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.


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


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!

I spent the evening planning an outfit for an upcoming (and rare!) night out. Recently I ordered beautiful lace front wigs from veryhair.com and was actually looking forward to putting some effort in to my appearance for the first time in a long time – although my dress choice was quite limited with being so big!

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












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

Huxley’s 2nd birthday!

Huxley turned 2 yesterday! Crazy I know! We had a party for him on Sunday at our house and Nick & I took him to Marwell Zoo for the day yesterday. We became members of Marwell too which is cool because we can go whenever we want now without that pressure of having to rush around to make sure you see everything to get your money’s worth. You’ve got to visit 4 times to make it worth becoming a member and we’ve already been twice so I’m sure we’ll get value for money out of it!

Huxley’s cake on Sunday was a little bit of a fail. He’d asked for chocolate cake so that’s what I made and it turned out really well, nice and soft and the icing was YUM. But, I’d bought some icing and was going to attempt to cover it and make it look like Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc but not having practised it and with the clock ticking away, the pressure was just too much for me and I chickened out. Nick suggested that I make a little Mike to stick on but I was too worried about how dreadful it would look so Nick made it instead. Although it could totally appear on cake wrecks, I’m glad Nick did it because Huxley LOVED it and kept calling it his ‘Mike cake’ so at least he recognised what it was meant to be!

Huxley's birthday partyHuxley-birthday3Huxley-party

We got Huxley a Duktig Ikea kitchen for his birthday and his little face was so sweet when he came downstairs and saw it! He went all shy and bashful but quickly got over that once he started ripping open the rest of his presents! I’ve been gorging on Pinterest looking for ideas to give his little kitchen a makeover! I’ve saved some of my favourites to my new Duktig kitchen hack board!

Hux-birthday2Giraffe at Marwell ZooHux-at-Marwell-ZooMarwell Zoo houseMe-&-Hux-at-Marwell-ZooWe finished the day off with pizza and ice-cream at Pizza Express in Southampton.

Huxley at Pizza Express


Weekend Snapshots

Just a quick photo-laden post from me today with a little update from the weekend. On Saturday morning I went to the local garden centre with my sister as they had their Christmas display out and I wanted to have a look. This is quite unusual for me as I’m not usually overly into Christmas (don’t lynch me!) but I’m feeling extra festive this year. (I think it’s thanks to the new house!) Huxley spent about 10 minutes chasing Thomas the tank engine round and round the main display and got nice and dizzy!

In the afternoon we made the stupid mistake of attempting a ‘quick’ trip to Southampton at about 3pm to exchange our faulty tent and to buy Huxley a play kitchen from Ikea for his birthday. Unfortunately there was nothing quick about it. The traffic was insane. We ended up rushing around like crazy people and didn’t get home until 8pm! And Ikea were sold out of kitchens – what a nightmare!

Sunday was a very different affair. We had a lovely chilled walk through the woods to my mum’s house where we played football in the garden with Huxley and ate an enormous roast dinner. On the way home we made a quick detour into the countryside to say hello to the sheep and cows.

Autumn oak treeWoods2WoodsHuxleyME-&-HUXHux-with-footballFootball-with-nannyFootball-in-the-gardenHux-footballBritish Blackberries

In other exciting news, we’ve now had the office plastered so that should be painted and carpeted by the weekend and the outside of the house has been rendered and painted so hooray! It finally looks loved on the outside now! House-wise we’re like 99% finished now. We’ve just got to fix the back of the house as half the render is hanging off, we need to get the driveway sorted out and the garage roof needs rebuilding at some point in the future. I’m not too worried about the garden as that’s kind of an ongoing work-in-progress that will evolve and develop as and when we have the time.

Also, I’ve started recording a weekly vlog (inspired by amazing #girlboss Brogan – she’s up to 23k subscribers now! Woop! Go girl!). I’ve got no idea how it will turn out but last week I said I wanted to try and blog a bit more and that just hasn’t happened. I’m quite good at remembering to take the camera out and about with me to snap photos but I’m just rubbish at finding the time to turn them into blog posts so I thought I’d give vlogging a go again but it’s very strange to get used to! It’s a bit weird walking along talking to a camera so I keep having to find quiet little alleyways to nip into for updates. I also have no idea what to talk about!

Also in #girlboss news, my other amazing friend Louise (Pauper to Princess) has just launched her very own website to help inspire you for the upcoming festive period called Impossible To Buy For. Seriously such a genius idea. Go check it out!


Marwell Zoo

We’ve wanted to go to Marwell Zoo for AGES. Huxley is actually obsessed with animals and will watch Madagascar and Lion King on repeat. He’s got a load of little plastic animals and he’ll just sit for hours lining them up around the house or sliding them down a plank of wood in the garden. Also, with Nick breaking his leg and being so busy working on the house all summer, we hadn’t really spent any proper time with our best friends Lauren and Ben and our goddaughter Lexi. All our get-togethers had been last-minute spare afternoons grabbing a quick cup of tea somewhere. We were well overdue a proper day out with kids.

It was a really fun day but also a bit stressful! Huxley has been a bit under-the-weather and I think the excitement of all the animals and being with Lexi just overwhelmed him and we spent most of the day wrestling him away from each enclosure as he kicked and screamed. To say we were exhausted by the end of the day is a massive understatement!

But, watching him grin from ear to ear as the penguins darted in front of his eyes under the water and hearing him and Lexi giggling their heads off as they held hands and ran around made it all worthwhile.

We’re thinking about becoming annual members so that we can go more often and then it’s not as stressful because you can just take your time and if Huxley wants to spend a whole hour watching the owls then he can because we wouldn’t be rushing around trying to fit it all in and get our money’s worth.

Boden Fairisle Cardigan Abercrombie Flared jeansBoden Fairisle cardigan flared jeans converseMarwell ZooPenguin at Marwell ZooIndoor penguins at MarwellHuxley & Lexi at Marwell ZooGiraffe at Marwell ZooHux & LexiHux-driving-a-truckHuxley-on-the-train



Autumn in the New Forest

Saturday morning started nice and early with a knock on the door from my sister, who is currently suffering from pregnancy insomnia. It was 7.45am. I was still in bed. It was about time for me to get up anyway though so I made my way downstairs, brewed a cup of tea and started getting things ready for breakfast. Sarah was pretty chuffed to have stumbled into our weekly ritual of pancake Saturday, especially having never had thick American-style pancakes before (I know, right?!?). We also whipped up a batch for the guy rendering the outside of the house and the guy fitting our new bathroom door – they were pretty chuffed too!

Nick had to stay in all morning due to the workmen being there and so as we were eating she talked me into a quick shopping trip to Bournemouth. To be honest, I think Nick was happy to have some alone time playing with Huxley as he’s been so busy recently he feels like he’s hardly seen him. We hunted for a blanket cape in Primark that wasn’t a L or XL, picked up a new MAC concealer and grabbed a Lush Comforter bubble bar because they’re the best thing ever. Now I’ve just got to find time to have a long luxurious bath without Huxley!

Once I’d come home, had a cup of tea and a sandwich we jumped in the car and drove out to Rhinefield Ornamental Drive. Personally I think it’s the best place to see the New Forest trees in Autumn as it’s full of massive redwoods and makes me feel like I’m back in California again. (I’ve written about it previously here, here and here)

New Forest TreesNew Forest in Autumn with toddlersRope swing in the New ForestNew Forest Trees in AutumnHuxley eating banana cake in the New ForestNew Forest in AutumnCattle grid New ForestToddler

A sunny September Saturday at Moors Valley

One of the things we were most excited about this summer was going to Moors Valley a lot. Then Nick broke his leg. So we haven’t been since June. But, the stars aligned at the weekend and we had no plans (as the renderer had let us down) and the weather was beautiful so we decided there was no better way to spend it than playing in the forest.

(You can see our previous trips to Moors Valley here, here and here!)

We parked at the local park and stomped our way through the puddles, holding onto bread for the ducks and got on our way.

PuddlesWalking to Moors ValleyNick & Hux

It’s so much fun now that Huxley can run around properly and really enjoy it. He was SO happy when he spotted the Gruffalo statue. He ran up and held his hand for ages. Bless him. He kept asking where mouse was too.

Gruffalo at Moors Valley

Nearby, there’s a hollowed out log and he spent ages exploring all the different tunnels and entrances and sliding around inside.

Huxley in log at Moors Valley

We set off around the play trail which consists of lots of different ‘mini’ playgrounds hidden in the forest. It’s great fun and well and truly wears the whole family out! Huxley’s memory has suddenly gotten really good too. When we turned up at the second play bit, he started asking for his tractor as when we’d gone there in June he’d had his tractor with him and pushed it down the slopes. I have no idea how he remembers things like that!

Hux at Moors Valley in SeptemberTrees at Moors Valley

Flowers for Grandparents Day

I love my nan & granddad (obviously). I know some people who see their grandparents once or twice a year but I’m lucky enough to live right around the corner from them now so we see each other at least once a week. When I was at school, I’d walk home to my nan’s house and she’d make me salmon and cucumber sandwiches while I sat and watched CBBC and/or CITV on her sofa.

Since I’ve had Huxley I’ve been round much more frequently. Seeing the look of complete and utter joy on their faces as they chase him round the lounge or sit patiently drawing zoo animal after zoo animal for him makes me so happy. So when Appleyard London got in touch asking if I’d like to try their flower delivery service for Grandparent’s Day on 4th October I jumped at the chance to brighten up their day.

Appleyard Harmony Flower Bouquet

My lucky grandparents have been in Sardinia for two weeks so I had the flowers delivered to my house on Monday morning and took them round later that evening. The postman knocked briskly on my door and handed me an enormous, very swanky looking cardboard box. After carefully unpacking it I was greeted with the most beautiful bunch of flowers. I’d chosen the ‘Harmony’ bouquet which is a scented bouquet of white freesia, lilac roses, purple trachelium with ornithogalum and avalanche roses. This bouquet comes in at £46 and has a free box of chocolates included. Personally, I think it’s a great choice if you want to send flowers to someone for a special occasion. You can also order next day flowers if you’re one of those last-minute, forgetful types 😉

Grandparents Day Harmony Bouquet from Appleyard LondonNanThe lovely people at Appleyard have given me discount code to share with you all too. Just type ‘BLOG33’ at the checkout to receive 33% off your bouquet (excludes the flowers-by-post range)

*The flowers were sent to me to review by Appleyard London but all opinions remain my own

End of the Road Festival 2015

Last weekend we went to End of the Road festival and literally had the best time ever. I’d only ever been to Leeds (2005) & Reading (2006) festivals (see embarrassing photos here) and End of the Road was a WORLD away from my experiences there. Reading & Leeds were scary. Enormous, very music-focused and to be quite honest, downright dangerous at times. End of the Road was completely chilled, with loads to see and do and it all felt a little bit magical.

I’ve tried my very best to keep my photos at a minimum! And I’ve tried not to include the other guys we went with too much as I know not everyone wants their life plastered over my blog but I still wanted to try and capture the feel of the time we had.

Although I knew a couple of bands playing the festival, there weren’t really that many that I was super excited about (except Future Islands!) and this made it quite nice because we weren’t constantly stressed out and rushing around trying not to miss anything. Which was just as well because you just can’t do that with kids!

We camped in family camping which was so chilled and during the day we could still hear the music from the main stage perfectly which was cool. Our mornings were spent drinking tea, eating bacon & egg sandwiches and chatting. (Massive thanks to the other guys who are seasoned campers/festival goers and had remembered to bring things like stoves, kettles and bacon).

Huxley with ladybird

We’d meander over to the main festival area around midday and mooch around between stages eating ice-cream and browsing the shops. Then we’d head back to camp around 5pm to make some food before heading back for some more music with the kids in their pyjamas, tucked up in the pushchairs with their ear defenders on.


On Friday we watched King Khan and the BBQ Show during the day and Tame Impala in the evening who were so much better live than I was expecting. Huxley fell asleep in the pushchair holding my hand at around 10pm and slept perfectly in the tent all night. Dream!

Woods stage End of the Road Festival 2015Sunset over family camping End of the Road Festival 2015Huxley

Saturday night was my absolute favourite. There was nobody playing that any of us were really fussed about so we spent the evening walking around the forest and came across the disco floor. With two 2-year-olds, you can imagine how much fun we had! We were there for hours and the kids were exhausted afterwards and fell asleep just in time for Sufjan Stevens. As it turned out, Sufjan was dreadful. Well, I say dreadful, I’m sure musically it was brilliant but it was just a bit too slow and dreary for a Saturday night and we were all in the mood for dancing.

Me-&-HuxLeaves at End of the Road Festival 2015EOTR festival bearRecording studio at End of the Road Festival 2015Lets Be Brave on a leaf End of the Road festival 2015Forest disco floor End of the Road festivalHuxley-on-disco-floor

The weather was totally glorious on Sunday. I kicked off the day with a cup of tea watching the sunrise over the camp while I waited for everyone else to stir. Nick & James had stayed out until 4am so they were a bit bleary-eyed when they eventually emerged from their tents. We packed up our tent and put all our stuff into the car as we weren’t staying that evening as we had to be in London the next day for an awards ceremony that we knew would also be a late night (2.30am we got home on Monday night!) Sunday saw Future Islands take the stage which was great fun. Huxley & Kip were running around all over the place kicking a giant inflatable balloon around (which I’m sure everyone around us LOVED). Unfortunately Future Islands clashed a bit with Mac Demarco who we also really wanted to see so we walked over to the Garden stage to catch the last bit of his set before grabbing some noodles and heading back to watch War on Drugs. By this point of the weekend we were all knackered from broken sleep in the tent and Huxley was just way over-tired so we ended up leaving the festival and heading home after a couple of songs because we just didn’t have the energy anymore! (One of the benefits of only living 20 minutes away!)

Sunrise over camping End of the Road festivalKids at End of the Road festivalTaking kids to End of the Road festivalHuxley festival Cawston Press juice boxNick-&-HuxMusical instruments in the forest End of the Road FestivalCircus tent end of the road festivalSunset at End of the Road festival 2015Jim-&-Nick2Sunset festivalHuxley at End of the Road FestivalSunset at End of the Road festival with kidsMac DeMarco Garden Stage End of the Road FestivalAnother great thing about End of the Road, and something we definitely didn’t make the most of this time around, was that they had SO much stuff for kids to do. There was a circus tent, clay modelling, family yoga, a little musical area, forest games and a cinema. If we go again next year we’ll definitely get our butts in gear a bit more and make the most of everything on offer.

All in all, it’s a festival I’d highly recommend, especially if you have kids, even if you’re not that fussed about the music. I’d love to go to Camp Bestival one year to see how it compares.