This is a two part review.

First off I’m going to tell you a little bit about Bluestone National Park Resort and what they’ve got going on over Christmas, then Bee is going to add her two pennies’ worth as a pay-off, as she mentions, for getting the double bed for a night. I thought this might give you a nice perspective on what teenagers are really thinking when they are made to go on family mini-breaks. (It’s not what you might be expecting, although Bee may not be a typical teenager.)

My bit first then, as I am the tallest. (Bee once said she just always thought of me as being in charge of the family as I am the tallest. God help us when Belle grows.)

Bluestone National Park Resort in Pembrokeshire was to my mind a kind of mini Centre Parcs without the forest. (I don’t know if every Centre Parcs has a forest, but the one I have been to did.) I’m not sure if this is a comparison Bluestone like, but given that Centre Parcs is rather lovely, I hope they would take it as a compliment.

The general format is similar in that you stay in self-catering lodges and chalets in beautiful surroundings, get to enjoy a well-equipped water park, and then can book extra activities on top depending on your own interests. There is also a rather luxurious spa. In the middle of the park is the ‘village’, a small cluster of shops and restaurants, plus a play area. The Christmas lights are up now, so in the evening it’s very pretty and has a nice festive feel to it. The benefit of it being smaller is that everything is within a sensible walking distance so you aren’t forced to hire bikes, although bikes and golf buggies are available should you want a little extra help getting around.

As well as lights to get you into the Christmas spirit, Bluestone are also running the ‘Kingdom of the Elves Elf Workshop’, an interactive festive journey, where children get to meet different Christmas characters, take part in mini challenges and games and collect items for their elf aprons. I have to be honest and say that there was a certain amount of reluctance on Belle’s part to don her elf pinny but she is 12 and the average age of the other elves was about 6, so perhaps it’s to be expected. The experience was really well thought out though and the small children definitely enjoyed being spun around on a giant penny, collecting coloured snowballs and getting squirted with bubbles. View Post


I love a good Christmas market.

I’ve been to a fair few – Bristol, Bath, Edinburgh, Bruges even – and one of the things I love is that actually, wherever you go, you get vaguely the same loop of bratwurst, Russian dolls, furry hats, handcrafted wooden candlesticks and weird wine bottle holders made out of metal. There’s something comforting in the familiar, like visiting a National Trust property anywhere in the country and knowing you can bank on a nice cup of tea and lavender soaps in the gift shop.

Bruges Christmas market

Bruges Christmas market

In 2010 I went to Birmingham Christmas market. I had only recently met my boyfriend at the time – he was a student there – and we (or me at least, I’m not sure it’s something everyone does…) were in that exciting yet awkward phase of trying to do and say everything you think the other person would like, meaning that neither of you ever make a decision about anything.*

“Shall we go to the Christmas market?”

“I don’t mind. Do you want to?”

“Sure, if you do?”

That sort of thing.

We did eventually get there and it was really lovely. There is always something magical about being out in the dark, Christmas lights twinkling everywhere you look, crowds of people laughing, scoffing their bratwurst and chugging back the mulled wine. The smells of a Christmas market are glorious – food cooking, festive spices brewing – it captures the very essence of Christmas.

TOP TIP: If you do fancy a trip to Birmingham Christmas market I would recommend treating yourself to a nice Birmingham hotel rather than staying in a student house in Selly Oak where central heating is considered an unnecessary luxury.

The downside of Birmingham, in my experience at least, is that it can get very busy. We did end up in one of those shoulder to shoulder situations at times, where you can’t really look at anything as you are just trying to walk upright and not slosh your tepid mulled wine over anyone. If you fancy a bit of a quieter location for your Christmas shopping, you could try staying in Coventry instead.

Same bratwurst, shorter queues.

Do you have a favourite Christmas market?

Bee in Bruges at Christmas

Bee in Bruges

*I have to confess that I probably don’t grow out of this as a relationship grows. Something to talk to the therapist about.

Sponsored post.


Visit all the counties in England.


See the Dark Hedges.


I made some pretty good progress on my list of 40 things to do before 40 over the summer, so I’ve been thinking about what I can do next to keep the ball rolling.

One of my favourite items on the list is ‘Hang out in a 19th century Ottoman mansion and take a cruise up the Bosphorus’, so with work deadlines looming and a pile of dirty washing festering in the basket on the landing I decided that the best thing to do with my time would be to look at pretty pictures of Turkey on the internet. Pinterest obviously is lovely for pictures, travel blogs for personal recommendations, and travel companies like First Choice can be useful for information about flights, accommodation and places of interest.

The list item was inspired by this newspaper cutting, so obviously I have to stay here, but what should I do when I’m not chillaxing in the rainforest shower, tucking into the Godiva chocolates and admiring the statement lamps? View Post


Do you remember that Homebase ad where they build a house out of containers?

Homebase container

I always thought it looked pretty cool. It reminded me of playing Sylvanian Families when I was little* and spending ages organising the furniture in the little box shaped houses. I never imagined that one day I would get to sleep in a real actual container.

Well, you know what’s coming don’t you?

A couple of weeks ago Belle and I did spend the night in a container, and not because we were trying to sneak across any borders, but as part of a visit to Thorpe Park and the new Shark Hotel.

“The hotel is made of containers,” I told everyone.

“Seriously though,” they said, “what was it like?”

“Like sleeping in a container,” I said, and showed them the pictures: View Post


Dark HedgesLast week I ticked one more thing off my list of 40 things to do before 40. It’s a good job quite frankly, as time is slipping away and I’m a little behind schedule. The lemon curd may have been mastered, but I’ve yet to get anywhere near a water bed, let alone Iceland.

Last week was all about the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland, inspired by something I cut out of a newspaper a couple of years ago. I really like cutting things out of newspapers and magazines, partly because I like the idea of trying new things but also just because I find the scissor action very satisfying.*

The Dark Hedges is an avenue of beech trees, planted in the eighteenth century by the Stuart family in a bid to impress visitors as they drove up to their home. Bee and Belle may have been fairly nonplussed – ‘Is this it? Just some trees?’ – but it certainly impressed me.  View Post


As avid readers, (which you all are obviously), you’ll know that we recently went on a bit of a motorhome adventure, in a van very kindly lent to us by Bailey of Bristol.

This was it:

Bailey Approach Compact

Motorhome crush

As well as being great fun, and an opportunity for us to listen to countless mystery novels on audio book, it was actually part of a grander plan. It isn’t for nothing after all that a girl is prepared to wheel a box of her own poo across a field of holidaymakers. It was in aid of ticking off another item from my list of 40 things to do before I am 40; specifically to visit every county in England. View Post


At 5.28pm on Tuesday 5th August I found myself doing something I had never done before, something I never imagined I ever would do.

At 5.28pm on Tuesday 5th August I wheeled a plastic box of my own poo across a field full of holidaymakers, happily playing swing ball and barbecuing meats. It was a bit like walking through an airport, except outdoors and with infinitely more unpleasant luggage.

And so I was introduced to the joys of the chemical toilet.

chemical toilet View Post


We’re home!

Did you miss me?

No, well, never mind, I’m back anyway whether you like it or not.

I’m going to be writing all about the trip over the next couple of weeks but before I distract you with tales of ancient monuments and rainy walks I just wanted to say a massive thank you to Bailey, who lent us the motorhome for ten days, allowing us to visit 12 counties in all and to tick ‘visit every county in England’ off my list of 40 things to do before 40.

I was really nervous before we set off about how I was going to manage a motorhome, but I actually loved driving it. Here I am, looking rather pleased with myself having successfully got us to our first Caravan Club site:

Bailey Approach Compact View Post


Recently my sister Annabel took her family to Wychwood Festival. This is how they got on.

A few weeks ago we donned our wellies, slung our bindles over our shoulders and headed off for a family adventure to Wychwood festival. From the moment we drove straight to the family camping area (those who arrived before us did tell of hours stuck in queues but us being our usual disorganised selves managed to arrive slightly later on the Friday and cruised straight in) and unloaded we felt the jollity and friendliness of this festival. It is the loveliest, cosiest, most relaxing festival I have ever been to.

Now, admittedly those are not necessarily the qualities your average festival goer looks for – more the availability of alcohol, quality music and medic tent for emergency contraceptives – but when you have small children those hedonistic festival days are but a distant memory and for a family, Wychwood is absolutely spot-on.

The beauty of Wychwood though is that it does not compromise on the festival experience just because it is family friendly – some great acts played the stages from The Stranglers and the Boomtown Rats to The Levellers and Craig Charles; there is something to cover most musical tastes. You can still drink to your heart’s content and mingle with grown-ups, it is just well tailored to children as well.

We were struck first by just how small and cosy it is. You don’t have to spend hours traipsing through muddy fields to reach anything and a good portion of the festival is taken up with the children’s area which kept my three year old and five year old wholly entertained. They were particularly happy with the free Little Tikes village – packed full of toy houses, castles, kitchens and those awesome red and yellow cars that I always wanted as a child.

Little Tykes Wychwood Festival

There was so much for children that it was impossible to do it all; there were bug hunts, bubbleologists, clay modellers, drum workshops and everything else you might expect. Another highlight was the Waterstone’s children’s literature tent that put on talks from illustrators, authors and all sorts of other activities and then there were the most talented face painters I have ever witnessed.

In the interests of a full review my son took it upon himself to try every stall available to him so he go-karted, he slid down a giant inflatable slide, he is now the proud owner of the biggest bubble wand known to man and the bounciest balloon and his personal favourite – a helium balloon dinosaur that has legs and walks on the ground.

Grown-ups were not left out though, we sampled the odd tipple from the variety of bar and beer tents, you could also unwind in the healing field with a variety of treatments on offer, the music was good (Baraka were a particular favourite of ours as well KSH and the Going Goods) and being such an intimate festival you could really get up close to the acts and see them from all over the festival.

I would love to say that performances from beloved bands such as The Stranglers or The Levellers were the main stage draw but no…Justin Fletcher (Cbeebies’ Mr. Tumble to any pre-school parents out there) seemed to have the biggest crowd of the weekend on the Saturday morning. I have to admit, I was not looking forward to it having always been mildly disturbed by his voice but it was a cracking performance.

It is hard to find fault with Wychwood, the facilities were good (always a clean toilet nearby – without queues), the staff and stewards were friendly and helpful without being overbearing, the campsite was flat and spacious (advantage of being held on Cheltenham Racecourse) and it was just a really beautiful atmosphere. We enjoyed it enough to book tickets for next year and can’t wait to go back.

Wychwood Festival

Disclosure – Annabel was given tickets to the festival for the purposes of this review.


Now it may feel a bit like I have given up on my 40 things before 40 list, but I promise I haven’t, I’ve just been a little distracted of late. It’s still happening though. I have been to the opera and launched a message in a bottle and everything, I just haven’t quite got round to writing about them yet.

One of the things on my list is to visit every county in England and I am intending to get that one ticked off as soon as this summer, thanks to the loan of an amazing motorhome from Bailey of Bristol. During August Belle and I are going to be hitting the road and visiting seven counties in seven days – a grand finale to this item on the list, where we tick off the last seven all in one week. We’ll be staying at a different Caravan Club site every night and will be working our way through Bedfordshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, East Riding, South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire – I need your help though for suggestions of places to do or thinks to visit along the way!

We’re going to be travelling in a Bailey Approach Compact 540. They are ideal for just me and Belle as they actually aren’t much wider than a regular car yet have everything you need for a self-sufficient holiday. Pretty cool right?

Bailey Approach CompactI was a little concerned however that ‘hitting the road’ could quite literally mean ‘hitting passing cars and trees’ as I am not terribly confident when it comes to driving large vehicles. Our last house move, where I was in charge of van driving, ended at 10.30pm in a dark garage forecourt with me crying, having backed Boyfriend and the van into a parked car, so you can see why I might be a little nervous. View Post


As you may have noticed in my post last week, on June 18th I will be co-hosting a Twitter party with all about travelling with kids. will be providing the expert knowledge, hints and tips and I’ll be on hand to share my own hilarious anecdotes and to chuckle knowingly at tales of travel disasters with small children on long car journeys. There are prizes too. It’s all good.

To get you in the mood and inspire your questions, (submit them in advance for a chance to win £20 to spend at Boots), I thought I’d share six quick conversation starters; essentials to think about when travelling with kids.


First up, who is going on your holiday? There is a lot to be said for keeping it simple, but actually when your family is young it can be nice to share the burden and have other friends and family around. There are plenty of options for large groups, such as camping or splitting the cost of a large holiday property.


Bit of a key one this. From my experience, I’d say that with toddlers it’s always best to keep travel to a minimum if you can, so don’t rule out holidaying in the UK. We live in an amazingly diverse country and there is plenty to see. Ask friends with kids for recommendations for family friendly destinations and accommodation.


Car? Boat? Plane? How to get there is just as important as where you go when it comes to travelling with kids. Think in advance about the journey, make plenty of allowances for stoppage time and make sure you pack lots of snacks. (And possibly a small hip flask.) View Post


Did you know that today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day?

Well now you do.

If your family have any sort of interest in history (and really you should – it’s important you know), then this summer is the perfect time to visit Normandy and enjoy the vast array of museums and historical sites that tell the tale of the largest seaborne invasion ever – the day that potentially changed forever the way we live today.

Now I’ve never been very good at history. I enjoyed projects about the Romans in primary school – tracing and colouring pictures and copying things out of books in my best writing – but I didn’t even take history GCSE. I find it hard to get a sense of anything through a textbook. Visiting an actual site though where something has happened really brings things to life for me – it’s why I want to visit the book depository in Dallas, Texas, and why visiting Auschwitz is on my list of 40 things to do before I’m forty.

If you’re like me and want to get a feel for what D-Day really meant and how it shaped the future of Europe, why not pay Normandy a visit? It’s basically like going to Cornwall, but with the added excitement of taking a ferry to France and flashing your passport.

To get you in the mood, take a look at everything you can do while you’re there: 
A trip to remember - where to visit in Normandy to discover the history of D-Day: An infographic

Image source: Brittany Ferries presents the D-Day guide. Sponsored post.