Paultons Park – The home of Peppa Pig World

Paultons Park is perhaps best known for being the home to the one and only Peppa pig world, however there is so much to explore, this family owned and family friendly theme park is one of the best in the U.K. and with so much to explore I wanted to share with you some of our best bits and hints and tips for your visit.

First things first check the website and download the app to plan your day. If your child is old enough and tall enough to enjoy some of the rollercoaster rides then I would head to the opposite side of the park first thing and leave exploring Peppa Pig World until later on – the majority of toddlers were napping in their strollers by mid afternoon as parents enjoyed picnics in the beautiful gardens and we found queue sizes for the most popular rides had reduced dramatically by then.

Pack your swimsuits – Paultons park has one of the biggest Splash Pads Arlo has ever experienced, and a smaller version too. We hired lockers for £4 just near to the main entrance which we could use as many times as we needed through the whole day and this was great as we doubled back to use the splash pad twice when the sun was highest in the sky as it was great to cool off. We also stored our picnic and snack bags here to save carrying too much around the park with us. One good thing about this theme park is that there’s plenty of taps throughout to refill your water bottles so if you’re on a budget then you can take everything you need and not spend any extra money at all.

The Lost Kingdom

We began our day in the Lost Kingdom, arriving early we spent a little time in the gardens before the gates opened meeting flamingoes and other exotic birds before rushing to try out some of the rollercoasters first, and we found that we didn’t need to queue longer than ten minutes for some of the biggest rides. I noticed that the attention to detail within the grounds of the park is second to none. The levels of cleanliness are second to none and the botanicals are chosen to really compliment each areas themes. It really did feel like Jurassic Park with the exotic palms and ferns and we found dinosaurs around every corner much to Arlo’s delight. There were also plenty of benches dotted around to take a rest. As a side note I clocked up 20,000 steps on my Fitbit!

We spent about an hour on this side of the park before finding the splash pad and having a pause to review the app and check some ride queue times to decide where to explore next. There were digital notice boards around the park displaying queue times which helped massively.

Critters Creek

Critters Creek was top of the list for Arlo, we we went to the Beastie Burrow to meet and greet all sorts of creatures such as the most beautifully coloured chameleon and then heading on to the Cat O Pillar coaster where we had lots of fun spotting some mixed up critters – have you ever seen a donkey with wings before? This area was the quietest in the whole park and fun to enjoy a more relaxed pace to break up the day. The gardens just beside this area provided great picnic spots for families too.

Tornado Springs

New for 2021 this area of the park transports you in to middle America and it feels like you’ve arrived just after a hurricane has made an exit. There’s cows stuck in rooftops and all sorts of fun things to spot, especially if you can keep your eyes open on the Storm Chaser. This was the busiest area in the park for us and we loved the hustle and bustle, queue of for twenty minutes at peak time for the Storm chaser was worth it, worth it for the adrenaline rush!

Arlo’s favourite thing to do in this land was the play area which was fun for him to run around in for a good half an hour and give us a moments rest. We decided to eat at the nearby Route 83 Diner and so he could play whilst we were waiting for our food order. The food here was simple basket meals, surprisingly good for theme Park food, with a hot dog and chips costing around the £10 mark. This restaurant was fairly busy, we ordered using self service screens and then waited about fifteen minutes. Finding a table was easy they were being cleaned by the team as soon as they were vacated for quick rotation. I may as well add at this point that I noticed the toilets throughout the park were also maintained to a high standard and there were family friendly facilities everywhere too.

Arlo earnt his driving licence in this area and enjoyed the big thrill seeking rides – even if he seemed a little anxious at first so after this I decided we all needed another tranquil pause, going on the Rio Grande train ride was a nice relaxing ride and the time where Arlo got his first glimpse of Peppa Pig World as we went on a trail around the grounds. I spotted some more quiet corners which I noted for later on.

Just at the far end of the park is a working water wheel, and an enclosure of pelicans with some picnic benches, and a lovely lake to wander around. I think it’s great that Paultons Park balances the high octane areas with enough spaces to take a break away from the crowds, especially with the high number of families with young children. I had a little time to read about the history of the grounds and John and Anne’s garden, there’s a nature walk near to the Lost Kingdo which is a other quiet space to walk in a woodland environment which is great if you need a shaded cooler spot on a warm day too. If you’re an adult taking older children to the park then it’s great to note that there spaces to escape from the hustle and bustle whilst the kids have fun, or maybe a spot to walk a baby in the pram whilst the siblings queue up with another adult.

Peppa Pig World

The main event of course is Peppa Pig world and it really does feel as though you’ve stepped in to another dimension, the music and scenery transports you directly in to the cartoon and again the attention to detail does not go unnoticed. There’s rides for every possible feature of the popular TV show you can imagine, and they’re all expertly designed playing close attention to the illustrative style of the cartoon. From hot air balloons to George’s dinosaur and everything in between.

We tried out the queens flying Coach ride first mid afternoon because it had a five minute queue time and I wanted to get a good view over the park to let Arlo decide what to go on next. Each of the rides in this area had a queue time of about ten-fifteen minutes which we didn’t mind. We spent our time playing eye spy and chatting about Peppa Pig – Arlo was most excited about being able to go on to the Dinosaur adventure alone. The rides in this area are all designed with young children in mind making it the ideal first family friendly theme park to visit and give them a taste for adventure.

You could easily book a nearby hotel and take two days to explore everything the park has to offer, with short breaks available to book on the website if you like to tick every ride off the list. Tickets are £37.75 for all over 1m tall if you book in advance on the website.

We were kindly invited to review Paultons Park with complimentary tickets however as always all opinions are my own

Sarah and Duck at the outdoor amphitheater

The Mac has done it again. Our first experience of live theatre in over a year was simply delightful. We were transported in to the whimsical world of Sarah and Duck, the BAFTA award winning children’s show for an hour on a summer afternoon. The setting for this performance is the outdoor amphitheatre at the MAC in Cannon Hill park which is just perfect because you can meet ducks before and after the show walking around the pools in the park. Click here to book your tickets this weekend.

Just before the show started we had the chance to read a book we bought from the merchandise on offer which included several of the story books and of course plushie versions of Sarah and Duck themselves.

The performance features all of the much loved characters recognisable from the books and tv show, even the flamingo and they’re all bought to life through skilled puppetry, designed by Lauren McEwen. Seeing how the stage props came together was magical in itself, turning the construction of the big top circus in to a song and seeing it spring in to life was like watching masterful design in action. The attention to detail was incredible and nothing went unnoticed by Arlo. Transforming the stage set in to a zoo to meet the penguins, and then back to the big top after a huge gust of wind blew it over, and then back to the park bench was masterful.

The show was engaging throughout, set at just the right pace for pre-schoolers. Continued repetition of words and phrases, sing along moments, a and audience participation kept Arlo occupied and interested in the storyline. I’m surprised at just how many references to the show the writers Pete Glanville and Sarah Gomes-Harris managed to include. If you love Sarah and Duck then you’ll know what I mean when I say the moon and the ribbon sisters were spot on!

The Mac always hosts great performances and the opportunity to experience a show in the amphitheatre doesn’t come around often, so head over this weekend – the performance is outdoors so be prepared with sun cream and/or waterproofs as it’s so unpredictable.

The Sarah and Duck show is on tour so head to their website to check out if they’re coming to your town.

Ten children’s farms worth visiting in the Midlands

Are you looking for childrens farms in the West Midlands? Here’s a selection of some of our favourite places to visit farm animals in and around Birmingham.

1. Attwell Farm Park

Attwell Farm Park is relatively new on the scene but it’s been a favourite of ours for a while. A beautiful farm park in Worcestershire. There are the usual range of farm animals to meet and greet outdoors and in their huge barn, plus there’s a cow shed and a barn outdoors with smaller animals such as bunnies and pigmy goats. The reason Arlo loves Attwell Farm Park is because of the extras, they have a huge bouncing pillow, a decommissioned fire engine and a newly revamped outdoor play area – plus indoor soft play, ride on tractors and a giant sandpit in the play barn. A small on-site cafe serves a delicious array of well priced snacks too.

2. Umberslade Farm

Umberslade farm was one of the first we ever visited. They host animal talks throughout the day which are announced with a ringing bell. The farmyard pigs have the funniest names and the barn is home to lambs and calves which you can feed at the right time of year. My personal favourite is the shire horses, whereas Arlo loves the ponies because he had a trekking experience (book separately) as a Christmas treat last year. They have a wonderful indoor play area which is made from natural wood and a brillInt outdoor park area with climbing frames for all ages. The on-site cafe serves food and hot drinks too. Make sure you head out past the duck pond to greet the chickens and say hello to Curly Sue, Umberslade Farms oldest pig. If you fancy a long walk the Estate has very scenic views.

3. Hatton Country World

This is one of the more expensive family farm days out in the Midlands but it’s a worth visiting, especially around Easter time when it’s lambing season and all the baby chicks are around to meet too. When it comes to animals there’s no shortage of creatures, with snakes lizards and exotic animals as well as the usual farmyard animals. My favourite event is the sheep grand national which is thoroughly enjoyable to watch, and Arlo loves the bird of prey shows and experiences.

Hatton is also home to a shopping village and hosts regular events such as the drive in movies and arts and crafts faulted throughout the year.

4. Oak Tree children’s Farm

Oak Tree farm in Walsall is a low cost alternative, it’s £3 for a little bucket of animal food, it’s the kind of place to spend a couple of hours on a quiet afternoon, with a small play area and plenty of room for a picnic and treats from the cafe available.

5. Forge Mill Farm

This little farmyard is based on the Sandwell Valley site and is just that, a small yard with the usual farm animals but in the most beautiful Victorian setting. Adults entry is just £2, kids £1.50 and under 2’s are free. You can buy bags of animal food for under £1 and wander around as many times as you like. We like to spend about an hour here before trekking across the bridge and around Sandwell Valley Country Park and the Swan Lake.

6. Bodenham Arboretum

Okay so this isn’t a place where the children’s farm is the main attraction, but in the middle of the grounds there’s a working farm yard and so you can enjoy a lovely wander around the pools and through the “deep dark woods” before meeting the cows, chickens and donkeys and heading back towards the main pool to spot the fish and ducks.

7. Rays Farm

This is a little further out for us but a wonderful place to explore. The goat pen is a must – if you crouch down they will jump on your back. Rays farm has owls and a giant sandpit but the feature which sets Rays Farm apart is the woodland walk, which features the most beautiful wooden fairytale sculptures and is one of the best places for bluebells and wild garlic in the Spring.

8. Little Owl Farm

In Stourport this farm has one of our favourite petting experiences with the chicks and guinea pigs and have the friendliest and most patient teams. They have an indoor play area, cafe and all important ride on tractor too.

9. All Things Wild

Not just a farm, if you’re needing a full day out with more animals than you can date to dream of then this is the ideal place. Their dinosaur field alone is better than the WMSP exhibition. (Disclaimer: the dinosaurs aren’t real)

They have two outdoor play areas, an indoor soft play and the “biggest and bestest” mud kitchen ever! (According to Arlo). My favourite however is the barefoot Walk.

10. Sedgley Adventure Centre

This is the place to visit for forest fun, a whole new area to explore for outdoor lovers, and the main attraction is mini golf surrounded by Animals which you can pet. It’s quite a surreal experience I must admit but so much fun to be had. This isn’t a huge place to explore but great for a couple of hours.

We hope you find your own fabulous adventures, share your experiences with us on social media by tagging us on Instagram or Facebook and if you have any more suggestions let us know and we can add them to the blog!

For days out under £10 click here and for my guide to parks in Birmingham great for nature lovers click here

Life without Comic Sans

We’ve all been there, when it comes to writing up an essay, creating a poster, organising some party invitations or adding labels to food it’s easy to open up Microsoft word and choose one of the pre-Installed fonts. It always seems like Times New Roman is too formal and Ariel is too boring so it’s easy to opt for comic sans as it’s the most “fun” but in reality comic sans makes me and many others cringe. Back when I was at school I even conducted lots of experiments with word art – thank goodness that hard drive was corrupted! Eventually I studied graphic design at university and I’m a self confessed typography geek.

Comic sans is just too simple and lacks any style. Back in the nineties when there was no other option there was a place for it but now almost thirty years later when it comes to crafting new designs there are hundreds and thousands of options available and you can add flair to your work which will make out stand out from the crowd in the right way. Once you have downloaded and installed a new font it’s just as effortless to use in most desktop software programmes.

Heres some inspiration for projects using fonts from Font Bundles which is a digital design market place. Check out a selection of awesome summer fonts here.

Personalised tee shirts

Using a decorative font such as “let’s go camping” and then adding some colour and texture to the letters you can create a unique style of your own which brightens up any day. This whimsical font featuring caravans and shapes cut in to the letters is ideal for the summer of Staycations. I used a sublimation technique to apply the design to the t shirt.

Nursery decor

When you’re looking for the ideal finishing touches to a nursery or child’s bedroom then adding a print is a great option. I used to trawl through Etsy looking for the perfect prints but now instead I create my own. Here I used “squishy” which gives me mermaid vibes. Again filling the letters with a lilac and pink swirled texture and printing out on to high quality paper before popping it in to a frame for display.

Food and drink labels

When you’re back planning a summer soirée its always a great idea to label the table. I find this saves me time as a host having to repeat myself, you can find editable templates online which can be printed out on to sheets of cardboard and then get creative with your own text. I label drinks which contain alcohol as I often make up cocktail pitchers and mock tails for the kids and then I highlight dishes which are vegetarian or vegan. I’ve used animatic which features in several summer font bundle packages to create this lemonade label design.

Party invitations

Organising a party, planning a theme, an outfit, the food, decorations and the entertainment can be fun and stressful too. It’s important to let your guests know all the details. An RSVP is great to have guests confirm their attendance and this is your one opportunity to let guests know the time/place/dress code and any other important details. It’s too easy these days to send everyone a group chat message or Facebook invite but there’s nothing quite like having an invitation, especially for children and you can incorporate the theme in to your design and use fonts to highlight the most important details. In this example it’s the time and date. I often like to play with using two fonts in design and when you choose a bundle deal there’s always complimenting options to choose from. You can send these digitally or get them printed out – I like to design a 6×4 image and then order print outs from a photo printing app. I like to think that the design would look nice stuck on a fridge or notice board in the kitchens of my guests.

Thank you notes

Continuing with the party theme I love sitting down with Arlo and “writing” thank you notes. Experimenting with colour and curved texts creates a fun and whimsical effect and it’s so much nicer than comic sans. Arlo’s still getting to grips with a pencil even though he likes to get involved his mark making so creating a little template for him with space to add his creative flair is perfect, the art of letter writing is something which I do not want to see disappear even though I am an advocate for digital design. Sometimes doing things the old fashioned way is just as fun. I enjoy stamping and posting out letters just as much as I enjoy using digital fonts.

Bonus Idea – kids resources

I like to craft learning resources and printables for Arlo and this little egg box is his treasure box for scavenger hunts. With a laminated label featuring a simple rainbow graphic and words in one of my favourite fonts, this has lasted us well over a year (even when the original egg box disintegrated).

Things to look out for when renting a property

If you find yourself in a position where you are looking to rent a home for the first time then you probably have lots of questions. Working out what your budget is and then managing your expectations accordingly is a sharp learning curve but these days there are regulations in place so you shouldn’t be left high and dry (unlike me).

I first moved out when I was a fresh eighteen year old and my first experience was in student halls of residence. The less said about that the better to be honest, I couldn’t wait to leave after the first year and get myself in to a private rental. As a second year Uni student I shared a flat which was owned by a friend of a friend. I can’t be sure of the exact details of the relationship there but from what I remember the property was their first experience of renting. We paid the rent on time, had no issues with the property and I would have stayed on for another year and extended the tenancy. However after the first year the landlord decided that they wanted the property back and communicated this with my friend informally but didn’t actually give any notice and so I ended up having to leave and rush in to finding elsewhere quickly which wasn’t fun.

Lesson learnt, always have a contract with a formal notice period outlined for both parties and don’t make allowances for personal relationships. I preferred dealing with agencies and having more experienced landlords from this point forwards. I found myself renting a room in a shared house for a short time after this – a landlord approved by the university which on paper sounded great but in reality – not so great. My bedroom was decorated in the sickliest shade of purple. I would have covered the cost of painting it magnolia (even though I hate beige) but I wasn’t allowed. In my contract it was also stated that I couldn’t use Blu-tax to put up posters. Second note to self – ask about redecorating. Sometimes landlords add rules to contracts based on their past experiences with bad tenants too and so you can end up with contracts and rules which are far too restrictive.

I have moved around a lot since my Student days and loved the freedom of renting, being able to have a fixed term in one place and then the freedom to be able to move if needed – and I have always been footloose and fancy free as long as I’ve known that I have my family home in Birmingham to go back to when needed. I think all in all I’ve lived in over twenty properties – some better than others so here’s my too tips of things to consider when renting.

First of all planning your budget is always important. Yes the monthly rent might be affordable but check your council tax band online and then try to figure out your utility bills too. You can ask former tenants if you manage to meet them when viewing, or ask neighbours about their suppliers and monthly bills if their properties are similar – you might be able to find they’ll give you a referral discount or offer which benefits you both.

You can also use price comparison websites to give you a quote. Think about water rates, electricity, gas, broadband and tv packages. These costs add up and you usually have to fund all of these yourself as a renter (check the details of your contract). There may also be service charges and no doubt a tv licence and your contents insurance. Landlords should always have property insurance or their own and you can ask about the details of their insurance to make sure you know what’s expected in an emergency. Compare landlord insurance here to find out more. Never be afraid to ask questions to find out who’s accountable for what – lost keys can be a very expensive cost (again talking from experience).

So when you’ve crunched the numbers (making allowances for estimates) and figured out your realistic monthly budget it’s time to go and view some properties. Having learnt from experience theres ten things I always check when viewing a rental.

  • turn on all the taps and shower to check temperature and water pressure. I’ve always found that these problems are not a priority for a landlord but are really irritating to live with. Look at how quickly the water drains too. The last thing you want is to have to take hours aside to wash your hair and unplug a drain which smells like it has never ever been cleaned.
  • Ask to turn the heating on and see how quickly the place warms up – check every radiator to make sure they work. I lived in one shared house where the thermostat was locked in a box and we couldn’t adjust the heating ourselves – never again. It was always far too hot or cold.
  • Look at the white goods – the oven, washing machine and fridge/freezer. Clarify if these are included and make sure they’re working and in good order. I moved in to one place and the previous tenant had taken everything when the landlord just assumed it was going to be left behind. I eventually negotiated a discounted rent to cover the cost of having to buy all new things myself but this was a huge financial hit.
  • Look at the boiler – there’s usually a sticker with the last service / inspection date. Same for all the fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. These are basic legal requirements for landlords to fulfil and if these aren’t in order then it raises questions about integrity for me.
  • Check every light switch works – I had one landlord who tried to hold my deposit back for a faulty light at the end of a tenancy when it had never worked. I’ve taken bulbs from other sockets in properties I’m viewing just to test them all out.
  • Same goes for plug sockets – take your phone charger and test it in every single socket when viewing or doing a walkthrough. When you’re planning your furniture layout and do all your IKEA flat pack for your home office only to discover there’s one working socket in that space to run all your electricals it’s not great fun.
  • Try all the windows. Have a good look around for signs of moisture / damp. That’s a big no-no for me. Make sure they’re all safe and don’t open too wide, but open enough to allow fresh air in and not be claustrophobic. Make sure that they can be locked – especially if you have kids.
  • Same with the doors. Open and close every interior and exterior door to make sure they all are okay and then also check locks and make sure all keys are available. Ask about their key policy at this stage. The last thing you want is a landlord walking in without notice because they have a key.
  • Take photographs and videos of everything. The condition of walls and carpet. The meter readings. The upkeep of the garden etc.
  • Check the phoneline and make sure that you can get access to the internet you need. I’d be lost without decent WiFi in every room of my house and so moving in to an area with dodgy internet would be a dealbreaker for me.

This list isn’t conclusive, I check lots of other things but hopefully these are things you haven’t come across before.

I’ve always dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s after one nightmare experience. I moved in to a studio apartment in London, above a retail premises which I thought was fabulous. It was tiny but I thought it was great value for money and was in an excellent location. All bills included. Things started to go wrong when I realised there was one electric meter for myself and my neighbour who had just moved in too. We had a power cut and the landlord didn’t seem to want to fix it in a rush so I was showering at work. Happened to speak to a random colleague about my situation who asked to come and see my studio.

It turns out that I had a rogue landlord who was on the watch list with the local council. He didn’t have planning permission to convert the apartment above the shop in to two studios and so EHO came out to basically force him to convert everything back to the way it was and I had to leave immediately. That wasn’t a fun time, I’d spent all my savings at the time on my deposit, rent in advance and then furnished it too. It was scary to find out how many different regulations he had ignored – my bedroom for example had no fire escape.

Despite all of these awful anecdotes I have had some wonderful experiences too. When things go wrong it’s always great to have a landlord you can rely on to fix things in a timely manner and not be scared to approach. I’ve had water leaks in two homes and those caused no end of trouble. My landlords on both occasions had everything covered with their insurance. I’ve called them in the middle of the night with a problem and had them send out a contractor within an hour to fix my boiler and then decide to replace the whole thing as their insurance covered it for them.

Luckily now a lot more regulations are in place compared to my student days such as deposit schemes and limits to how much rent in advance you have to pay. Ad long as you’re thorough and check that everything is in order, and you’re comfortable with signing a contract then there’s no reason for things to go quickly South, as long as a you’re a good tenant and don’t ruin walls with blu tac that is.

Curl up with a book this summer

(Books provided by Nosy Crow for the purposes of review)

We have had a wonderful couple of weeks filled with glorious sunshine, and it’s been great to enjoy the weather, I often write about our adventures when we get out and about but sometimes you need a day at home, especially on days like today when there’s a storm blowing outside. It’s always a great idea to have some indoor activities up your sleeve and there’s nothing better than curling up in the book corner for a moment of calm. These new books are available from Nosy Crow now.

We received this bundle of four stories from Nosy Crow and have been enjoying these at bedtime for the past week or so, reading them over and over again because that’s what Arlo likes to do, so that eventually he picks up the story for himself and likes to sit and read independently to the cat or his variety of teddies.

Ruffles and the teeny tiny kittens £9.99

Mousey our new kitten arrived suddenly one day, we had a call that some building contractors had found her in an empty house and she was totally alone, so of course we took her in and Arlo has had to adapt to life with a kitten very quickly. He’s very gentle with animals but our adult cats steer clear of this four year old whirlwind and so having a teeny tiny kitten wanting to follow him around the house and play all day, is a learning curve. This story by David Melling from the Ruffles series arrived at just the right time and together we’re figuring out how to get along.

The cat the rat and the hat £6.99

This paperback book is a delight for helping with word recognition and phonics – we have nailed the “at” sound now with so many repetitions. Arlo has been in hysterics with this one as I read it as fast as I possibly can getting tongue tied in the process. From Em Lynas and Matt Hunt, just like all Nosy Crow paperbacks this comes along with a stories aloud recording – a simple scan of the QR code and I can play the audio book out loud for Arlo to enjoy independently. I love how vibrant and eclectic the illustrations are in this book too.

When a dragon meets Baby £6.99

This story from Caryl Hart and Rosalind Beardshaw is all about a dragon who meets his newborn sibling for the first time, so I would highly recommend this to parents currently expecting and trying to figure out how to adjust their older child to the idea of a new baby in the House – especially if they think dragons are the best thing since sliced bread. I don’t have any plans here for another one but we’re going to be able to finally meet a lot of our friends and their new babies this summer for the first time and it’s great to prepare Arlo on how to set a good example, be helpful and to get excited about being around babies.

This is not a Unicorn £6.99

Our last book in this collection to review is by Barry Timms and Ged Adamson. Unicorns seem to be more than a craze and they’re simply everywhere – Arlo loves them but more often than not they’re gender stereotyped to pink and glittery products so it’s fabulous to see a unicorn in a book who can do all manner of things, but most of all this (not a) unicorn teaches us about friendship. The illustrations in this story are full of detail to explore and every page tells its own story provoking lots of discussion so this is a great read.

Hosting an Epic Water Fight this summer

(The toys featured in this blog were provided by Zuru for the purposes of review)

I have been working with Zuru toys over on social media and they have sent us across some epic PR packages. Arlo was delighted to receive the Bunch O Balloons box which was packed full to the brim with all sorts of surprises. Everyone loves a water balloon battle when there’s a heatwave but no one likes inflating the balloons – until now!

The unique feature of Bunch O Balloons has been designed to enable you to inflate water balloons in seconds. Each bunch comes with dozens of Ballons and a screw cap which you attach to your hosepipe. Simply turn the water on and watch them expand before your very eyes.

Bunch O Balloons are available to purchase from supermarkets, toy shops and on Amazon in a variety of different formats and colour options. The best thing about these is they are made from 100% recycled plastic and are also recyclable too.

We had so much fun setting up our battle stations, filling up buckets with water balloons ready for a big splash – our Top Tip is to add a little bit of water to the container you use which helps the balloons to inflate and drop off their stems smoothly. Of course it’s optional for you to sit in the bucket too.

I’m not quite sure who won round one, in the end I stopped taking pictures, kicked off my flip flops and joined in with the kids, which was utter chaos but so much fun. I’d hidden washing up bowls full of balloons behind the shed and bench to surprise them and the kids were also able to top up their own stashes, until we eventually called a truce.

Luckily this heatwave has been sticking around and so we had the chance to up our game with these water blasters which are just as fabulous, and the play lasts even longer because these blasters refill with water in seconds and so as long as you have a water source you can play until it’s bedtime!

Zuru sent us out a box featuring six blasters, including three different kinds and so I invited the cousins and nanny along to the park for a battle to end all battles and it’s safe to say that there’s a blaster in this range for everyone.

The intuitive refill system took us no time at all to figure out, each blaster has a button/switch which you press to release a watertight cap and then submerge the hole in water to refill instantaneously. The entire process takes a second, as claimed on the packaging and this delighted the little ones who usually have to ask for help with water refills on fiddly toys.

We had an hour of running around in the park and running back and forth to the stream to refill. We swapped and shared the blasters to try out the different sizes and surprisingly Paloma and Arlo seemed to really get along with the water warfare blaster which was the biggest in the box. The older boys kindly conceded them the first choice of weapon which I think they later regretted because Paloma was fearsome!

I think she liked this best because it had the longest range, water was blasting over 30ft away so she was a safe distance away from the boys and managed to avoid getting soaked in return until she decided to run a campaign through the stream with Arlo. I think they worked really well together as a team, inventing their own tactics before turning the water on to me!

Nanny was also a fan of the warfare blaster and employed some great tactics attempting to defend the stream water source but when the kids decided it was four against one she stood no chance and was surrounded from all sides. Paloma and Arlo were also just as happy to test out the Smaller X shot fast fill which also had an over 30ft range – and we launched streams of water across the stream to put this claim to the test.

In the end it was every man and woman for themselves, and once everyone got soaked we called a truce and head across the park to nanny’s house for supper – what a way to finish the weekend! The kids are already planning summer holiday trips to local parks with streams for another epic battle.

For your chance to win an awesome Xshot blaster set including six blasters from Zuru Toys then enter our giveaway here or click the image below. Competition closes at midnight on 14th August.

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Thai in the city – Rosa’s Thai Birmingham review

Rosa’s Thai kindly invited me along to sample their menu and so I asked my mum to join me so that we could be “ladies who lunch” and we took ourselves in to the city centre. Rosa’s Thai is situated in Chamberlain Square, and I have to admit it’s been a while since I ventured in to the city and so I was slightly disorientated at first. If you’re a Brummie then you’ll know what I mean when I say it’s located where the old library used to be. This redeveloped location is thriving and Rosa’s was experiencing a busy lunch time service, which is no surprise given their express lunch two course offer and the quality of the food.

We were warmly welcomed and offered a choice of tables, eventually opting for a booth, and then spent some time pouring over the menu. We ordered Thai iced teas and the pumpkin crackers to enjoy whilst we decided. If you’ve been reading my recent food blogs you’ll know I’m a huge fan of small plates and starters and so we really went to town with these. Summer rolls, sweetcorn cakes and Satay Chicken all sounded mouthwatering and so we ordered them all and were delighted with the portion size, having four on each plate meant we could share everything.

The sweetcorn cakes were the favourite – absolutely bursting with flavour, subtly seasoned with kaffir lime leaves and red curry paste. Not too spicy and incredibly moorish. The chicken skewers were tender and the summer rolls as fresh as you can get. Each starter came with generous amounts of dipping sauces too and these were a sheet delight to experience. I want to come back if only to try the other starters on the menu.

The team at Rosa’s created a relaxing dining environment, extremely friendly and proud to share information about all of the dishes on the menu, I always ask for advice because I have so much difficulty choosing when everything on the menu sounds amazing, and because I’m trying to be healthy at the moment I eventually opted for a salad and added the pork skewers whilst mum opted for the butternut squash curry. It’s great to see so many vegetarian and vegan options on the menu which have been given just as much thought as the meat dishes.

Mum ordered steamed coconut rice to try with the curry and this worked well, packed full to the brim with chunky vegetables all cooked to perfection and with a great balance with the addition of chilli – you can ask to tone this down if you’re not a fan of the heat.

My salad packed a real punch when it came to the heat, and I’m obsessed with the cashew nuts. These need to be packaged for sale as a snack because they were so delicious. This dish was served with sticky rice which had a nutty flavour which was moorish too. I have to say the Tamarind dipping sauce which accompanied the pork was my favourite thing about this plate, I had to pour the entire bowl over my skewers and savour every mouthful. I adore coriander and this made my day.

Thank you to Chef Saiphin, affectionally known as Rosa, the founder of Rosa’s Thai – born in Thailand and raised in the East End this brand was established on the site of a popular east end “caff” and out of respect for its previous owner (and not being able to afford a new sign) they kept the brand name and made it what it is today. The passion for food shines through every single mouthful of food we had the opportunity to taste today and I’m delighted to be able to explore the website to find out how to attempt to cook Thai food myself at home with Rosa’s recipes . There’s absolutely no substitute for this authentic cuisine and I highly recommend a visit – perhaps we will see you there?

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Create your own sunshine – craft projects with sunflower SVG’s.

Our favourite local sunflower field is due to open very soon at Becketts Farm. I’m so excited to revisit that I wanted to share some creative projects using sunflowers as inspiration with you. Of course the first thing I always get to work on for any special up occasion is a custom tee shirt for Arlo so that he is always dressed for the occasion – this funky “hello little sunshine” tee was designed using Sunflower SVG’s.

This was actually really simple to create, by layering an SVG over a paint swatch texture. This is my signature style as I love the textured effect of the paint behind the black outline of the flower, which creates a great contrast and a unique design. I use editing software to adjust the colours, using a dropper tool to sample colours from photographs of real flowers, then taking another paint swatch shape for the centre flower. I went lighter with this to make sure the flower outline wasn’t lost. Wrapping a quote around the lower edge of image in a script font completed the design. I then used a sublimation printing technique to apply this design to the t shirt.

There’s just something about sunflowers which makes everyone happy, and inspire lots of creative ideas which you can try out at home this summer when crafting or maybe even consider adding to your own small business repertoire as Design Bundles downloads are also licensed for commercial use.

I love getting Arlo involved in creative projects and so this little messy play activity was great fun – we had our sunflowers for observational drawing and decided to use toilet roll tubes squished to form petal shapes and stamped them in paint to create sunflower mandalas together. These sunflowers were grown by us from seed over lockdown in the garden and we’re hoping that we have even more success this year with our plants. I’ve been using SVG’s as printables and using them as colouring in sheets for Arlo, and myself too – colouring in mandalas is so relaxing.

It’s easy to add a little touch of sunshine to craft projects – this layered gift tag is a great way to add a splash of colour, using a simple SVG to cut textured paper, yellow for the petals and then a brown for the circle representing the seeds and simply glue them in to place on a swing tag. I often cut my own swing tags out too using another SVG. Adding a ribbon bow or using raffia can create a rustic look. This is a great first project for the Cricut or Silhouette to try out at home and once you get started you’ll be looking for items you can customise all over.

If you fancy being a little extra (and you know we are all about that in this house) then you can use an SVG to cut out a 3D sunflower with all of its petals. If you have the patience you can resize a sunflower SVG – make them tiny to add as card or tag embellishments or you can go big. Try sizing up the SVG’s to as big as your machine can handle and make a huge flower, adding a splash of colour to your home, maybe a in a nursery, or create your own eye catching decorations. Putting lots of these together can create an eye catching backdrop for a birthday party.