Luxury Chocolate Workshop with Red Letter Days – Review

*****Warning – this post contains the word ‘chocolate’*****

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A couple of weeks ago I was invited along to a chocolate making and tasting workshop by Red Letter Days at My Chocolate. The event was being held at My Chocolate Shoreditch, London. Although, they do have other venues available in London, Brighton and Manchester.

The workshop was ran by two chocolate connoisseurs, one who did all of the demonstrating and one who was preparing the chocolate and utensils for us chocoholics to use on our chocolate making.

I arrived fashionably late due to travel problems, so when by the time I had arrived they were already 20 minutes into the first part of the evening, which was preparing your very own indulgent chocolate martini. I was greeted at the door and was directed to the sink where I washed my hands first and then shown to a table where a few of the other attendees had already began creating the martinis. I believe that were shown a technique called ‘wagging the tail’ where they used a spoon to drizzle melted chocolate over the martini glass to decorate it before mixing up the chocolate vodka in a shaker.

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It tastes as nice as it looked. Very much like Irish Cream. They were creamy, rich and one could definitely drink one after another. What a treat! Very much-needed after the train journey I had just encountered. The smell of indulgent chocolate wafted around the room

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Whilst we gulped sipped at our chocolate cocktails, we all stood around the demonstration desk and watched how to make our very own oil infused large chocolate button.

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We was guided on how to place the chocolate onto the paper and how to infuse it with flavoured oil.  The chocolatiers made a huge milk chocolate heart decorated with dark chocolate, using the ‘wagging the tail’ technique again and then using the other end of the spoon to create a marble effect. The expert made it look so easy!

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Back to the tables we went, ready to create our own masterpiece. I chose to make a four-leaf clover and infused it with lemongrass oil. The oil is very strong and only a couple of drops is needed to add the taste to the chocolate. It was very hard, but I resisted, not to lick the spoon, as we was going to be using them again to do the marbling

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I chose dark chocolate, as that is my favourite – the darker the better! The marbling wasn’t as easy as it looked. I think my finished button looked a bit like a toddlers drawing rather than an exquisite chocolate, it was definitely authentic and handmade.

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By now, the only evidence of our chocolate vodkas was the empty glasses on the table. They were soon replaced with a glass of prosecco.

Once we had made our chocolate slab, we was ready to move on to the next part of the workshop, Truffle making. Now I have attempted to make truffles at home before as presents for the children’s teachers and they were a nightmare to make, I had cocoa all over me. So, I was looking forward to this part of the workshop to find out where I went wrong.

We was shown how to make them first by the expert chocolatiers and a helper from the other attendees and then we was sent back to our tables. For this part of the workshop we had to get into pairs.

Firstly you mix the chocolate with double cream, stirring it quite rigorously until it starts to set and become thicker – this is your Ganache. Then you place it into a piping bag ready to pipe out little chocolate slugs or wizard hats on the parchment paper. Once all of the ganache has finished, you wait for them harden.

This part of the workshop brought lots of giggles to the table as we quickly became aware that out little chocolate ganache slugs looked more like little emoji poops. Although, It didn’t matter what they looked like at this point as they were soon to be moulded into truffles.

Once we got the hang of how to hold and pipe the bag, it was quite easy.

And once they were all done, our glasses got topped up by the very nice lady at My Chocolate with Yet more prosecco

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The evening was definitely activating our tastes buds – chocolate and booze!

The chocolatiers tutor was what really made the experience enjoyable, she was fun, humorous, interactive and full of chocolate knowledge.

Whilst we waited for the Ganache to set we was treated to a talk about the history of chocolate and how it is made. We also got to taste 90% chocolate. We was tested on our taste bud knowledge of recognising dark or milk chocolate and taught on how to feel and smell the quality of a chocolate. High quality chocolate should smell strongly of chocolate and the texture should not be gritty or waxy.

The sound that your chocolate makes when snapped is a good indication of the quality of it. Good chocolate has a clean, crisp, sharp snap when broken and milk chocolate tends to bend, because it contains more sugar and milk

After our little fun lesson in chocolate it was time to get dirty with the truffle making. On the tables was a selection of topping to decorate our truffles with; honeycomb, cocoa powder, coconut, salt, raspberry swirls, white chocolate swirls and berry dust.

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This was definitely the time to get creative, release the chocolate demon in you and dig in. First we rolled our ganache into a ball, then coated them in some cacao powder and then dipped them into more chocolate. Before they set I added some of the toppings. Some of our ganaches were a little on the small side so I added two together and at the same time pressed in some raspberry dust and salt into the middle as a surprise when bitten into.

We made quite a mess of our table

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But it was most definitely a sign of a good time. I really enjoyed the whole evening. We got to wrap up our chocolate creations in some cellophane and ribbon to take home. My chocolate goodies didn’t last long once I arrived home as they were eaten by all in the house. the chocolates were mouth-watering and tastes as good as they smelled

The whole experience lasts for about 2 1/2 hours . It’s a great gift for someone who loves chocolate or even as a hen party. I may add that we did not prepare the chocolate- temper it, as that process takes a while. We did the decorating and producing of the truffles, buttons and martini.

Currently priced at £98 for two people on Red Letter Days Website

I was invited along for the purpose of this post, no payment has been received

 

 

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Keeping the Children Busy with Rock Painting Activity

Summer holidays are well and truly here but in Great British style the weather is not! The hot summer days seem to be over now and we are left with windy, rainy days instead. Weather like this makes it hard for us parents to keep the children entertained outdoors, especially when it comes to keeping the budget at a low cost.

Since the children have finished school for the summer we have had pretty crap weather, I don’t want to keep the children indoors (otherwise my house looks like a bomb site) I want to see them outdoors enjoying the time that they have off school, playing with friends and making new ones.

I came across a Facebook page called ‘Love on the rocks uk’. It’s a page where people paint on rocks then hide them for others to find. All they ask of you is to get creative as you want with a rock and some paints and then write on the back “love on the rocks” with the Facebook symbol then hide the rock within your community; a park, forest or a beach promenade. Take a photo of it and share it on Facebook for other rock hunters to find it. Once found, the hope is that people will look up the Facebook page and join in with the fun.

This activity is cheap and fun. Not only are you getting creative but also getting out and about in the great outdoors.

We visited Hanningfield Reservoir in Essex for the Wind in the Willows Trail and whilst we was there we found some rocks to paint on. We took some felt tip pens and sharpies with us. Found a quite spot to sit down at and got drawing

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That’s what is great about this activity it keeps the children busy, it’s fun and they get to explore at the same time.

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The eldest drew a sunset onto his rock, using tippex for the shadow on the sea

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Our little collection of love on the rocks

We found a few spots in Hanningfield to hide them and left them feeling very happy with ourselves, that maybe we can put a smile onto someones face.

Would love to see the face of the child/adult that finds these rocks. They’re not a work of art but they are fun

A shadow of a cat sat in front of a sunset
A shadow of a cat sat in front of a sunset
Love on the rocks written on the back
Love on the rocks written on the back

Why not join in on the fun. Wouldn’t it be fun to spread the love of rocks further afield. I am thinking of hiding some abroad

 

 

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Fruit Shoot Mini Mudder Event comes to Holmbush Estate

Does a little adventure filled with obstacles and Mud sound like Fun?

Tough Mudder invites you to the season ending event at the new venue of Holmbush Estate  to tackle overgrown woodlands, gruelling trails and gritty mud with an event to test the hardiest of Mudders

Tough Mudder is a team-oriented 10-12 mile (18-20 km) obstacle course challenge designed not only to test physical strength but also mental grit. With an innovative course that has inspired more than two and a half million participants worldwide, Tough Mudder is the premier adventure challenge series in the world. In 2016, Tough Mudder events across the UK and around the world feature new and world class obstacles. More than 95% of participants are expected to register as part of a team; to encourage teamwork and camaraderie over competition, the events remain untimed.

An outdoor event for the whole family. Enjoy cheering each other on and be a part of a fabulous event. Making memories as a family.

What’s New for 2016?

  • Tough Mudder Half: Debuting in 2016 is the newest addition to the Tough Mudder family of brands, Tough Mudder Half, a five-mile event format featuring over a dozen signature obstacles – but excluding the fire, ice and electricity elements of the original Tough Mudder events. Debuting at six locations across the UK this season, this new team-oriented event requires less training, making it an accessible yet rewarding challenge for people of all athletic abilities.
  • Brand new obstacles: Participants at the Tough Mudder London South event will take on new obstacles, including “The Block Ness Monster”, where Mudders have to hoist each other over a number of rotating blocks all in waist-deep water. The event will also debut the revamped Pyramid Scheme, back by popular demand, which requires teamwork from friends and strangers, as a human pyramid is the only way up.
  • Legionnaire-Exclusive obstacles: Returning Mudders, known as Legionnaires, get exclusive access to more challenging new upgrades of selected obstacles, including “Rain Man,” a twist on classic water obstacle Cage Crawl, and “Backstabber,” a more demanding and technical version of The Liberator. In addition, Legionnaires will have the option to bypass Electroshock Therapy and instead attempt a high-octane new finish obstacle, Frequent Flyers’ Club, culminating with a leap onto a crash mat from a 15-foot height.
  • Merrell finisher shirts: As global presenting partner for Tough Mudder and Tough Mudder Half events, renowned outdoor footwear and apparel brand Merrell will provide performance finisher t-shirts for all participants.
  • Additionally, all UK events will once again host Fruit Shoot Mini Mudder, a one-mile obstacle course jointly developed by Tough Mudder and Fruit Shoot, the delicious fruit soft drinks brand owned by Britvic PLC. Designed for ages 7-12, Mini Mudder gives kids the opportunity to get muddy, work as a team and experience the thrill of adventure.

To Register:

  • Sign up Those interested in registering for London South and future events before they sell out can check out ToughMudder.co.uk to sign up. Spectator passes and Fruit Shoot Mini Mudder entries are also available for purchase.
  • Do it together 90% of people take part as a team, so get your mates signed up now. There are also corporate event packages for companies and larger organisations.
  • See it for yourself Media participant and spectator passes are available for individuals and teams who wish to experience the event first-hand. Please email mediarequests_uk@toughmudder.com.

Are you ready to get muddy?


 

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Three things to do in Autumn

We love Autumn! The crispness of the leaves under our feet, the Autumn sun beaming down on through the undraped trees. Nothing is better than a walk in a country park or a forest on a cool crisp afternoon.

We have teamed up with 9 other bloggers and Forest Holidays to bring you our top three things to do in Autumn, 30 Days of Autumn project. There are lots of fun things to do in Autumn, take a read of our 30 days of Autumn checklist  you may find something new and exciting to do yourselves.

Here are three of our top ideas on what to do in Autumn:

1. Leaf fun

Why not take a walk in a country park and search for the biggest pile of leaves for some leaf crunching fun.

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My boys love to jump in the leaves and listen to the crunching sound that they make, even better is to have an Autumn leaf fight

Just watching the boys run around, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying some outside fun is priceless, although be careful as to where you are picking up the leaves as some animals like to mark their territory!

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leaf fight

Why not collect some of the leaves and take them home to recreate an Autumn picture.

2. Leaf rubbing

This activity is ideal if the weather is slightly wet outside, my boys love to do leaf rubbing/etching.

All you will need is some leaves that you have collected, try and select a different range of sizes and shapes and some crayons/colouring pencils and of coarse some paper.

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Leaves with texture and features are best.
We like to pick a similar colour to the leaf to use for the rubbing. Place the leaf under the paper (veins upwards) and holing the crayon at an angle (close to the paper) using a little pressure rub the crayon over the paper. You will see the leaf print start to appear, just like a drawing.

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rubbingTry not to use a leaf that is crunchy/old as it will make it more difficult to do the leaf rubbing as you will need the leaf to lay flat under the paper.
Why not do a leaf rubbing with autumn colours, red orange and yellow.

3. Autumn Art – Pine Cone Frame

Children love to hunt and what better way to do it is to visit the park and search for some Autumn items.

After a lovely day playing in the park the boys went off in search of some sticks and some pine cones to take home with them so we could make some Autumn art. We had seen a picture somewhere on the internet of a frame made out of sticks. The boys thought that this would be a great Autumn craft to make.

You will need:

  • Some sticks of similar sizes
  • string
  • pine cones of different sizes
  • Strong glue
  • nylon clear invisible sewing thread
  • scissors

Instructions:

Gather the sticks together, cut down any to make similar sizes

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Tie the corners together with the string and reinforce  with some glue. Trim down any string that is hanging loose.

Tie corners with string
Tie corners with string
corner close up
corner close up

Leave to dry for about an hour.

Carefully tie some of the invisible string around the top of the pine cones, once secure measure how long you want the pine cone to hang and then tie the other end of the thread on to the top sticks

attaching the pine cones
attaching the pine cones

Once finished hang up on the wall for everyone to see

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finished frame

Why not try and do a frame with different artefacts found from your autumn walk, like leaves or helicopters from Maple trees. You could also spray your frame or paint it a different colour but we like it the natural way.

Take a look at Forest Holidays 30 Days of Autumn project web page, where you will find all of the fun ideas and suggestions that other bloggers have shared about what you can get up to in Autumn.

Thank you for reading. This post is our entry into the 30 days of autumn competition

N.B please excuse our photos of the leaf rubbing we have done this activity whilst abroad on holiday

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Outdoor fun: outdoor gyms and hunting for eggs

Family time is precious and it’s even better when we are visiting Nanny

For the past couple of days the boys and I have been staying at nanny’s house, nanny doesn’t live too close to us so when it’s half term we like to spend our time visiting her.

Our first day we went for a lovely walk in a local nature reserve

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The boys loved running around and making the most of the space by having races against each other

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After a long walk around the marshes we found an outdoor gym just next to the play area

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We all had a go on all of the equipment making sure that we read all the instructions first. Oliver loved the cross trainer, his little legs just about reached and he found it easier to go backwards than forwards but it didn’t stop him from trying it

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Even Nanny had a go on one

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This machine was quite good and you could really feel it working around your hips.

Outdoor gyms are a fabulous way of all the family keeping fit together whilst out in the open air.

Today we went to another local park but didn’t manage to stay long as the eldest didn’t feel very well but I still managed to grab a couple of photos of the boys playing pirates on the wooden ship

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Oliver like the spinning wheel, he has a thing for numbers and loves to point out ones that he recognises, he was spinning the wheel and telling me what number the triangle was landing on each time

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Joseph is a bit of a climber and will try and climb anything, he loves to show me too

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Once we returned back to Nanny’s house it was time for the boys to go out into the garden and search for the eggs that Nanny and I had hidden for them to find.

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They had a lovely time searching high and low for the eggs and web managed to find some that we hidden within the trees and shrubbery.

I loved watching them running around laughing and shouting out to each other that they had found one, big brother even helped the little one with pointing out some for him to pick up.

We have had a lovely couple of days outside in the fresh air, I’m linking this post up with Coombemill Countrykids

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Monkeying Around #Countrykids

Over the past few weeks the two eldest boys have been getting more and more interested in the Monkey Bars, you know those apparatus usually found in the park where you have to use your upper arm strength to swing from bar to bar using your hands.

Dad has built the boys there very own monkey bars in the garden for them to practice on, during the summer months they use to do the monkey bar challenge where they would see who could get from one end to the other over the top of the pool and if they dropped they would make a big splash into the swimming pool. I think most of the time they would deliberately drop just so they could fall into the water 🙂

Last weekend while visiting nanny we found a park that the boys had all to themselves and guess what? yes there was some monkey bars to play on

 

Just hanging around
Just hanging around

 

i can still pose even when im hanging
i can still pose even when im hanging

 

Joseph is really good at the monkey bars and manages to get from one end to the other effortlessly, he lets his legs hang and uses his arms to carry him. Jak swings his legs from side to side so he struggles by using up too much energy.

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Jak found another way to enjoy the monkey bars and that was to hang upside down on them by hooking his legs over the bars.

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It’s got to a point now that when we visit the park Joseph goes off in search of some monkey bars and if their isn’t any he gets upset.

Here is a short clip of Joseph on the bars  20130929-211822.mov

I’m linking up with Coombemill’s linky called Countrykids, which is all about getting outdoors and enjoying the open space. Go check out her lovely blog all about the fun on the farm and while your there read some other great blog posts 🙂

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Our day at Lollibop, The big bash for little people

Friday just gone saw the boys and I travelling on the overground to Stratford, The home of the Olympics last year and this year Lollibop, the BIG bash for little people. This would be our second year of attending Lollibop, last year it was held in Regents Park, the boys have been looking forward to this day all year and couldn’t wait to see Dick and Dom again and Skylanders. We live not far away so we was very lucky that the event was pretty much on our doorstep, it took us half hour to travel on the train but it was a good 10 minutes walk away from Westfield Shopping Centre. We arrived in good time so we popped into the shopping centre to grab ourselves a spot of breakfast, M&S is right next to the exit of the train station and may i add to lovely selection of pastries. On leaving the train station we followed the signs to the EVENTS for the Queen Elizabeth Park, it was quite a walk but the volunteers who were dressed in pink, who were also games makers last year, were very friendly and pointed with big foam hands the way to Lollibop, stopping the traffic and helping us cross the roads and also talking to the children. The walk took you past the old site of the Olympics

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Upon arrival at the Lollibop Event there was a queue which we stood in for 15 minutes, i did hear other guests moaning about the queue but to be honest it was moving slowly and alot of people was arriving at the same time so there was obviously going to be some sort of queue, Lolli came out to the crowd to say hello which was nice for the children and got them all excited about what they were going to see once through the gates and inside.

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Once inside we made our way to the back of the festival which is where the main Lolli stage was and suddenly realised that it was a very long way especially when you have three children to keep an on and they run off in different directions to the many tents, areas and zones that were there, we found a spot under a huge tent and sat down on a bench to look at the programme, this is something i wish i had done before arriving and have no idea why i didn’t!

The boys wanted to go and see the Skylanders Swap Force Team which was in the Lolli Arena, we thought that going there first would be ideal as it would get busy later on in the day

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The boys enjoyed playing the new games and got all excited when they saw the swap tops and bottoms skylander figures, as they were playing the game Eruptot came out to greet everyone and pose for some photos

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It wasn’t long before we heard the music tune to the Rastamouse and Da Easy Crew coming from the Lolli Main Stage so we headed over to see them.

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The crowds were getting busy so we tried to edge a little closer to see a bit better but Oliver couldn’t see so Jak picked him up and put him on his shoulders, this really is the only way for the kiddies to watch the shows unless they are down the front.

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Next up we went over to see Tickety Toc in the Lollipalladium in the Big Top, Oliver absolutely loves Tommy and Talulah but was really upset to see them in person, bless him! I think it was the fact that they were huge, he wouldn’t go anywhere near the Characters. It didn’t stop us from bopping away with them while they were singing and dancing on stage

20130818-083739.jpgJoseph found it easy to make his way down to the front, so he got a really good view.

As we walked around the venue we saw lots of the characters walking around stopping for photo opportunities with the littlies, we met Peppa Pig, Postman Pat, Eruptot (Skylanders), Top Trumps, Tickety Toc’s Tommy and Talulah, Mr Men and Little Miss, Lalaloopsy and a favourite of all of ours was Titan The Robot

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Jak’s favourite part of the day was going to the Tween Town’s tent where he attended the Beat Boxing Workshops, he got picked to go up on the stage with the Beat Boxers from the Urban Arts Experience, in this area you could also book a place to have a go on the Graffiti wall, which were doing workshops all day long and the Media bus wehere there was open Mic workshops. Jak loved it here and he spent quite a while making the most of the beat boxing workshop, that much so that he went 3 times! He was awarded a certificate at the end of the day and they got him up on stage to present it to him

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Whilst in the National Geographic Tent Jak was also called up to show everyone what he learnt in the Urban Arts Tent and he did some Beat Boxing for them

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My boys love having an audience lol.

Whilst in the tent we also got to meet the Gorillas

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Joseph loved the Wow Tent, he played with the toys and was given his very own little figure to take him with him, we guessed how many Figures that were in the bowl for a chance to win some Wow Toys. Oliver and Joseph really enjoyed playing with the toys, so much so that we went back a couple of times during the day, toys without batteries are brilliant!

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We had a very busy day which was jam packed full of activities to do, the boys really did have a brilliant day!

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Dick and Dom’s show was very funny with some adult humour added in, so not only the children were the children giggling away but also the adults were sniggering away too! they got the crowd joining in with the games and had people up on stage, Jak obviously had to shout out the obligatory BOGIES out really loud but not loud enough as they didn’t hear him lol

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We met Andy Day, the CBeebies presenter and he happily posed for a picture with the boys, he was very polite and had a little chat with them

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Or top tips for future Lollibop goers would be

  • Avoid the crowds at lunch time, the queues to the food tents were horrendous around 1pm. Take a light lunch with you as there are plenty of quiet areas in The Meadows where you can sit down and enjoy your food, if you are going to buy food there I would advice trying to eat before 11 and after 2.
  • Plan ahead! Print off the free programmes before hand and mark down what you want to see. I found myself running from one place to another as i was on my own with three children all wanting to see something different at the same times. Lollibop do sell Lanyard programmes on the day for £3
  • Hang around near the stages as they do Meet and Greet with Characters prior to the shows
  • If you want to take part in an activity that needs a booking do it early as the places fill up really quickly
  • Make the most of the Discovery Zone, the Science Museum tent and National Geographic Tents are really good for the children of all ages.
  • Make sure that you put the Lost Child Wristbands on the children as it does get very busy
  • Where comfortable shoes, the site is big and you will be doing lots of walking

There are plenty of places to eat but i found that this area was very busy because of the Main Stage, it would have been nice to have the Main stage in the middle somewhere or maybe near the Big Top as then it would have been easier to watch the shows that were coinciding with each other, i had the eldest wanting to see one thing and the youngest wanting to watch another.

There were so many more things that we missed out on as it was very busy, the best time of the day was early on or at about 4ish when the crowds began to disperse, this is when we went to see the Transformers and the Disco shed.

The boys had a pillow fight against each other, Joseph won!

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I found that there were so many things to do and not enough time, it would have been easier if i had another adult to help out as sometimes i felt quite overwhelmed with the crowds and just needed a break from the walking, lucky enough i had the buggy and Oliver had a little nap and i had the eldest helping me out too.

I was slightly disappointed with the venue this year as last year in Regents Park it was lovely and Green, maybe it was because seeing queen Elizabeth Park last year to this year, it is so different, quite like a building site still but it isn’t fully open until next summer 2014. The boys on the other hand had a blast and can not wait til next year!

I was given tickets to Lollibop as an Ambassador, views are all honest and my own!

 

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