat wave -

Bedtime can be a real pain at the best of times but in the heat and bedtime becomes impossible. I really can't blame the kids for struggling to sleep in the heat as I do too but I have found that using ice packs can help a little. I use the ice packs you can buy for picnic bags etc (the thin blue ones) and freeze as many as I can during the day. I then place each one inside a sandwich bag and place them inside the bed about 45-60 minutes before the kids are going up to bed. The sandwich bags stop them from getting the sheets wet but it leaves the pillows and sheets lovely and cold when they get into bed, making it a little easier to settle.

Sophie from Sophie and Lily and Elizabeth from Where roots and wings entwine are both big fans of making ice lollies to keep their little ones cool. Sophie suggested using fruit to keep the ice lollies healthy which is a fab idea. Elizabeth also had a great idea of freezing breast milk and making them into little lollies if you are breastfeeding which is such a sweet idea.

Lianne from Anklebiters Adventures suggested using the water spray bottles filled with cold water and letting the kids spray themselves to keep cool. Which sounds like a great idea to me, James also likes the handheld fans you can buy which are handy especially in a hot car. I found these funky fans which combine the water spray bottle and a handheld fan in one in Argos, they look like they would do a great job at keeping you cool!


Vikki from Family Travel with Ellie suggested hanging a damp cloth a safe distance from the fan if you have one in the room, this ensures all the air circulated is nice and cool which definitely would help keep the room nice and cool.

Emma from Me and B make tea has a super fun suggestion of freezing toys into blocks ice, not only keeping them cool when handling the ice but keeping them entertained trying to break their toys out too. I love this idea and will definitely be giving it a try with James and Evelyn.

During the summer months my fridge is usually packed with more non edibles that food! Keeping things such as baby wipes, after sun, moisturisers, even t-shirts and shorts can make them really refreshing to use especially when its boiling outside. The kids love finding their cold pjs in the fridge to slip on before they for to bed!

I also love Donna from Bobsy's Mum suggestion of frozen Frubes! I best these taste delicious, would cool you down and very little mess as they are in the tubes! Will definitely be giving these a try.

Finally... you can't go wrong with a paddling pool! My son loves it when he comes home from a hot day at school and finds the paddling pool up in the garden ready for him to dive in to! It instantly cools him off and is lots of fun too, just don't forget the sun cream.

Do you have any top tips for keeping the kids (or even us grown ups) cool during these hot summer months and unbearable heat waves? I would love to hear them in the comments below!


Friday, 9 June 2017

Happy 3rd Birthday Evelyn!

Well this has come round quickly and hit me hard, how on earth can my baby girl be turning 3 today!?

I'm not going to say where has the time gone, I've felt every moment of it... heck we haven't even mastered bed time yet! But I have adored being able to spend every minute of my day with you Evelyn.

Seeing you smile for the first time, take your first steps and talk for the very first time. Now I'm about to watch you grow up (way to quickly for my liking) and head off to nursery, and I know your super excited because you want to be just like your brother. But I'm going to miss you just like I did James too.

I don't know whether its because you have your big brother to look up to but my gosh Evelyn you are determined. You know what you want, how your going to get and hell hath no fury on those who get in your way! Your head strong and beautiful and I love that you aren't afraid to show the world your bubbly diva like personality and always with a smile on your face.

When you came along you completed our family and we couldn't have been happier, you make us smile every single day even on the days I didn't think it was possible. Your cheeky and loud and a real mummy's girl but you have such a sensitive side too
You love cuddles and especially love it when we stroke your neck or back when you roll your eyes back and totally relax. You have your very special "blabley" (blanket for you and I) who you wouldn't be without, he's your comfort when your sad, sleepy or happy.

Evelyn I want to say Thank You. You have shown me what confidence looks like and allowed me to become stronger by learning from you. You have no fear just an amazing imagination, a want to learn and the desire to smile. I never want you to lose those things and I will do everything in my power to tell you every day to never change who you are, be strong, be determined, be you... even if you are a diva at times!

Happy Birthday baby girl, I love you to the moon and the stars!


Sunday, 4 June 2017

I don't need a break from my kids!

"You just need a break"

It seems to be one of those common phrases we all say whenever anyone has a problem, sleep deprived... you need a break. feeling down... you need a break. But that isn't always the right solution for us all, what if my kids are my break? My break from the stress of the world we live in, my break from the mundane routine and being a grown up.

For me, I don't need nor want a break from my kids!

I will take a house full of laughter, jokes and make believe over a house of silence and tidy. Now don't get me wrong there are tantrums and tears and sometimes I take a few minutes longer in the bathroom just to gain my composure for the next round of "but mum I'm bored". But in reality I wouldn't have it any other way and time away from them fills me with dread.

My children are my life, they are the reason I know what true love is and the reason why I have so many happy memories. I don't need an escape or a break, but I'm certainly not bashing parents who do! We are all different, parent differently and needing a break doesn't make any difference to your parenting and its ok to admit you need one, just like its ok to admit you don't.

James recently went on a camp trip with his Beaver Scouts group, it was Friday-Sunday meaning 2 whole nights away! It was the longest he has ever been away from us and whilst I let him go I was so apprehensive about it and deep down just wanted to screw up the form and pretend it never happened.
He was so excited to go but as he walked up the steps to the coach and disappeared towards the back I felt the tears well up in my eyes. I missed him more than I ever felt imaginable and the first night found myself hugging his pillow, wiping away my tears counting down the moments until he was back.

I of course didn't let James see my tears but did ensure as he stepped off the coach on his return I scooped him up, span him around and gave him the biggest hug and kiss I could manage. It made me realise that I don't need a break or want to be apart from my kids. Yes I may moan that they drive me mad and that the bickering is draining but without them I'm lost!

Yes life with kids is crazy and chaotic, they keep me on my toes and might be the reason my hair is going grey at 27 but that's parenting isn't it? That manic, crazy, bursting with pride kind of love that I don't think I ever want a break from.

Please don't think I'm judging you as a parent, we are all different and need different things and that's ok! Life would be boring if we all felt the same, did the same and acted the same! If you need a break, take it and don't feel guilty. Just remember a happy parent means a happy child so we have do what we need to so that can happen!


Friday, 26 May 2017

An open letter to my son after the Manchester Attack


I seem to forget sometimes how much you have grown, and just how much you hear not just from us but from your friends at school! Your so aware and often wise beyond your years I need to give you a little more credit as I still think of you as my baby when I try to shield you from the world and all its problems.

Yesterday you asked me, you asked me about the attacks that had happened and you told me you heard it was a nail bomb and you looked confused.

You asked me why someone would do this and you asked about people being killed. I could tell you had so many questions and I was scared, because I wasn't sure I would have all the answers for you.

I can't tell you why these people do these things as most of us adults are unable to really grasp that concept either. I can't tell you why they chose the place they did or why these chose a bomb.

I can tell you though the names of those who were so tragically killed, I can show you their pictures and tell you they were loved. I can tell you about the heart break their families will feel and I can tell you its ok to feel sad for all these people too.

But most of all I want to tell you not to be scared, don't let them win! Never let them dull your smile, your sense of adventure of your freedom. Never let these vile terrorists make you change who you are or how you feel.

I came to give you extra cuddles once you were asleep last night, fast asleep cuddled up to your book and teddy peaceful and care free just as you should be. I shed a tear for those poor families tonight who have lost someone, who are still looking for someone or who came so close to losing someone in those horrific attacks yesterday. I realise just how little I take these moments for granted and my heart aches for all those families who won't be able to kiss their loved ones tonight.

The world can seem to ugly, so cruel but James please don't forget there is so much good! There was so much good that happened after those attacks yesterday and when you see all these bad things happening I want you to look for the good, there is always good!

Strangers opened there homes, their cars and there hearts to those caught up in the attacks with no judging, no prejudice just the love to help those who needed it. The paramedics and police who rushed to the scene to be with those who needed them. The people who raised money after the attacks to support those who needed it and the police who are out on our street in force just days after trying to keep us safe.

I can't predict what the world will be like when your all grown up James and I can't promise that this won't happen again. I can promise though that I will do everything I can do to keep you safe, to show you love, happiness and all the good in the world.


Friday, 19 May 2017

Little Giggles Soft Play - A totally unique soft play experience

Both Evelyn and James love soft play and it can be a great way to let them burn off some of that built up energy especially on wet rainy days. However soft plays do seem to all be quite similar and its easy to feel like if you've been to one you've been to them all! But that's where Little Giggles soft play centre are breaking the mould with their fun, sensory soft play experience!

Little Giggles soft play is based in Yate (just across the road from the main shopping centre and bus station) and is aiming to break the perceptions of your typical soft play centres with their new centre which has a strong focus on development through light and movement play. Nearly all the equipment within Little Giggles has a moving or light up element to it giving a great sensory feel as well as providing lots of stimulation, fun and excitement for the kids.

Little Giggles is on the upper level of a new development in Yate (stairs and lift to entrance) and we have been so excited to go try it out (me as well as Evelyn of course!). There is tons of parking so we didn't need to worry about that and upon entering we were greeted by several friendly staff members all clearly visible by their fun vibrant uniforms. Payment was quick and easy and off we went to enjoy the centre.

Within the soft play centre there is the main soft play area as well as a large seating area with tables and chairs and a café serving hot food such as jacket potatoes and panini's as well as cakes, soft drinks and coffee/tea.

Evelyn's eyes lit up at the sight of the soft play and it really is something totally different to your typical soft play centres. Gone is the dingy multi level, outdated soft play apparatus its all about the funky, clean and vibrant equipment here and the lights certainly do catch your eye. Evelyn loved the fact that lots of the items moved without having to ask me to push her (she likes to be independent!).

(The spinning Dolphins were a big hit!)

(as were these little "peanuts" that went around but backwards!)

It really feels like each piece of equipment has been carefully thought out here at Little Giggles with everything having a light, sound or touch element rather than just being something to climb. Something we had never seen at a soft play before was this water table! Its such a fantastic idea and can be jumped on, led on or just to jiggle about on, there are plastic fish and seaweed as well as lights concealed within and its such a great idea. Evelyn loved trying to catch all the fish!

Even the slides had an extra element with the one below having cascading lights and the larger slide (seen in the background here) has a "bubble wrap" feel with giant plastic air pockets all the way down the slide!

I was a big fan of the layout too as all the tables face the main soft play area and the whole area is visible from the seating area so those with slightly older children who prefer to head in alone can still keep watch on your little ones. We didn't eat any hot food in the café today as we went straight from the morning school run but the food did smell delicious as we were leaving just before lunch. We can also vouch that the cookies and millionaires shortbread slice was scrumptious and I would say the prices were quite fair at around £4.50 for 2 cold drinks and 2 cakes.

Little Giggles is for children age 0-8 with children under 9 unable to play however I would definitely say the soft play would be more suit to ages 1-5 as James is 7 and I'm not sure he would be as entertained as Evelyn was.

Prices for entry in to the soft play may seem a little more expensive than your "average" soft play but this definitely is NOT your average soft play and so the prices do reflect how much thought and effort has gone to making this soft play as great as it is. There is also no time limit to play (unless the centre gets very busy when they may inforce a 2 hour play limit) so we felt whilst it was a little more expensive it was most definitely worth it.

If you are planning on visiting regularly there is also the option of becoming a member too which brings down the prices of each visit for the entire year!

If you are thinking of visiting Little Giggles soft play do it! You won't regret it and I am certain both you and the kids will want to return, soft play just won't be the same for us again as Little Giggles have certainly set the bar high and we will certainly be back... very soon!

(The balloon chamber had Evelyn in fits of giggles as the balloons bounced around the windy room whilst she tried to catch them all!)

Do you think Little Giggles is somewhere your kids would love too?


Thursday, 18 May 2017

Parenthood - The things they don't tell you!

Becoming a parent can be such a special time, meeting your baby for the first time and all those magical moments our family and friends tell us to look forward to.

However most parents will be aware that whilst they moments are very special there are so many more moments that make you stop and think... "well they didn't tell me about this!". I have been speaking to some other mums about these hilarious parenting moments to share with you all and here are some of those moments we have all "enjoyed" since becoming parents.

- You will never pee alone ever again, need the toilet in a public place? Then you best be about ready to be exposed to a restroom full of women waiting to use your cubicle as your toddler tried to escape whilst you sit on the loo! Trying to keep the door closed with one foot without peeing on yourself as you balance on the edge of the toilet seat growling your child's name through your teeth so nobody outside can hear you!

- Playdates will very rarely contain actual "play" think more along the lines of becoming a duplo referee. Stalking your child around the cramped soft play grabbing their socks as they fling them at you as they run. Trying to hold some sort of conversation through the soft play ball pit with another mum about how little sleep you've had whilst never actually purchasing that coffee you swore you would get when you first walked in!

- Toddlers can be gross like really gross - " Today I picked a broken Pom bear out of my 1 year olds butt crack. I have no idea how it got there. I wish someone would have warned me about how gross some days are!" - Abbie from www.mamawilkos.com

- Kids certainly don't mince their words! - I wish someone told me how straight forward talking kids are! Many of times my girls have said something about someone aloud and it's REALLY embarassing! Never mind about being super confident, not giving a damn what others think... my middle doesn't care if someone sees her scratching her bum in public! Beth from www.life-as-mum.co.uk

- The poo! Oh yes ALL the poo! - I wish someone had warned me I would end up stepping on poo. With no shoes on. Or socks. More than once. Laura from Www.mumoam.co.uk

So next time I walk past Mothercare and feel my ovaries twitching at the teeny tiny sleep suits and baby booties, I will switch my mind to the less glamorous (but totally hilarious) side of parenting I think we often forget and remind myself exactly why we chose to stop at 2 kids!  

Do you have any funny parenthood tales to tell that you have since discovered after having kids?  I would love to hear them in the comments below!


Sunday, 14 May 2017

May Madness Giveaway!

Can you believe we are in May already? This year seems to be zooming by but I have to admit I'm glad its almost summer (lets just hope we get lots of sun!). Evelyn is a bit older this year and I can't wait to have lots of days out with her and James over the summer holidays.

Today I have a fantastic giveaway to share with you all! The chance to win not 1 but 2 Fire Tablets (a kids one and an adults one!). Perfect for keeping the kids entertained on long journeys or for just catching up social media whilst you sunbathe in the garden. Check out the giveaway below and enter for your chance to win.

Once again a whole host of amazing bloggers have teamed up to offer you the chance to win a great prize (something we couldn't do individually), but who are this group of amazing people; well check them out:

Joining forces together has meant we can bring you the chance to win not only a Fire HD 8 Tablet (8gb) but a Fire Kids Edition Tablet (in pink or blue) alongside some accessories (think screen protector and a case for the Fire HD 8). Now that's going to make for one lucky winner!

So how can you be in with a chance of winning? Well all you need to do is let us know:

What do you have planned for this summer? Anything exciting?

The only mandatory entry is to answer the above question, all following entries are optional. However, we would, of course, love it if you could give the bloggers behind this giveaway some support. Full T&C can be found within the Rafflecopter widget.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck everyone!!


Summer style with JD Williams **REVIEW**

Since becoming a mum my style has most definitely changed, its no longer just about what looks good but what's practical too!

But just because I need practical clothes doesn't mean I don't want to look nice and summer is my favourite season for fashion as Maxi dresses are my favourite and I love all the summer styles that have been appearing online.

They are comfy, look great and are practical for most occasions including chasing after the kids! I love how they can be dressed up for an evening or down for the beach and there are so many designs out there now you can be as colourful as you want.

I recently discovered JD Williams who are an online store for women's fashion with an emphasis on contemporary women's clothing, ranging from sizes 12-32. I was offered the chance to choose a few summer pieces in order to share my top summer style tips with you so here is what I chose!

I went for this beautiful Joe Browns Printed Maxi Dress as the deep blue colour immediately caught my eye and I thought the pattern was really pretty. Its floor length and the straps are chunky enough that I could wear my normal bra underneath with no issues. The dress also comes with a detachable belt which was great for defining your waist which can often get lost on long dresses.

I teamed it with these Heavenly soles sandals. I felt the blue diamante detail tied in nicely with the colour in the dress and I was immediately sold by the claim of them having supreme underfoot comfort! I spend a lot of my day on my feet chasing around an energetic toddler so a sandal that's looks pretty and can provide me with comfort has to be a winner, right?

My top fashion tips out there this summer would be -

- Choose clothes you are comfortable in and that allow you to move, like the maxi dress. It means you can still look good and chase the kids around too!

- Bold colour or patterns. Don't be afraid to add some colour to your wardrobe this summer and if big brights aren't your thing add some colour in with your shoes or accessories.

- I am also loving the floaty, dreamy dresses and tunics this summer. They look great and won't leave you feeling too hot in the sun.

Do you have any summer favourites from the JD Williams website or any top fashion tips for this summer season? I would love to hear about them below!


** I received these items of clothing in exchange for this post, I was not paid. All opinions are my own**

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo **REVIEW**

Last week we headed off for a short break at Bluestone Wales and I really wanted to explore a little and find a day our for the kids whilst we were there, that's when I came across Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo!

Searching their website and discovering they had been given the Best Day Out in Wales award I knew this place was going to be good but I definitely wasn't prepared for just how good!

Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo has over 750 animals for you to visit and you can also get up close to furry and feathery farmyard friends in the farmyard barn. If you want more than animals though, no worries as Folly Farm has over 16 different rides in their vintage themed fairground, as well as 8 outdoor adventure and play area's. With this in mind Folly Farm really does have something to keep every member of the family happy.

Folly Farm is clearly sign posted as you approach so finding it was simple, the parking is actually in a car park across the road which we hadn't realised initially. However there is actually an underpass directly from the car park to the entrance of the park so no need to cross any dangerous roads and it meant there was a huge amount of parking available.

At the entrance we were handed a map and wrist bands for the kids, they were the kind you get at swimming (the tough paper kind with a sticky tab) which had space for you to write parents name and contact number in case your little ones got lost. I love this idea and love that it comes free and standard for all admissions in to the park.

Upon entering we were immediately met with the The Jolly Barn full of farm animals of all kinds from turkeys to donkeys and everything in between. Right by the entrance we found a big board which listed all the "meet and greet" type events they had going on in the barn throughout the day which was a good idea as it meant we saw it straight away and could remember any that the kids really wanted to do.

We ended up meeting the bunnies and the sheep (sheep are Evelyn's favourite!) at various times in the day and the kids loved it. The staff who ran these were really friendly and were full of information and answers to all the kids questions which was fantastic. The barn where these take park is near the entrance though so best to keep track of the time so you can make it back in time if you want to see something in particular.

We moved on from the barn and came to the Vintage themed fairground which is indoors so usable in all weather. I have to admit I was a bit dubious of this as I'm not a fan of having to spend loads of extra money on a day out but I was really impressed by this one. You pay for the rides in tokens with each token costing 50p, yep that's right just 50p!! and most rides were only 1 token with the maximum being 2 tokens. I was thrilled that the rides were so cheap and it meant the kids got to go on all the rides they wanted without it costing a fortune.

After the fairground we headed outside for lunch and decided to bring our own picnic. There are plenty of picnic benches dotted around, lots of them with some great views of the animals too which I loved.

As we were eating lunch the kids had spied the giraffes and so off we walked ran to see the giraffes and we couldn't believe just how close we could get to these magical animals. We were so lucky that they were right by the fence but Folly Farm also have a viewing platform that goes over the giraffe enclosure meaning wherever they are you get a great view of them.

We also saw penguins, rhinos, flamingos, reindeer, hogs, meerkats, lions and so many more animals during our visit there were just so many to see at the turn of every corner. We have been to lots of zoo's but felt this place offered the most amount of animals to see. The enclosures for the animals looked great too, nice big open spaces, clean enclosures and plenty to keep the animals happy and entertained which is always a good thing to see in places like this. Its very clear that Folly Farm really care about each and every animal in their park.

One of the things we kept commenting on at Folly Farm was just how clean it was! Honestly it was so clean even in the barn area, we didn't see any litter or mess our whole visit which made the whole visit more enjoyable. We also loved how the park is set out as its set out in a way that you can't really miss anything as long as you follow it round.

Prices for Folly Farm are really good -

Child (3-15 years)£11.95
Toddler (2 years)

The above price gets you entry in to the park, all the animals and adventure area's as well as a tractor/trailer ride which takes you around the fields of the farm opposite the car park area. We found this was a lovely way to end our day and the recording that played as you travel around was really informative for us and the kids. It told us all about the animals on the farm as we drove past them in the fields.

If you are thinking of paying a visit to Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo I would thoroughly recommend it, I would also recommend getting there at opening time as there is just so much to do you really do need the whole day to fit it all in!

Have you ever been to Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo before?


**We received free entry in to Folly Farm for the purpose of this review, all opinions are my own**

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Our stay at Bluestone Wales **REVIEW**

If you have seen any of my social media pages recently you may have realised that last week we were at Bluestone in Wales!

When an email landed in my inbox a few months ago inviting us along for a stay I couldn't contain my excitement. The place looked amazing online and I knew the kids would love it, well last week the time finally come for us to visit so we packed up our car and off we went.

Upon arriving we came up to the check in point for Bluestone which thanks to their "drive thru" style check in was super quick and really easy. Its just a case of driving up to the indicated window and handing over either your booking reference number or surname and you are handed your welcome pack and keys and shown where your lodge is!

As we were in a Ramsey lodge we could check in from 3pm and had very little time to wait so we parked up for a little bit and checked out the map we had received in our welcome pack. In no time 3pm had arrived and we were shown through the gate and off we went to find our lodge. We had been given a map which our accommodation had been circled on but everything is so well sign posted at Bluestone finding our lodge was really easy to find.

Our lodge was beautiful and you can read more about our Bluestone accommodation here.

Bluestone is a no car zone (with exception to check in and check out days where cars are allowed back on site), however you can hire bikes or golf buggies to get around whilst you are there. We had been undecided at home about hiring one as we weren't sure how far away our lodge would be from the amenities. We soon discovered we were quite a walk away and opted to hire a golf buggy on our second day.

We were really lucky and the buggy hire centre had a buggy for us however Bluestone do advise that you book these before arrival, there is no guarantee there will be any left if you wait until you arrive on site. The cost for buggy hire is £92 for the week (with bikes averaging about the same for a family of 4). I did think this was a little steep but after a day of walking up the hills with a non compliant toddler it was certainly worth it for us.

There is so much to see at Bluestone I would suggest setting aside a few hours to explore each day, there are mapped out walks as well as the village, lots of parks, the lake and the steep ravine to name a few. You will also receive a timetable when you check in which will list and detail all the Bluestone activities on offer during your stay with times, dates and prices. There was something for everyone from baby sensory and messy play to tree climbing, high ropes and even little excursions little ones can go on without parents. James really wanted to take part but lots of the "older kids" activities were 8 + and as he is only 7 was unable to join in. I know when we next return he will have a whole host of activities on his list to do!

There are also plenty of places to eat on site at Bluestone from the Chippy to serving your classic fish and chips to Camp Smokey where you can dine al fresco on food cooked on the open fired barbecue! We did grab some chips from the Chippy after our day at Folly Farm and they were delicious and the prices were really good too.

There is also the Ty Coffi where you can stop for a coffee to refuel or an ice cream to cool down (the ice cream is amazing and a large variety of flavours such as chocolate brownie, candy floss and bubblegum!)

The smell coming from the Farmhouse Grill was amazing (and they apparently have a children's play area to keep the kids entertained whilst you wait too!) Unfortunately we didn't eat out at any of the restaurants this time as Evelyn was so tired on an evening from all our exploring but we will definitely be trying them out next time we visit.

The Blue Lagoon and Adventure centre were big hits with both James and Evelyn too, with the adventure centre evening featuring a LEGO wall, HUGE soft play centre and even a 9 hole game of crazy golf. With usage of all these things included in your holiday cost! Despite lots of the lodges seeming occupied none of the amenities seemed overly busy which was great. Bluestone never felt cramped or busy at any point which was a big plus for me and a credit to how well Bluestone is organised.

The Blue Lagoon is fantastic and we managed to squeeze in 2 visits here as it was such a hit with the kids. There is a wave machine, lazy river and as well as the main pool there are 2 smaller pools with a beach/pirate theme perfect for younger kids! Evelyn loves all the fountains and spouts in these she could play with. James loved the 3 water slides on offer in the lagoon and was thrilled to discover he was tall enough for them all! The swimming pool is actively watched by vigilant lifeguards who were doing a great job, the slides were watched by lifeguards too which meant they ran really smoothly and safely at all times.

All the staff we met at Bluestone were fantastic, there really is nothing that is to much trouble and from what we saw they all went out of their way to ensure everyone on site has the most amazing time. We had a little issue with out buggy giving up on us at one point and the staff were straight out to our lodge to try to fix/replace it. The staff we met were always smiling and took the time to engage with the kids which of course Evelyn loved as she is such a chatter box.

Whether its the thrill of the high ropes, the adventure of the nature trails or the relaxation of the spa Bluestone has it covered. The park itself is has a friendly village atmosphere that instantly makes you want to smile and relax, which is exactly what holidays should do right?

(Check out this short clip of part of a buggy ride we took to get back to our lodge through Bluestone)

Leaving Bluestone left us all emotional, we may have only been there for 5 days but it already felt like home. Bluestone gave us quality family time with freedom, fresh air and memories that we will remember forever. I know that we will be returning, we couldn't not return its been so special for us. Its the kind of place that I hope my kids will bring their kids in years to come and relive all the amazing memories we are making right now!

If you have been thinking about booking a Bluestone break, do it! You won't regret it, its almost impossible to regret visiting somewhere so beautiful and there really is something for everyone.


**We were invited to stay at Bluestone for the purpose of this review. I was not paid for this post and all opinions are my own.**

Bluestone - The accommodation **REVIEW**

As we pulled up at Bluestone we couldn't contain our excitement at getting into our accommodation. We've never stayed in a lodge before and had heard great things about the ones in Bluestone. As we were in a Ramsey lodge we were able to check in from 3pm and we eagerly appeared at the barrier to get in a few minutes early expecting queues but were met with none. We were let in along with our map we were handed at check in which showed us where to find out lodge.

We didn't really need the map however as all the "street names" and places are clearly sign posted throughout the park so it was just a case of following these until we reached our area which was Forest View. Be warned though its all one way once you get into the park so if you take a wrong turn you have to go right round again. Once we had found our lodge it was a simple case of tapping our key card on the door to gain access.

Accommodation at Bluestone consists of lodges, cottages and studio apartments with varying sizes to suit all needs. From the studios and 1 bedroom cottages that sleep 2 people to the huge Dina's bunkhouse lodge sleeping up to 14 and lots of choice in between.

All lodges are set out on their own little pitch, with the exception to the Caldey lodges which can be found in two's as these lodges actually have a very clever door inside which can connect the 2 lodges if you wish (perhaps if you were holidaying with friends and both wanted your own lodge but to stay connected). This can however stay locked if you don't know the family staying next door.

We were given a Ramsey lodge for our stay and it was far better than we could ever have imagined. The Ramsey lodge is spacious and has that homely lodge feel but with all the mod con's such as dishwashers, wet rooms and a flat screen TV!

But what really makes the Ramsey lodge special is that it is actually "upside down living" with the bedrooms situated on the ground floor along with an ensuite bathroom for each bedroom. The living area, dining area and kitchen are all upstairs with an open plan living design for this area. Meaning that all the beautiful views at Bluestone aren't wasted as they are perfectly framed by a huge patio/balcony area in the living space giving you the opportunity to take them all in as you sit and relax.

The lodge was really cosy and as I mentioned before came with all the mod con's. The dishwasher was a bit of a luxury to us as we don't have one at home so took a little while to work out how to use it. We also found a microwave, kettle, toaster and all the usual cutlery, plates etc. We were even supplied with a little starter pack that contained 2 dishwasher tablets, washing up liquid, bin bags and washing up cloths which was a lovely touch.

The living area included a flat screen TV and dvd player which was perfect for the kids in the mornings. I loved the inclusion of a beautiful big table in the dining area which meant we could all sit together at breakfast and meal times, something I really miss being able to do at home so this got a big thumbs up from us!

Downstairs in the bedrooms and ensuite we found all our bedlinen included as well as a bath and hand towel for each person. Our double bedroom ensuite had a toilet, sink and bath with a shower unit over the top of the bath. The twin bedroom ensuite had a toilet, sink and wet room shower unit which was ideal for washing the kids without getting a bad back trying to peer round a shower or lean over a bath. It also made it much quicker and less messy having the wet room available.

There was only 1 issue we had with our lodge which was the beds (well more the mattress), these seemed quite hard and we struggled to get comfy at night. However I can appreciate that everyone has different preference for their mattress and it would be impossible to please everyone. The kids slept on theirs absolutely fine so perhaps its just that I prefer a softer mattress. Everything supplied with our beds was great though, the pillows were lovely and soft and the duvet super warm.

I loved that all the lodges were on their own little pitch and you weren't overlooked by anyone. It felt private enough that you had your own space but still part of the friendly village atmosphere Bluestone offers. The lodges sit perfectly within the beautiful countryside landscape and rolling hills, clearly helped by the authentic wooden lodge style exterior.

We really couldn't fault the lodge at Bluestone, they seem to have found the perfect balance between cosy lodge and modern amenities making your stay even more enjoyable.

If you want to find out what we thought of the rest of the Bluestone site check out our Bluestone Stay post.

Have you stayed at Bluestone before? If so which accommodation did you stay in?


**We were given a break at Bluestone for the purpose of this review, all thoughts and opinions are my own**