Center Parcs Woburn review

I’ve said it before – Center Parcs is a Parents Paradise.  Everything is set up with little ones in mind. I mean, everything.

I ain’t going to lie though – it’s expensive.  One week at Center Parcs easily equals a week’s holiday in the sun somewhere abroad.  Coming to, and in some degree, staying at Center Parcs is expensive.

But I guess this is where you’ll have to ponder the pros and cons and decide what’s important for you.

We stayed for a week during the Easter Holidays.  We had to queue to check in this time but it was generally smooth and straightforward.  It was tricky to find a parking space as it was absolutely rammed but we got there in the end.

The park itself is lovely and the perfect size. Big enough to not feel on top of other people, but you can easily get everywhere on foot.

We stayed in an Executive Dog friendly lodge in the Oak area, close to the Aqua Sana.

The Accommodation

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Our digs.

We loved our lodge. It was clean and fresh and it had all the amenities you could think of. Bring extra washing up liquid and dishwasher tablets though! They don’t give you enough initially. Also, if you’re staying a week, and is a coffee lover like us, then I suggest you bring some spare coffee pods for the Nespresso machine.

Our lodge was adapted for dogs but you’d never really know – it was really super clean and didn’t smell of dog at all.

We had a two bed lodge this time and it felt very spacious. Each room had an ensuite; one with a shower and one with a jacuzzi bath. The two older kids shared a room and loved it!

There’s an outside area with table and chairs and a BBQ.

The kitchen area was great. Really clean and it had pretty much everything you need for cooking for the family. There is a wine cooler which is a bonus.  The freezer is TINY, like a freezer compartment – keep that in mind if you’re bringing food from home.

Not that you need to bring lots of food. I would say bring food for the first night (unless you’re planning to eat out every night) and then top up from the local Parc Market if necessary.  It’s a great little shop and has a great variety of products.

What To Do

Honestly, Centre Parcs Woburn has so much to offer. There are loads of outside activities. Boating on the lake, riding your bike everywhere (though it’s quite hilly!), feeding the ducks in the lake, crazy golf, go for a play in the numerous play areas or just go for a walk – you are spoilt for choice!

We brought our bikes and it really worked well for us. Yes, it’s hilly, but our older kids really enjoyed the experience. We learned our lesson from last year and had bought a bike trailer for Maggie and Alife to chill in.  (You can find some really nice second hand ones on eBay)

You can pay to do activities too. Jackson, Kiri and Brooks headed to the Falconry Centre for an hour with the big birds. It was an amazing experience; the bird handler really took the time to explain and show how to handle the birds.

Maggie and Oscar the Owl

We did Aqua jetting again as well as Archery, Climbing, Pottery, Ballet Class, Teddy Bear Making, Maggie and I met the gorgeous Owls.

Swimming

But the main focus was the Subtropical Swimming Paradise. The kids, and grown-ups loved it here.

There are different zones or splash areas depending on your age and something to suit everyone. The big boys loved the Rapids in particular and the wave pool.

Maggie and Alfie loved the smaller splash area and grew more and more confident in the water each day.

I’ve said it before – there isn’t an actual pool for swimming which is a real shame.

We learned our lesson from last year and so we hired a Cabana to stay in.  It’s pricey, but definitely worth it for a welcomed break in the day – particularly if you have a baby or toddler. (Or just need a nap in the middle of the day!)  There’s a fan, cold drinks (you get a mini fridge), comfy chairs and a TV.  It’s like your very own little beach hut.

In terms of food and drink there’s a Starbucks and Monty’s serving pizza, hot dogs and burger. Not gourmet food but absolutely fine and kids were very happy.

Food

Sarah and LEON, sittin’ in a tree…

We (okay me and my friend Sarah) fell in love with Leon’s and we had a take away pretty much every day.  Loved everything about it. The food is right up our street. We didn’t dine out this stay because, you know, three kids.  We used the Parc Market more and cooked at home every night.

Aqua Sana

The Star performer overall again was Aqua Sana Spa. WORTH. EVERY. DAMN. PENNY. You leave the place feeling really refreshed and rejuvenated. Bliss.

There are these comfy sofas on the sunlit roof terrace overlooking Center Parcs and initially we thought “maybe a bit boring” but no. We snuggled in lapping up the rays and woke up 40 minutes later.  I had a lovely manicure too – what a treat!

Wonderful staff, wonderful Spa area – just perfect.

General

I felt so relaxed.  Like I’ve not felt that relaxed in a long time – so happy and content. Of course there were some hiccups, but in general it was all pretty awesome.

We’ll be back.

Pro’s:

  • For us, not having to take the kids anywhere abroad on an airplane was a big bonus.
  • It’s only a 40 minute drive from our house. Anything that saves travel time is a blessing in this house
  • We could bring Buddy the dog
  • There are LOADS of child and toddler activities. All three of our kids would be catered for.
  • It’s safe and fairly contained. We could let the kids out and play and they were free (within reason obvs) to run around on their own.
  • We travelled with friends who stayed in the lodge opposite us. This made such a difference as kids and adults alike always had mates to hang out with and we could all split up at times to do different activities.
  • The Tropical Swimming was a HUGE hit with our kids. We went here every day.  It’s also free. (Yay)
  • No cars are allowed in the village so the kids got to practice their bike riding skills in a safe environment. Having our bikes also meant we all got some exercise every day riding up those steep hills!
  • The lodges were immaculately cleaned every day.
  • Staff are generally incredibly lovely and accommodating.
  • The Aqua Sana Spa is outstanding. You’ll leave floating on clouds.
  • There are loads of restaurants and take away places to choose from – or make food at home!
  • The Supermarket onsite is great and has pretty much everything you need. You can also leave the site and head to Tesco’s down the road.
  • The wine cooler.

Con’s:

  • It IS expensive. And everything on site is expensive. Captive market and all that.  It’s just what it is.
  • Staff are very young. I felt like the place was run by teenagers.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, just a bit odd.  Some lacked experiences generally.
  • It’s very steep and hilly – not ideal for little ones on bikes
  • They really need to invest in a proper pool area for swimming
  • The freezer and fridge are tiny, especially if you’re a large family of five.  Bring a lot of cupboard ingredients and top up during the week
  • They were really slow at service – prepare to wait in queue for your food.
Squad. 

 

 

 

Three is the magic number

Do you have two kids but still have that niggling feeling in your stomach that you’re not quite done?

Do you miss those little butterflies turning into little kicks as your baby grows inside you?

Oh and the baby smell?

Yeah. I hear you. I know because I felt it too. My husband and I talked about it a lot. I told him early on that I’d like a big family.

I’m one of a three and for me it’s the natural set up. With three you’re never lonely; you always have someone who’ll play with you. You can and will learn from your older and younger siblings. Our household was sometimes (often!) crazy and hectic but ultimately very happy. Brooks had a more traditional upbringing (whatever that means?) with one sibling but he was open to the idea of us having a big family.

Question Time:

“So what’s it like having three?”

People ask me this all the time. Well, it’s hard to give a straight answer but here are some of my musings…

1. You’ll be Busy

Yes. You’ll be busy. Always. From now on, just assume you’ll be busy.

(Of course, at the moment it’s also full on as baby Alfie needs our undivided attention with nappy changes and napping and feeding but our other two are a bit more independent. But still, there is Ballet, football practice, guitar lessons, piano lessons, play dates, tennis, TaeKwon-do, Baby Sign class, jabs, Parent evenings, Carol concerts, Nativities, drama performances, dance recitals…. The list is endless.)

2. Friends

If you didn’t know who your friends were before three kids, you definitely will after. You’ll need help with dropping and picking up from school, moral support, pep talks, wine outings and cake sharing… it takes a village and all that!

3. Money Money Money

Makes the world go round right? Yep. There’s a financial impact. You need one more of everything. More food. More clothes. One more room in your hotel on holiday. You’ll need a bigger car. We got a seven seater in order to get the brood around.

We also needed more room in the house. We recently made our attic into two rooms and bathroom and it’s been a lifesaver.

4. I got this.

The main difference I notice in myself is my confidence. I know what I’m doing and people generally leave me to it. Yes, I still get the unsolicited help but it just doesn’t bother me in the same way. It’s hard one to explain, but i feel like a super mum.

5. Pass the coffee

You’ll be tired. Oh so tired. I didn’t realise I could be this tired. But it’s okay, you KNOW it’s just a stage and the kids will grow up and you’ll have other wonderful oddities to battle. Remember, you’ve got this.

6. A messy kitchen is a sign of happiness

Yeah. This one. Just resign yourself to the fact that your house will never be tidy until they’re at least twenty. One part of your house will be squeaky clean and then the children arrive and it’s back to square one. But as they grow they’ll learn to tidy up more. Swings and roundabouts.

7. Washing you say?

Invest in a good Washing Machine, a good Tumble dryer and a large dining/kitchen table that could hold a lot of clothing/washing and a lot of sorting clothes baskets. That’s all I’m going to say on this one.

8. All the love

You’ll feel at the end of your tether, everything’s gone wrong and then suddenly you’ll have three little ones snuggled up in bed with you and all is good in this world.

So yeah. Not an easy decision. After much deliberation my husband and I decided that we would try for number three.

Whilst we feel tired, (oh so tired), skint, stressed and confused at times it’s by far the best decision we ever made. We have all the love and are complete, happy and fulfilled.

Love,

Jess ❤️

Travel Review – Swiss Farm Henley

Travelling with kids – Camping…

I know. Why would you voluntarily put yourself, and your whole family, in a tent for the weekend?

Not only that – but you’d bring all your friends along too! (though good thing obviously!) And a dog!

We’ve been going camping since Jackson was in Reception with a few of his school friends and we always have a blast. It’s a firm favourite of ours and we always look forward to it every year.

The kids play and parents get to chill, drink wine, eat and catch up.

The Girls

We normally have a BBQ and make s’mores, (also firm favourite!) and we all and chip in and share food and snacks. It’s beautiful.

It’s completely stripped back, with all our focus firmly on our kids.

TENT

We have a fantastic bell tent that we bought from Soulpad a few years back. I can’t recommend this tent enough. It comfortably fits us all (2 adults, 3 kids and a dog), all our gear and food. It’s relatively cool in the day time and warm at night. Check out the website – I promise it’s worth every penny.

Inside our Bell Tent

This year we decided to head to Swiss Farm in Henley and boy – it was fabulous. It’s a great camp site! I completely understand the hype now. Staff are so helpful and nice from the get go at reception. We stayed in a deluxe pitch (with electrical point, park bench and water point close by) and it was well worth the extra. We had so much space! The site is very well looked after too – everything is super clean and accessible. The showers and toilets were fantastic, and easy to find. Again, really fresh and super clean.

Blue Skies

We loved the pool area. We were lucky (?) to travel here during the heat wave so the water was a welcomed break. I don’t know how well I would have coped inside the tent when the sun was blazing down on us. Buddy the dog could come to the restaurant next door to the pool and this was a life saver. It meant one of us could sit and have a coffee with the dog whilst the rest of the gang went for a swim. But it also meant that he could come with us when we went for a beautiful cooked breakfast in the morning!

The only gripe was that people were putting towels out in the morning session to save sun loungers in the pool area. I mean… Really?

Mags.

Some of the families left their towels on the sun loungers, then kept popping out for lunch and later dinner – making those sun loungers out of action in between… Anyway. I was desperate to get an umbrella for the baby and my porcelain skinned children! Next year I will bring my own umbrella.

We had dinner in the restaurant twice and it was really nice. I can really recommend a visit here if fancy a break away from the usual camping food. Order the fish and chips – it’s amazing! Followed by any of the breakfast dishes. You’ll thank me later!

Eggs Benedict. Beautiful.

The staff are so friendly and service minded. Always smiling. They can’t do enough for you. Our food order got mixed up twice, but they were quick to rectify the problem.

The Gang

Livermore Top Tips:

  1. Bring your own pool umbrella. No joke.
  2. They’re meant to operate a “one session per day system” whereby you can use the pool for one particular 2 1/2 hour session only, but this wasn’t in place when we where there so the pool was rammed. I reckon head for the early slot if you fancy a swim with little ones.
  3. Head into Henley if you fancy a change of scenery. It’s gorgeous.
  4. Check the calendar before you head here. There was some sort of music festival in Henley when we stayed and the music was SO LOUD. We didn’t sleep.
  5. There is so much for the kids to do here. Playgrounds, swings, walks through the woods, the pool. You’ll be spoiled for choice
Erika and Karen
Sunkissed.

Be Kind. Always.

The flight home from our holiday was…. interesting. A wee bit challenging. 

Okay.  I’m just going to say it – it was pretty awful. 

Alfie had picked up a cold on our last day (but, of course) and so he was feeling a bit under the weather. And he’d started teething again.   Hello Molars! 

And then we had the delightful flight delay at Tenerife airport (thanks TUI) for no apparent reason, which every parent dreads anyway. 

I could feel that Alfie was getting anxious before we’d even got to sit down in our seats.  It then transpires that Alfie was only allowed to sit on the left hand side of the plane. (Whaaa?) 

I was seated on the right, with the other kids. Brooks was sat across the aisle on the left.

We find that it’s better for all the kids to be sat together and the other adult across the row and we sort of tag team.  

Jackson always helps with Alfie, and Maggie to be fair, and it seems to work well. And he settles better with mummy at the moment.  

But I digress. 

Luckily, the kind lady and her son next to Brooks agreed to swap seats.  

But Alfie was already wriggling and as the plane took off, so did he. He screamed for a good 10 minutes. And I mean – he screamed like only a teething/ear-aching baby can. 

Then he fell asleep for an hour and seemed a bit perkier but then the screaming started again as we started our descent into Gatwick.  

I tried everything. Feeding him, cuddling him, distracting him. Nothing worked. Thinking about his cold, it must have been his ears. 

Normally, you would get a few passive aggressive sighs and angry stares from other passengers – but not this time. 

There was so much kindness. So much understanding. Honestly, I was surprised and really touched by how wonderful our fellow passengers were. It must have been a tricky flight for them too, but rather than huffing and puffing, they showed their solidarity. 

One older lady passed me a fan to try and cool him off, another woman in the row behind us put her hand on my shoulder, smiled and said: “We’ve all been there honey. Don’t worry”. 

As soon as we touched down in London Alfie stopped crying and we made it home, tired but happy.

Travelling with kids is challenging, no matter how many kids you have. Parenting  is hard. 

Feeling the support from our fellow passengers on the plane made the trip bearable and definitely reignited my faith in humanity again. 

As the saying goes:

“Be kind; you never know what someone else is going through.” 

I caught the travelling bug when I was eight

Traveling with kids – the airplane edition

Our oldest is a seasoned traveller after years of commuting between Sweden and U.K.  For him, flying has become second nature and he doesn’t bat an eyelid nowadays. He always behaves in an exemplary manner. 

I’m joking obviously. 

Jackson

He’s a child.

They will always try and throw you a curve ball or eight.  You know, to keep you on you your toes. 

I remember the first time I went on a plane. I was eight years old and we were flying to London, our first holiday as a family.  

Travelling anywhere with my family was always a challenge.  You see, my parents are complete polar opposites.

Mum worries about EVERYTHING and has to be at the airport at least four hours before take off. She’ll have her bags packed at least a week in advance. 

My dad, on the other hand, well, he is never in a hurry and would probably arrive five minutes before boarding if he got his way. 

Let’s just say this is a recipe for disaster/interesting family time.

I got the travelling bug right away. 

I loved watching all the people rushing round to different destinations, the cabin crew – so sleek and professional, and feeling the plane take off into the clouds for the first time, watching Arlanda disappear 

Nowadays, the novelty of flying has worn off somewhat.

I’ve flown with many airlines to all kinds of destinations – both for work and leisure.  

I’ve had good trips and awful trips. I’ve been on long flights and short flights. I’ve missed flights and slept on an airport floor.  (Yes, really). 

Although I’ve had so many experiences with airplane travel,  some things are a constant.

I’m sure most of you will know these things already, but here’s a list of a few things we’ve picked up along the way.

Livermore’s Top Tips:

  1. People will always rush to board the plane. It doesn’t matter whether you fly short or long haul, budget or premium – we all want to get on that flight prontissimo.  You either join them or sit down and wait in protest.  Or you book first class and sail by the queue – up to you and your budget.  We’ll all end up on the same plane after all. 
  2. Boarding sequence is a weird one but generally speaking, if you have seats at the front or the very back you’ll either be boarding first and off first – or on first, off last. (Again, unless you fly Business or First Class) 
  3. Buy your snacks and food before flying. It’ll be nicer and cheaper.  Everyone does it so don’t worry about what’s etiquette. 
  4. Having said that, recently we’ve had some very meals with SAS and Tui respectively. I think airlines are upping their game! 
  5. Prepare for the unexpected. When we flew to Tenerife the cabin crew suddenly announced that we would be landing in Agadir, Morocco to drop off some crew. (I’m not kidding!) Bring extra nappies, babymilk, wipes, spare clothes and board games.
  6. Invest in a good power bank. An iPad is your best friend on long flights. You want it fully charged!
  7. I’ve said it before – headphone splitters. They will save many fights – err, I mean flights, in the future.
  8. I screen shot all the booking emails (parking, tickets, airplane lounges, car hire etc, etc) and the inside of the passport and then save into an album on my phone. That way I have all the info I need at hand in case the hard copies go awol and I don’t need to sift through numerous emails. 
  9. Most airline check ins can also be done really easily via an app.
  10. Team tag your luggage. If you’re like the majority of the population then you most likely own a black, red or navy suitcase.  (Unless you’re like me and love pink and purple coloured bags!) 
  11. We bring a refillable bottle and take through security. You can fill them up on the other side for free! 
  12. Another thing we do is to have a case for all our cables/chargers. That way, they’re all in one place and easy to access on the plane or once you’re at your destination. 

Happy Travels!

My flowery suitcase

Love, Jess

How to make Spooky Halloween Brownies

Being a Swenglish family we have the luxury to mix, amend, borrow and sometimes create a lot of our holidays. We can chose the things we like and make them into our own family tradition. 

For example, we celebrate traditional

Swedish holidays like Lucia and Midsummer, we have a Crayfish party in August, and an annual Eurovision party in May. 

We have a little mini Swedish Christmas on the 24th of December with the Christmas ham and Jansson’s but our Christmas is on the 25th.  

We celebrate Bonfire night, “Mys” on a Friday and generally have a roast every Sunday. 

We join the hordes of other revellers in park on a Bank holiday. (Even if it rains!) 

It made me think though. Other than Easter and a Royal Wedding – what other British holidays are there? 

Anyway. It’s lovely to pick and choose really. The best of both worlds!

We’ve also borrowed from our cousins overseas and have totally embraced Halloween.

The best Halloween I ever experienced was when I lived in Illinois in the nineties, but that’s a story for another day. 

This year we’re in Tenerife, Spain on holiday over Halloween and so it has been a very different experience. 

Believe Hotel Halloween Entertainment Schedule

The hotel we’re staying in have gone full out, with tons of decorations and dress up opportunities and lots of different activities everyday so the kids (and grownups) will get the full Halloween experience! 

Apparently their Casa del Terror is meant to be be really scary…. We’ll send Brooks to trial and review it on Wednesday.  

For me, one of the awesome parts of Halloween is all the fun Halloween theme food you can serve – and eat! 

Before we left England the kids and I made some spooky brownies. They’re super easy to make and so tasty. Kids and grownup alike will love these!  

This is the recipe we used…

You’ll need:

2 bowls 

1 microwave safe bowl

Small pan

20 square tin 

Baking parchment 

Edible eyes (sugar craft) 

4 large eggs

250g unsalted butter

200g good quality cocoa powder

300g caster sugar 

300g flour 

Pinch of salt 

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract 

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder 

50g white chocolate and 50g dark  chocolate

Marshmallows (we used the extra big fluffy kind and used about 5) 

  1. Preheat you oven to 175°. We used a 20cm square tin for this. (It depends on the consistency you’re after. If you use a smaller tin your batter will be more gooey, if using a bigger tin, the batter will be crispy). Add some baking parchment to stop it from sticking to the bottom.
  2. Meanwhile, cut up your white and dark chocolate into chunks. You’ll use these later once the brownie isbaked. 
  3. Melt the butter and stir in the cocoa powder. 
  4. In a different bowl mix together eggs and sugar. Once mixed, fold in the dry ingredients adding the flour and baking powder last.  
  5. Tip you batter into the tin and spread out evenly.
  6. Add you white and dark chocolate chunks to the batter.
  7. Put your mixture into the oven and cook for about 20 -25 minutes. 
  8. Let your brownies cool.
  9. Once cooled, put your marshmallow into a microwave safe bowl and melt for about 30 seconds a go. You want it really sticky and gooey.
  10. Take your marshmallow mess and this is the tricky sticky part.
  11. Word of advice: You’ll have to work fast with this one as the mixture will cool and harden quickly. Dip your fingers into the marshmallow mixture and carefully pull strings over the brownie, effectively making a web like patter. Keep adding more and more marshmallow strings. 
  12. Add your edible eyes 
  13. Now it’s ready to be served whole as a cake, or cut into individual squares.


Holy Mackerel – Alfie’s Party

Holy mackerel. What a party! 💙 Today we celebrated Alfie with lots of our family and friends. 

As usual I was running around all over, (#threekids) but we all had such a lovely time.  The kids had decided we should have a Under the Sea theme. 

I love a party theme.

To be fair, I love a party. In fact, if you know me well you’ll know not only do I love a party, but I particularly organising and planning a party. Any kind of party! 

The morning was spent sorting out the party food and decorations. 

Ocean Blue Scallop square dish
Ocean Blue Scallop dish

Honeycomb decorations
Honeycomb and Fan decorations

 

 

I got most of the decorations and balloons from eBay and some of the helium balloons from Morrison’s. Their party section really is excellent and good value too. 

I’m in love with these honeycomb decorations. And you can order a set in a colour scheme which is so handy too. I chose blue green and then bought some Aqua blue shade fans to go with it. 

We put popcorn in little buckets and added a sprinkle of mermaid glitter. 

Popcorn in a bucket y’all
Mermaid sprinkles. What’s not to love?
A banner just for Alfred

We had personalised Alfred banners and Blue 1st birthday balloons. (You can never have too many balloons in my mind) 

I love serving salads at parties as it’s simple to make for big numbers and easy to individualise by adding a few ingredients here and there. 

Also. Salads mean I can have lots of cake for dessert. Win – win.

Today was no different and this is one of the salads on the party smorgasbord.  

Roasted pumpkin and sweet potato salad

This super yummy (and healthy!) salad is made up with green leaves, spinach, roasted pumpkin, roasted sweet potatoes, walnuts and pomegranate. 

Drizzle some balsamic glaze over and you’ll be all set. 

Another popular salad is a broccoli coleslaw salad with roasted cashew nuts and dried cranberries from Costco. It’s simply divine and a firm staple on all our party tables.  

Sandwich cutter – dolphins and ❤️

As well as some good old sausage rolls I also made ham and cheese sandwiches in the shape of dolphins for the kids that all went down very well. 

Under the Sea Quiz. Kept the adults busy for ages – result

Alfred’s granny had made all the cakes and they looked and tasted amazing!

Cupcake Fish Cake
Vanilla sponge cake
Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla icing and edible sea creatures on top

And how about this weather we’re having?!We were sitting outside, in the sunshine, whilst the kids were running around playing in the garden in October!

We couldn’t have asked for a better set up. 

That sky…

Now it’s time to put my feet up, have some bubbles and catch up on Strictly. Happy Saturday everyone!