Franco Manca Pizza, Bournemouth

I was recently invited to the opening of the brand new Franco Manca pizza in Bournemouth (thanks W Comms!). I usually take Nick along to these things or just meet up with the Bournemouth blogger girls but this time I thought it would be nice to take my sister along as we only usually get to hang out during the day with the kids.

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We arrived and were seated with my blogger chum Freya and a few of her work mates in an area that had been reserved for the ‘press’. We were offered some drinks and were told that food would just arrive as and when it was ready. (FYI the organic lemonade was lush.) We were then quite literally showered with starters. I’ve never seen so much food! The olives were incredible (coming from someone who isn’t a massive olive lover) and the burrata was truly out of this world. We gorged ourselves on unbelievable rich soft cheeses and cured meats.

burrata at franco manca bournemouth

burrata at franco manca pizza bournemouth

To be honest, by this point, we were all a little worried that we weren’t going to fit any pizza in! But due to the gorgeously chewy sourdough bases I think I managed a good 6 or 7 slices of various flavours! I’m a bit of a sucker for a margherita because I think if you can get the basics right then you’re on to a good thing and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The number 6 pizza with chorizo also stood out as being pretty special. I can’t remember which pizza they were on now but one of them had the most mind-blowing tomatoes I’ve ever had that are grown on the slopes of Mt Vesuvius.

pizza at franco manca bournemouth

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As a special treat, we were invited into the ‘kitchen’ (I use quotation marks as it’s all out in the open in the middle of the restaurant so you can watch your pizza being made) to make our own pizza. Obviously hilarity ensued as we tried to follow instructions from a pretty thick-accented Italian in the searing heat with the noise of the restaurant booming in our ears but we were all pretty successful (even if I did accidentally flip mine mid-cook in the pizza oven!)

freya NorseSouth

making pizza at franco manca

pizza masterclass at franco manca bournemouth

pizza making at franco manca

We were then served a beautiful plate of desserts which we happily scoffed down. The rosemary & olive oil cake was new to me and a perfect choice if you’re not into overly sweet things. As we were rolling out the door we were handed an amazing goody bag filled with foodie treats like chilli oil, roasted artichokes and a copy of the Franco Manca book. Thanks again to Franco Manca & W Comms for having us!

Learning to swim with Puddle Ducks Dorset

Huxley has always loved the water. He’s always been more than happy to take a bath, never been scared of swimming and will take every opportunity possible to splash in puddles or run head-first into the sea. I think this was helped a lot by the fact that he spent the first 18 months of his life living with the beach down the end of the road and we would take him into the sea and let him splash around quite often. We’d also take him swimming in a pool whenever we had time and he’d love jumping off the side into our arms.

Unfortunately, with renovating the house over the last year and no fixed weekly timetable for activities, swimming fell by the wayside and we ended up going less and less. We knew Huxley still loved the water because we’d been away to America and Spain and had no trouble getting him in the pool but we could see that he was getting more scared to jump in and would only listen to our swimming instructions for so long before he got bored and just wanted to splash around (as most 2 year olds do!)

So, when I got an email from Puddle Ducks Dorset asking if I’d like to come along to swimming lessons for half a term I jumped at the chance. Knowing that it’s a big weekly activity at a set time, on a set day, has made swimming a super easy commitment to keep as we now have to plan our time around not missing Puddle Ducks.

We started our half term at the swimming pool at St Michaels Middle School in Colehill, Wimborne. The first class was the only one I’ve been able to get in the water with Huxley for as I’ve just been way too pregnant and tired to join in with the rest so Nick has been taking him. (Nick was running a marathon on that first day so a huge thanks to the team at Puddle Ducks for taking some photos of me & Hux in the water for me to use!).

swimming lessons for kids Dorset

toddler swim lessons Dorset

Huxley LOVED the class right from the word go. If you’re a parent, you’ll know that the easiest way to get your child to do something is to do it with other children. Huxley also responded really, really well to having a teacher and definitely listened to the instructions from Jane much more than he ever would from Nick & I.

The best thing about Puddle Ducks is that they ease your child in to doing things in such a fun way that the children don’t even realise that what they’re doing might be considered ‘scary’. For instance, to encourage your child to put their face in the water (something Hux isn’t keen on), they get the kids to blow bubbles in the water, which is obviously really fun! Then they handed out two woggles/noodles to each child to pop under their arms and I was amazed at how quickly Hux took to kicking his legs and swimming without me even holding on using this method. It seems so simple now that I think about it that I can’t believe I hadn’t thought about it before! The classes are filled with toys, singing and games so nothing ever feels like a test or a challenge and Huxley balled his eyes out when we eventually had to get out of the pool.

swimming

Puddle Ducks offer three different swimming programmes, Baby & Pre-school (for 0-4 years), Swim Academy (for 4-10 years) and Aquanatal classes for mums-to-be. The Baby & Pre-school category contains 6 different ability levels so your child will always be progressing. Hux is currently in the Little Dippers class for 2-4 year olds, which is the 4th level, and the two classes above this are less age-specific and are more to do with your child’s confidence and ability.

We’ve recently moved over to the Saturday classes at Portfield School in Christchurch (near Bournemouth airport) and these suit us a little better as they have mixed changing rooms so I’m able to help Nick get Huxley changed and the pool is a little nicer.

Puddle Ducks Portfield School Dorset

Since starting our classes, Puddle Ducks have launched a new online portal which makes managing your swimming lessons super easy. You can login and see the details of your current class, what date you’ve paid up until and when your next payment is due. They’ve also recently changed their payment structure, so instead of paying for set term-time dates, lessons are now paid for in blocks of 8 and can start mid-term. You get email reminders when your payments are due or you can sign up for recurring payments.

Another great feature of the online portal is the ‘My Children’ tab where you can see the criteria that your child needs to meet in order to move up to the next class. This is a really great way of knowing what you need to focus and work on if you take your child swimming on your own. You can also use this section to message the class teacher and book holiday or catch-up sessions for any cancelled lessons.

Okay, so, down to the cost. Each lesson costs £12, but these are booked in blocks of 8, costing £96. For this, you get the use of a private pool (usually a school, fitness centre or hotel) meaning that the facilities are generally nicer and much quieter than a public swim session at a regular pool, the expertise of a specially-trained, dedicated teacher and the confidence that your child is learning to respect the water, as well as learning to swim.

We’ve been to 4 lessons so far and the progression we’ve seen in Huxley has been amazing. He’s now happy to jump into the water without holding Nick’s hand, is much more confident about sticking his face in the water to blow bubbles and can kick to swim when using the woggles/noodles. Puddle Ducks is definitely something I would recommend for any parent as learning how to swim and be safe around water is such a major life skill.

If you fancy giving Puddle Ducks swimming lessons a try then they’ve kindly offered my readers a free trial and 10% off when booking using the code STYLEBOX. Visit the Puddle Ducks website to find your nearest class or give them a call on 01202 674676 or drop them an email at dorset@puddleducks.com

Puddle Ducks swimming

Huxley’s 3rd birthday

Huxley turned 3 on Friday. I’m a little shell-shocked by it all to be honest. I know it’s such a cliche parenting thing to say, but I really don’t know where the time has gone! His birthday was pretty low-key this year due to the fact that I’m huge and can’t go far – can I just say how nervous I was all day about going into labour!? (For Huxley’s first birthday we went to Weymouth Sealife Centre, for his second birthday we went to Marwell Zoo).

This year we decided to take him to the cinema in the morning as Cineworld are currently running a promotion to support Children in Need where every day this half term, the tickets are £2 each and you can see Secret Life of Pets, Finding Dory or Ice Age: Collision Course. Hux has only been to the cinema twice (and not since February) so it was still a really big, exciting novelty for him. I showed him all the trailers for the movies the night before and he chose Ice Age (much to mine & Nick’s despair!). Sadly, we were the only people in the cinema which is a real shame as it was for a good cause but I suppose half-term hadn’t really kicked in on Friday.

After the cinema we went to Toys’R’us as he had a voucher to spend and we got him a Schleich whale, a Schleich Anhanguera (which is a flying dinosaur – I had to Google it!) and an Elsa doll. After that it was definitely time to eat! I was starving!

Harvester had recently contacted me and asked if I’d like to review their newly refurbished branch in Poole. Never one to turn down free food, I jumped at the chance and they kindly sent us £50 to spend on some lunch. It was really smart in Harvester and I was impressed at how modern it looked, while still retaining a cosy, family-friendly pub feel. It was filled with little cosy nooks and inviting looking fireplaces as well as having practical plus-points like a bottle-warming area for parents with babies.

Harvester Parkstone Poole

harvester seahorse refurbishment dorset

family friendly harvester seahorse poole

harvester seahorse alder hills poole dorset

Obviously one of the best things about Harvester is the unlimited salad bar and I wasted no time stocking up on crunchy croutons and creamy potato salad. Nick & I both ordered the same thing, the Harvester ’83 combo which comes with fries, gravy, corn on the cob, half a rotisserie chicken and a half rack of ribs. Deeeeelish. The kids meals are £5.99 for a main with 2 sides, a drink & a dessert. Hux had a swirly sausage with peas and chips but he’d gorged on popcorn at the cinema so didn’t eat all that much of it. He didn’t even seem that excited at the prospect of ice-cream so we could tell he was full and tired!

Harvester seahorse alder hills poole

schleich toys

family-at-harvester

harvester unlimited salad

Nick skipped dessert while I went for coconut panna cotta with mango coulis. I’m usually a chocolate person but there’s just something about coconut that wins every time. Nick was pretty impressed with the beer offering though and opted for a pint of Brewdog in place of dessert. The total bill came to £41.51 for a beer (£4.55), two adult main courses (£25.98), a kids meal (£5.99) and a dessert (£4.99) so it was pretty budget friendly!

harvester 83 chicken ribs combo

harvester 83 combo poole

coconut panna cotta with mango coulis at harvester

After a quick whizz around the toy sale at the huge Sainsburys next door, it was time to head for the beach. Hux was adamant about going in the sea and it didn’t seem to bother him at all that it was freezing cold. He really, really loves the sea and I think he’d have spent all day chasing the waves back and forth but it was already gone 3pm by the time we got there so we only stayed about half an hour.

alum chine beach october

alum chine bournemouth october in the sea

autumn on the beach bournemouth

alum chine beach bournemouth dorset

We finished the day off at Nick’s mum’s house where he played with his cousins – I have no idea how he managed to stay awake the whole time. He didn’t even fall asleep in the car on the way home! Needless to say he was pretty grumpy for the next day or two from being so tired!

End of the Road Festival 2016

This year we went to End of the Road festival in Dorset again. We took Huxley last year and he absolutely loved it so it was always something we would have considered going to again. When we found out I was pregnant in February it was pushed to the back of our minds as something that we’d have to miss out on this year. However, once the line-up was released I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. It was my dream line-up. I couldn’t believe it. I felt like the bands had been hand-picked just for me. Devendra Banhart, Cat Power, Bat for Lashes, Joanna Newsom – all my absolute favourites for the past 10 years.

Now the main thing stopping me from booking tickets was the cost (festivals are bloody expensive!) but I managed to talk Nick into it as we were unlikely to be going away on holiday anytime soon so this was a good alternative. Thankfully, we are fortunate enough to live a mere 20 minutes away from the festival so I didn’t even have to consider camping at 8 months pregnant as we drove home and slept in our own comfy, warm bed every night (a fact which I was even more grateful for when the weather turned out to be a bit pants!).

We turned up on the Thursday night quite late and stood and watched The Shins playing while Huxley gradually got sleepier and sleepier before heading home to get a good night’s sleep before a full day of festival fun on the Friday.

End of the Road Festival 2016

The best thing about End of the Road (for parents) is that there is TONS of stuff for kids to do, even though it’s not really marketed as a ‘family festival’ and it’s all FREE (unlike at Camp Bestival). There are loads of little tents offering various craft & music activities and even without all of that, it’s so much fun just running around and exploring all the hidden treasures in the gardens and forests that you could spend all weekend doing just that without even seeing any music. Our first stop was at the circus tent where kids can learn to do various tricks and Hux had tons of fun trying out the diabolos and pedal-gos before we whisked him off to the indoor cinema to watch the new Jungle Book (which he LOVED).

circus practice at End of the Road Festival

(I can’t believe how tired he looks in this photo and it’s only day 1!)

After we finished in the cinema we sat down to make some animals out of clay (which we totally forgot to collect later – oops!), grabbed an ice-cream and explored the woods.

create tent at end of the road festival

playing with clay at End of the Road Festival

clay modelling at End of the road festival

ice-cream eotr

footsteps fall in time

fox in the forest at end of the road festival dorset 2016

My musical highlight for Friday was definitely Whitney on the Garden Stage. Whitney are quite a new band to me and I’d only heard a couple of their songs on Spotify but they’ve just got the most fun, upbeat vibe that you can’t help dancing around to them. The Guardian describe them like this: “think Bon Iver, with elements of folk and country, only given a Chicago soul makeover”. I also really enjoyed Cat Power who headlined the Garden Stage on Friday night. She’s definitely someone I’d been desperate to see for years and years and it’s so awesome to be able to see her somewhere as cool as End of the Road festival.

Garden stage end of the road festival

On Saturday morning, we dropped Huxley off at Nick’s mum’s house as she was going to be looking after him all day as well as having him overnight for us so that we could have the day off. It was just as well because the weather was well and truly horrendous and Huxley would have been totally miserable. We spent most of the day huddled in beer tents, making mad dashes in between the Big Top & the Tipi Tent. I really enjoyed watching Bas Jan in the Tipi Tent which is a band I’d never heard of before but they were really good fun. The Big Moon in the Big Top also totally rocked. Yay for girl bands! We were a bit gutted about missing Local Natives after a quick trip back to the car turned into an accidental hour and a half nap but we obviously needed the sleep! Once we’d woken up we headed over to the Woods stage to watch a bit of Goat (who are totally mental) before grabbing some dinner. The highlight of the day for me was without doubt Bat For Lashes who headlined on the Woods stage. Bat For Lashes are another huge favourite of mine that I’d been desperate to see for years. Thankfully the rain had started to ease off by then but the moody weather made her already very ethereal set even more moody and atmospheric and watching the smoke swirling around her in the breeze made all my hairs stand on end. Definitely worth spending the whole day soaking wet and freezing cold for.

big top end of the road festival 2016

goat at end of the road festival 2016

A video posted by Emma Baines (@thestylebox) on

On Sunday we were all a little worse for wear (me from extreme exhaustion, not drinking!) but thankfully the weather was slightly better so we cracked out the picnic blanket and camping chairs at every opportunity. Huxley was also exhausted after a busy day running round with his cousins at Grandma’s house and just spent the whole day sat quietly in his pushchair with the iPad. He even made me drape a blanket over the top of his pushchair so that he didn’t have to see or talk to anyone! Sunday was probably the day we were most excited for musically as Devendra Banhart has been both mine & Nick’s favourite artist for the last 10 years. We’ve seen him twice before in London years ago so we knew we were in for a good show. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I spotted on Twitter that he was going to be doing an interview on a teeny tiny stage hidden in the middle of the trees with Uncut magazine. We made sure we got there super early for that and I fan-girled so hard the entire time. I don’t think I’ve ever been a metre away from someone I’ve idolised for such a long time and I was super star struck. He was wonderful and charming and lovely and funny (and gorgeous) and the interview was intimate and strange and definitely an experience I’ll never forget.

crew

devendra banhart uncut interview end of the road festival 2016

We headed over to the Woods stage where we planned on staying for the rest of the evening and got super close to the front for Broken Social Scene (or as close as you can get with a pushchair anyway!) which is one of Nick’s all-time favourite bands. Unfortunately when Broken Social Scene had finished and we were waiting for Devendra Banhart to play, a security guy came over and made us move way, way to the back as he said it was going to get really busy and people would trip over the pushchair. I was totally gutted – even more so when it didn’t actually get that busy and wasn’t even dark when Devendra Banhart played. They definitely didn’t have that rule last year. Despite that, Devendra’s set on the Woods stage was out of this world, although it started a little slow and our friends got bored and wandered off but we stuck around and were treated to a wonderful range of classics that I couldn’t stop dancing to (which is an impressive feat for an 8-month pregnant lady after 3 days of standing around in a cold, wet field!).

A video posted by Emma Baines (@thestylebox) on

The evening finished with a performance by Joanna Newsom who was the headline act. At this point, there were no other bands playing on any of the other stages, so every single person at the festival had to watch her, or head back to their tents. I think this is due to the fact that her music is super quiet and she just sits on stage and plays the harp. I love Joanna Newsom but we’d already seen her live at the Royal Albert Hall a few years ago and by 9pm on Sunday we were definitely all ready to go home. We stayed and watched two or three songs right from the back of the field before slowing trudging our way back to the car.

All in all, I had a fabulous weekend, despite the back-breaking pain and sucky weather! I just want to say an ENORMOUS thank you to the guys at End of the Road festival who allowed me to park in the disabled parking area as it made a massive difference to my weekend. I don’t think we’ll be going back next year as the new baby will still be quite little but I’m sure this won’t be our last one as it really is such a great weekend!

Camp Bestival 2016

A few weeks ago I was invited to be one of this year’s official Camp Bestival bloggers. I actually got the email whilst I was in a meeting with a client and it took all I had not to start jumping up and down squealing with excitement! We took Huxley to End of the Road festival last year and he loved it (and camped like a total pro) but we’d always talked about giving Camp Bestival a go as it’s famously aimed at families and children.

I have to admit that I wasn’t particularly fussed about any of the music acts that were playing, especially once Arrested Development cancelled at the last minute due to illness, but I knew that Huxley would LOVE seeing Mr Tumble and The Cuban Brothers were absolutely awesome.

We knew that our friend Jim from Jimmy’s Iced Coffee would be there with his family so Huxley would have someone to play with but as the time drew nearer it turned out that we knew quite a few people that were going so there was a really good little crowd of us in the end with 12 adults and 10 kids. We spent quite a lot of time sat out the front of Jimmy’s truck while the kids ran around chasing bubbles, playing football and riding bikes. It was fantastic.

There was SO much to see and do at Camp Bestival that at the end of 4 days I still felt like I hadn’t really seen everything. Our favourite things were the world’s biggest bouncy castle, the free soft play and the Dingley Dell where you could touch animals, climb trees and build dens with the National Trust. Top of my list about this festival though is that you’d just be walking around, minding your own business and all of a sudden a choir would set up right in front of you and start singing, or you’d get caught up in a parade and end up dancing around in the front row of an impromptu drumming session. That made it feel really spontaneous and fun as you felt like you never really knew what was going to happen!

I’ll add some photos in below but if you want to truly get a feel for the atmosphere then I’d recommend watching my Camp Bestival vlog as I think that captures it much better.

Also, camping when 6 months pregnant with a 2-year-old is definitely not anywhere near as bad as it sounds 😉

Camp Bestival with a 2 year old

helter skelter at camp bestival

Jimmys-Iced-Coffee-at-Camp-Bestival

Toddler-boy-Volcom-tshirt

Worlds-biggest-bouncy-castle-at-Camp-Bestival

Toddler-holding-a-baby-chick-at-Camp-Bestival

Bubble-Inc-at-Camp-Bestival-Dorset

Zeamu-at-Camp-Bestival

Camp-Bestival-Camping-Area

British-family-festival

Sunset-at-Camp-Bestival

Lulworth-Castle-at-Camp-Bestival

Camp-Bestival-sign-Lulworth-Castle-Dorset

Have you ever been to Camp Bestival? Have you ever been camping when pregnant? Would you take your toddler to a festival?

Things to do in Bournemouth – with kids!

Travelodge recently got in touch and asked if I’d like to put together a bucket list of things to do in Bournemouth for 2016. I thought I’d put a bit of a twist on it and write one for kids. So apologies to my regular blog readers while I go a bit mummy-blogger on you for the day.

2016 is all about the staycation and Travelodge make it a very affordable option – especially if petrol is going to stay at 99p a litre! They’ve got a couple of hotels in the Bournemouth area including one a stone’s throw from the ocean.

So, here’s my top 5 things to do in Bournemouth (& the surrounding area) with kids:

 

1. The beach!

This one is pretty obvious but the beach provides hours of endless, free fun. Building sandcastles, searching for pretty shells, burying family members, splashing in the waves, chasing the ice-cream boat along the shore. If you’d prefer to avoid the crowds and hustle and bustle of Bournemouth’s main beach, try Branksome Chine, Alum Chine or Southbourne beach instead. Mudeford & Highcliffe are also lovely (but a bit further away).

(See some of my beach adventures here, here & here)

Hux at the beach

2. Moors Valley

Moors Valley is a huge country park situated about 20 minutes drive from Bournemouth. It’s basically one massive playground in the middle of the forest and it’s absolutely fantastic. We go all the time, all year round, whatever the weather! There’s a visitor centre with a gift shop and a cafe, toilets, a big play area, a play area for smaller children, a train you can ride around the park on and a play trail around the forest. Trust me when I say that you will all be well and truly worn out by the end of the day!

(Catch my Moors Valley adventures here, herehere & here!)
Moors Valley

3. RockReef climbing centre

This one really is the beating heart of Bournemouth, situated at the end of Bournemouth Pier. It’s quite a new addition, and as quaint and sweet as the old theatre was, I think it’s a big improvement on what was there before! RockReef has several activities inside it including climbing walls, caves and a highline course but most excitingly, it also has a huge zip line that goes from the end of the pier straight on to Bournemouth beach. I was lucky enough to be invited to try out RockReef when it first opened and I had SO MUCH FUN. Unfortunately it was winter so I didn’t get a chance to go on the zip line but it looks pretty cool!

rock_reef_51

(image stolen from Louise)

4. The Quomps splash park

The Quomps splash park is actually in Christchurch which is about a 15 minute drive away from Bournemouth but it’s well worth the drive if it’s a hot, sunny day. The splash park is a fenced-in area with water jets that squirt out of the floor. It’s SO much fun. We usually end up having to drag Huxley away kicking and screaming because he loves it so much that he just won’t leave. (If you’d prefer to stay in central Bournemouth, they actually have something very similar to this by the pier now)

 

Things to do in Bournemouth with kids

 

5. Bournemouth Air Festival

The Bournemouth Air Festival takes place every year in August, the weekend before the Bank Holiday. It’s always a jam-packed affair and the whole town transforms into a busy, bustling metropolis as hundreds and thousands of tourists descend onto the beach and surrounding areas to catch a glimpse of the action. While I usually try and avoid the crowds as much as possible for events like this, the Air Festival is one that I definitely make an exception for. It’s so exciting to find a little patch on the beach to claim as your own and settle down for the day with ever-changing constant entertainment without having to move a muscle! The kids can run off and play in the sea or make friends with kids in the neighbouring camps and build sandcastles and it’s such a joy to see their little faces as the Red Arrows shoot across the sky.

(See a previous post on the Bournemouth Air Festival here)

Airshow

(Image via here)

If you’re planning a staycation to Bournemouth this year and need some help with planning, please give me a shout! I’d be more than happy to help!

A blustery walk at Lulworth Cove

Last week, while we still had the Peugeot 2008  to review with it’s free tank of fuel, we thought we’d make the most of it by driving to Lulworth Cove. Lulworth Cove isn’t a million miles away from us but it is a good hour drive so it’s not somewhere that we really go to – but we definitely should.

The walk down to Lulworth Cove

House at Lulworth Cove

(Hello dream house!)

I haven’t been for years, not since school I don’t think, and I’d completely forgotten how beautiful it is. The day we’d chosen to go was overcast, grey and windy as hell. (If you’ve seen my weekly vlog you’ll have heard the wind!) To be honest, I kind of like it like that. It feels much more adventurous and exciting!

Lifestyle blogger Dorset

It’s funny because if you were to describe Lulworth Cove to someone, it doesn’t sound all that great (although it is part of the UNESCO Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site). It’s basically a small bay with nothing else there but the sea. But, when you stand there, looking out over the water, an immense feeling of calm washes over you, even when the waves are crashing on the rocks in front of you. It just feels intensely peaceful. The water on that day was an incredible dull shade of mint green and there was a single boat bobbing fiercely on the waves as they came to their end on the stoney shore.

I’m sure it’s beautiful in the summer when the bright blue sky turns the water a million shades of ocean but on that day, the flat, grey-white sky and calming mint-green water just felt right.

Lulworth Cove Jurassic Coast Dorset

After standing and staring at the ocean for what felt like an eternity, we decided to stomp up the side of the cliff for a better view and to see the waves crashing on Stair Hole. Unfortunately I still couldn’t fit the whole of the cove into one picture but trust me, there’s hundreds around the internet if you want a better look!

Boat at Lulworth Cove Dorset

The Boat Shed Cafe Lulworth Cove

Collecting seaweed at Lulworth Cove

Stair Hole is a much smaller cove than Lulworth but has a rock formation with lots of small caves and it’s mesmerising to stand and watch the waves swirling and swelling around the rocks before finally crashing through the caves with explosive force.

Stair Hole Dorset

Looking out to sea

Unfortunately we didn’t make it to Durdle Door which is just over the hill as the walk there is a bit of a monster and Huxley was already pretty worn out by this point. Also, if memory serves me, the path down to Durdle Door is a bit treacherous, I seem to remember sitting on my bum and sliding down sections of it. Not exactly ideal with a toddler!

Check out the Dream Cottages website for some great suggestions if you’re looking for more things to do in Dorset!

 

Weekly vlog #10 – Winchester Christmas market & Lulworth Cove

The weekly vlog is now live! It’s been a pretty busy one, as I’m sure it has for everyone during the run-up to Christmas! Feeling super Christmassy and festive now! I’m not sure how much filming I’ll do next week over the Christmas period as I’m sure my family won’t appreciate having a camera in their face when they’re trying to chill out so next week’s vlog might be super short!

This week I have:

Monday – Went to the playgroup Christmas party, went to see my nan with my sister and then went to the Winchester Christmas market with Nick’s mum & dad.

Tuesday – I filmed a video reading Mog’s Christmas Calamity for Sainsbury’s, went to the shops to replace a broken Christmas present for Huxley, went to the chiropractors for the first time to sort out my stupid neck and went out with Rosie, Georgie & Olivia to Camden in Westbourne.

Wednesday – Drove to Lulworth Cove on the Jurassic Coast in the Peugeot 2008 and watched the waves crashing on Stair Hole.

Thursday – Filmed a video review of the Peugeot 2008 (post coming soon!)

Friday – We went to see Nick’s friend Kirsty in Boscombe and then I went to the Beefeater in Somerford with my sister to check out their massive new refurbishment and stuffed my face with steak (blog post coming soon). Then we went to a friend’s house for Christmas drinks in the evening.

Saturday – I received a surprise Christmas present from the Tu team at Sainsbury’s, went to the library and the park, went to a kid’s birthday party, had some friends over and wrapped some Christmas presents, including Huxley’s new Buzz Lightyear costume!

Sunday – I went to the park with Huxley and then stopped in to see my nan. We were meant to go to the pub for a family photoshoot but that got cancelled due to the rain.

Enjoy!

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Etsy Made Local Christmas Fair

Eek! Happy December everyone! I love this time of year! One of my favourite things to do at Christmas is visit all the adorable local fairs and markets that pop up in the villages and for me, the most exciting of them all is definitely the Etsy Made Local Christmas Fair! I didn’t get to go last year and I was so gutted! It had been in my calendar for months and I’d been following the action on Facebook and counting down the days and then I had to go to London for work at the last minute and miss the whole thing! Nick went with Huxley and his mum and he raved about it and said I would have loved it so I’m even more excited about it this year now!

Just in case you’ve never heard of Etsy and have no idea what I’m rambling on about, Etsy is an online marketplace where independent sellers can make, sell and buy unique, handmade items. It’s like having a worldwide craft fair at your fingertips. You can find TONS of awesome stuff on Etsy, from lampshades to furniture to jewellery and everything in between! You can even buy my very own Curious Wolves baby vests & t-shirts that we had especially designed by Nicholas John Frith on there!

If you live in Dorset, the nearest Etsy Made Local Christmas Fair is happening in Wimborne but they are also happening all over the country too in 12 different locations from Glasgow to Cardiff and more – and they’re all happening THIS WEEKEND! It even happened in Australia! The Dorset Etsy Fair in Wimborne is on Saturday 5th December from 10am-4pm at the Allendale Centre in Wimborne. Make sure you check the date and time for your local fair as they all vary – some are open just Saturday, some are open just Sunday and some are open all weekend.

Dorset Etsy Made Local Christmas Fair Wimborne

So, in order to celebrate the start of the most wonderful time of the year and to showcase all the handmade loveliness that will be on show at the Etsy Dorset Christmas Fair, I thought I’d do a Christmas gift guide featuring all the local sellers that will be there on Saturday so you can start eyeing up your favourite things and scribbling lists of what you want to buy for yourself other people.

If you’re planning on going to an Etsy fair in a different location, then you can see which sellers will be attending and what they’ll be selling here.

 

Dorset Etsy Made Local Fair

 

1. Green & Bronze Wrap Bracelet – £29

Channel your inner boho chick with this beautiful bronze & green wrap bracelet from Wildkat Jewellery. This bracelet comes in lots of different colours and she makes some pretty cool necklaces too.

2. Istanbul Print – £11

I’ve actually had the pleasure of meeting the lady behind Little Vagaries. We used to sell some of her beautiful art work in the cupcake shop I worked in. Her pictures are so intricate and always feature a little hidden fox somewhere! She had a beautiful one of a tea cabin (that I think was in Canada somewhere) that I always meant to buy but never got around to it so if I spot it on Saturday then I might snap it up! In fact, I’m a little bit obsessed with this print too actually – the border is so stunning!

3. Animal Print Rucksack – £45

OMG! This is one of those items that I immediately fell completely in love with. Huxley would totally agree with me as he’s obsessed with animals. I will definitely be hunting down Carara Designs stall on Saturday! If the animals don’t float your boat then check out her Etsy store as she has tons of different designs – she also makes pretty awesome teepees for kids too!

4. Yellow Harris Tweed Purse – £8.99

Sometimes it’s so hard to find a nice, plain purse that feels playful but grown-up without being overly girly and this one from Green Callow ticks all the boxes for me. Made with yellow Harris Tweed, it’s also got a really cute floral interior (so it’s secretly a bit girly!). There’s lots of different colours and designs and they also sell cushion covers too.

5. Alice in Wonderland cushion – £130

I have to admit that this Alice in Wonderland cushion caught my eye from the thumbnail but it wasn’t until I looked more closely at the larger images that I realised just how detailed and beautiful this cushion really is. It’s a real work of art. Jessali Handmade also stocks a wonderful range of personalised Christmas stockings so keep your eyes peeled for those on Saturday too!

6. Acrylic Painting of Bournemouth – £300

Wow. Your eyes are hit with an explosion of colour when you visit Art by Nkolika Anyabolu’s Etsy store but it was this adorable picture of Bournemouth that really stood out for me. The bright, vivid colours really captures the feeling of the playfulness of summer on the beach. She also has some stunning pictures of animals and flowers. I can’t imagine feeling anything but happy when looking at something so bright and colourful!

7. Red Glitter Hair Bow – £5

I’m so excited to include Beauxoxo in this list! Georgie is one of my best blogging buddies and it fills me with so much joy to see her doing so well as she works so hard. Georgie sells tons of beautiful hair accessories from flower crowns to bows in a whole rainbow of colours but I’ve chosen this one as it’s very Christmassy. It’s also a favourite of vlogging queen Zoella!

8. Felt Fox – £40

This little felt fox from Apulina is just so adorable I can’t bear it! He’d be the perfect companion for my office desk! There’s loads of other animals on her Etsy store if you aren’t a fan of foxes and she makes greetings cards too.

9. Unicorn costume – £55

Yes, you read that correctly. A UNICORN costume. It says it’s for kids, but really, you know you’re going to find me wearing this one. Isn’t it just perfect?? If you’re after something less girly, her Etsy store The Tired Bears also sells dragons, sharks, whales and dinosaur costumes too.

10. Plum Jam shea butter bath bomb – £2.95

Everyone loves a bath bomb don’t they? Soap and So UK have tons in lots of different flavours and cute little soaps so there’s bound to be something for the bath-addict in your life. I’m loving these adorable gingerbread man soaps too! Such good stocking fillers!

11. Fairy Door – £15

Eep! I may have let out a little wee in excitement at these amazing little fairy doors. My niece Elsie would LOVE one of these! It’s safe to say that I’d be more than happy with anything from Annie’s Farmhouse Craft. It’s all wooden and rustic looking – right up my street!

 

So, I hope you like my selection of gifts! Will you be going to an Etsy Made Local Christmas fair near you?

 

*This post has been written in collaboration with Etsy UK but all views are my own and I was planning on going already anyway!

 

Autumn Forest Walk

Yesterday was one of those perfect Autumn days. It wasn’t raining and it wasn’t cold so we decided to go on an Autumn forest walk. We didn’t plan a route, we just walked out into the forest and took whichever pathways looked the most interesting.

Dorset woodland

Although I loved living by the sea, I definitely feel more relaxed when I’m in the forest. I love that the scenery changes every couple of steps, and sometimes even when you haven’t moved at all. It was quite windy yesterday so the clouds were flying past overhead meaning that one second it was grey and dull and the next second, the trees were dashed with ever changing dappled sunlight. It was so beautiful.

Autumn forest walk

The area of forest that we explored is called Stephen’s Castle (if you’ve been watching my weekly vlogs, you’ll have seen me mention this before!). I spent A LOT of time in those woods growing up. We’d just walk for miles and miles or we’d try and build a treehouse or we’d blow-up an inflatable boat and float out into the middle of the lake. It was the best playground a kid could ask for.

Even so, there are still hundreds of little pathways that I’ve never been down and have no idea where they go to! Nick & I are SO excited to explore it all a bit more. We’re going to buy some bikes over the next few months as there were loads of hills that looked like a lot of fun to ride down.

This time we took Huxley on his little bike as he much prefers sitting in that to his pushchair. Our walk ended up taking 3 hours and we got quite lost! I worked it out on a map afterwards and we’d only actually walked 4.5 miles but it felt like much more having to push the bike up hills and carry it through enormous puddles! Needless to say that we hungrily devoured some bacon sandwiches and mugs of strong tea on our arrival home!

 

Huxley running

Stephens Castle Verwood

UK blogger The Style Box

Autumn woodland walk

slug

British lifestyle blogger Joules wellies

Forest adventures

English Autumn woodland Verwood

Also, how do you guys like my new blog logo & template? It was all a bit of a last-minute panic decision on Tuesday and it was the kind of thing that I thought would take 10 minutes and ended up taking more like 4 panicked hours to sort out! I’m pretty happy with it though. It’s easy to be scared of change, especially when you’ve stuck with the same thing for years and years but I’m glad I made the leap and I hope you guys like it too!