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Farmer Butcher Chef – organic, sustainable food at its very best

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Farmer Butcher Chef is a new restaurant, located next to the Goodwood Hotel, just outside Chichester.  Mr P and I were lucky enough to have a rare night away childfree last weekend, we ate, drank and were blown away by the taste sensations presented to us throughout the evening.

I have never been to Goodwood before.  Friends have been to revival, others to the races, all of which look like good fun but have seemed out of reach to me with three kids in tow. It turns out that I was wrong.  Goodwood have a playground next to the race track, kids are welcome at revival and love dressing up in their outfits and the festival of speed motor racing is a day out for all ages. There are junior golf camps in the Summer, a family race day and many more activities on offer. This is the first trip of many to Goodwood, next time we will go as a family.

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I can imagine coming to ladies day with some friends and sipping prosecco in the enclosure here

The farmer Tim Hassell, butcher John Hearn and chef Darron Bunn all work very closely together to create the diverse, frequently changing menu that uses the award-winning produce from Goodwood’s farm (one mile down the road).  They pride themselves in the fact that you will have travelled further than your food, not many places can say that.

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The cow in the entrance to Farmer Butcher Chef

The restaurant has a unique approach where the availability of the produce dictates the menu and dish design. The design which is smart, yet cosy and relaxed (not as easy as it sounds to achieve) is designed by Cindy Leveson of Leveson design.  I loved sitting with a gin and tonic by the bar with a book before the meal in peace, while Mr P was having a snooze in the room.

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The design is eclectic and really interesting to look at. I fell in love with the lights above our table, bulbs hanging down from different heights, the effect was stunning when we looked up.

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We started our food extravaganza with some complimentary bar snacks that were out of this world. Think crispy ox tongue with rosemary ketchup, pork crunch and tarragon (divine) and smoked pheasant samosa. You will never look at bar snacks in the same way again.

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We started the main event with warm sourdough bread (made at the on site bakery of course) with butter (made at Goodwood… you can see the theme here). Mr P ordered crispy oysters with cured ox heart, beetroot and tarragon and I ordered beer braised lamb belly with prunes, turnips and barley sauce. I couldn’t get a photo before he began eating and then there was no stopping him. He said that it was the best starter he has ever eaten. I tried a little (he wasn’t exactly offering it away) and it was insanely good. My lamb belly was also delicious and the perfect size for a starter.

 

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Our mains were both beef, I chose beef short rib with onions and hedgehog mushrooms, and Mr P, red sussex rump of beef, ox tongue, salsify and shallots. We added sides of cabbage with bacon and onions, beef dripping triple cooked chips, and winter green with hazelnut butter.

We enjoyed the sides as much as we enjoyed the showpiece itself.  I felt like I had entered a live episode of Masterchef, but with Michel Roux cooking the food himself.  The sounds coming out of my mouth were much like Gregg Wallace’s, every single thing was delicious and I meant it.

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The chef, Darron Bunn has had an incredible career to date, training under Marco Pierre White in London, working in a variety of kitchens, including a pub of his own in Hampshire, which was awarded a Michelin star within 18 months of opening. He then moved to Torbay where he achieved another Michelin star, the first and only hotel in Torbay to ever be awarded this. This restaurant and chef are without doubt going to be winning awards very soon with food at this standard.

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Bramley apple crumble souffle was out of this world

The size of the stunnning Goodwood estate means that the animals have acres to roam freely whilst being bred.  Goodwood has been farmed by the family for over three hundred years and is one of the largest lowland organic farms in the UK. The farm itself is 3400 acres and prides itself on raising its livestock with care and compassion, the crops grown on the estate are used to feed the livestock. Not many can claim to control every aspect of their produce and nothing is wasted, showing utmost respect for the livestock. This shines through in the restaurant menu and quality of food.

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Sheep were grazing in the distance on some of the Goodwood estate.

The present Duchess of Richmond was one of the Soil Association’s earliest members and ran her kitchen garden on organic principles. No pesticides or fertilisers are used at Goodwood, ensuring the wildlife and natural ecosystems are protected.  The farm produces 21,000 litres of milk each week, used to make three cheeses and the beef is award-winning and is served in top London restaurants including The Ritz and Sky Garden.

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Families can enjoy food together at Goodwood with a menu coming in two portion sizes, little farmer and young farmers depending on their appetites (I personally love this concept as my two-year old and 6-year-old would eat totally different amounts). Nostalgic classics, such as ham, egg and chips and lamb shepherd’s pie will surely make a fussy eater try new foods, better than anything they have eaten before.

My advice to you is to go, book now, before the secret is out, because once it is there may be a bit of a wait to get a table.

Farmer Butcher Chef – 

Thank you very much to Goodwood for our complimentary stay, all opinions and thoughts are very much our own.

 

The best construction kit for kids

The boys have been picking up tools from an early age. Mr P is a carpenter, we often visit him on jobs and they have been picking up tools from the minute they could walk.

We were offered the opportunity to test the Real Construction deluxe workshop and starter set from Jakks and I knew that the boys would like them. What I didn’t realise was exactly what a huge hit it would be and for all their ages (2,5,6).

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The master gave C a few tips to get started

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Before long he was experimenting with the saw

The wood-like material cuts just like real wood but feels like firm foam. When you screw the nails in, you can remove them (with the back of the hammer) and it barely leaves a mark, meaning that you can use it again and again.

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Not one to follow instructions, he decided to make a chair

Both sets have everything you need to get building, including a small hammer, saw, lots of nails and the wood-like material. There are instructions with ideas for builds, from a boat to a bird house and in the deluxe workshop (for a slightly older age range) more difficult builds, such as a helicopter and digger.

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First design and very proud of his chair

Whatever his brothers do, he wants to do too. I was really impressed that S was able to use the saw and also by his hand to eye coordination when using the hammer and nails.

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S started off very cautiously

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He loved playing with the hammer

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Before long he was a master builder and dressed up for the occasion

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C built an aeroplane

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The eldest made a table to go with one of our mini chairs

What I really love about the sets is that it has sparked off the boys imaginations.  The first day that we used it (and we’ve had it out many times) it was raining outside.  They played with the sets for two whole hours, (a long time for the boys) and then they asked me to get the giant boxes out of the garage and began building slides off the cabin bed and tunnels to slide into, using their tools from the kit.

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Play moved on to creating slides coming off the cabin bed and houses out of cardboard

The slide was so much fun, I would have got into it myself had it been bigger.

The JAKKS construction sets would be suitable for girls and boys from 2 to 92. Everyone can get involved with this and it has been one of our best new finds this year.

JAKKS Real construction deluxe workshop set – RRP £24.99

JAKKS Real construction starter set – RRP £9.99

 

Christmas gift guide 2016

Our Christmas gift guide has been put together mainly with toys that the boys have tested and played with over the last six months, clothes that I have bought and books that we read.  Doing it this way, meant putting together a guide that demonstrates what the kids really loved aged 2, 4 and 6.

There is hopefully something here for everyone but the toys I picked here were played with  and enjoyed by all three boys in different ways.

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Amazon came up trumps with these tegu magnetic wooden blocks (my sister has bought some of these for one of their birthdays in December) and the STEM programmable robot mouse (my two year old mainly pressed the buttons and followed it round the house, but that is the beginning of STEM for him).

The Amazon fire tablet has been a hit. I try to keep the boys off screens when I can but there is a place and use for them and we have used this on car journeys to watch films, for homework (reading eggs and maths seed).

The wooden dog from Hape has been played with lots (including on beach walks) and we have all had fun with the walkie talkies from the Discovery channel, (these will be coming to Camp Bestival with us next year as they have an outdoor range of 3km).

I bought all three boys, a plate, bowl and cup set from H&M (we love everything in their home range). They are china and can be used year after year.

Travel cards from Lonely Planet are perfect for a long car journey to the in-laws this Christmas and the wooden castle in a tin will keep the kids busy for at least a one hour chunk, building it, followed by hours of play afterwards. A chance for you to put your feet up on Christmas day.

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The boys love books and I enjoy reading them. I enjoy reading them even more when I like the illustrations and stories. Smallprint books sell beauties, such as illuminature, Alpha block and Smart about sharks.

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inside illuminator from Smallprint books

b small publishing have loads of brilliant, fun, educational books. The six year old, loves the STEM workbooks (particularly engineering) and seeing as he is getting a BMX for Christmas, we are going to give him the Book of Bike Activities (it’s so much fun inside).

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S is two and loved Infographics for kids by B small publishing

The boys love my old Fisher Price record player. I wrote an article in Metro with my favourite retro toys and will be buying a few from that list.

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Imagine having to leave your kids for a lengthy stay in hospital following a brain haemorrhage and full on operation. This happened to Jo Tutchener-Sharp. Jo turned a bad experience into a positive one and has developed a range of unisex clothes, called Scamp and Dude, that helps children feel more secure with the idea that “a superhero has got my back”. I love her whole range and will get the smallest boy this one, he loves cats.

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Scamp and Dude kids sweatshirt

Two of my favourite independent brands, The Bright Company and Love My Smalls have come together to add their skills. Merino wool, the softest you can imagine next to your skin and beautiful design.  The boys have been wearing merino base layers from Smalls for the last two years and love them.

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For the grown ups

Here are a few of my top picks from my favourite finds.

Wolkyshop is a shoe shop in the gorgeous Brighton Lanes.  I have only recently  discovered it. They not only have gorgeous boots but their speciality is comfort (for me that is almost more important that the shoe itself).  I have a pair of black boots and love them, but I also have my eye on some grey ones as below.

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Wolkyshopboots

I would love an airbox in my house. The beautiful airplants look like they are floating on the wall. The only question is which of the colours to go for? I love them all. Designed by award winning landscape architect, Jade Goto, these are design perfection.

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The airbox is designed and made in Sussex 

A brilliant Christmas present for the family would be tickets to Camp Bestival. We are planning on heading back to Camp Bestival in 2017. They just announced that the theme for next years fancy dress is popstars and rockstars. We CANNOT wait to plan our outfits. Early bird tickets are still available (but won’t be there forever). I promise you that if we can handle a festival with our three, anyone can. We loved it. Our goal next year is to stay at Hotel Bell Tent, this place looked so relaxing.

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Let the kids be totally free at Camp Bestival

I would love one of these Scamp and Dude  superhero jumpers in my life.

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Scamp and Dude sweatshirt

I have wanted some of these baskets from Southwood Stores for a while now.  Pretty much everything in Hayleys shop would be perfect for my Christmas.

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My top three books from 2016, that I will be gifting this Christmas are these. Hurrah For Gin, written by Sussex blogger Katie Kirby is hilarious and makes me feel normal with my parenting thoughts. The Mother Book, curated by Molly Gunn from Selfish Mother has a collection of articles covering everything to do with motherhood. I was incredibly proud to be included in this book with my account of having three boys and the pity I get each day. Helen McGinn, wine lover and writer of Knackered Mother blog was at Camp Bestival this year.  I have since, bought her book to educate myself further in how to spot and buy good wine. I also bought a wine box put together by Helen, which we enjoyed this Summer.

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Last but not least, I now have on my wish list this cashmere jumper from Sussex brand Bonnie Mob, in collaboration with Selfish Mother. You cannot beat cashmere for softness and comfort. Money from each jumper is going to Refugee Support Europe, helping to make the daily lives of new mums and babies in the camps a little bit better.

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Just keep breathing

I found a short film clip of my father on my computer recently.  In the film, I asked him, “what’s the best advice you could give me for my life?”  He replied, with a smile on his face,”just keep breathing.” Nothing more and nothing less. Now, I know that his number one family value was health, without that we can’t do much else, so it made sense watching him back that in all its simplicity, breathing is the most important thing.

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Last month, I spent an amazing weekend away at 42 Acres Retreat in Somerset.  The weekend was hosted by Jess, Aimee and Rebecca from Inspiration Space and combined yoga, relaxation and transformational breathing.

For those not familiar with transformational breathing, here is a short description for you taken from the Inspiration Space website.

Transformational Breath®, is a self-healing technique that helps people to access the full potential of their breathing system for better physical, emotional and mental well-being. The connected pattern of conscious breathing is a natural, safe and easy –to-learn technique, which has proven to have many benefits almost universally, including increased energy, better immune response and increased ability to deal with stress in a positive way.

Breathing controls the functioning of every cell and the physiology of the entire body. With the majority of the population using only approximately 25% of their full respiratory capacity, it is no surprise that improper breathing is a contributory factor to ill health. Transformational Breath® helps correct old unhealthy patterns of breathing and helps access full breathing potential, encouraging a fuller more conscious breath.  

My advice is simply to try it, it will blow your mind, but I will try to explain how it helped me whilst I was on the retreat.

When I arrived, I had just received some bad news about a family member, I put on a brave face, greeted everyone and surprise surprise, suppressed my emotions about the news.  The other people were really friendly and we all sat down to enjoy an incredible meal (all the food at 42 Acres was unbelievable) before our first yoga class with Jess (deep relaxation, which was lucky because I was shattered from the week).

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The view out of most of the windows in 42 Acres

Day two and it was morning yoga, I lay down and within five minutes I was in tears.  Grief often comes out for me in either tears or anger; day to day life leaves little space for it and each time I see one of my peers with their parents it hits me, ditto grandparents. When these little hurts occur, I can feel the tears brewing under the surface and push them down, in essence I change my breathing pattern and often become more tense. I left the yoga class (after a lovely hug from Jess, the teacher) and took myself off for a walk in the fields.

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Walking in the grounds of 42 Acres was so calming and one of my favourite parts of the weekend. I saw deer jumping over fence posts, misty sunrises and starry nights. There is nothing quite like nature to ground you when you need it.

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We did not go hungry and after each session would be offered something delicious, including these Moju turmeric boosters (I need a fridge full at home)

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Thoughtful little touches had been added around 42 Acres by the Inspiration Space girls, including these cards from School for the Mind

Our first transformational breathing session was an introduction to the process from Aimee and Rebecca. Some people on the retreat have regular sessions with Aimee and Rebecca and others had never tried it before.  We all lay down, were propped up into various positions and began to follow instructions from the teachers. Soon, the room sounded like a noisy labour ward as we concentrated hard on our breath.

Aimee and Rebecca were going round to each person and were using our acupressure points to release stuck energy in our bodies.  I could hear a few people crying, and knew from a previous breathing session that I more than likely would cry too. The teachers kept reminding us to “return to the breath” and to “breathe through it”, when one them reached me to work on my acupressure points, it took one press and I the floodgates opened.  I just let it all out but kept up with the breathing exercise even when crying. Most of the others were the same and it felt like a safe place just to let go.

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My bed in the nicest dorm room I have ever seen. Photo credit : 42 Acres

Over the weekend we had several breathing sessions, by the end everyone said how much lighter, calmer and more relaxed they felt.  This was down to a combination of the yoga and breathing, the peace within 42 Acres and the laughter we had too.  I came away feeling like I had released lots of tension, reminded myself what quiet is like (never easy with three young boys at home) and renewed energy to take into my every day life.

My top eight favourite things about the weekend.

  1. The venue.

42 Acres is not only set in stunning grounds but has been renovated to the highest         possible spec in the most beautiful taste by interiors designer, Jo Berryman (I would love a house like this).

2. The food.

Mark and his team created combinations of food that I would never put together. Every single thing was healthy and delicious. They are running a cooking course next year and I am very tempted to go.

3. The girls from Inspiration Space

Aimee, Jess and Rebecca tended to our every need, from washing up, to providing us with a packed tea to head home with (to avoid motorway rubbish), I felt throughly nurtured and cared for. All three are lovely and I came away wanting to be best friends with them all.

4. Yoga with Jess

Jess Horn is one of the best yoga teachers I have even been taught by.  Her voice is so relaxing, it feels like being in a meditation session at the same time. She also runs yoga retreats, again its on my to do list.

5. Laughing lots

I can’t remember a weekend away with girls where I have laughed so much, without booze being involved.  A revelation for me! Amongst the tears from letting stuff out, lots of laughs were had.

6. Having space to be quiet

Most of us said at the end of the weekend how rare it is that we stop and just be. With patchy phone signal (unless you searched it out) we all switched our phones off, read and walked. A luxury that we often don’t have with our busy lives.

7. Rumour of a retreat in Ibiza 2017

Hanging out with these lovely girls and doing all of this in sunshine would be dreamy. Whether this is realistic work wise who knows but it’s on my list for my 40th year, 2017.

8. Bringing home new techniques with me

Aimee has set up some breathing videos online, as well as some audio exercises. I have been doing these at home and it’s really been helping bring some of that calm from 42 Acres into my life. You can try these for yourself here and I really recommend that you give it a go.

Jess Horn teachers yoga in Hertfordshire and North-West London.

Rebecca has written a book about transformational breathing, called And Breathe that you can buy here.

How to be a more mindful Mama

I bought my first iPhone the day before my eldest was born, six years ago.  I loved the fact that I could take photos of my newborn the following day and thousands more over the next few years. The phone became my companion, during those dark long evenings breastfeeding and being up at night with the baby (and then babies).  I would text and email my fellow baby friends to compare notes on sleep deprivation. Slowly, slowly, the phone became more prominent in my life.

I used Facebook, I’d search on Google for things wherever I was, rather than waiting until later to find out the answer.  The phone has become my navigation system, my camera, my personal shopping portal and my daily news provider. In my career as a social media manager, I couldn’t do my job without it, BUT… how much have I missed over the last six years?

Those moments, I’ve been reading a text, laughing about a funny photo. Were the boys smiling up at me? “Mummy, watch this.” “In a minute, kids, let me just finish this.” The view out of the train, rather than on my screen, the people around me, what have they been doing? Mainly, looking on their phones (certainly on the train where I am writing this, 9/10 people are looking down, me included).

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My phone has been one of the main boundaries, preventing me from being a more mindful mum around the boys.  To be fair, there have been times when life has got so in the way, that being mindful was pretty much impossible.  When my father was ill and later when things got more acute, everything and everyone had to come second to his needs.  I gave 100% of myself to care for my Dad and I’ll always know that I did everything I possibly could for him, however, I spent no time looking after myself at that point. Perhaps then was the time I needed to be more mindful than ever.

Three boys wake up, they press their ignition buttons and the noise and speed at which they travel continues until they eventually fall asleep at the end of the day, with nothing left in the tank.  I tend to rush around, dealing with one task after another, mainly telling them to lower their voices and breaking up arguments. I tidy, they mess it up five minutes later; I cook, they either love it or loathe it.

Our best times are being outdoors together. When we went to the Isle of Wight recently for a few days, our hotel had no phone reception or wifi. I realised that I have missed a fair few moment over the years. I read books and magazines in the evenings, rather than looking on social media at the same time, or replying to work emails, they could wait.  I sat in the sunshine at the park and watched the kids playing, seeing the joy in their faces, their pride at reaching the top of the climbing wall, being there to share their achievements.

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Time with the kids in the Isle of Wight

I recently went to a Mothers Meeting event at Shoreditch House to listen to a talk all about mama.  The panel was made up of the hilarious, Mother Pukka (vlogger), Clemmie, aka Mother of Daughters (the most well known midwife on Instagram), lovely radio DJ (and fellow Mum to boys), Edith Bowman and Jenny Scott, founder of Mothers Meetings. I bumped into the lovely Emily Gray Photography  who was official event photographer.  She recently took some headshot photos of me for work and lots of people have been asking who took them.

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Mother Pukka, Mother of Daughters, Edith Bowman, Tessa Watt –

© Emily Gray Photography 2016

We were taken through a guided mindfulness session by Tess Watt, a mindfulness teacher and consultant who has been practising meditation for over 20 years, and is an experienced instructor at the London Shambhala Meditation Centre. I was seriously impressed that her calming voice and words quietened an entire room of women, most of whom had enjoyed an Aperol spritz or two before the talk started. You could have heard a penny drop.

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© Emily Gray Photography 2016

Everyone on the panel agreed that we are all guilty of not taking time to look after ourselves and take time out to simply stop and breathe. A few simple changes in your life can make all the difference, as a parent and as an individual.  I am calmer and less shouty (sometimes) at bedtime, because I am working more efficiently in the day. I put my work person away when it’s the kids time and start being a mum, and likewise when I am working or have time to myself, I switch off my mum role to enable me to be more efficient with my time.

There are times when I work at night and rush the kids off to bed, but I pick them up from school almost everyday and spend time engaging with them (now mainly with my phone in the other room). I have been listening to the Quility App at night a few times a week and I’m going on a yoga retreat next week to have forty eight hour reminding myself how to be calmer and slow down a little more.

The main change that I have made to be a more mindful Mum is to leave my phone in the other room when I am with the kids.  I want to set an example to them, not to be bound to their screens (at their age they don’t really have any but it’s only a matter of time). I am also planning on saving up for a good camera so that I can go for days out with the kids, and take photos, whilst leaving my phone at home.  Small changes are good and with three boys, ages six and under having a little time for me is more important than ever.

 

 

 

How to find work that works.

The last time, I entered the stunning reception area of M&C Saatchi was nearly twenty years ago. I was being interviewed for my first position in advertising and was shaking like a leaf. The interview went well but I didn’t get the job and soon after landed my dream role at DDB London as an account manager.

Advertising has to be one of the most fun industries for a twenty something in London. We had large expense accounts, weekly client entertainment was the norm, which involved meetings (long lunches) in some of the best restaurants across London and team building trips to Rome and Paris (dreamy). We also worked very hard, often when pitching for new business working through the night and then delivering the pitch the following morning. I thrived off the pace at which we worked. Occasionally, I would look around the agency and wonder where all the women went as they got older; there were very few over the age of forty, whereas the mix of men and women in their twenties when I started was equal, perhaps even female heavy.

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I’ve started off by teaching my boys that a hashtag isn’t a noughts and crosses board.

My account director had three children, I remember her being pregnant, working up until the day she gave birth and then being back at her desk within a couple of months. She was stressed, always racing in and racing out, and managing phone calls from childcare, the balance was not right and she was constantly feeling guilty about letting her children down. I had a feeling, that when my time came to have children, this industry was not going to work for me.

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Digital Mums founders, Kathryn Tyler and Nikki Cochrane. Thanks to them I have found #workthatworks for me.

Fast forward ten years from my last job in an ad agency, I live outside of London, have three young children and retrained last year with Digital Mums. You can read all about how I got into Digital Mums in the article I wrote here on the blog. Digital Mums has changed my life.

This morning, I dropped the kids at school, went for a swim in the sea and was at my desk (in my bedroom) by 10am. At lunchtime, I’m going to pop out for a bike ride and get a nice coffee from my local coffee shop (interact with some humans; an important thing to do when you work remotely), then I’ll do some more work before school pick up.

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According to a new report from Digital Mums, and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), almost 7 in 10 (68%) UK stay-at-home mums (SAHMs) living with children aged 18 and under would go back to work in some capacity if flexible working around childcare was an option, while over a third (37%) of working mums living with children would work additional hours.

Currently, 2.6 million mothers are out of the UK labour force, with Northern Ireland showing the highest share of non-working mums at 32%. By tapping into this current lost talent, businesses embracing flexible work could benefit from a total of 66 million hours more work a week – the equivalent of 1.76 million additional full-time workers – providing the UK economy with a £62.5 billion boost to output each year.

Can you even get your head around how crazy those figures are?

On Wednesday night, I walked back into M&C Saatchi for the second time in my life, this time as a Digital Mum. My confidence has come back, As a freelance social media manager, I have worked for clients from First News children’s newspaper (live tweeting from parliament during Brexit), The Institute of IT, running an e-safety campaign to teachers on Twitter, a local forest school, a children’s’ bedding company; and they were all during my first six months of graduating from the course.

In total over the last eight months, I have had to leave my home office four times for work, twice to tweet live from events and launches, once to meet up for yearly planning meeting and another time to have a thank you lunch from a client after a great launch. Not bad for a career that I love.

Speakers on the panel on Wednesday discussed their thoughts on flexible working for women.

Kathryn Tyler, co-founder and co-CEO, Digital Mums, said: “In 2016, women shouldn’t have to choose between a rewarding career and motherhood. While for some mums staying at home is a choice, our report shows that for a larger number their hands are tied because of a lack of flexible work options. Shockingly, for those who do find flexible work, it comes at a cost – compromised skills and experience.

“In today’s highly connected world, there’s simply no need for businesses to stick to an archaic 9-5 desk policy. We need a societal shift to embrace flexible working as the ‘norm’ and not the exception. This will not only help mums find rewarding careers that fit their skills and family life; it will help businesses tap into an amazing talent pool and, ultimately, increase output for the economy.”

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Mother Pukka, Holly Tucker and Sophie Walker (leader of Womens Equality Party)

Kate Thornton, runs the fantastic company TB Seen. She gets her team together on a Monday and Thursday morning, the rest of the time staff can be flexible with their work.  She trusts them to work and as a result, it gets done.  Kate recalled telling some schoolgate mums about the Digital Mums course. “They pop their heads up like meercats, they can’t believe that there could be a career for them that is so flexible.”

Mother Pukka made a very good point about flexible working, “this is not some crazy revolution, its evolution.” And Holly Tucker, one of the co-founders of Not On The High Street said that “when you run a business you need to lead by example. People won’t leave to pick up their kids, until you do.” Holly has set up a new company, supporting small businesses and I am hoping to write more about this soon.

Do you work in a job that is flexible around your family?  Or do you have a mad dash in the morning just to get to your desk, only to clock watch and pray that school don’t call about an ill child because your employer will look down on you?

My three boys, will grow up seeing both their parents working flexibly. Mr P came home early from work, to enable me to attend the event in London.  Tomorrow, I am working in London, and he will pick up the childcare that I am unable to do.  We support each other and are lucky to both have jobs that allow us to be flexible. By supporting #workthatworks we are helping our children in the future to have lives that are more balanced.

Head over to the Digital Mums website to find out more about their #workthatworks manifesto. There are companies out there starting to listen, and with more people backing this campaign, finding work that works will get easier. The more people who know about this the better, so please do share this article.

Thanks for reading.

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The secret Isle of Wight

I began the Summer researching last-minute trips to a Greek Island.  The weather was rubbish and I was desperate for some sunshine.  Luckily, that changed, so we turned our thoughts to a few days away somewhere closer to home. We decided to head to The Isle of Wight.  The forecast for the week ahead was amazing (mid twenties) and we live just one hour from the ferry port, so it seemed like an easy trip. Despite the fact that I knew nothing about the Isle of Wight apart from the fact Bestival and Cowes week is held there each year, in my mind it was practically heading abroad, we were crossing water after all. Cornwall seems to get all the holiday fanfares, this Islands appears to be a secret but one that I want to share.

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I am normally a big researcher when it comes to holidays but we booked a hotel that had some stuff for the kids to do and just rocked up to the ferry. The boys were so excited to get on a boat with the car, I must admit so was I.  There was something that little bit more exciting to be leaving our shores to cross to an island than our previous long car journeys to Cornwall each Summer.  With just enough time for a coffee and biscuit we were approaching the island. The scenery was breathtaking, white sandy beaches and trees overhanging the water, it looks just like some of my favourite places in Cornwall along the Helford River.

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We drove across the middle of the island to a small village outside Ventnor, our hotel was nestled in woodland by the sea.  The building was beautiful in the sunshine, no mobile reception meant that I was fully present with the kids (something my job often doesn’t allow) and an outdoor playground meant that Mr P and I could sit in the gardens and have  a sit down.

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Each night badgers would come to the hotel to feed. The manager discovered them entering the bins at night, so decided to leave all the kitchen scraps in a tub for them each day.  It is very rare for badgers to behave this way and specialists have been to the hotel to visit and study them so closely.  We were all blown away by these beautiful creatures and most adults had never seen one alive, so it was pretty special.

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Our days were spent frequenting one beautiful beach and then another, just driving and seeing where we fancied stopping as we drove.

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The water was so clear that we bought the eldest a snorkel and mask. He has wanted to learn to dive for the last few years, but must wait until he is eight before Padi will teach him, this was his first proper taste of it and he was in the water for hours.

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To reach the beach near the hotel we walked through some beautiful woods, and due to some broken steps, had to use rope to reach the beach, no-one was there, it was heaven.

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We explored as far as Bembridge with its forests and beautiful beach huts, and down to Compton Bay and beyond. We went to  Dinosaur Isle at Sandown, where the boys learnt about the fossils on the island and when they are a tiny bit bigger we will go back on a dinosaur fossil walk, people have found all sorts (including a baby dinosaur…).

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There were lots of things to do on the Island, other families were doing day trips to Blackgang Chine theme park, The Needles landmark, country parks, windmills an all sorts of other places but for us Mr P was a little under the weather, so we stuck to beaches where he could lie down and help me when they were wandering in different directions. The boys don’t really like Daddy being still and he didn’t rest perhaps as much as he would have liked!

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At night, there was a mixture of entertainment (they are watching a magician here) and supervised crafts and soft play.

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While the boys were kept busy and Mr P was in bed ill, I enjoyed my book and the views with the odd G&T.

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We were there for four nights but it felt like much longer. Two reasons for this, the two year old was waking at 4.30am and after the first morning of faking being asleep and heavy breathing I was getting him up and taking him on walks.  The other reason was that the days were so full and long when we were there we packed lots of memories in.  At the end of the day, that’s what holidays are all about.

On the drive to the ferry, Mr P and the eldest threw their rods off the pier. Within two minutes they caught three mackerel. The perfect end to the holiday.

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I can’t say that I came back rested, but then holidays with three young kids are not really a rest. But I really enjoyed a break from the washing, the cooking, the everyday chores.  We explored new places and made note of where to go when we go back next time. There will be a next time very soon hopefully; with it taking just two hours door to door we have every reason to go back to this secret little island just down the road.

The importance of taking time out

This weekend I was child free for three whole days and nights. This is the first time in six years that I have been at home without the kids. I needed a break, some time to reconnect with the things that I love, time to remind myself about what makes me tick, other than being a mum and having a job.

I deliberately made no plans, I spend my life planning, mealtimes, scheduling new blogs and social media posts for clients and organising the kids timetables, which as they are getting older, are getting longer. Before Mr P went, we dug out my bicycle from the garage.  I last used this before I had the kids.  He was taking the car and it would be my only way to get around. I have loved using my bike and had forgotten how much fun it was to ride.  So much so, that I bought a new one in the sales from my local bike shop. Cheaper than the gym, this is my new way to get fit.

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Scabiosa from the new plants that I bought

I also bought some flowers and compost before they left.  I am well-known for not having green fingers, but I love flowers and get so much pleasure from looking at them.  I have planted some Scabiosa and Verve in pots by the front door.  They are looking really pretty and have inspired me to be a little more adventurous with gardening from now on.

Some of the things that I long for when the kids are here are very simple.  I have enjoyed having a bath, without interruption. I’ve got some gorgeous new products that I hadn’t had time to try out. My favourites are Olverum, an aromatic bath oil, made by a family firm with a passion for helping people to unwind and ease muscle tension.  I got this bottle to use after Camp Bestival and it’s nearly all gone. You only need a few drops and the smell radiates around the bathroom. I will be buying this for a few people at Christmas, I haven’t found anything that comes close.

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Homedics, Olverum, Elemis, Miller Harris perfume and The Yes Mum card I picked

I have also been using Elemis Dynamic Resurfacing Serum.  I have been suffering with pretty bad rosacea and the heat only makes it worse.  This serum claims to smooth your skin and helps to reduce wrinkles and pores.  It certainly does the job and whilst my redness is still there, my skin is looking smoother and feels much softer. I got this from Bath and Unwind, along with Miller Harris Citron perfume, which smells fresh and delicious.  I wore the same perfume for the last ten years and am so predictable, it is lovely trying and wearing a new scent (and must be for those around me too)!

Yesterday I went to the beautiful West Street Loft in Shoreham to try out a Qoya class with my dear friend, Kate.  Kate went out to Costa Rica earlier this year to do her Qoya teacher training and has recently started teaching to friends in this stunning space.  She finishes her qualification in October and is then running an amazing retreat out in Portugal at the end of October. Blush Love looks like it will be incredible. There are still a few spaces left, and take a look at this link for more information.

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West Street Loft – space in Shoreham for yoga, cinema and classes

Drinks overlooking the river with great company followed my Qoya class before I cycled home to read the Sunday papers, swim in the sea and watch the new BBC drama, Victoria (which I loved).

Today, I have been on another bike ride and then I had a long bath (my muscles are a little under used and all this dancing and bike riding has taken its toll).  I then tried out my new Homedics duo Quartz IPL device. This is a home-use device for the permanent reduction of hair growth based on Intense Pulsed Light and Advanced Flourescence technology that is used in salons across the world.  I must admit that I was a tad nervous using it for the first time but it works below the skin’s surface and does not involve any cutting or pulling, so once I got used to the sensation I did it in front of the TV.  A lifetime of no more shaving my legs has been the incentive to try this out, I literally do not have the time at the moment to keep up with shaving my legs! I will keep you posted on the results, but the reviews are excellent, it’s sold in Boots and Argos and they offer a 120 day money back guarantee so it must be really good.

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Time out on the beach with a swim and glass of wine

I have been thinking about my love of travelling a lot this weekend.  Before I had kids, Mr P and I travelled alot.  We did a year from Central down to the bottom of South America, skiing in Argentina, surfing the whole way down (him more than me), learning Spanish, visiting the Galapagos Islands and immersing ourselves in the Latin American culture.  We spent a year in Australia and New Zealand and on my own I went to India to study Ayurveda. We surfed in Bali, Portugal and the Canaries, but since having the boys, we have taken the kids abroad only once, for our honeymoon to Martinhal and Portugal and then on to Malaga to stay in a Padre Aviles, a beautiful family friendly accommodation up in the mountains, run by Mr P’s cousins.

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The eldest learning to snorkel at Martinhal

I would love to travel more with the kids, I am heading to the Family Travel Show at Olympia in October to see what’s out there for a family of five.  We have also just booked our first ever ski holiday with Mark Warner in February. My friend raves about Mark Warner, she has been five years running skiing with them, so we are really excited. I’m going to write more about my trips abroad, it will give me a good excuse to look back over old photos of our trips and relive them with the kids.  I never got round to printing any out and would like some more up in the home, looking at a photo can take you right back to a place with the smells and sounds.

Our recent holiday to the Isle of Wight was amazing, it proves to me that you don’t have to always go abroad and that sometimes magical places are right on your doorstep (in six years of living in Sussex we have never been to the Isle, it took us two hours door to door). I’m going to write-up our holiday to the Isle of Wight because I feel like it’s a secret place that no-one knows about (although judging by my Instagram account plenty of people do, just not many that I know).

So, the weekend is coming to a close. I am off to cycle to the pub to meet a good friend for early evening drinks.  I won’t leave it so long before I have some time out for me again, it’s the most important thing that I have done in a long time.

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Secret Mummies Wine Club at Camp Bestival

When you laugh until your stomach muscles are hurting, you know it’s been a good night. In the midst of all the family fun at Camp Bestival I snuck away for an hour on the Saturday night to the Secret Mummies Wine Club in the Literary Tent (leaving Mr P in the sandpit with the three boys).

All that I knew about the night was that wine was involved care of Helen McGinn, an award-winning wine blogger (perfect), the Scummy Mummies would be there (ideal) and Sara Cox (one of the funniest people on the radio) was in town.  Dreamy right?

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This scene is my perfect Saturday night; sofa, wine and people dressed in catsuits.

The show started with a bang.  The Scummy Mummies came out onto the stage and the minute they started talking I understood why everyone loves them so much, their jokes are hilarious and they are both so likeable, dressed in their shiny catsuits (love this about them) and dancing their dances (yep they did a routine and sang). Wine guru, Helen McGinn is an ex supermarket wine buyer, who writes her own blog, Knackered Mums Wine Club, writes for several magazines and appears on the TV chatting all things wine. She is also bloody funny, which was perfect, because the combination of her, the Scummy Mummies and one of my all time favourite DJ’s Sara Cox, made for one of my best evenings in a long time.

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Sara Cox speed dialling Mr Tumble – you had to be there but trust me, you only need to look at Helen’s face to see how funny it was.

To give you some idea of what went on, we tasted some really good wines (the red was a particular favourite, but then so was the rose – you can see what wines we drank over on Helen’s blog), Sara Cox speed dialled Mr Tumble (he was at Camp Bestival ) and some jokes were being made that only those who watch Tumble would appreciate), we discussed spitting and swallowing wine (this made for a good ten minutes of giggles as you can imagine).  You get the picture…

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Loving the gold catsuit that Helen is wearing here.

At the end I went to get my photo taken with Sara Cox.  Now, Sara Cox is the kind of person who I have said to my friends, “if I met her down the pub we would so definitely be mates.”  What happened when I actually met her? I lunged onto the stage asked for a photo (she was very obliging and suggested I added a filter to take the shine off our faces), said thank you and ran off into the night to Fatboy Slim. All the talk I am, when it came to it I froze!

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Proper girl crush – Sara Cox = very witty and funny

Anyway, what I took from the evening was a good workout for my tummy muscles, adoration for the Scummy Mummies (if you are ever feeling a little down listen to one of their podcasts and I promise you will feel better), even more fan girl for Sara Cox who was so quick witted in real life she had me keeled over laughing, and a new-found favourite wine guru in Helen McGinn (I drink enough wine to need her in my life to teach me more about what I’m consuming).  I raced out of the tent a little bit merry from the wine and into the night to meet Mr P in the Castle Field to watch Fatboy Slim.  I haven’t had a better Saturday night in a long time.

I have just bought The Knackered Mother’s Wine Club book which is really useful (for wine buying tips and info) and very funny too.  I have one extra copy to giveaway. (Competition over on Instagram @madabouttheboys).

Thank you Scummy Mummies, Sara Cox and Helen McGinn and to Camp Bestival for putting on such a fun night.

Early bird tickets are now available for Camp Bestival 2017.  They have a payment plan for as little as £5 per week – you won’t even notice it and it’ll be the best spread payment plan you’ve ever done.

 

Camp Bestival – More than just a weekend

Where else could you wake up and do a family aerobics session with Mr Motivator (I need that man as my personal trainer), see your children in awe of one of their heroes; Mr Tumble, bounce on the world’s biggest bouncy castle, eat some of the best chicken rendang you’ve ever tasted, enjoy wine tasting with the hilarious Scummy Mummies, Knackered Mum and Sara Cox who make you laugh so much that your abs get a good workout whilst you drink?  Then dance non stop to Fatboy Slim with your 6 year old on your shoulders (and the other two in a double buggy asleep), finish the night in a giant sandpit bar, dancing bare footed whilst your kid builds sand castles beneath you? Camp Bestival totally blew me away, it has everything spot on for families, it’s like they designed it for me.

Here’s a little summary of our festival experience as a family with three kids under seven.

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Camp Bestival was the best weekend that we have had in months.  In fact, maybe even the best weekend since having kids.  The main reason for this was that the weekend was for all of us, it wasn’t swayed towards the kids or just the adults which so often happens.  There were so many things that we all enjoyed together as a family, such as going on the world’s largest bouncy castle, dancing to Rob Da Bank’s Prince Tribute and Norman Jay at the Bollywood stage, listening to live music together in the sunshine, learning about space with talks from the UK Space Agency, cooking breakfast together outside the tent.

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Dressing up on Lizzies Way in the Dingly Dell

We loved the Wall of Death motorbikes (incredible to watch) and the Freesports Park (skateboarding, climbing) where we could all sit together and be wowed by the stunts on the giant ramps. We also all loved the First Choice beach bar, the kids built sand castles and we danced bare footed with cider in hand (win win).

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One of the things I’ve realised about the whole Camp Bestival experience is the planning that goes into it together as a family.  We found out earlier in the year that the theme for 2016 was space and it became a focal point for lots of our activities over the last six months, including an amazing trip to the Science Museum in London to see the space exhibition and get inspiration from the astronaut suits on display there.

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A few weeks ago the boys got really into helping me pack for the festival and we began making lists to ensure that we had all that we needed.

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I must admit that looking back I got a little obsessed about what to pack.  In reality we didn’t use a lot of the things that we took and could actually buy almost everything on site.  Mr P pointed out when we got home that our First Aid kit could have matched that of Bear Grylls.

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At home in their “rocket” and costumes pre Camp Bestival

The boys loved dressing up in their costumes in the weeks before the festival, this brought the whole space theme alive to them which meant that they were even more excited about it all when we got there.  On arrival we hired a trolley to transport all our stuff to the campsite (you can do this no problem, more to come in a separate post on logistics but rest assured Camp Bestival is really well organised and we managed it with three young kids).

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We pitched the tent, got the kids into their pjs and onesies and explored the festival site (well worth coming on the Thursday to find your feet before it all kicks off on the Friday). D and I found a gin and tonic bar (there’s a theme here) underneath the giant astronauts and the kids lay on bean bags as we had a couple of drinks watching the big wheel all lit up at night.

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Prepping for a night out in their Bright Company (Sussex based) T-shirts which they also wore to bed as Pj’s

We did so much over the four days at Camp Bestival I couldn’t possibly write it all down, plus I’d like to leave a few things out for you to discover for yourselves if you go next year, although it changes so much each year it wouldn’t be a spoiler.

I asked everyone in the family for their highlights of the weekend.

J is six and his favourite things were :

  1. I loved Fatboy Slim, being on daddies shoulders and dancing.
  2. The fireworks display.
  3. Buying a diablo and playing with it with all the other kids.
  4. Meeting a real space man.
  5. Building in the woods with the hammer and nails.
  6. Wall of Death
  7. Watching Lazytown Live and meeting Sportacus.
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Meeting the cast of Lazytown Live (turns out J has a crush on pink hair & he gave her a hug after this shot)

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Trying on astronaut gloves after the UK Space Agency talk (where he put his hand up and asked two questions).

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J spent about three hours in total building in this area, he loved it and would have stayed longer had we not moved to a different area.

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Watching Fatboy Slim on Daddy’s shoulders – he totally smashed it – incredible set.

C is four and his favourite things were :

  1. The fireworks
  2. Famboy slam (obviously not grasped his name yet)
  3. The helter skelter
  4. The aliens in the woods (there was a crashed spaceship there with men in black teaching the kids what to do in the event the aliens came back to the ship -see photo below with their hands on their heads)!
  5. Ice creams
  6. Playing in the woods
  7. Mr Tumble
  8. Winning the roly poly hill race against his two year old brother.
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On the podium after rolling down the hill in a race. #50things

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Band practice in Lizzies Way – a beautiful area in the Dingly Dell

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C and S both at the back here, “getting down” in case the aliens arrived.

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First time on his own down a helter skelter (I love how much he loved this)

S is only two and can’t really say many words as yet but I do know for sure what his favourite things were.

  1. Dancing – on shoulders, on the stage, on the dance floor, in the fields, everywhere.
  2. Playing in the sandpits in the kids field and First Choice bar.
  3. Eating daily ice creams.
  4. The Dingly Dell.
  5. The shows in the Big Top.
  6. Watching the celestial light display.
  7. The fireworks display.
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Inside the alien spaceship – not looking too worried.

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8.30pm Saturday night – the kids happy as can be in the sandpit.

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Bollywood stage for Norman Jay = S loved it

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Watching the celestial light at 1am – this kid is going to be a party animal.

I asked Mr P what he loved the most  :

  1. Partying with the kids
  2. Fatboy Slim – with the boys on his shoulders
  3. Norman Jay
  4. Watching a bunch of kids with hammers and nails doing just fine, creating their own structure with no injuries (he’s a carpenter and felt that had parents got involved there possibly would have been injuries)!
  5. The fireworks
  6. Having a teenager come up to him in the Caravanserai at 1am telling him that he was “smashing parenting” whilst dancing with the two year old on his shoulders.

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For me it was :

  1. Having no timetable. We ate when we were hungry, the kids slept when they dropped, we had no plan and just wandered round the site stopping to see things as they happened.
  2. Going to the Secret Mummies Wine Club and laughing so much I had tears rolling down my cheeks – big highlight for me (separate blog post to follow about this epic night).
  3. Drinking Pimms at midday and generally being more relaxed (could have been partly due to the Pimms but also having no agenda relaxed me).
  4. Mr Motivator – a surprise hit.  We all did his workout (I wasn’t expecting to actually do a workout but I earned my gin in a tin afterwards).  This guy is such a booster, I need him in my house every morning to get me going.
  5. Watching the children being in awe of everything around us “look mummy its a giant bear, listen to this song, can we chase bubbles all day?”
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We came back with a diablo, a giant banana and coloured tissue paper that my 4 year old collected during the Mr Tumble show – sign of a good family weekend.

I could keep going to tell you about everything that we saw but I hope that the photos give you a good taste of our family time at Camp Bestival.

Would we go again?  Try stopping us, this is a yearly event from now on.  Lots of people have asked me questions about how I did the festival with three kids under seven, I am going to write a separate post answering all the questions that I was wondering about before we went.  Just know this; you can do it, we did and we loved it.

Early bird tickets go on sale on MONDAY – there are only 1000 tickets at this early bird price.  With 2017 being Camp Bestival’s 10th birthday – it’s sure to be a big one.

Camp Bestival 2017 Early Bird Tickets are on sale from 10am, Monday 8th August via:

Ticketline / 0844 888 4410

Days Out With Kids / 01202 830838

Camp Bestival 2017 Early Bird Weekend Ticket Prices:

Adult Weekend Ticket – £175*

Student Weekend Ticket – £165*

Age 13 to 17 Weekend Ticket – £105*

Age 10 to 12 Weekend Ticket – £80*

Age 5 to 9 Weekend Ticket – £30*

Age 4 & Under Weekend Ticket – £10*

Babes In Arms (1 & Under) – FREE (but ticket required)*

All tickets include camping from Thursday or Friday.