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Sunday, 17 August 2014

Roll up, roll up for the greatest family show on earth!

We sent the lovely Joanna and her family to check out Camp Bestival for us - here's what they thought.

We joined the circus fun at Camp Bestival and had a weekend of festival fun. Matilda who's rising four and Jessica, 18 months, had the best time at Camp Bestival, experiencing the never ending spectacle of shows, musical acts, acrobats, hula hoopers and dance troops.   

Being at the preschool stage in life, our weekend was mostly focused on the exhibits and shows in the Lower Kids Garden, which was crammed full of experiences for little ones and where we spent our first day on the Friday having fun! The Duplo experience was a great hit allowing children to experiment with Duplo and build from their latest collections and then have your creation 3D posted into a large screen and come to life! When the fun was done each child received a free Duplo toy to leave with avoiding any tears when leaving all the fun behind. 

The Duplo Experience 

We were comforted by the presence of Oxfam stewards who issued children and parents with safety bands recorded with corresponding mobile telephone numbers should a child lose their parents throughout the weekend.    

A festival must for a younger family is the trusty trolleys which were all decorated in a wide variety of themes from space ships to campervans.  More often than not they were full of the kit required for the day but as the sun dips there were many little ones tucked up in their wagon beds adorned with fairy lights, fast asleep whilst the show carried on. We opted for the back pack for our youngest where she enjoyed the view from up high. 

Creative festival wagons

Traditional fair rides were in every field and Matilda experienced her first ride (one of many that weekend) on the Carousel and the Helter Skelter there was also a Ferris Wheel which gave excellent views at the top, as well as the Wall of Death for those feeling brave!  There was also a free bouncy castle to enjoy  for the little ones as well as plenty of circus equipment for you to try your hand at.  On hand to help were circus experts who helped and gave demonstrations on how to walk on a rope, juggle, unicycle and hula hoop.    
The girls enjoyed a never ending supply of bubbles especially at Bear’s Bubble Disco where you could stand in a bubble. Nine times Guinness World record holder Sam Sam Bubbleman was also exhibiting, showcasing his impressive bubbles which blew over the crowds like large air ships.   

On the Saturday we noticed the crowds swelled as more people came to the festival over the weekend, as well as day trippers.  We headed to Project Wild Thing in the Dingly Dell which hosted all the conservation stands where children could play with nature.  Matilda was particularly taken with the Munching Caterpillars stand where she could see caterpillars on their foodplant and cocoons. Den building, tree climbing, bush craft and potion making (water and mud play!) was also on offer as well as a play park area with slide and swing.   

Mr Tumble was a big hit with the children and parents when he and his band of dancers took to the main stage on Saturday with a fun mix of nursery rhymes and songs.  This was greatly enjoyed by the girls who danced away to the tunes, whilst I noticed most of the parents were also very familiar with all the words of his songs! 

Saturday evening we headed out with the girls and had both in back packs to keep them off the floor, it was then I saw how useful the festival trolleys could be for tired or sleeping children.  Ear defender or none, I was amazed at how children can sleep with all the noise and commotion going on.  I had tried to get the girls to bed at a reasonable time on Friday night by keeping them in the tent but with all the excitement and noise they were bouncing around in the tent until 10 pm before they dropped.  It was then I realised, if you can’t beat them, join them!  The girls loved seeing the festival light up with all the rides shining brightly across the fields and light from the stages and tents.  We walked them round the site so they could see the full effects of a festival before taking them back to the tent where they were asleep within seconds.    

Happy campers

Slightly jaded come Sunday we wandered round the Soul Park which offered more thrill seeking activities.  A skate park, trampoline and football game had been set up which seemed to appeal to the teens who were queuing to watch the displays.  We also found the more holistic side to the festival with a variety of treatments and therapies for those who wanted to relax and recooperate 

We also enjoyed doing some crafts in Art Town where there was an array of glitter, glue, tissue paper and pens to play with over a number of different tables.  There were also art structures for children to contribute to, such as a large cardboard castle, which all grew in size and colour over the weekend. 

The facilities for camping were adequate, we weren’t first to arrive on site so lost out on some of the better pitches and ended up sleeping at a rather sharp angle on a hill but we spent such limited time in the tent it didn’t really affect our enjoyment of the event.  Food was in abundance in every field offering a wide variety of savoury and sweet for every appetite. There was a Kids Cafe in the Lower Kids Garden which offered tasty bites for the younger appetite as well as a cafe environment to eat them in.  Matilda was particularly taken with the children’s toilets which were located at helpful points round the site.  The self composting element of the toilets was of particular interest and I had to remind her on several occasions there were other things to do she might enjoy! 

With so much to offer Camp Bestival is THE festival to take your children and sample the delights of free children’s activities whilst mum and dad can watch an array of music events headlined this year by bands such as James and De La Soul as well as many other smaller bands and acts who offer a wide variety of musical entertainments.  We will definitely go again next year armed with some festival knowledge on how to make the very best of our days. 

Two happy little festival-goers!

Joanna Colvile 

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Mother Nature

In summer we all tend to spend more time outdoors - whether it's the garden, our local park or a trip camping or to a festival. I find that when I am at festivals, washing in the great outdoors, I think even more about what is in the toiletries and cleaning products we all use. We often camp with the wonderful Lost Horizons Sauna, where the showers are open-air and run-off into the ground. It is therefore essential that all products used as natural so as not to damage the soil. For those of you who are feeling a bit attached to your favourite less-environmentally friendly products, the summer is a perfect time to try out something new! The best thing about being on holiday is that we aren't so worried about how we look so it's a perfect time to experiment and upgrade your products for more environmentally responsible ones. You'll get the added bonus of putting less nasty substances on your skin, and will be shiny and clean whilst keeping the earth in the same state.

I always recommend sample sizes to get a feel for a product before making an investment, and a lot of my favourite brands offer starter kits with a few products to try (and probably get hooked on). For festival aficionados like myself or those of you heading off on a camping holiday, the Green People have come up with a pack on miniatures which will serve all of your toiletry needs.

So what's inside the pack?

Face wash
30ml Foaming Face Wash
Great for an instant refresh, and perfect to remove grime and grease with no need to wash off when water is in short supply. This natural foaming blend can be rubbed in and wiped off with a tissue or cotton wool.

30ml Moisturising Shower Gel
Remember to get up early to avoid the shower crowds. This natural blend is super concentrated, so will last and last. Why not use it as a hand wash too, or even to keep those dishes clean?

SPF25 Scent Free Sun Lotion 20ml
Choose natural sun protection to minimise prickly heat and skin irriation. Keep this handy-sized tube on you, a must when you are out in the sun all day.

Scent-Free 24hr Cream 20ml
Limit the damage that sleep deprivation and over indulgence have on your skin. Nurture it with this nutrient-packed moisturiser which will soothe and calm 24-hours a day for natural radiance.

Soft Lips SPF8 10ml

The skin on your lips is thinner than the rest of your face and doesn’t naturally produce melanin, so it needs extra protection. Quench and rehydrate lips with this organic blend that is rich in Coconut, CupuaƧu and vitamin E. 

I have to say I'm very tempted to get some of the facewash as it sounds great for a quick clean when collapsing into bed late at night, and I can attest that face wipes simply don't cut it sometimes and leave me still feeling a bit grimy. When I am camped with a full set-up I do a coconut-oil face wash every night before bed (though I did resort to using a cotton sock when I lost my muslin face-cloth during Glastonbury), but if you're just camped up in a field without the luxury of a kitchen-yurt with running water and a hot urn then it really makes a difference to go flop into bed with a clean face and brushed teeth!

Blissfields Festival

The best home-made child-carrying cart I have ever seen!
Fresh out of Glastonbury I headed out to Blissfields festival - a relatively small festival just an hour outside of London on the train. Leo was visiting his grandparents for the weekend with Daddy so I headed out with friends including a pair of amazing kids (10 and 6) who are definitely festival veterans. The festival was really easy to get to - just a quick trainride from Waterloo followed by a shuttle bus provided by the festival. It earns it top points for accessibility as when you're bringing the family along you need straight-forward transport routes!

The saying has it that the sun always shines at Blissfields. Unfortunately this was the first year they've had rain, but that didn't dampen our spirits. We all piled into the live-in truck and the donned our wellies and raincoats to explore and enjoy the event. Luckily the weather cleared up and it was by no means torrential - more a few hours of drizzle.

What I loved about the site was that it was quite 'open plan' - you could see the main stage from most places and it was very easy to navigate, but you could also disappear off into the Hidden Hedge - a night-time area filled with light installation and a energy-filled music dome. There was lots of place to sit back and relax, be it under the trees or in the hammock station near the kids field. The 'open-plan' set-up also meant that the kids field felt very integrated into the festival and in fact the whole site was very family orientated (and allowed parents to see what was going on even if their kids didnt want to be right by the stage).

We loved the curiovan mini museum, which reminded me a bit of Oxford's Pitt Rivers collection - drawers filled with curiosities with magnifying glasses to help you get a better look. Beside the van was a little seating area where you could make a 'museum in a matchbox' or badges for free - fantastic! The 'museum in a matchbox' was an activity where you selected one of their lovely decorated matchboxes and filled it with natural curios - shells, leaves, grasses, stones and more. We parked ourselves there for a while and here's what we made. I love the idea and may steal it for an afternoon in the forest one day. And of course - a free activity is always welcome to parents who dread having to cough up more cash to keep their offspring amused every five minutes.

The site was a hive of activity with a lot to offer alongside the music - there was a sportsday area with sack races and lots of chances to "get involved" (our motto of the summer). There were some beautiful stalls selling all sorts of wonders - hair feathers, costumes and clothing, vintage... I particularly liked the florists who were crafting fresh flower garlands to wear as headpieces and offered customers the chance to make their own.

The kids' field was run by Angel Gardens, who we met at Glastonbury and had some lovely long chats with. Their beautiful collection of bell tents and attention to details in their decor made for a really enchanting zone where young and old were inspired to get creative themselves. The bell-tents contained lots of comfortable cushions and were a great place to shelter from the rain whilst getting crafty. We made some headdresses covered in sequins and feathers, making use of the animal-print materials to create accessories for the Blissfields world record attempt at the most people dressed up in animal print in one place. Even better, the craft tents offered activities free and on a drop-in basis. We made lots of friends young and old whilst getting creative and had a thoroughly enjoyable time.

I was impressed by the Kindred Cafe in the kids' area which served up affordable, kid-friendly food. All too often parents are faced forking out festival-rates for an adult meal their child may not enjoy or finish so it's always great to see proper food options in the family field.

The craft stalls were wonderful and we disappeared for a few hours making dream catchers. Each was completely different, but all equally beautiful and funnily enough we all chose colours which matched our outfits! It was a really great activity for the older children and made me glad I didn't have my toddler with me but was hanging out with friends' kids instead! It was a refreshing break to be able to sit down and chat whilst making things instead of having to constantly be on the look out for  tiny monkey scampering all over the place!

One of the highlights of the weekend was definitely my Saturday 'night out with the girls' where we headed out to see 2manydjs and had an amazing time dancing in the high energy crowd. Although the festival had a great energy, the site did not feel overly crowded or 'rowdy' at night - perfect for families and older children or teenagers who want to explore the festival as it transforms at night. What's more, as well as the headlining acts there was an amazing fire show to marvel at.

Overall, I'd thoroughly recommend Blissfields to families with children of all ages. With little ones it isn't too large a site (as believe me, trekking round a massive site with a pushchair is incredibly tiring), and for older kids it's small enough to let them roam around and know they won't get lost and it'd be easy to locate them if needs be. My 6 and 10-year old little friends had a fantastic time and had a small tribe of other festival kids to hang out with, whether they were going into the festival to buy hot chocolate on their own, exploring and seeing music as a family, or building a fort from camping gear by the van.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Run away to the Circus!

We absolutely LOVE this year's theme for Camp Bestival: the circus comes to Camp Bestival - there are countless amazing costume options for all the family. Here are a few of our favourites from etsy to get you started, though of course if you're handy with a needle and thread then it'd be simple to throw together a clown ruffle, an acrobat tutu from elastic and coloured netting, or a card ringmasters hat and whip. I'm sure the kids would love to get invovled in designing and making their own costume (then in anyone ask you can blame any wobbly sewing or loose seams on them!) Some of these pieces are pretty pricey, but serve as great inspiration: all you really need is some elastic, fabrics and a needle and thread. Maybe we'll even get a tutu and ruffle tutorial up if we have the time! If you search for tutu or mini top-hat instructions you'll find loads of simple step-by-step instructions online...

Little Clowns - suits, wooly wigs, ruffled cuffs and little hats. This adorable outfit is £32.05 from My Purple Princess Shop.

Next up is this gorgeous rainbow tutu and clown-hat set at only £21.83 from Pampered Paisley.

Keeping with the rainbow theme, check out this set from Bailynn BouNique - £35.65. 

And what better to team a rainbow tutu with than a mini top-hat fascinator on a comfy headband? -  £16.93 from Little Lady Accessory. If you fancy trying your hand at one of these but don't feel up to the top hat, Tiger often sell mini top-hats for a few pounds.  

We absolutely love the outfits at Juju's Tutus - the acrobat tutu costs £33.25, and the ringmaster set is £42.32. 

For the top-end of children's costumes, head over to Ella Dynae - these beautiful photos show just how magical a great costume can look and the effect is all in the details. These are not off-the-rail princess dresses from the supermarket but real works of craftsmanship (though at £163.26 a set they may be better as inspiration than reality!)

Finally, if you're looking to buy something from Etsy but don't want the cost of postage from the US - or the nerve-wracking wait to see if your costume arrives before the event - here are a couple of UK sellers. Wild Thing Dresses are really charming. If I had a little girl I would definitely have a whole wardrobe of these by now. This retro lion dress is £44.14. 

For a gender-neutral Lion option, how about this  Lion Onesie from The Tinker's Taylor (£30)? 

And last but not least, here are a few mummy-suggestions - clown outfits from Batcakes Couture (first set £37.97, second set £105.82). 

Another inspiration piece with a £241.87 price-tag, this clown set from La Petite Menagerie is to die for.