How To Design & Organise The Perfect Utility Room

My utility room without a doubt is one of the most used rooms in our house. When we built our house two years ago I loved designing the utility room as I had never had one before. Our utility room is directly off of our kitchen and leads to a door out to the side of the house and a door to the garage as well.

With every room in our house, storage was important! So in our utility we added a large cupboard for shoes, coats and also a store for bottled water and toilet rolls. Having this cupboard keeps everything neat and tidy and out of sight. We also added a motion activated light in here which is handy.

In our old house we had a Butler sink and I loved it. I chose a different sink in the kitchen so opted for a Butler sink in the utility. I chose quite a big one as its perfect for rinsing of football kits and cleaning muddy boots in.

We have a NEFF washing machine and tumble dryer in here, one on each side of the sink. When purchasing I opted for machines which held large loads so I could get as much as I could washed and dried in one load. I love these machines and they are so easy to use and keep clean.

Under the sink Is a secure cupboard where my main cleaning products are kept. I stock a few of each bottle at a time so I never run out. I purchased lots of Curver storage baskets which I love and have in every cupboard of this room. Under the sink I have one with all my cleaning clothes, rubber gloves and spare Vileda mop cloths in. Having everything organised like this means whatever I need I can grab quickly.

I have used the Curver baskets to organise everything. I have separate ones for medicines, sun creams, hoover bags, shoe cleaning, washing products, dishwasher products, toilet Bloo, candles, Zoflora, cleaning wipes, Minky’s and sponges, light bulbs, batteries, charging wires and USB’s and lint rollers. Everything has a place making it neat and tidy! I love this washing tablet tin that I picked up in Tiger, its so cute!

I have a craft cupboard with all the boys paints, playdough etc in here too which is all organised in boxes too. So when they want to do a craft activity they know where everything is kept.

I made sure I had a long cupboard that would easily fit in my ironing board and Vileda spray mop and there was even room left to add a shelf at the top to store my vases on.

At the end if the utility room near the side door I have a boot room area with a bench for the boys to sit at when they take their dirty shoes off. This is also storage and keeps our wellies inside. Above the seat is where my Pulleymaid beadboard drying rack is. This is one of my favourite things in this room. It folds flat against the wall to store easily but comes forward as a drying rack which is great for me as with the boys swimming 3 or 4 times a week, Oscar having two dirty football kits on the weekend and the dirty kit bag coming home with Oscar on Friday with a swimming kit, a PE kit and a very muddy games kit inside I have plenty of space to dry the things that can’t go in the tumble dryer. Before I had the Pulleymaid I would hang it off cupboard handles and it would drive me mad, this keeps the utility looking neat and tidy all of the time and from the kitchen you cannot see the drying clothes. Win!

On the work surface on one side of the sink I have some pasta jars that we have had for years and my lovely Enesco Beatrix Potter Miss Tiggywinkle biscuit jar and on the other side is my trusty slow cooker, my Shark handheld vacuum which is perfect for hoovering up crumbs and cleaning your skirting boards with along with a recipe book stand where I keep any important forms etc on. I also have a weekly notice board which was from Next that has our yearly calender, letters and all of the boys clubs on the daily blackboards. I find it really useful.

I absolutely love my utility room and it so functional and makes all the household chores so much easier as everything you need is easy to find. I hope you can pick up some useful organisational tips from this post.

If you need any help with organising your home my lovely friend Leone has just started a new business called Cluttercation.  If you haven’t got time to get everything in order or just don’t know where to start, Leone can help you to achieve an organised and clutter free home! Quote SPRINGCLEAN1 to get your 10% discount before the 31st May 2019.

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AD. The Tiger Who Came To Tea Live On Stage

The Tiger Who Came To Tea

Last week we were kindly invited to the Radlett Centre to watch ‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea‘ Live On stage. Archie absolutely loves the story written by Judith Kerr in 1968 and we often read it to him at bedtime, so he was very excited!

The Tiger Who Came To Tea show is perfect for younger children as it runs for only 55 minutes and Archie was captivated throughout. The show was a smash hit in the West End and is now touring the rest of the UK for everyone to enjoy. Click HERE for all of the tour dates and locations and to book your tickets online. The prices of the tickets vary depending on which theatre you are booking at.

When we arrived at the Radlett Centre we grabbed a drink and some popcorn and then looked at the lovely official Tiger Who Came To Tea merchandise. Archie chose a lovely cuddly Tiger which he takes everywhere with him now. He took it into nursery for show and tell and told all of his friends and his teacher all about the show.

The Tiger Who Came To Tea is a lovely story of a little girl called Sophie who lives with her Mother and Father and whilst her Father is out at work there is a series of knocks on the front door. Firstly its Daddy who has forgotten his keys, then a parcel is delivered from her Uncle which is a lovely cuddly Tiger and then the Milkman delivers the milk. Finally Sophie and her Mother sit down to enjoy their afternoon tea when the doorbell rings… Who could it possibly be?

Sophie answers the door to nobody there and then suddenly there is a big furry, stripy Tiger standing at the front door. The Tiger comes inside and joins them for tea. He ate all the buns, all of the sandwiches, all of the cakes, drinks all of the juice and all of Daddy’s beer! He then drinks all of the water out of the tap, all of the food in the fridge, Daddy’s dinner which was cooking on the hob and all of the food in the pantry. There was no food or drink left in the house at all!

Finally the Tiger said goodbye and went on his way, only for Daddy to return from work to no dinner or anything to eat or drink in the house. So Sophie her Mother and Father went out for dinner at a cafe for a lovely treat of Sausages and Chips. Yum!

Archie was fascinated at the magic used in the show too when the Tiger made all of the food and drink disappear. It was very clever! There was also a song at the end about Sausages and Chips that all the children joined in with and sung and danced along and had lots of fun!

We had such a lovely afternoon watching the show and I would highly recommend going to see it as it is a lovely story, acted wonderfully and all of the children (and adults) had a wonderful time and loved joining in throughout the performance. Children’s theatre really brings our little ones favourite story books to life, its fantastic!

You can see the official trailer for the show here and see for yourself just how fantastic it is.

 

Disclaimer: We were kindly gifted the tickets to watch The Tiger Who Came To Tea. Official Production photos taken by Robert Day.

AD. Our Trip Down Regents Canal With GoBoat London

Last Thursday we took the train into London to Paddington to go on our first ever GoBoat London self drive, powered boating experience. In Central London is Paddington Basin which is a beautiful place we had never visited before with lots of nice restaurants all on the canal. We picked the perfect day for it and the sun was shining, the boys even splashed around in the fountains on the canal side.

When we were kindly asked by GoBoat London to come along and set sail I knew the boys would absolutely love it! Crazy as it sounds I have obviously seen and walked down the Regent’s Canal lots of times before but never knew you could take a trip down it yourself without having a canal boat.

The GoBoat London experience is very easy to find and you are asked to arrive 15 minutes before your sail time so you can go through the safety briefing and the children can get their life jackets, balloon, sticker and Captain hats. The adult life jackets are on board under the seats if you need one and you are given a map to take along with you with all of the points of interest so you don’t miss anything on route. The staff were so lovely and friendly and showed us our route and then we were taken aboard our boat for a test run.

The boats themselves are lovely and clean and each have a picnic table in the middle with seating all around the boat. Each boat takes up to 8 passengers comfortably. The boats are really sturdy and I loved that 80% of the volume of the boat is made from recycled plastic and they are completely electric to ensure no noise or environmental pollution. It really is such a lovely, clean way of travelling through London.

We started off from the base location at Merchant Square and headed down the canal past Paddington Station, along the way searching for giant Easter Eggs that had been placed along the route. The boys loved spotting these and each one we found we had to take a photo of to claim a prize on our return. We sailed through Little Venice and then joined the Regent’s Canal which has so many beautiful canal boats all the way down it. Everyone is so friendly on their boats waving to everyone that sails by.

We got to Maida Hill Tunnel which is only big enough for one boat width so you have to wait if someone is coming the other way. The tunnel was very dark and cold and is 250 metres long and Oscar and Archie loved going through it and hearing their voices echo. Archie loved it and said it was like being in the film ‘Flushed Away’ which he loves!

We sailed on and then you go through a much shorter 48 metre tunnel called Eyre’s Tunnel which brings you out to a beautiful spot where lots of house boats are moored up and lots of Moorhens had their nests. Along the whole boat trip its amazing how much wildlife you see and just how peaceful everything is.

You then sail past nine breath taking villas in Regents Park that back onto the canal. They are ginormous houses with the most beautiful kept gardens, some of them are worth a eye watering £120 million pounds! You then continue through Regents Park and past the zoo where you can see the African Hunting Dogs and the giant bird aviary.

We then reached Cumberland Basin where the famous Chinese Restaurant boat is moored and then head up the canal towards Camden Lock. This area of the canal was much busier with lots of canal boats and people in canoes. There were lots of birds nest as well along the sides of the canal and we saw so many eggs and baby birds. When we got to Camden Lock we turned around and headed back on route we came on. Our boat ride this far took around an hour.

We had booked a 11.30-1.30 slot so that we could have a picnic lunch on board. You can’t stop the boat to eat lunch but we slowed the boat right down and enjoyed our lunch whilst sailing through Regent’s Park and The Villas. Oscar and Archie really enjoyed being able to steer the boat themselves with Greg’s assistance and I sat back and enjoyed the ride.

GoBoat is honestly one of my favourite days out in London. Normally we are in town in the midst of the hustle and bustle but on the boat it was so relaxing and such a beautiful way to travel through and see London in a completely different way. We spent two hours on the boat but to be honest I could have sailed up and down the canal all day. The whole journey from start to finish is so picturesque and full of wildlife.

For a boat which can hold 8 people for 2 hours costs £109 (weekends and bank holidays) and £89 during the week. I think this is great value for such a lovely experience and if you have the full 8 passengers on board it only works out just over £13 each on a weekend or £11 during the week. You can book the boats for 1-3 hours at a time.

The GoBoat base location in Merchant Square is well situated as it is a 5 minute walk to Paddington Station, there are coffee shops and restaurants right next door and also a M&S if you need to pick up any last minute picnic essentials. There are also toilets in the coffee shop to use before you set sail as you cannot stop the boat and get off of the boat throughout the duration of the boat ride.

Overall as you can probably tell we absolutely loved our GoBoat experience and we had one of the best family days out we’ve had in long time! It was lovely to have fun with the boys whilst relaxing in the sun taking in some of the most beautiful sights of London. To be honest when your on the boat sailing down the canal you feel a million miles away from the busy city that is all around you. We will definitely be back again soon! You can book your trip HERE! You can even buy a trip as a gift, which would be such a special present to give.

Disclaimer: We were gifted our two hour trip thanks to GoBoat London in exchange for a review. All opinions are honest and my own and we absolutely loved it!

 

 

AD. Willows Activity Farm Easter Eggstravaganza

On Friday the boys ans I along with their Great-Auntie went along to Willows Activity Farm in London Colney, near St Albans. If you have read my blog before you will know that we absolutely love our trips to Willows as we live locally to it. For the Easter holidays, well on all school holidays really,Willows always put on amazing events to keep your little ones entertained. This Easter is no different with their exciting Easter Eggstravaganza!

From the 6th until the 22nd of April the Easter Eggstravaganza programme is running and is jam packed full of family fun. All day long there are arts and crafts running along with the usual farmyard, indoor and outdoor play areas, pat a pet, panning for gold, woodland trails and the Peter Rabbit attractions.

On entry you are given the programme so you know where to be and what is on at various times during the day so you don’t miss out on anything. You are also given a hunt challenge where you have to find the answers to the given questions around the farm. At the end in the shop you hand in the completed form in exchange for chocolate. We arrived at 11.30 and it was perfect timing as we went straight to meet Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny. The children can cuddle their favourite bunny’s and have a photo taken with them.

We then headed straight to the farmyard to feed all of the animals. There are lots of baby lambs and goats and a baby calf too. The boys we fascinated by ‘Milktray’ the cow who is due her baby calf any day. The staff and vet were checking on her as she was showing signs her baby could be born soon. Oscar so wanted to see the calf being born and we literally had to come back and keep checking on her every half an hour or so. By the time we left the baby calf still hadn’t been born, but we keep checking daily on Willow’s social media to see if it has been born yet. This is one of the amazing things about Willows, you get to see everything and last year the boys got to see lambs being born. It’s an amazing experience for them.

We then went on a ride on Tristan The Tractor who drives you through the animals out in the fields and the trees are decorated in Easter decorations and for the duration of the ride the children can sing along to their favourite farm songs.

We then headed back to the farmyard to check on Milktray and watched the baby lambs being bottle fed. Oscar and Archie each held a guinea pig in the Pat A Pet section in the farmyard and Auntie Liz loved cuddling the guinea pig too, she didn’t want to give him back.

The boys were feeling peckish so we walked up to the light bites cafe as the main Peter Rabbit burrow cafe is closed for its refurbishment. In the light bites cafe you can get sandwiches, baguette’s, panini’s, pizza and jacket potatoes along with drinks and crisps. Oscar and Archie had a kids deal where you can pick 5 items and a drink and Liz and I had a sandwich. The food was really nice and good value too.

We walked across the farm to where the Easter egg hunt is located. of course checking on Milktray on the way. Each child is given a basket and then there are five different coloured eggs hidden in the activity acre. They always decorate it so nicely and all the children have great fun racing around trying to find the eggs. When you have found one of each colour you take your basket to the egg exchange and each child gets five chocolate eggs.

By the activity acre is the fantastic Peter Rabbit adventure playground. Every time we come here I am always amazed and how great this is. For the children it must be like being in an episode of Peter Rabbit. You can play in Peter’s tree house, Mrs Tiggywinkle’s house, Mr McGregor’s garden and Mr Tod’s Lair which is near to the bouncy castles and outdoor adventure play area.

A few people have said to me that Willow’s Activity Farm is a bit on the pricey side but when I explain that absolutely everything apart from food inside the farm is included in your entry ticket price, they then see what good value it is. Willow’s is a full day out with so much to do and see. We had such a lovely day out on Friday and it was great fun doing something Easter themed.

You can save money by purchasing your tickets online before your visit. On the day an adult ticket for the Easter Eggstravaganza is £22, children over 2 are £23, adults over 60 £21 and a disabled adult or child is £13. You book tickets HERE.

Disclaimer: We were given complimentary tickets to attend the Willows Activity Farm Easter Eggstravaganza in exchange for a review.

 

AD. The New Captain Marvel At Madame Tussauds, London

Last weekend we were kindly invited to Madame Tussauds, London to see the brand new Captain Marvel figure and interactive experience. We had never visited Madame Tussauds before and were really excited to see what it has to offer. We got the train to Baker Street which is a one minute walk from the attraction itself.

We had a lovely breakfast that was put on for us and then got to see Captain Marvel herself. Both Oscar and Archie love superheroes and were so excited seeing their favourite ones and having photos taken with them. The Captain Marvel figure is so life-like and the experience was great fun on the interactive screen.

We then started the main tour in the Party Zone and I had seriously underestimated how many figures there would be. From movie stars, World leaders, sports people, musicians to the Royal Family, they have figures of everyone! We started by having a photo with Harry and Megan. You can buy a photo pass or keep your tickets and purchase at various points around the attraction. There is also a new Dua Lipa, Glow Room experience where you can perform with your favourite singer, Archie enjoyed the dancing!

We then walked through the film zone which Oscar loved as he had his photo taken with James Bond. Archie liked ET and Shrek.

Next was the sport zone and Oscar got to hold the ‘World Cup’, posed with Mo Farah and Usain Bolt. Greg’s favourite was definitely Mohammed Ali. The fashion zone is by the sport and has a fun catwalk you can strut your stuff down for London Fashion week and the famous model Kendall Jenner.

My favourite was the Royal Family where you can pay for a photo with them and there are also Historical royals like Queen Victoria and Henry VIII.

There is a section for World Leaders/Politicians and the culture zone. Oscar has just been learning about Vincent Van Gogh in art so had a photo with him to take into school after the Easter break.

In the Music Zone there are famous musicians from all over. The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Kanye West, Michael Jackson, Will-I-am, Lady Gaga, One Direction and Amy Winehouse and many more.

Also in this zone is the Royal Afternoon tea experience which looks great. You can sit at a garden party and have a delicious afternoon tea with her Majesty the Queen. If you book your Standard Ticket entry ticket with full “Royal Tea” afternoon tea you can save 20%, (adults £44, children £39.50).

We then took part in the Sherlock Holmes Experience where we all turned into London’s finest detectives to help Dr Watson solve the mystery to find Sherlock himself. Oscar really loved participating and answering questions and found the whole experience really exciting.

In the ‘behind the scenes zone’ I found it fascinating to see how each wax figure was made and how much work goes into each one. Developing and making each figure is a long process.

The ‘Spirit of London’ ride was really good. In pairs you sit in a London Taxi and go on an  exciting journey through the London’s history. You will journey through all the historical and cultural events that have shaped London into one of the greatest cities in the world. It is very educational and a fantastic ride. Over lunch later on Oscar had lots of questions about London, he had done a project on the Fire of London a couple of years ago and visited St Paul’s and now we are going to make our way around all of the historical landmarks over the Summer so he can learn all the history of London.

We made our way back into the Marvel Zone which all the children love! Children around us were so excited to see their favourite Super Heroes. You can have a photo with the brand new Captain Marvel and have ago on her interactive experience, Spiderman, Hulk, Nick Fury, Wolverine, Iron Man, Hawkeye and Captain America. On the way out of the Marvel Zone is the Marvel 4D cinema. The cinema is a huge 360 degrees screen and throughout the short film based right here in London, there are amazing special effects.

You exit the 4D cinema into the Star Wars Zone. My Brother was a huge fan if Star Wars when we were children and watched the films over and over again. Oscar has only just started watching the films but knows who all the characters are from his Star Wars Lego sets.

As you exit Madame Tussauds they have a huge shop with lots of London, Marvel, Star Wars and other goodies to purchase. The new Captain Marvel section seemed very popular!

We had a fantastic day out at Madame Tussauds and its a perfect day out for a family. Greg and I enjoyed looking at the figures just as much as the boys! I cannot believe we haven’t been before but will definitely be going back soon.

 

Disclaimer: We were given complimentary entry to the Madame Tussauds attraction.

 

 

AD. Wallace And Gromit’s Musical Marvel’s Premiere & UK Tour

Wallace and Gromit is always one of those programmes that I watch and it instantly takes me back to my childhood. My Brother and I used to love it and watch episode after episode. Oscar is now 9 and really loves it too. I have downloaded every possible episode so he can watch them whenever he wants and its nice to watch something with him that we both can enjoy!

When I saw the Wallace And Gromit’s Musical Marvel’s UK Tour advertised a few weeks ago I knew Oscar would just love it, so when we were asked to attend the Premiere which will take place at the National Film and Television School (NFTS) in Beaconsfield on the 15th of May at 7.30pm we jumped at the chance! It is a special 30th anniversary performance where Aardman’s Nick Park created his Academy Award® nominated graduation film Wallace & Gromit: A Grand Day Out at the film school. It is going to be such a special night out for us and we cannot wait, what an experience for Oscar!

For any Wallace and Gromit fan this is a once in a lifetime opportunity not only to see the films accompanied by an orchestra in a completely new way and Nick Park and composer of the Wallace & Gromit scores Julian Nott will also take part in a question and answer session as part of the event. So get your questions ready!

The tickets for this event are strictly limited, so snap them up quick before they are sold out! You can get your tickets HERE starting at £44.

The full UK Tour will then continue around the UK until the 9th of June 2019 with 38 show dates.

It will be a great experience for Oscar and other younger audience members experiencing classical music along side hid favourite animations for the first time. For us parents we can reminisce with a screening in the second half of the all-time classic Aardman animation, The Wrong Trousers, again with live orchestral accompaniment – a world first.

Something that sounds amazing for the children and adults alike is that some venues there will be a chance to join a model making workshop before or after the show, giving fans the opportunity to learn from Aardman’s expert model builders and take home their very own Gromit. I mean how amazing is that!

Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels features Wallace preparing to perform his musical masterpiece My Concerto in Ee Lad with help from his faithful companion Gromit. This interactive experience features specially created animations as well as live orchestral accompaniment and escapades from the Picture House Orchestra and presenter Matthew Sharp. This really is a never been seen before, World first.

We are so looking forward to the show and will get a review up for you to read the very next day.

Disclaimer: We have been gifted the tickets to attend the Wallace And Gromit’s Musical Marvel’s 30th anniversary Premiere.

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How To Train Your Dragon – The Hidden World

Yesterday we were so lucky to be invited into Islington, London to watch a special immersive screening of  How To Train Your Dragon – The Hidden World which is in cinemas next Friday, the 1st of February 2019.

Oscar and Archie were both really excited when I told them last week that we had been invited and recapped by watching the first and second films back to back. Rewinding back to 2015, Oscar was five years old and absolutely obsessed with How To Train Your Dragon. He had all of the toys, dress up costume and his 5th Birthday was themed around it complete with his very own Toothless cake. I even remember when he was 4 and I was pregnant with Archie, Oscar wanted to call the baby Hiccup.

So yesterday morning we drove into Islington, to the most amazing venue, Collins Music Hall which had been completely transformed into the Isle Of Berk. Firstly Oscar and Archie had to complete their Dragon training which they found great fun! Afterwards they were awarded with their certificates graduating them from the Dragon Training Academy. (They now now officially own a Dragon!)

We then continued on our adventure through Berk where Oscar had his face painted and both the boys had a go at the Sheep Dunk game where they had to throw the Sheep through the Dragon holes to win their very on Viking hat and poster.

We got out snacks and drinks ready for the film and then the Viking horn sounded and we made our way down the stairs to the Hidden World. When we reached the bottom and took our seats the whole room was decorated as the Hidden World. The film was introduced by the Film’s Director, Dean DeBlois and the producer Brad Lewis who have been a part of all three of the movies.

In the film The Hidden World, Hiccup and his fellow Vikings are under great threat of loosing their Dragons as their enemies task Grimmel the infamous Dragon killer and killer of all other Night Fury’s to capture Toothless, the Dragon’s Alpha and then all the other Dragons would follow him to their land so they can have them as their own Dragon army. Grimmel uses the Light Fury to distract Toothless.

Hiccup decides to follow his Father’s dream of finding the Hidden World, which is the place at the end of the World where Dragon’s can live in peace. After Berk is attacked by Grimmel and his men everyone from Berk decides to go off on a quest to find The Hidden World. They stop off on an island to rest and set up camp but Grimmel is not far behind them.

Toothless falls in love with the Light Fury and follows her to the Hidden World. Hiccup follows and can’t believe that the place that his Father dreamed of not only really existed but they had finally found it, a place where their beloved Dragon’s would be safe. Toothless brings Hiccup and Astrid back from The Hidden World as they were in danger but on their return Toothless and the Light Fury are captured by Grimmel and all of the other Dragons follow them. With only Viking power left, Hiccup feels defeated but Astrid reminds him of what a great leader he is and using their gliding suits they rescue all of the Dragon’s and defeat Grimmel.

Eventually Hiccup can see that it is best for the Dragons to go and live in The Hidden World. It is a heart wrenching moment when your see the Vikings say goodbye to all of their Dragon’s as they fly off into the distance. It teaches Hiccup he can be just as strong as a leader with or without his Dragon and his best friend.

The film ends on a lovely moment where Hiccup and Astrid get married to rule the Isle of Berk together and go onto have children of their own. A few years later you see them on a longboat as a family and they see Toothless, the light fury and their children and all fly together. Its a lovely end to the film and the story of Hiccup and Toothless and their journey together.

It is another fantastic 5* DreamWorks Animation from Universal Pictures and we are so grateful for the invite to this amazing Immersive film experience. We had such a fantastic time!

Oscar and Archie were also given a lovely gift bag each with a book, DVD’s and one of the new Mystery Dragon toys which are available at Smyths Toys Superstores. Smyths have a huge range of How To Train Your Dragon Toys and computer games available. Oscar’s birthday list has now got most of it on it!

 

This post is in collaboration with Universal Pictures UK.

Designing A Practical And Stylish Family Kitchen

When we built our house two years ago we put so much thought into the design process of each room. We always knew that the kitchen would be the main hub of the house for entertaining family and friends. We put the kitchen central at the back of the house with large bifold doors that go out on to the patio. I wanted it so that in the Summer we could have indoor/outdoor living yet still be nice and cosy in the Winter time. We always host the whole family at Christmas and Easter time so I also wanted a kitchen that I could easily prepare a large meal in.

Our friend Gemma from Vault Design sat with us and showed us lots of different kitchen designs. I was conscious that with building a brand new house I wanted a kitchen that wasn’t super modern. We knew we wanted a grey kitchen and ended up having the cupboards in Farrow and Ball ‘Elephant’s Breath’ and the Island in ‘Mole’s Breath’. Gemma had a fantastic piece of software that could bring our design to life before we ordered it.

A lot of kitchens we looked at had the hobs or sinks on them but I wanted a clear, clean white island that I could serve up the meals on and I didn’t want it to look to busy. I also decided against having stalls and a breakfast bar on one side as we had space in the kitchen for a table anyway. The only thing we added on the island was a EVOline plug tower which is great for a carving knife and I also charge my laptop using this too. It neatly goes back into the island when not in use. I also had a few of the plug sockets changed so they had a USB connection too which made charging a phone easier and kept the actual mains plug bit free for other things like the nutribullet and coffee machine.

With the island we chose three huge draws on one side for cutlery, plates and sandwich boxes and a bin draw which we actually just keep carrier bags in and on the other we have two mirrored back display cupboards and a Fisher and Paykel wine fridge. I also had every draw in the kitchen lined with a protective non slip grey matting to protect the painted woodwork.

We opted for Neff appliances in the kitchen and utility room bar the Fisher and Paykel fridges. I wanted a big fridge freezer that would fit everything in perfectly without having to play fridge jenga after our weekly shop. I also loved the design of the Fisher and Paykel ones.

We made a feature of where the ovens would go with plate warming draws underneath them and made everything completely symmetrical. I love the way they look and have so much cooking space when cooking a large meal for a dinner party or family occasion.

The sink area has the main large sink and a smaller one next to it with the waste disposal in it which we didn’t have in our old house but I now couldn’t live without it! We also opted for a Quooker hot water mixer tap which is amazing and also has a child safety system on it as I was worried about having boiling hot water on tap in a family kitchen. This makes my tea in the morning instant! We also had a little spray gun put in the corner of the sink which makes it easy to clean around both of the sinks.

Behind the sink and hob area we went for a grey glass splash back. On reflection I wish we had put it all the way around the worktop to protect the painted walls. We also opted for an induction hob as well as one gas hob which makes cooking with a wok easier and if there ever is a power cut I can still cook on the gas hob.

I really wanted a pantry cupboard but with taking so much space up making a feature of the ovens we out in a pull out pantry cupboard instead with two shelves to store everything neatly.

I wanted everything in the kitchen to have a place and went for as much storage space as possible so everything looks neat and tidy and not crammed into a cupboard space. I also utilised the corner space by making it into a smaller bowl cupboard. Every flows too with the large draws under the hobs being just for utensils and cooking equipment.

Having the dishwasher by the sink and across from the cutlery and plate draw is great as it makes it a quick and easy job to unload the dishwasher each morning. I didn’t realise before our dishwasher was fitted but I love how it has a light that shines onto the floor that lets you know how long the wash cycle has left.

On the wall in the kitchen we have a TV as the kitchen table is where we eat the most, to be honest the dining room table only gets used on special occasions. The TV itself is on a great bracket so it is flush against the wall during the day but when we want to watch something whilst sitting at the table you can pull it into your chosen position.

Our kitchen table is one we brought about 11 years ago at the Ideal Home Exhibition. When we moved to this house we just brought some new chairs from John Lewis that went better with the colour of the kitchen. Buying the new chairs meant the table wasn’t actually tall enough so I asked the carpenter to build some little blocks and he stained them the same colour as the table which lifted it up and they just look part of the table. Saved buying a whole new table! The boys each have a personalised Stokke Tripp Trapp which they use at the table to save getting any food stains on the chairs. You can use these up to adult and also make a great extra chair at a large dinner party.

Having the large bifold doors is great. They actually open in two halves or the whole thing. Last Summer when we had a get together with our friends it was great to just have them open and it made bringing all the food outside easy and its just perfect for entertaining.

On the walls in the kitchen they are painted in shade ‘Elephant’s Breath’ and I have three lovely art deco tiles around the room that my in laws brought for me over the years on my birthday. We had these at our old house too and I absolutely love them!

The utility room is off of the kitchen with a door to the side of the house that we use during the Winter if the boys want to play in the garden. Again we went with the same colour scheme and plenty of storage idea. I chose a large butler sink as I knew this would be wear the muddy football boots would end up being cleaned. The washing machine and tumble dryer are also in here and a large ironing board cupboard. At the end of the utility room is a boot room area where you can sit and take off your muddy shoes before coming into the house. I also have a weekly organisation board on the wall.

Off of the utility room we also put a coat and shoe cupboard in that has a motion activated light and helps to keep everything stored neatly but in easy reach.

I think we really achieved everything that we both wanted in a kitchen, somewhere social, light and bright, stylish, practical and comfortable. I absolutely love my kitchen!

Our Magical Trip To Lapland, Rovaniemi With Thomas Cook

Last Christmas we had looked into taking Oscar and Archie on a Family Trip To Lapland, Rovaniemi in Finland as we had read so many amazing reviews but were advised as Archie would have only been two at the time (two weeks off three) to leave it another year as A. He would enjoy it so much more and B. He would hold his heat better in the very cold temperatures. There are lots of companies that sell Lapland experiences whether it be a day trip or a slightly longer break.

After looking at several different websites we decided to book and travel with Thomas Cook. The booking process was quick and easy online and at the time they even had an online discount code like they do at the moment which gives you £150 off any booking over £1500. If you can use the code BOOKIT at the checkout you can claim this saving. Thomas Cook offer three different Lapland packages; The Santa Sleigh Day, The Sleigh Bell Sleepover which is for one night and Santa’s Festive Adventure which is for three nights.

After speaking with friends who had either been for the day or for a few days we picked The Santa Sleigh Day. For a family of four (two adults and two children) the total cost of the trip is £2,134. It works out to be £533 per person. This includes

  • Meet Santa (each child aged 2-12yrs receives a gift)
  • Meet Rudolph and friends
  • Sled dog/husky sled ride
  • Explore Santa’s Village and cross the Arctic Circle
  • Free time for family fun and sledging
  • Lunch with soft drinks, plus inflight meals
  • Thermal suits and boots

After the trip being booked back in January we managed to keep the secret from Oscar and Archie until the night before. I had packed in secret and then when we arrived at Gatwick Oscar did start to wonder where we were going. Once we got to our hotel room we gave the boys each a special ticket and a beautiful card that we had made by The Fox & The Paintbox with all the details inside. They were both so excited as was I!

The next morning we got up at 4.30am and went over to the terminal, checked in and got something to eat. At the check-in we were greeted by two Thomas Cook reps who were then with us throughout the whole trip. When we got on the plane everyone on board was excited and in a festive mood and throughout the flight the reps put on a Christmas quiz, we sang Christmas songs and watched the Snowman.

When we arrived at Rovaniemi airport which is tiny we were greeted by lots of elves who directed us to our coach. (I also asked the customs officer to stamp Oscar & Archie’s passport which they kindly did.) Once on board we drove to the changing area where you are given your thermal suit and boots. We brought our own coats, boots, thermal socks and under layer thermals, ski gloves and hats with us and got all the boys essentials from AlexAndAlexa.com who have a vast range of amazing ski wear. You are also given a bag with your family name labelled on it to put anything you don’t need to carry around with you and this stays under the coach as you stay with the same coach for the entirety on the trip. This was really handy and meant I just carried around the essentials in my backpack for the rest of the day.

We then drove on to the activity place where we were each given a lanyard with the four activities on them to get marked off as we did them so we didn’t miss anything out. As we walked in to the woodland area I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. Snow everywhere, a dimly lit sky and trees everywhere, it was breathtaking. Firstly we went inside Father Christmas’ house and he looked absolutely fantastic. He chatted to the boys and then gave them each a present (for children aged 2-12 years) which was a lovely plush husky dog. We then had a photo taken with him.

We then explored and wherever you walked were little teepee tents where you could sit inside next to a warm fire. There was also an area where you could get a cup of warm berry juice and some gingerbread biscuits. There is nowhere to purchase food and drink here so I could recommend bringing lots of snacks and water as it is quite a long time between breakfast on the plane until you go for your lunch.

We were then greeted by the Reindeer. Here you could meet and stroke them as well as go on an amazing Reindeer ride. Each family has a sleigh to themselves and we were pulled through what looked like Narnia, it was so beautiful. The boys absolutely loved the ride and stroked the Reindeer afterwards. I am sure it is something they will remember forever.

We then spent some time having snow ball fights and sledging which was great fun and the Thomas Cook reps also put on games and kept the children entertained.

We walked to where the Husky rides were and every family has an individual ride. I underestimated how fast the Husky ran. It was a great ride and the boys loved being pulled through the snow at such speed! By this time it was about 4.30pm and was already dark here in Finland. The sky is beautiful but sadly it wasn’t cold enough to see the Northern Lights. We were told that the best time to see them is in October so that’s a trip we definitely want to take Oscar and Archie on.

We had some more free time and enjoyed a warm berry juice around the fire and then went back on the coach on a short ride to where we were having lunch. Lunch was at a traditional Finish restaurant and I had a lovely soup and warm bread and Greg had a chicken and rice dish. To be honest the boys weren’t to impressed with the food options, they tried the soup but mostly ate the bread. There could have been a couple of simpler options for the kids I thought. But the food we did have was delicious.

We then took a two-minute drive on the coach to Santa’s Village. This is a much more touristy place with more people around as at the activity place it wasn’t busy at all which felt nice and relaxed. Firstly as a group we all crossed the Arctic Circle together which was a fun experience.

I took about €200 with us and in Santa’s Village there are shops, places to eat and other things to spend money on. I went to Santa’s official post office and sent the boys a hard each back home as you get a Santa’s official post office and Arctic circle stamp on the card when it reaches home. I also brought a couple of souvenirs and Greg and the boys brought bags of chocolate in the chocolate shop. There are also mini snowmobiles for the kids to ride on which Oscar went on which was €20 each for ten laps. He really enjoyed this.

Once we had explored the village we headed back to the coach which took us back to the changing village where we got back into our coats and gave the thermal suits back and then headed back to the airport. The airport is tiny but had a little cafe and a shop and the Thomas Cook reps also gave all the kids a Snowman activity pack as we got off the coach which kept them entertained whilst we waited for our flight home.

The flight home included dinner and the boys slept most of the way back as they were exhausted from such a fun filled magical day.

We had the most amazing trip and if we do it again in a couple of years I would book the Santa’s Festive Adventure three night trip so we have more time to relax in Finland and explore a bit more and hopefully see the Northern Lights. If you are looking to book a similar trip I hope you have found this post useful. Also a big thank you to Thomas Cook who made our trip really special.

Our 2018 Adventures

January

January always starts slow, after all we are recovering from a hectic Christmas, Archie’s birthday and the New Year! Oscar went back to school on the 8th and straight away had Rugby and Cross-Country fixtures. At school he was learning about Egyptians so we took a trip into London to visit the British Museum.

February

Oscar took part in a lovely concert at the O2 called Young Voices. He spent the day there rehearsing and then we went up in the evening to watch him, it was great! We went to Woburn the following weekend as the boys love it there, driving through the animals. As a surprise for Oscar’s birthday we took him into London to see the Lion King. It was one of the best shows I have ever seen and can’t wait to go and see it again with Archie when he gets a bit older. Oscar had a great 8th Birthday, we had family around on his birthday to celebrate and he had a bowling party with his friends as well.

March

This month I turned 30! We celebrated in style with a lovely meal with my family at the Grove, A Willy Wonka themed afternoon tea at One Aldwych with my lovely friends and the little ones, a fabulous night out at MNKY HSE with even more birthday cake with the girls and a lovely dinner at our friends house. I was thoroughly spoilt and had the best birthday!

We also took another trip to Woburn with my friend Georgina who had never been before. Archie had lots of fun!

April

April was a seriously busy month. We did so much! We visited Willows Farm as they had their Easter programme running with our friends. The Easter holidays were in full swing and we went into London to the Shrek’s adventure which was great fun and then spent the rest of the day in town.

We had a lovely Easter surrounded by family and friends and the boys ate way to much chocolate!

We stayed a night at Alton Towers in the enchanted village and spent two days in the park. Archie loved Cbeebies land and the park was pretty quiet so we went on loads of the rides.

We visited Zippo’s Circus which was in London and we had never taken the boys to the circus before. They were so excited and loved all of the acts.

Paradise Wildlife park opened their new World of Dinosaurs feature. We went on quite a rainy day but that was fine as the park was quiet and we got to see all of the animals up close. Oscar loved the new Dinosaur park.

May

Oscar had his first ever one night residential with the school this month. To say I was anxious is an understatement but he had the best time and enjoyed himself so much!

We took the boys to Cardiff to watch Monster Jam which is a great show that comes over once a year from America and the Monster Trucks have races and do tricks. It was SO noisy!

Oscar went to Twickenham for the first time to watch the Rugby with his Godfather and his two boys. As he had started playing it at school he really enjoyed it and had a really special day out with Uncle Matt.

We went away for a few days to Lulworth Cove in Dorset. We went to Durdledoor beach was is beautiful and then to Monkey World as well. Greg and I went to Monkey World years ago but had never been with the boys. It is such a lovely place and we got to see all of the Monkey’s so close up.

June

In June we went to Go Ape with some friends and Greg went up with Oscar. Archie and I stayed firmly on the ground! We visited the Warner Bros Studio Tour with my friend Claire and her son. We are so lucky to have this only ten minutes from us. Oscar had sports day and won the high jump, relay and the 50m.

We took Daddy to Bond In Motion in London. Oscar loves the Bond films and seeing all of the cars, boats and bikes used in the films was great fun! Its such a great exhibition and if you are a Bond fan you must visit.

July

Schools out! Oscar broke up from school at the beginning of July. We went on holiday for a couple of weeks to Rhodes. We stayed at the brand new Sensatori hotel which was lovely. We have stayed at a few of these now and always have a lovely time.

We went to Westfield, London to KidZania with my friend Claire and her son. I couldn’t get over how big it was and it must be so magical being a kid going to somewhere like that. It is a fantastic day out.

On the last weekend of July my Brother got married. Oscar and Archie were both page boys and it was a lovely day.

August

We went back to Woburn safari park again with the boys Great Auntie Liz. They love it here, I think this is our 3rd trip this year so far.

We went to Regents Park open air theatre to watch the stage show ‘Dinosaur World Live’. Oscar and Archie love Dinosaurs and really enjoyed the show.

Oscar learnt to finally ride his bike this month. He briefly learnt last year but wasn’t very interested but gave it his all and picked it up in no time at all. We are so proud of him!

We went away for the night to Southampton and stayed at the Grand Harbour hotel and on the second day we went to Peppa Pig World/Paulton’s Park. We went a few years ago when Oscar was younger but as Archie loves Peppa Pig we knew he would love it. Oscar went on the bigger rides in Paulton’s Park and we had a great day.

We went to Henley-On-Thames with Oscar’s friends from school for a night glamping in a bell tent. Just Oscar and I went, Archie stayed at home with Daddy. The kids all had so much fun as did the Mummy’s.

To end off the Summer break we went to the London Aquarium with my parents. We went on a behind the scenes tour of the aquarium which was really educational and we all had a great day. Finishing off with our favourite restaurant for lunch; Honest Burger. I have lost count of how many times we have been to one of these over the last year!

September

Oscar went back to school into year 4 and Archie started Nursery at the same school. It was so emotional for me and my anxiety went through the roof. Archie only goes three mornings a week but settled in straight away and absolutely loves it!

We were invited by Subway to an amazing NFL event on Piccadilly. Oscar ended up in the NFL live show and we had such a fun day out. The NFL is such a fun, family based sport and the atmosphere was fantastic.

We spent the day at London Zoo where we hadn’t visited for a while. There were new attractions in the zoo which was nice for us to see and the Zoo is always a winner with the boys as they both love animals so much!

Oscar and Greg also took on Liquid Leisure which is a giant inflatable park on a lake near Windsor. It looked like great fun and I am going to have a go next time.

October

My Mum turned 60 and we had a lovely family get together at my Nanny’s house and then a meal out too.

I had booked Greg a car driving experience at Christmas so we headed to Loughborough where he got to drive a 1970’s Transam which is Oscar’s favourite car and a Mustang.

During half term we went to Go Ape Nets Kingdom which was fun and Archie could join in too. We went to Greenwich where we went on the Cutty Sark which is a really fun yet educational day out. We went to the theatre to see Baby Bum Live for Archie and went to the new Rock Up climbing place in Watford.

November

In November Oscar took part in a big Taekwondo competition which he did really well in. We went to a great event with Zoggs to Coral Reef in Bracknell where we had the pool and water slides to ourselves with some other bloggers. It is the best pool in the UK we’ve been to by far.

Excitingly for me I managed to get Spice Girl tickets for next year! I literally sat online with every device running until we managed to get four. I cannot wait! That afternoon we met our friends in St Albans and went to Prime for lunch and then to the theatre to watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It was a fantastic show and the kids loved the flying car.

We went to the Warner Bros Studio Tour to its annual Hogwarts In The Snow event. It is such  magical experience and really kicked off the Christmas period for us.

I took Archie and my friend her little boy who is Archie’s bestie into London to see the Room On The Broom stage show which they both loved and we headed into Oxford Street and got our own personalised family Quality Street tin.

December

December was by far my favourite and most hectic month this year! The boys woke up on the 1st to their naughty elves returning with their advent calendars and the decorations up in the house.

Oscar took part in the annual TKD Taekwondo championships and got a silver medal in his patterns and a gold in sparring. He was over the moon!

Archie had his first little Christmas performance in his nursery class and I had fun wreath making with my friends.

We went into London for our annual Christmas tradition to visit Father Christmas at Harrods. We have done this for seven years now and I love getting our annual photograph. It shows how quickly the boys are growing up when you look back at the previous years.

We went to the Watersmeet Theatre In Rickmansworth to watch the pantomime; Snow White and we had never been before as Oscar had always gone with his school. Archie loved it and danced in the aisle from start to finish. It was a great production and something we will do every Christmas with them now.

I went to Willow’s Farm with Archie and my friend and her children to their Santa Spectacular. Willow’s is always a fantastic day out and they put so much on at Christmas!

The Coca-Cola Christmas lorry was touring the UK and was at an ASDA nearby so I took the boys after school to see it. The Coca-Cola Christmas lorry always reminds me of being a child and when you heard the advent on TV you knew it was Christmas time.

Oscar and Archie broke up from school on the 14th after a lovely carol service at the local Church.

On the Saturday we drove to Gatwick and the boys had no idea where we were going. That evening we told them we were flying to Lapland in Finland the next day to see Father Christmas. I have never seen them both so excited, they couldn’t believe it. It was the most magical trip ever! We went on a reindeer and a husky sledge ride, met the big man himself, went sledging and played in the snow, went on a snowmobile, crossed the arctic circle and visited Santa’s Village. It was a trip I am sure they will remember forever!

Last week we also drove over to Bruges on the Eurotunnel which was a lovely couple of days exploring such a beautiful city especially at Christmas time and eating way to much chocolate!

Then we came home to a wonderful Christmas with our family and friends and the boys had a fantastic time.

Last but not least Archie turned 4 on the 29th. We had a fun filled day with bowling, Prezzo’s and a Paddington bear tea party with family and friends.

It’s been a fantastic year and a big thank you to all of you who come back and read my blog posts! Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2019! Happy New Year!