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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. 

Homemade free-from pesto

Here's a quick recipe suggestion (and the emphasis is on suggestion here as I am very free-style in the kitchen so it's more guidelines than exact measurements) I wrote up the other day. If you want to try a milder pesto, are trying to include more nuts in your diet, experimenting with veganism or meat-free monday...or have a member of the family who is lactose intolerant - this recipe is for you!

I love fresh pesto and also like to make it with nuts instead of parmesan to give it a milder flavour and to moderate the amount of dairy we consume (it is also hard to find vegetarian parmesan). This is a quick recipe I threw together the other day and has a nice mild flavour perfect for kids. They won't even suspect they are eating lots of healthy spinach and nuts! Usually I just use basil but a bag of going-off spinach went in and I think the milder flavour suits my toddler son better.

2 handfuls of brazil nuts (ideally pre-soaked for 3-4hrs)
3-4tbsp of pine nuts
a generous bunch of basil (must have been at least 100-120g)
4 handfuls of spinach
a generous glug of olive oil
a few pinches of salt (I used pink himalayan salt)
3 cloves of garlic roughly chopped

I threw this all in the liquidiser and blended repeatedly, pushing all of the ingredients down, until it was a smooth paste. I served several tablespoons immediately with Biona white spelt pasta and yellow tomatoes, then saved the rest in a couple of jars in the fridge (these quantities made about 2 small jars).

I'd love to hear your different versions of this much-loved sauce and am always looking for new variations - I found one vegan recipe which used avocado recently! I'm also going to use a few different herbs next time as the garden is blooming over a FWS HQ!

Camp Bestival

Billed as "the greatest family show on a castle campsite by the sea", Camp Bestival 2014 looks set to really raise the bar (yet again) for family entertainment and inclusive festival events. Run by Rob da Bank and his wife Josie - and an off-shoot of 'big Bestival' - the world's largest fancy dress party, you can expect all sorts of nonsense and frivolities geared towards families. I can honestly affirm that when the organisers have a family of their own the term 'family friendly' takes on a new meaning! If this preview doesn't answer some of your questions, I can guarantee that the Camp Bestival website will: it even has details of dog kennels nearby which will look after the family four-legged friend whilst you're all at the festival, meaning you can continue your adventures with fido post-festival.

Here's the line-up - we'd particularly recommend checking out Kate Tempest - an amazing spoken-word poet who we first met in the Spanish desert - who will blow-you away with her powerful tales.

Set at the start of the summer holidays, Camp Bestival is a perfect way to kick off a family adventure! The site is not far from the coast so you could follow it with a beach holiday or visit some of the other local Dorsetshire attractions - the perfect opportunity to hire out a camper and do it in style.

There are some amazing activities to get you all in the festive spirit. Here's a selection from the enormous A-Z list:

A is for Art Town is the best spot on site to get covered in glitter! Offering a huge range of drop-in activities running all weekend including sculpting with cardboard, colouring-in, recycled fashion, knitting and sticking and cartoon storyboarding and head head dress making all under one canvas roof! 

B is for Baby Chill Out - the baby temple for Camp Bestival's tiniest residents, for all your feeding and changing needs. Under 'B' we also have bushchraft, ballet and bug storeys

C is for Caravanserai - a convoy of English and French artists, gypsies and beatniks who've set up an encampment at Camp Bestival where weary travellers and wanderers can rest and recharge.  They welcome you to explore and lounge in their bric-a-brac camp built form old vehicles, curiosities and objects d'art they have found on the road.

D is for Disney's Plane's 2 - a new film which will be promoted at Camp Bestival, Disco Yoga and the Dressing-up area and catwalk. 

E is for Everyone - Camp Bestival is for babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, parents, grandparents and any other relations! 

F is for Freesports Park - offering workshops and demonstrations in bouldering, parkour, BMX-ing, skateboarding and slack-lining...(and of course Fancy Dress and Face painting). 

And....the list goes on! As you can see, you'll be spoilt for choice as there are enough activities to keep you entertained for a whole year! Go and browse the full list though I warn you that it will be difficult to tear yourself away!

Fans of Radio 4 and Mock the Week will be pleased to hear that Milton Jones will feature on the comedy line-up. For the foodies there'll be The Feast Collective - "A delectable celebration of creative food makers we regard as exceptional street food traders, artisan food producers, specialty chefs, and organisers of pop-up supper clubs from across the UK...showcasing a heavenly selection of the exquisite things happening in the food scene right now, with a carefully curated collection of appetising offerings complementing each other perfectly" ( 

As well as the music and entertainment, the site itself at Lulworth Castle looks pretty stunning - just check out this shot from Tripadvisor! Surrounded by magic, history, nature and a good dose of fancy-dress silliness...there's no better way to kick off the summer! 

For those of you who like to suss out the event in advance, you can download a 2014 site-map here. We'd also advise downloading the information pack on there too, which contains some hints and tips to help you have the best festival experience possible.

If you've been on the fence about attending this year and the amazing heatwave (or our review) has swayed you, there are still tickets left but be fast! They won't stick around much longer!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Win tickets to Lollibop Children's Festival!

Would you like to win a family pass to Lollibop - the UK's biggest kids' festival? If so, read on!

Bigger and better for 2014, Lollibop has moved to a stunning new location - Hatfield house - which is just twenty minutes away from Kings Cross station by train, and also has ample on-site parking. All the big names of kids TV and baby celebrities will be there: there'll be Justin Fletcher, Mr Bloom, Mister Maker, Lazy Town and Sam & Mark on the main stage, plus live shows from Chris & Pui, Postman Pat, Scooby-Doo, Swashbuckle & many more. As well as the shows and entertainment, there'll be plenty of opportunities to get involved in some hands-on action in the interactive areas. Creative kids will love the new 'Join In with Southbank Centre' area with plenty of dress up, make and take and workshops, and little sportstars will love the brand new active zone with footballing from Tottenham Hotspur, baby ballet, an old fashioned sports day and martial arts. Other highlights include Bear Grylls Survival Academy, LolliKitchen, LolliBooks and special areas featuring Thomas & Friends, & Skylanders Trap Team. 

The new Lollibop venue: Hatfield House 

Lollibop is a day event, taking place over the weekend of August the 15th to 17th (so for those of you used to all my weekend festival posts that means you go for the day, but can choose which one you attend on). We visited the event last year with a nearly-one-year-old, a nine year old and a seven year old and the older two have not stopped talking about it ever since! The new site looks worth a visit in itself as it is rated as one of England's top ten treasures and is set in stunning gardens and woodland, though with all the entertainment provided by Lollibop it sounds like we may have to head back another day to fully explore the setting!

The whole programme is for the under 10s and tickets are on sale now priced £20.00pp - for the full line up and more information about the event, head over to the Lollibop website.

 We’ve got one family pass (four tickets) to give away to this brilliant festival. To enter, answer the question below:

Q: Where is the location of LolliBop 2014?

A: Hatfield House     
B: Hyde Park 
C: Central Park

Please send your answers to anna(at)familywithstyle(dot)com with your full name and phone number.  

Terms & Conditions
  • The competition closes  04.08.2014
  • We have one family pass to giveaway. Each pass admits 4 people, one person in the group must be aged over 18 (NB children under the age of 12 months do not require a ticket) 
  • The winning family can attend on the day of their choice, either August 15, or August 16 or August 17. The date must be specified at time of confirming the prize. 
  • Travel and accommodation are not included
  •  The prize is non-refundable and NO cash alternative will be offered
  • The prize is non transferable and ID will be required at time of collecting the ticket wristband upon arrival
  •  The prize includes all events and activities at LolliBop but not food and drink from any stalls or bar

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Garsington Opera

The Garsington Opera Pavillion at Wormsley

Over a decade ago my love of opera was born. Whilst at middle school I took part in an extra-curiular club called Operation Garsington where a group of pre-teens were given a crash course in all the elements which go into producing an opera. The combination of studying an opera in detail and creating our own fresh take on it by directing a couple of opera singers and deciding on the set, costumes and staging meant we experienced it as a living, exciting art form. Needless to say Operation Garsington made a big impact on me - I am still attending productions from Garsington Opera at Wormsley now!

This season Garsington Opera are running an initiative called OperaFirst which enables schools and community groups to experiene live opera. They have also run workshops with both primary and secondary aged pupils which explore the themes of the operas through drama, movement, composition and singing skills. Over 220 students aged 6-11 and over 500 pupils age 11-18 will attend the rehearsals and performances this summer. I am really impressed by Garsington Opera's commitment to education programmes and accessibility for young people, as well as the range of ages and abilities they work with (including a school for children with severe learning needs). Part of 'Family with Style' is encouraging other parents to think outside the box by sharing our adventures and lifestyle, and we believe that when children are allowed to participate in 'grown-up' experiences they really rise to it. Therefore, we sent Safi, aged 11, to Garsington for her first ever experience of opera. Here's what she had to say:

Which opera did you go to see and how did you prepare?
I went to see ‘The Cunning Little Vixen’ by Leo Eugen Janáček. I prepared by researching the story on Wikipedia to help me understand it better because it was not in English.

Can you summarise the story for us in a few lines?
The story is based around a vixen that is found by a forester and taken to live with him. The forester’s wife does not like her, the family dog wants to take advantage of her and the children are cruel to her. When she lashes out at one of the children she  is tied up and so decides to escape by biting through the rope.
She moves back into the woods meeting many different animals along the way. Eventually she meets a male fox and becomes pregnant. They have to get married because of this. Later on they have a big party.
There is a poacher who sets a trap for the foxes however the vixen does not get caught in the trap but is shot by the poacher himself.

What did you think about opera before you went to Garsington?
I did not think it would be interesting for children to watch and had never considered going to an opera before.

What were your first impressions upon arrival at the estate?
There was a very long driveway down to the pavilion with lots of beautiful plants and trees lining it. When we got there we took a short walk round part of the huge grounds. People sat by the lake to eat picnics and soak in the atmosphere. Candles lined the pathways and when the evening was coming to a close they were all lit.

The pavilion at night

What did you think about the setting?
Sculptures made it feel very grand, it felt like an extremely magical place.    

Did you find it easy to follow the opera – how did you find it reading the subtitles with the translation?
In the beginning, having to keep looking in different directions was a bit hard for me, but I got used to it and as the acting was so good, it was quite easy to follow.

What were the costumes and set like and how did they contribute to the story/opera?
The set was very clever, it could create many different places by just being turned round on the stage, and you could always tell which place was which. The costumes were very minimalist i.e. the vixen only wore an orange fur coat and had ginger hair but you could still tell it was a fox.

Did it feel very long?
It didn’t feel very long, probably because I was really enjoying myself.

Tell us a bit about the Garsington experience besides the opera
In the beginning I had planned to wear leggings and a knitted jumper, so when Mum told me I had to dress up a bit I wasn’t so keen. When I arrived at Garsington I realised why. Everyone was wearing their best clothes and I know that if I had worn my everyday clothing I would have definitely felt like the odd one out. We had a delicious picnic in the car because it was too cold to east outside. It still felt great though.

How have your ideas about opera changed?
I now think of opera as being for everyone- no matter what their age. I had a fantastic experience so I think anyone could.

How would you describe the Garsington opera to a friend at school who had never been to an opera?
I would describe the place as being very peaceful and atmospheric with so much to see and learn. The opera was exciting, the story was easy to follow if you had read about it beforehand, the set was imaginative and the story was amusing in parts, especially as the animals were portrayed so well, the actors strutting like hens, the birds so birdlike in behaviour.

Has this made you want to see more operas? Why?
Definitely. I would love to see a few more because they are so magnificent. I don’t know how else to put it down in words.

Anything else to add?
I just want to say to anyone else who is going to Garsington; you are making the right choice. You won’t regret it. 

The grounds 

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Tots Bots Easyfit V4

Everyone knows I am a huge fan of cloth nappies and can talk about them for hours, and since I was converted to Tots Bots AIO (all-in-one) range it is the brand I recommend to other parents who ask me about using washable nappies. As a terry-nappy kid who grew up changing the two-part nappies my siblings wore I have to say I was a little suspicious of the all-in-ones at first but once I tried them, I never looked back. I adore the V3 easyfit and didn't think Tots Bots could get any better until they sent me one of the new and improved V4s to try out! 

Incey Wincey Spider print, fastened view 

So what's to love? 

One-piece nappies are fantastic - they have all the ease of disposable nappies with the bonus that you can pop them in the wash and use them all over again. The Tots Bots range are quite slim so gone are the days when using cloth meant buying clothes in a larger size. A great new feature of the V4 is that the inserts are snap-in. This means that you can keep the nappy all-in-one for extra padding, but remove the booster after washing so that it dries faster. Apartment-living means the speed that nappies dry is all-important and Tots Bots tick the box: although the binky fabric (a blend of ultra-absorbent bamboo and minky fleece material) doesn't come out of the machine practically dry like the pure minky V3, the extra absorbency that the bamboo provides makes it worth the (short) wait and it is still as gloriously fluffy and soft as the V3 minky. Whilst the older towelling and cotton blends can get a bit crisp and lose their softness, Tots Bots nappies stay nice and fluffy wash after wash. I also love the thickness of the insert which makes the nappy suitable for use both during the day and at night (I was previously only using thick towelling nappies at night).  

Full-length: the nappy with the snap-in booster

Fabulous fastenings - the new range has hook and loop 'velcro' style straps at the waist and then poppers down the front to alter the size of the nappy. This nifty system means that the nappy can be altered in size to fit a baby from 8lbs to 35lbs. In the V3 I opted mainly for the popper-style fastenings, but have to say I prefer the velcro for speed and ease. I say velcro, but it is actually hook and loop - a more durable design than standard velcro. The tabs also attach in on themselves so that when the nappies are in the wash they don't pick up any fluff, and I can say from experience than none of my nappies have lost their grip (and some have been going for over a year of heavy use, with a few second-hand ones which have already been used by another kid!) Although the easyfit can be used as a complete set from birth to potty (depending on the size of your baby at birth and of course using disposables till all the meconium is out), if you can afford to invest in another set there is also the teenyfit range for 5-12lbs meaning there is no awkward stage where your baby's legs are a bit too small for the nappy. We were unable to use all-in-ones straight away with Leo as he was a small baby however once he grew up a bit we found the elasticated edges round the leg-holes are great for preventing explosions and when talking with other parents I've found that using cloth nappies has actually saved me from exploding-nappy disasters I hear about from disposable nappy users. 

Folded into a nice fluffy parcel for your little one's bottom 

I love the fact that Tots Bots is a great British brand, designed and made in the UK. The products are made to a really high standard and the designs are awesome. The nursery rhyme prints on the V4 range are simply too cute to keep under clothing at all times and deserve to be shown off in warm weather! We opted for the incey wincey spider print, which Leo really likes. Seeing familiar characters is a big encouragement for toddlers to put their nappy on and serves as a good conversation prompt for parents whatever the age of the baby - talking about the nappy and using changing time as an opportunity for eye contact and communication is wonderful and it's great that Tots Bots are promoting that through their designs. I also imagine that the fun prints help to get parents who are on the fence about cloth hooked onto re-useable nappies. Who would choose smelly disposable nappies which generate tonnes of landfill when you could opt for nice fluffy nappies you can re-use for the whole of your brood, which only smell when full of poo? If you don't believe me try cloth for a while then get a whiff of what the disposables smell like by comparison - it is not nice! A parents are scared cloth will be a lot of extra work but with the all-in-one design it really is just a couple of extra washes a week. Trying the V4 has made me want to update my whole collection, but a certain young man has other ideas and is well on his way to using the potty...I have to admit I will miss Tots Bots when he finally stops using them!  

Exterior view: fantastic print!