Andy Day and Mike James

How two young blokes larking around on the stage works

Andy Day and Mike James

A couple of years ago I went to see Andy Day (The tall skinny one with curly hair from cbeebies) and his mate Mike James in ‘The big box of bananas’, which Curly Headed Boy loved.

So when we were invited to review their new show ‘The Tick Tock Time Machine’ I jumped at the chance.

The question was, could they live up to their past success?

 

So what’s the show like?

Well basically Andy and Mike come across to me as two young blokes, who’ve known each other a long time, and get paid to lark around on the stage and behave like young guys do.

Which is of course a raging success with the kids, because the silliness of the sense of humour is just perfect for them.

For me it is lovely to go to something so simple, so silly, and so engaging.

 

They will get a Mum on stage to do something not too embarrassing, and Dad on stage to do lots of things a bit more embarrassing and give one of the kids a special job.

In the meantime they will be going back and forwards to the future and have a clever way of making sure that one of them is available to play other parts when needed.

There will be a couple of tongue in cheek mentions of the toys they are using being up for sale (about £2-£5); but I don’t mind that as the tickets are really cheap and Curly Headed Boy still plays with his banana from last time.

There is a 20min interval, so don’t worry about toddlers needing a Pee, and they stayed around afterwards to sign things and raise money for their favourite charities.

Sadly I couldn’t stay to meet the guys as Little Dimples 2.5yrs (who has slept through the loudest film at a cinema), was absolutely entranced and desperately needed to get home for a nap.  Her verdict on the show?  Well from the constant ‘I want to go back to the show’ for the next 2 days, I would say it was a success!

Curly Headed Boys favourite bit was the rock, paper scissors game; but I can’t tell you why because that would give the joke away …. Roar!  Oh and the silly dance with the bottom bit in it …. see what I mean about the sense of humour!

 

If you are thinking of going to a film or pantomine or show and don’t know what to do in this rather tight for money day and age, then I would thoroughly recommend anything by Andy and Mike.  You aren’t going to scare young ones, you’ll get all the audience participation of a panto, and a lot more fun than a film.  Just remember to pop to the supermarket and buy some sweets and cool drinks beforehand.

I copied this from their website to help you see if they are coming to somewhere near you:

  • Update: the 2012 dates are now finished, but the GOOD NEWS is that there will be a 2013 tour!!

This show was at the Radlett Centre, which if you live anywhere near there or St Albans I can really recommend checking out their schedule.  They have lots of shows, and a Panto every year (without celebs) and are perfect for kids, because it’s a small theatre and there is a car park nearby.

 

I hope that Andy and Mike have had a really successful tour and come back soon with another show!  My only complaint or disappointment is how long we’ll have to wait to see them again, and that we don’t get to see Mike on TV, as the kids were just as fond of him by the end of the show.  They make a BRILLIANT pair together!

 

Update: If you’ve been to their show and would like to help Andy and Mike get their fab partnership on TV, then you can like their FB pages, and tweet @andyandmike telling @CbeebiesHQ how fab they were!  Andy & Mike – http://www.facebook.com/andyandmikes?ref=hl  Get Mike James on CBeebies – http://www.facebook.com/GetMikeJamesOnCBeebies?ref=hl

 

 

Disclosure: We were given tickets for the show, but that has not affected my opinion at all.  Updates: They’ve given me nothing to plug their FB pages, I just like them!

 

 

Fairy

Is this potentially the best family festival in the UK?

JonPaul Palombo
JonPaul Palombo’s greatest fans!

 

This is a mammoth review of Just So Festival 2012, so hold onto your socks!

Because I reviewed it last year and wrote a pre-post explaining all the different areas and my plans, I thought that this year I would do a quick interview with some other people and get their perspectives.

They’ve all had a little more than ‘quick’ to share though, and I actually think that the information is really useful if you are thinking of going yourself, so I’ve decided to make the most MAHOOSIVE blog review post in the history of mankind.

If you’ve attended, I’d love to hear your opinions too!

By the way, they have an early bird option on at the moment for 2012 and once all the early tickets are sold it goes up to full price.

(All the photos are of my family or things that we did, not of my interviewees)

Sunday Day Ticket

Wild rumpus parade
Curly Headed Boy, Little Dimples and their friend on the way to the Wild Rumpus Parade

I met the lovely Ruby on twitter and really wanted her perspective as she only came for a day, not only that she got the rainy day.  So what did she think? …….

My husband and I decided to take the Kids to there first festival this year and Just so looked like the perfect choice, it’s not too far to travel, not too big and the activities were all aimed at children so it sounded great, we booked day tickets incase it wasn’t how we thought it would be or incase the kids didn’t like it as much as we thought.

My husband and I have been to many festivals before including Glastonbury, Download and Hellfest as well as small festivals in Middlesbrough and Bristol. However this was our first with the children. We have two Boys Leo is 32 months and Eli is 4months.

We thought there wouldn’t really be anything suitable for Eli but we were happily supprised by the baby massage classes by Weleda and Baby Yoga by baby bumpkins both of which were great classes and they didn’t pressure you into buying there products or signing up to there classes.

My favourite memory was the wild rumpus parade, although we were only there for a day it was a great way to round off the whole festival in a really magical style. The music tent was great as young children are often told they “can’t touch” expensive equipment, Leo was really excited about the music and has been loving playing with daddy’s guitars since we got back.

Playing Piano At Just So
Curly Headed Boy playing the little piano
 I think the free cloth nappy laundry system is a great idea and I hope there back next year as I’m sure that makes the logistics of camping with cloth nappies easier.  We loved the baby change and feeding area and the toilets were great, so toilet training is fine (can’t imagine portaloo’s would go down well when toilet training!!)

The only bad things we found were the lack of seating areas (especially at lunch time when we had to walk all the way back to the car to sit down to eat) and we were also upset that we didn’t get to see the gruffalo, obviously it’s understandable that while the rain was out he couldn’t come out but after looking for him all day we asked the information desk when he was due out we were told “he’s on his way” so we stood and waited for 1hour in the same place as not to miss him but sadly he never turned up 🙁

Our favourite area was the lazy days as there was lots to do and also space for the kids to have a run around!! The music was great and done in a relaxed and informal way which suited the style of the festival perfectly, (the 12 year old boy on saxophone was amazing).

We took with us a couple of drinks and snacks for throughout the day and bought our meals so we didn’t have too much to carry, the food prices weren’t cheap but about what you would expect for a festival, and we made the most of the Pie Minister stall (we love it but don’t have one here in Manchester).

We decided to go to let the kids experience something out of there normal day to day routine and that’s exactly what we got. From the camp fire in the woods and the music stage to the wild rumpus parade, they loved it more than we could imagine, we will definitely be back next year (hopefully with a nice new bell tent).

I would definitely recommend it to anyone with young children and hope we have many more fun years ahead at Just So Festival.

 

Camping Family with 5 kids (and one teenager left at home)

Wild Things
Willow On Phone In Where The Wild Things Are
 I also met the lovely Ed on Twitter, but we failed to run into each other, despite the fact that he must have been pretty easy to recognise with his lovely big family (and number 7 on the way).  He also happens to be a writer, so check out his blog here, where there will be a lots more pictures.  

Hi, I’m Edd a thirty seven year old man with a large family and a slim wallet. I work as a Labourer for the most part but am trying to better myself through writing and living. I have a wonderful wife and six awesome children (from 15 to 2) , each of whom are as precious as the next, as well as a large extended family that lives pretty close to me (for the most part).

This was our first festival and though we do camp we normally the two girls hadn’t been camping before.

The festival was very busy and to keep toilets well stocked and clean throughout the whole weekend was a big ask but I think they did a good job. Having a main toilet area and then portaloos in strategic areas made sense and it only really got very grim in the main toilets come the final morning, which is understandable. I work on building sites and I can tell you the Just So Toilets were very well maintained in comparison.  The Showers were a pleasant surprise. There was enough room to turn around in them, they were deep enough to allow kids to be in and showered in turn and overall I thought they were kept as clean as possible too. Obviously the wait was brutal first thing but if you left it and picked your moment it wasn’t more than a ten minute wait. That’s shorter than the time I have to wait at home to be honest.

The Planning was spot on from where I was sitting. There was space to roam, everything had enough distance to make it feel very big and yet you felt you were in a specific area when you entered a new ‘zone’. The details made the experience great from the decorative chairs hanging from tree branches too Fairy dresses floating in the woods. It was lovely. The food, toilets and stage set up was great and the breakfast and play barns meant there was always somewhere to take shelter. They even had ATM’s on site. Top class.

Whale at Just So
The Metal Whale Show In The High Seas

The Organisation itself was clean and crisp. The information  tent would charge your phone for you (only for a short period, but enough to get you through on minimal settings), was staffed by lovely, friendly people and having the helpers all wearing top hats meant you could always see a person that could help if needed. Everyone had a wrist band and you were told to write your phone number down on the children’s wrist bands for ease of contact if they became lost. Very good.

As it stands I liked the food court area <best>, but outside of the grub I’d have to say the forest where the Fairy queen lived and the Pirate area by the lake <called High Seas> were my favourites. The lake was beautiful and I love forests so it stands to reason those were the places I’d love. The kids loved the ‘Where the Wild Things are’, ‘The Fairy woods’ and ‘Forty winks’ (all in the same wooded area, my favourite area too).

Honestly I wouldn’t really change any of it. It was charming. I suppose maybe providing more toilets would help to easy the obvious pressure on the festivals organisation? Something like that.

Fairy
Just So is definitely the place for dressing up as a Fairy

Sadly I missed the musical evening sets as I was guarding the sleeping minis that passed out around seven o clock on the nights we were there. Mama took the older kids to the camp fire singing and evening events. I listened to the music drift over the fields towards me from the party but never managed to get to hear it up close and the daytime activities swallowed me up with the kids.  It sounded good from a distance though.

We decided that our journey was too long to bring a lot of food and we agreed to either leap into a supermarket when we had gotten all set up or just eat there and not worry about it. I ended up buying dinner, leaving the breakfast and lunch time stops to be filled with sandwiches or fruit.  The food wasn’t any more expensive than I thought it would be, there was a good spread of choice from Mexican and Noodles too pizza, pasta and burgers. All in all I was impressed with the provision and the quality. Very good eating indeed.  On a side note the breakfast barn was giving out free porridge and crumble bar things, very good idea indeed! I loved the festival but the residing memory will be one of the friendliness of the camping area. Everyone was relaxed, in family groups, seemed respectful of each other’s space and it was clear that they were all having a great time. This feel good factor that surrounded the campers flooded out into the activity fields and made it a magical weekend.

In closing though I’d say we loved it, would love to be back next year but won’t be as our seventh child with be born in January and so it’ll be too tough for us to attend. I do advise you go though if you like your days free, easy and relaxed. No hassle, no crossed words witnessed all weekend and none of the normal young bucks that perhaps don’t quite know when to stop before they take things too far.

A great family festival, a well delivered event and a beautiful crowd of people.

Couldn’t recommend it enough.

 

Camping Family with 1 kid (our mates camping 6ft away from us)

Feather Bowers at Just So
You are never too old for a feather bower or hair garland!

Now I must admit that by the end of Sunday I did think that my mates might be telling me that they had enjoyed it but despite loving me would never come back.  One week on, this is what they said …

We are a family of three from St. Albans; comprising of a happy at home mum, a fun- loving working dad and a 6 year old adventurous little lady.  Just So is the only festival we have been to – twice…. Berkofest is next!

My favourite memory is chilling out in the sunshine at the Panic Circus watching the little lady having fun and skilling up on stilts, unicycles and pedalling furiously!

My man’s favourite points were chatting to Michael Buckley (a writer), camping and exploring the woodland with the little lady and the novelty of drinking (adult) blue slushies and poking out his tongue!

The little lady, when asked replied, “all of it! But especially….” she mentioned: Making Masks in Wild things and the Wild Rumpus Parade, learning circus skills, the experiments with the Physics Busters, riding along with Compass, listening to the music in Footlights –“ I rather love Jon Paul Palombo Mummy – do you?!” and DeliKate and Crepe man were wolfed down!

Flying Bike At Festival
The Crazy Flying Bike!

Grrr to the number of times we rocked up to make something (lanterns, feathered headdresses, musical instruments) at the allotted time only to be confronted with “we’ve run out of materials”…….. faces fell in disappointment and it meant not joining in the fabulous lantern parade.

Also our little lady was very lucky to have a ride with Compass (the Jumblies from last year!) in their fantastical flying machines – however we had to tell about 25 families that we were the last family in the queue – a sign would have been good so we didn’t have to witness others disappointment. I would also have to add that only 16 families each session were lucky enough to embark on this wonderful adventure and that seemed too few. I would have liked to have seen more opportunities for greater numbers to partake in certain areas e.g. trapeze lessons were fully booked in an instant an hour before the event, again great for a chosen few rather than seeing smiles on a decent number of faces.

Music was awesome this year; however, I missed a fabulous band from last year called The Lovely Eggs…… bring back them back please!!!

I would also object to the pricing of a small yet delicious sausage in a hot dog roll by The Farmer’s Wife – £4.50!! Thankfully, the other eateries were much more realistically priced for brilliant quality food.

Levitation
Levitating Little Dimples!

Some areas were sparsely populated with activities and stalls and more could have been added to draw more crowds – All the World’s a stage was extremely empty and this didn’t seem great for the stallholders there, however, was probably a bonus when we were having a nursery rhyme knees up with an audience of 4!

Loved Footlights, Nowhere Now was a huge hit too – The Fantastical Photobooth of Confusion and Wonderment from which we have a treasured keepsake of the festival and little lady enjoyed Levitation and experimenting with the Physics Busters.

Really great! Adored JonPaul Palombo again but sad that his set was so short, the Robbie Boyd Band and Common Tongues also provided a fabulous energy to bop along to.  However……. bring back The Lovely Eggs –( my friend thinks I’m insane for liking this band but now we and many others we chatted to went and downloaded everything they’d ever recorded off Amazon after last year’s Just So performance.)

We cooked tea the first night and brekkie both mornings and then bought lunch and dinner from the following:

              • Rode Hall Farmer’s Market – snacks of stuffed vine leaves and spinach parcels yummy!
              • The Farmer’s Wife – delicious yet expensive sausage for the little lady
              • Deli Kate – yummy paninis and milkshakes. Such a hit, brilliant stuff!!
              • Pieminster – yummy Heidi pie – however in line with the Festival’s common theme of running out of stuff – it had to be eaten solely with a knife as cutlery was in short supply – the lovely pie people did take a £1 off for the inconvenience though!
              • Tasty Thai Cuisine – definitely my favourite… well priced and scrummy!!
              • Ginger’s Comfort Emporium – the little lady loved the vanilla ice cream
              • Crepes – A yummy nutella and banana one hit the spot, however was eaten with fingers as…. Wait for it…. There was NO cutlery!!!  Before you think I’m strange for not asking other stalls for a fork or knife… I did however some were not into sharing due to a meagre supply or didn’t have any themselves!!
  • Stage at Just So
    Dressing up and fun at All The Worlds A Stage

Loos – great until the final day when the organisers scrimped on a final pump out and sent the portaloos into a complete state. Cue Jackass style wretching from the little lady and a request for a peg for the nose and a blindfold!  The showers were a huge hit with my man – who loves a good shower!

Upon arrival unloading on the drop off zone noted on the programme was fab but then…… we were told we could not use this for packing up….. Cue human conveyor belt of numerous bags, tents, blow up mattresses being passed from the field, over a fence, over the road, over a fence into the car park. One word to yea organisers – KERFUFFLE and please please stick to one rule for all otherwise it gets people like me crazy. After a Just So bod telling me I wasn’t allowed to move my car to the drop off zone on the road sides due to the fragility of Snowdrops some others were waved through and when I asked why – the reason given was they have kids?! Mmmmmm wonder how much adult blue slurpy they had consumed the night before!!!

Just a suggestion please could you make things to do pre-bookable online so then you’ll have a rough idea of how many want to take part in activities and I certainly wouldn’t object to spending a bit to guarantee a slot or to help increase providers to ensure more happy faces.

Just So
The little miss that made us sing on stage after dressing up at All the Worlds A Stage

So I sound pretty mixed about Just So but as the rain ceases, the smell from the portaloos dissipates, the sweat dries from the kerfuffle of packing up and you stand there smiling in a field, muddy, clutching a paper mache mask and some Physics Buster bubbles you know you’re going to return to do it all again next year. The organisers are incredible, admittedly not at conventional organising but at imaginative organising and it offers families a fabulous opportunity to do something brilliantly different.

<We went> because we loved it so much last year and the people we went with obviously!

Yes <we would recommend it> – but not to all, you have to be a kid yourself too to really get the most of it and we’re like Peter Pan in our house!

Yes- because Just So tickets seem to come with Rose tinted glasses so that all of the bits that could be improved and make you sway about going back next year seem to add to its charm!

 

 

My Review is: 8/10

Puppet Show
Little Dimples running her own puppet show in the Panic Circus

I love Just So, I love the ethos behind it and the magic it creates.

I liked the new location, although I think it might need a little rejigging next year with maybe a few bigger props for the bigger location (but don’t change High Seas which was wonderful with the most amazing atmosphere!).  It did seem to me that there were a LOT more people as well, but it handled the rain on the sunday well and didn’t get too muddy.

Music was brilliant, especially JonPaul Palombo; my only complaint being that his set should have been longer, but at least I got a hug!  Louis Barabbas was one of those bands that works brilliantly for kids because he was totally crazy.

This year the kids really got into the music side of it; Mum and Dad having a drink, kids running around and dancing, and then dragging one or other parent up to look silly.  I LOVE this bit and love that it is so safe.

The other reviews show how well it covers many age ranges from baby upwards, which I think is very clever, and also different types of people from extremely different backgrounds.  I’m going to add the tip to bring a picnic blanket with you, so that you have somewhere to sit, as there will never be 4000 seats to my top tips for family festivals post, as well as many packs of wet wipes for showers.

I really enjoyed the camping side of it and it has proved to me that it totally works for me as a relaxed type of holiday, but OMG the toilets on the last day were outrageous and don’t empty the ones by the tents at midnight!  I also embraced the wet wipe version of a shower as I couldn’t be bothered to queue, however the hairy northern enjoyed them.

Mother hen
MopTop and Knickers had my 2.5yr old entranced!

I wouldn’t be giving an honest review or helpful feedback if I didn’t say that:

  • It does NOT work to have activities going on for just a small handful of kids when you have thousands coming.  Those activities need to be either bigger with more helpers, or back to back or both.
  • It does NOT work to have craft opportunities for excited kids wanting to make things for the parades in the evenings and then to run out of materials, I think Just So are going to have to give the craft people material budgets.
  • In fact lots of the craft activities and unusual oddities should basically run all day I think, which I do understand will increase the prices as this means paying them rather than just giving tickets.  The problem is that you drag the family all the way to one location, find it’s all booked up, so walk off to the next to be too late for that one and so on.  It was a struggle at times with dissappointed kids.

So the slightly suburban middle class computer nerd side of me struggled with some of the organisation of it, and hated having to disappoint the kids at times.  Plus it made it a bit more stressful for us parents.

However, the tree hugging side of me suggests that next year we just avoid anything organised, mill around and catch the spontaneous things that encourage the children’s imagination like the Panic Circus (so much better than the circus at Penn Festival), MopTop and Knickers (fabulous from Mother Hen) and the stone balancing.  The music was great and I was REALLY happy with the fact that the kids learnt to just mess around and dance to crazy music.

Teaching someone to play the saw
Curly Headed Boy Learning To Play The Saw

I know that regular festival goers would say that we were lucky to have loos that worked for the majority of the time and that all the problems that worried me are pretty standard.  But Just So is now getting so popular that it is going to get people coming who need structure and organisation even more than me and there are other festivals that from their reviews I can see focus more on making the parents life easier, but are probably too main stream and commercial for me.  This is the challenge for Just So for 2013 after the challenge of moving location this year, and as they pulled that off, I’m sure they will pull this off too.

Will I be going back?  I really hope they invite us back, (a) because we love it and (b) because I’d love to give them a 10/10 next year.

 

Curly Headed Boy said he definitely wants to go back because there was so much to do, and his favourite bit was the music.  I will finish on a video of Little Dimples dancing to Louis Barabbas!

I’d love more comments from people who’ve been to other festivals or fellow Just So-ers?

 

Disclosure: I received a family camping ticket for Just So, but all the opinions expressed are my own or those of my interviewees.  The picture of Little Dimples as a fairy has a green tutu and wand sent to us by Fairy Glass, the wings were the ones we bought there last year, but we also have a gorgeous pair of wings to match the tutu; just couldn’t get her to wear the matching set all in one go!

 

 

What it's like going on a ferry

Which is best going on holiday by Ferry or Aeroplane?

Travelling with kids is generally considered a nightmare.  The question is, which is less of a night mare; Ferries or Aeroplanes?

I was really nervous of trying a Ferry out considering the disaster of the Costa Concordia and that last time that I went on a school trip and puked the whole way.

I’ve had my share of aeroplane disasters though with an engine blowing up, wheel falling off, dropping a couple of hundred feet, and trying to get off a dangerous plane and past the men with guns.

What it's like going on a ferry

It’s not that which really stresses me though.  It’s memories of being a teenager with two disabled parents who steadfastly refused help, but took a LONG TIME to get through the airport, so I was constantly panicking that we wouldn’t make it to the plane.  (No one told me that once you are booked in they can’t leave without you!).

I basically freak from the moment we set off to the airport and don’t settle until we are on the plane.

Now that I have kids I freak all the way through the plane journey until we land as well.

That’s a lot of freaking!

So the ferry seemed like a really good idea.  But there was hardly any information about it for a control freak like me and I had no idea how it would work.

It’s really easy though: just a pile of different queues.  You arrive and queue in the right place for your trip.  You can even get out and go to the main building, but I don’t recommend it as several people were caught out as the queues moved.  Then you get put in a queue for your car shape and size.  Then you started to queue up to go on the boat, where you park in a queue.

Remember the level and letter of where you are though!!!!!!!

We had a bag ready to take with us, and off you go up to your cabin and the ferry.  Wander around for a few hours.  Then leave your cabin half an hour before the end and head back to the right staircase for your car.  Pop in your car as soon as the automatic door opens, and depending on where your car is, you’re off!

 

Kids on the deck of a ferryPro’s to Plane:

Quicker (the ferry was 6hrs).

Heathrow/Luton/Gatwick are nearer to us.

Can go further away than just France, Spain or Holland.

You don’t get scared shitless by having to walk around the outside of the plane with your two kids!

I have puked on a plane, but less often than on a Ferry.

Quicker to go to nearby places.

 

Pro’s to Ferry:

No need to park the car.

No limit (apart from size of car) on how much stuff you could take: So we had wind break, Boogie board and Radio Flyer!

Less faffing around at the airport.

No waiting for suitcases afterwards.

A cabin has bunk beds that come down from the roof

More shops.

Things to do on board: Cinema, Soft play, Magician, Dinosaur show.

Choice of food (3 different places)

More space: you can even have a cabin with bunk beds that come down from the roof, which was fab.

 

Kind of the same for each:

Price: You can probably find cheaper options of both.

Customs was quick for us, but slow for one of our friends.

Both journeys can take up pretty much a whole day.

 

On the way out I would have said that I’ve come away a lot keener on ferry trips and didn’t puke once (I had some homeopathic pills).

From talking to other people, it’s better to go on the slow ferry than the fast one if you are prone to puking!

HOWEVER, on the way back it wasn’t rough but it was ‘choppy’ apparently.  Well, whichever the way the ‘chop’ was going I was bed ridden for the whole trip and the big hairy northern one tried to brave it out, but because he’d walked around for longer, ended up feeling sick for hours after as well.  You DEFINITELY need a cabin when travelling with kids.

For the sea sickness I tried homeopathic pills, ginger biscuits and in the past have used those pressure bracelet things.  Basically the only thing that helped was keeping my head low and then having some bitter lemon when we left (I had some in my bag, because the bubbles and sugar seem to help me).  When we got home I had a pack of crisps; I might like healthy eating, but crisps work a treat for me when I feel sick!

 

Here are all my other posts about Siblu:

An adventure in Normandy: my official review of Domainne De Litteau

What would have happened if Germany had won WW2: a review of the american Omaha cemetery

How to go on holiday with more than 2 children and not pay a fortune: One of the key benefits of Siblu

 

Disclosure: I was given a return trip from Portsmouth to Caen with Brittany Ferries as part of a review trip I was doing on Siblu Holidays.

Kids love muddy festivals

Don’t Go Thinking I’m More Adventurous Than You!

Kids love muddy festivalsI had a couple of lovely comments from Mums watching the funny stream of muddier and muddier instagram photos appearing during my visit to Penn Festival.  Many suggested how brave I was, or how well I was coping with mud up to the kids knees.

So I thought I’d set the record straight, because I don’t want you all reading my blog and thinking ‘Oooh isn’t she clever – I could never do that!’.

I am definitely NOT more adventurous than you!

Two years ago I’d never been camping and never been to a festival.  Not one tiny festival, even as a teenager or student.  How boring is that!

As part of my mid-life crisis I decided I was going to be more adventurous and do things I’d always wanted to do.  So I literally convinced myself that I was up for it by reminding myself regularly of how adventurous and magical my life was.

Last year, we went off for our first adventure to Just So in a Yurt (proper glamping to start me off slowly).  Finding it a huge success I decided that this year was going to be even more adventurous, and that I also wanted to try out holidays that were maybe simpler and cheaper so that I could review them for my blog.

Luckily for me it’s all been pretty easy.  The gorgeous Romany from FestivalKidz contacted me to review Penn Festival and hence I am now a ‘proper’ festivaller who has experienced a musical mud-fest extraordinaire, plus my first camping trip (check out the video of hubby putting up a tent in 3mins), and found that as long as I can make it look vaguely pretty I can handle anything.  (Especially with a shed load of lists!).

Hopefully I get so see what it’s like to go to a non-muddy festival in a tent later in the year as Just So have invited me back to review their new location and even more fabulous line up.  This time we are going for the full event and not leaving until the monday, so that we can soak up the whole magical environment; the organisers of Just So have the most incredible imagination when it comes to kids, so it’s bound to have LOADS of adventure in it.

In a few days I’m going to be able to let you know what it’s like to be in a mobile home holiday camp in Normandy care of the lovely people at Siblu.  I would always have wanted to try something like this, but I must admit I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to try something so different if they hadn’t contacted me.  So if you would also be nervous of ferries, and caravans in france, perfect, because I can let you know how it all pans out and you’ll know whether it would work for you too!

I’m really excited about seeing what Siblu is like because when we went for our first summer holiday last year I realised how ridiculously expensive it is if you want practical accommodation  for a young family (i.e. inter-connecting hotel rooms or studios).  We found a cheap holiday in Cyrpus in a studio apartment.  But one family I met had to pay for TWO studio apartments, just because they had 3 kids rather than two, literally doubling the price and therefore meaning they could only go for one week.  So although Siblu would be about the same price as that holiday (when you add in Ferries etc), it would be a totally different situation for people with more kids.  Plus if you don’t want to fly with your kids, it’s a perfect idea.

I’m not naturally adventurous.  I’m just 43, and decided that I’m done with thinking that all the adventure is for other people and not trying things out myself. I’m sure some won’t work out, but some will be great.

So when you see all the fab things I tell you about on my blog, rather than think ‘I’m not sure I could do that’, think instead ‘Well, if Lisa can do it, then so can I!’.

 

 

Glamping an Vango Tent

The Perfect Tent For First Timers and Family Festival Goers

Ok I admit it, the Big hairy northern one was right!

It might not happen often, but his tendency to want to spend the spangdoolies was correct this time.

A few weeks ago he had a big panic about our tent and said he wanted to go back and look at the Vango Airbeam; basically a tent that blows up in 5 minutes.

Although it was to be our first time camping, I was pretty sure that it was going to be something that I would want to do again, so I agreed on the proviso that he got a smallish one and off he happily went to buy one.

It was such a good plan.  We had picked the worst weekend ever to try our first attempt at camping at our first attempt at a music festival, so there was no panic on getting the tent up in the rain as it literally does go up in 5 mins!  Plus we made a fast exit on the sunday due to the potential for getting ‘mudded’ in and the packing up took long enough; if we had added another 1.5hrs on top of that it would have been a nightmare.

Here is the video of him putting it up for only the second time; pretty cool heh!

 

 

This tent has two sleeping compartments, but we took down the separator as it was easier to just all sleep together.  There was plenty of room for the beds and our bags with clothes in them.

I would say that for a family of 4 it’s an OK size, unless you have loads of stuff like tables and chairs that have to fit in as well due to it raining outside.  So we are investing in a porch, ground sheet and also carpet for the section next to the bed rooms.  But if you are travelling a little lighter than we were it would be perfect for a short camping trip or a festival.

It also handled the rain and mud with no problem and no leaks.

 

 

Side View Of Vango Airbeam

The reason I hadn’t been keen initially is because I wanted somewhere to sit outside or feel like you were sitting outside and because it angles outwards it doesn’t give that feeling.  However we found that with two extra poles we could put the front door up and make a little place to sit under, which would be great in normal or slightly damp evenings (not when pissing down though!).

The only other problem is because of this angling outwards for all the doors (front and side), you have to quickly shut them if it rains, as obviously otherwise the floor gets wet.


 

Glamping an Vango Tent

 

One downside for me is that it’s also a disgusting colour; why oh why do tent makers think that we want to have a yukky green tent?  Adding bunting and some fairy lights did help though!

It’s quite expensive, you can definitely get a cheaper tent.  But it’s the same price as we would have spent on one yurt, and with this tent we are going to two festivals, and I’m definitely planning on going full on camping in it as well. (It was the Kinetic 500 which could sleep 5 (£600), but they do have bigger and smaller versions).

 

Have you had any tent nightmares you’d like to share or got a fab tent you would like to let everyone know about?

 

Disclosure: No one paid me or gave me anything for this review (but I’m always open to offers ;o) 

Kids love muddy festivals

How fun Mudfest at Penn Festival was: I’m a ‘proper’ festival goer now!

I realise now that I’ve often looked on wistfully at images of Glastonbury wondering why I’d never been to a music festival and experienced the whole ‘vibe’ of camping, wellies and getting covered in mud.

Well I need wist no more!  I’m now officially a ‘proper’ music festival camper having just got back from Penn Festival 2012; a mudfest with a wonderful vibe and great music.

 

I have therefore proved to everyone that I’m totally capable of camping, as long as I can make it all look pretty with a bit of glamp style and that mud doesn’t phase me at all.

 

Add some colour to your tent
Add a bit of colour & cosiness to a tent

It all looked like it was going to go badly wrong when I got a text from the lovely Romany at Festivalkidz to tell me to not set off yet.  Problem was I was already half-way there!  The local cricket club weren’t willing to help out with their hard-standing parking (boo), and people were already getting stuck in the mud.  However they decided to go ahead, and I think it was the right decision.  They showed a load of determination and in return the vibe of those of us who made it and braved the difficulties in getting there had a great spirit.

people covered in mud at music festival
Crazy people embracing the mud!

I know it might sound a bit mean, but I think that considering the Isle of Wight festival a few weeks beforehand, there could have been a more concrete contingency plan in place.  That way it would have gone into action more easily.  For instance they would have known on the friday that only campers and artists/stalls were going to be let on and had the press about the buses/coaches picking up day ticketers sorted straight away.  There would have been more wood/straw/grasscrete to get those of us in and out, and more clarity on when the farmer was or was not going to be there.  However, realistically this was only their second year, so it’s just a little bit of inexperience and I really hope that they didn’t lose too much money and get to put it on again to resounding sunshine next year.

Snap At Penn Festival
Dancing to Snap!

On the VERY big upside the music was INCREDIBLE.  All the bands were good and in tune (unlike on the TV), even the terrified girl band I saw first of all in a tent.  Standing out particularly were Vanquish who I don’t doubt we’ll see in the Pop scene very soon.  I didn’t get to see all the bands that I really wanted to because with two little kids it was a bit tricky to traipse from the tent to the main stage each time an act finished.  So instead we waited at the main stage and were rewarded by amazing performances from Rozalla and Snap!  I was a fan, but not a big fan of their music in the eighties; I was more of a modern romantic kind of girl.  But live they were incredible!  You could see how great they were by the effect on the kids, because they may have never heard them before but both of them were up and dancing.

Kids love muddy festivals
Mud is a kids activity in itself!

They also had some lovely stalls, with no duplicates which was great.  The only thing that I’m not keen on is lots of activities for kids that are what I call ‘easy’ and ‘insubstantial’ fun, that cost money; so we spent a lot of time being nagged for another ride on the bumper cars, or fair ground ride etc etc.  There was a big top with circus performers, but it didn’t quite work for our 6yo because when he went it was all older kids, and he felt left out; you know what a 6yo’s attention span can be like.  But we spent a lot of time chilling out in front of Festival Kidz tent, while I swapped philosophy with the other stall holders, so thank you to Romany for that quiet space.

Pop Up Tent eating pizza
She wanted the other bit of Pizza!

The food was fab.  The big hairy northern one and I had a curry from Malik’s, which was just gorgeous.  Sadly the kids wanted Pizza which took 40mins, and the noodle people hadn’t made it; understandable that they couldn’t get a full range of food in due to the mud.  We took a little pop up tent just in case which was brilliant, and meant that when it rained heavily the kids could go in it, they ate their pizza in it, and I breastfed Little Dimples in there.

It felt as though there was a slight confusion about the festival.  Was it a ‘family festival’?  Or was it for party goers, as there was a Wedding reception and hen party, plus big groups of young people?  It said in the pamphlet that the aim was to enable kids and adults to enjoy themselves.  But it didn’t quite get the balance right for me.

Mrs Connor Getting Married At Penn Festival
Congratulations to the new Mrs Cooper!

Maybe that’s because I have a young family, but the camp site didn’t work.  There was meant to be a ‘family’ side and a noisier side.  But it wasn’t marked and it wasn’t policed by the stewards.  On the friday night I went to complain to the circle of tents behind us who had put an awning in between them, but they just thought I was being grumpy and wanting to stop their ‘fun’.  You’d have thought that families with older kids would remember what it’s like to have younger kids, but NO.  So I didn’t sleep at all on friday night, which was horrible, especially as the showers didn’t start until too late at mid-day.  On saturday night I went to ask for help from the stewards, but their response was that the noise had calmed down by 4am the night before.  EXCUSE ME but I have kids who wake up at 5am, you plonker!  Luckily the family of tents had clearly partied themselves out the night before and ironically the group of young guys from ‘Phantom Light‘ I talked to were really sympathetic; so I did get some sleep in the end.

Tractor pulling festival goers
Mr Saviour - the farmer and his tractor

On sunday morning we eventually made the terribly sad decision to go home.  The farmer was there with his tractor and we couldn’t be sure he would be back.  If I’d been sure he would be back on monday morning I would have waited and seen The Beat and Altered Images.  Instead we came home and started the mammoth job of de-muddifying everything.

Clothes covered in mud
Rounds 1-3 of many more loads

 

So my verdict is:

Out of 10 – 7/10

Would I go again – Totally

Music – Amazing quality of all bands, incredible energy of headliners!

Mud – not a problem, the kids loved it

Camping – Wasn’t clearly signposted and very noisy.  Top tip: camp right over by a far edge/fence if you go to one this year without different areas.  The good thing is that it was close to the festival site, and parking, so if they are in the same place next year, it’s very convenient.

Poshwash showers – I would have loved to try, but they started up too late on the saturday, and we left on the sunday.

Food – dinner was great (pizza and indian), I didn’t go for the £5 breakfast as it seemed a bit steep, but then saw a £3 option

Social Media – they used Facebook and twitter to keep us up to date, I think this could be done even more and is a great idea

Stuff for kids – pretty good, probably just limited by the mud.  However the mud was an activity in itself!

Contingency planning & Logistics – I’m sure this will be improved next year with more experience.

Determination – I would definitely give them 10/10 for determination for keeping the festival going, well done guys!

Disclosure: I got a family camping ticket in return for reviewing the festival.  Thank you very much to Penn Festival for inviting me, I really hope you invite me back next year so that I can give you 10/10!

Thomson the dog

What do Thomson, Guinness World Records, Whipsnade and Luton A&E have in common?

Thomson the dogWhat do Thomson Family holidays, the Guiness Book of Records and Whipsnade zoo have in common?

And how come did we end up in A&E  in Luton with Little Dimples?

Well we got invited to a blogging event at Whipsnade Zoo hosted by Thomsons and Guinness Book of World Records during half-term.

The timing was perfect as I’ve been feeling mega ‘second child loses out guilt’ as we used to have a Whipsnade membership and I suddenly realised with horror that we’ve never taken Little Dimples to a zoo, so she’s never seen an elephant or lion in real life.

I was a little bemused about the connection to the Guinness Book of Records though, but all was explained when we got there.  It seems that Thomson have understood the current market and that families need lots of value in their holidays.  So one of the extra fun features at their family resorts is the possibility to break a Guinness World Record; for example ‘how many linos can you make a tower of’ or ‘how quickly can you put Mr Potatoe head together blindfolded’.

I like the idea as it’s silly and simple; I like anything that gets kids using their initiative and imagination; i.e. the ‘simple things in life‘.

Some parents might be worried about the competitive aspect to it, and I do agree that some kids will be upset if they don’t win.  However, competition is a fact of life, and this is potentially an easy way of introducing the fact that we win and lose throughout life to our kids.

We actually had TWO World Record Breakers on the day: A Mothers Ramblings’s daughter TopEnder won the blindfolded assembly of Mr Potatoe head and The vegetarian experience won the most hats on her head record.  Big congrats to them!

Curly headed boy was a little disappointed that he and the hairy northern one didn’t win anything.  But it was such a lovely relaxed event with so many children that his mind was quickly taken off the loss.  The other ‘loser’ bloggers with us were: Being a Mummy, Being Mrs C, When Two become Four, Mummy From the Heart, Seasider claire, All Baby Advice.

Companies can’t get away with pretending that they know about kids or care about them, because it becomes really obvious when they don’t have a clue.  All three of Thomson, Guinness World Records and Whipsnade showed that they really cared and knew how to deal with families, as the event was absolutely lovely.  It wasn’t too noisy, there was plenty of helpers for the kids, so us bloggers got to chat every now and again, and it had a chilled fun atmosphere.

Funnily enough last year we actually went to a Thomson connected hotel in Cyprus called the Kephalos Beach Hotel for our first family holiday, so I can easily say that I like them.  Whilst we were there Curly headed boy and the big hairy northern one set a record for the resorts canoeing across the swimming pool competition, so I can definitely vouch for the fact that if you break a record your little ones are going to be chuffed for MONTHS!  This year I’m not going back to Thomson, mainly because I’ve been offered a holiday at Siblu to review (I know, don’t spit, I’m a very lucky person!).  But I would go back.  Here’s some more information on Thomson Family Resorts incase you’d like to know more.

 

So with all that organisation and lovely cheery helpers around, what could possibly go wrong?

 

You know how we are told not to swing young children around by their arms, especially one arm? Yeh that is what happened.

Little Girl Dancing In Her First Ballet shoesI haven’t told off the big hairy northern one, as I think that four days of Little Dimples crying and saying ‘Owwwuuuuu’ and then telling him ‘Naughty Daddy, you hurt my arm’ is punishment enough.

Whipsnade, Thomson and GWR were lovely and kept coming over to see if they could help.  But eventually it was very clear that it was going to have to be a hospital trip for us.  I was gutted; no elephants or Lions for Little Dimples after all.  However, the very kind first aider and manager from Whipsnade has taken pity on us and offered for us to go back for free, which is really sweet of them.

Luton A& E were great; they have a special children’s area and a doctor who popped her dislocated elbow back in really quickly.  But it’s taken her days to get better poor little mite, and it showed how left handed she really is, as it’s been very tricky for her.

Her grandparents popped down for a visit to help distract her and try to get her to use the arm, which really helped.

Finally, little ballet shoes bought by her still guilty feeling Dad did the trick yesterday to get her pirouetting around the kitchen (and thus lifting her arm above her head).

 

So Mums, please tell the Dads;

DONT SWING YOUNG CHILDREN AROUND BY THEIR ARMS!

EVER!

OR RISK SOMETHING HEAVY BEING SWUNG AT YOUR HEAD!

 

p.s. Thomson provided my family with a little box of toys, fun & lunch and access to the zoo for the afternoon in return for attending the event and writing up what I thought about it.

Review of the John Crane Trike

A Blast From My Past, Confessions and Review of the John Crane Wooden Scooter

Review of the John Crane TrikeI don’t do many product reviews, but when BlogMatch offered me this little scooter from John Crane I fell in love.

 

There are 3 reasons I love it:

1) It’s wooden and wooden toys just look a hell of a lot nicer when you are looking at a room full of toys

2) It’s sturdy and seems pretty unbreakable

3) I had one when I was a little girl!

 

You see I was a HUGE fan of cars as a little girl and Little Dimples seems to have followed in the same vein.

I remember having a little scooter like this and driving it madly around whilst ‘brrruuuuummmmming’ and pretending I was driving, and sure enough when it came out of the box she did exactly the same.

She is 2 1/4 and it’s officially for children from 18 months, so I was a little worried that she wouldn’t like it.  But as my 6yo son has also played with it, I reckon it will be long lasting.

Let’s hope she doesn’t grow up to be as car obsessed as me, because at about 5years old I stole my Dads car keys to his sports car, so that I could go and sit in it and go ‘brrrruuuummm’ and flash the popup headlights lots …. until the battery went flat; there was no way I was getting out of that one!

 

But I could be too late, if you check out this video of her over a year ago, the FIRST time she sat in the driving seat of my old car:

 

 

I’m doomed aren’t I?  I sense many worried nights ahead of me when she gets older!