The Enchantment of Chester Zoo – a guest review!

We had planned to visit Chester Zoo yesterday to experience the Wild Rumpus “The Enchantment of Chester Zoo” – unfortunately our plans were foiled by a vomiting boy . . .

Regular readers will recognise Mich and the kids from our regular adventures together.  This time we asked Team Butler to go  in our place and write a guest review of The Enchantment of Chester Zoo . . .

Team Butler (and Amy!)

When we woke up this morning we didn’t have many plans other than taking the kids to Sunday school and doing the food shop!  So when Col messaged to say that Ben was poorly and she needed someone to step in and take up their place at Chester Zoo I was obviously gutted for them but instantly accepted the offer!  Col told us that Amy was upset not to be going as she’d just recovered from her bout of sickness and woke excited for her adventure – so how could we not take her with us?  Action stations started and we managed to get everyone up, ready and out the door in an hour!  In keeping with the Burgess tradition we didn’t tell the kids where we were going other than we were stepping in to take their place on an adventure!  Finn wanted to know if it was somewhere he would have fun – I promised it was!

Amy & Finley

When we arrived at the zoo the kids were suitably excited and couldn’t wait to get inside.  Luckily there were no queues so we sailed through and were given a map showing us where to find ‘The Enchantment Garden’.  On route we passed the Elephants so couldn’t help but have a quick stop off there and watch as the whole herd tucked into breakfast.

Girls watching elephants at Chester Zoo

Elephants at Chester Zoo

As we were booked in for 11am to meet ‘The Wise Old Owl’ we couldn’t hang around for long so Finley followed the map and soon found where we needed to be!  Having a time slot booking system was fantastic as it meant there was no queuing and we simply waited a couple of minutes for the gates to open and our small group, maybe 6 or 7 families, to enter ‘The Enchantment Garden’!  On entering the garden we were told that today it would be our mission to help save the nocturnal animals from Evil Sorcerer who had stolen the nocturnal animals ‘super hero’ senses.  Moving through the garden we met lots of ‘animals’ who pleaded with us to help them by collecting potions from around the zoo, in an attempt to stop the Evil Sorcerers plan!  All three kids were so engaged with the fun and couldn’t wait to get their test tube from one of the ‘owls’ so they could get started!

The Enchantment of Chester Zoo - Owls

The Enchantment of Chester Zoo

The Enchantment of Chester Zoo - Bats

The Enchantment of Chester Zoo - Owl Team

The Enchantment of Chester Zoo - Collecting magic potion test tubes

As we left the Enchantment Garden they instantly wanted to get the map out and find the first nocturnal animal on the list.  To my horror our first stop had to be the tarantula but hey I would put on a brave face and embrace my role in saving the animals!  When we found the tarantula we met 2 fantastic members of Chester Zoo staff who spent time with Finn, Erin and Amy explaining what ‘super sense’ their creatures had.  They used tarantula skin and a piece of string to explain how these spiders are experts at using vibrations – Finn loved this hands on experience and was confident to report back to the owls what he had learnt so they could all collect their first drops of potion.

The Enchantment of Chester Zoo - Tarantula

The Enchantment of Chester Zoo - Collecting magic potions

The Enchantment of Chester Zoo - Magic potion tubes!

After this we moved on to find The Fruit Bat Forest so they could get more potion.  As we entered the dark room Finley and Amy were not very keen at all – but clinging to Neil we managed to convince them to go in!  To be honest I completely sympathised because the first time I went in there I was quite freaked out – however now knowing what to expect, I love it!  As you enter the blackness bats swoop around you from all directions and there are literally hundreds of them (over 600 I believe) hanging from trees, ‘caves’ and the walls.  Erin was in her element and absolutely loved it, asking questions of the staff and getting excited when the bats brushed past us.  Again, we met a brilliant member of staff, Pippa wore an LED name badge so she could be found in the dark, who told us all about these amazing animals and their ‘super senses’.  Once we had the information we needed for the ‘owl’ Finn and Amy couldn’t wait to get out – however Erin would quite happily have stayed all day.  Once we found the owl we shared our newly found knowledge of bats and got a different coloured potion added to each test tube.  Amy was very excited that this made her potion change colour!

The Enchantment of Chester Zoo - collecting blue magic potion

The Enchantment of Chester Zoo - magic potions turn green

Everyone was quite hungry by this point so we opted to have a relatively early lunch.  Usually on a day out like this I would always take a picnic as I find food quite extortionately priced when you need to feed a family, however I was very pleasantly surprised!  We went to the Junes Pavilion Restaurant and took up the ‘Family Feasts’ offer to feed us all for less than £20.  I was a little dubious about the food we might get and the portion size, with this low price, but it was great!  Large portions and all freshly cooked meant everyone ate happily and there was food left over as we were all so full!

feeding time at the zoo!

From here we set off to find our next target – the Aardvarks.  On route we went into the ‘Islands’ area which I was really pleased about as this in a new addition since I was at the zoo around 5 years ago.  In here you could take a gentle boat ride around and see the tigers snoozing as well as warty pigs – which the kids thought were hilariously named!

Team of Adventurers at The Enchantment of Chester Zoo

kids exploring The Enchantment of Chester Zoo

On leaving the ‘Islands’ we headed straight to see the Aardvarks who were super cute all cuddled to and sleeping – as you might expect from a nocturnal animal at 2pm in the afternoon.  Again, all three kids couldn’t wait to add to their potion collection and were eager to find out the information they needed.  This is what I loved about ‘The Enchantment of Chester Zoo’ as it encouraged all five of us to be drawn to and genuinely be interested in finding out about some animals we may traditionally have just rushed past to get to the lions, tigers and elephants!  Finley definitely learnt facts which will stay with him and he’ll be keen to share back in school after the holidays.  Having said that we were also keen to see the usual must see zoo animals and as Chester Zoo is well laid out they were all easy to find and none of them were hiding from us.

Pouring all the magic potion into the pot at The Enchantment of Chester Zoo

The only down side to our day was that Sunday opening hours meant the zoo closed at 4.30pm.  We made the most of our last hour and got around all the animals we wanted to see, but also making sure we had time to deliver our potions to the final ‘owl’ on our mission.  The ‘owl’ asked us to pour our potion into the huge pot in the hope that we would have collected enough to help save the animals from the Evil Sorcerer!  The kids were so excited by this and were even more pleased to each receive a thank you letter which explained that they had indeed “created enough counter spell and the evil sorcerer has been defeated”.

Successful completion of The Enchantment of Chester Zoo

Erin shows her thank you message from the owls - The Enchantment of Chester Zoo

Finley reads his letter from the owls - The Enchantment of Chester Zoo

Amy shows her letter from The Enchantment of Chester Zoo

This excitement ended what had been a pretty perfect day!  The Enchantment of Chester Zoo was a lovely addition to our day, although at first I was a little concerned it may detract from what we would traditionally see and do on a zoo visit, it really doesn’t and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for similar events in the future.

If you want to try out The Enchantment of Chester Zoo experience it is running throughout half term and ends on Halloween, 31st October. 


*Disclaimer – We were invited to Chester Zoo free of charge for the purposes of reviewing The Enchantment of Chester Zoo experience – all thoughts and opinions remain those of Team Butler!

Ronald McDonald House Charities fundraising day

*Sponsored post*

 This Saturday (22nd October) McDonalds restaurants throughout the UK will be hosting a special fundraising day for the charity Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC).


McDonald’s restaurants will be selling four new wild animal soft toys costing £2.50 each and available from the Kiosk, front counter and Drive-thru window – the best bit being that 100% of proceeds will go the RMHC.  Last year McDonald’s raised £3.9m raised in-store and via the donations box!


You are probably aware of the charity boxes on the till points in McDonalds but how much do you actually know about what they money is for?  The Ronald McDonald House Charities help to keep families together and close to their children in hospital, by providing invaluable free accommodation and support.

Many families have to travel long distances so that their children can get the specialist or intensive care they need. Families who are looked after by RMHC can stay in the houses completely free of charge, for as long as they need.


There are currently 14 Ronald McDonald Houses in the UK and the charity desperately needs fundraising support to contribute towards the funds needed over the next few years to open four new Houses across the UK. The charity has been helping families for over 25 years; providing free family accommodation at NHS hospitals.

So if you’re near McDonalds this weekend, pop in and show your support – you just can’t imagine what a difference you could be making to a family with a poorly child.

Getting Started on Instagram

Last month, Katie and I stood up in front of a fairly packed room at Blog On MSI and talked about our love of Instagram and how we make it work for us.  Since then we’ve had lots of lovely messages from people thanking us for our talk and even people sharing their success since putting some of our tips into practice.  For those people who weren’t able to attend our talk I wanted to share our tips – the post got to be fairly long so I’ve split it into sections and will be publishing it as a series over the next couple of weeks.

We're going on an adventure - Instagram feed

I’ve been using Instagram for just over two years and I must admit that initially I dragged my heels.  “I already spend far too much time on social media, why would I want to add another one” I proclaimed.  The nail in the coffin for me was when Tots added instagram as a metric and I knew it would be foolish to ignore that.  Fast forward two years and Instagram is basically my favourite social media platform.  I love that I can dip in and out when I’ve got time – like a few pictures whilst I’m waiting for the kids to come out of school or lose hours browsing pretty feeds.  I find inspiration for my home, my wardrobe, for places to go and sometimes I just have a good old natter with people about their day.  Over time my Instagram has developed into an extension of my blog and it now often features as a specific part of collaborative contracts.

I think this might be one of my most favourite Amy photos ever ❤️❤️❤️❤️

A photo posted by Colette B (@goingonanadventureblog) on

If you’re reading this then I’m assuming you probably already have an Instagram account and are looking for ways to make more of it.

When you first set up your instagram it’s worth spending some time getting your handle right and thinking about your bio.  For the most part I would suggest trying to maintain the same handle across all your social media to make it easy for people to find you – I have completely failed at this myself as my twitter handle bears no resemblance to my blog whatsoever but it is from my pre-blogging days.  With hindsight I should have set up a new account from the start.  I spent quite a while trying to come up with the right Instagram handle and have Jen to thank for my @goingonanadventureblog (which I would love to use on Twitter as well but it’s just too long!)

goingonanadventureblog instagram profile

Some people like to use a blog logo, others prefer a photograph of themselves.  There is a school of thought which says a photograph works better on instagram as it is essentially such a visual platform in the first place and people want to see the person behind the account! I personally use a combination of the two (a photograph with my blog logo laid over it) and make sure that I use the same image across all my social media accounts to make it easily recognisable. Don’t forget that your Instagram profile picture will be a circle!

Consider what you want your bio to say about you, you don’t have much space to write and you do need to sell yourself – what are people going to get if they follow you?

You can only include one clickable link in your Instagram bio and mostly I use this just to post a straight link to my blog however after chatting with Katie I’ve started to change this occasionally.  She explained that she sometimes drops a direct link to a blog post or youtube video which she has mentioned in an instagram caption and has noticed a significant difference in the amount of traffic from instagram.  (You can’t post clickable links in the captions themselves) Previous to trying this my instrgram didn’t really drive any traffic at all to my blog, however yesterday around 1/5th of the traffic to my latest post came direct from instagram.

Watch our for my Instagram Tips post on Building Your Following next Thursday.

You can find Katie here: Blog: MummyDaddyMe / Instagram: @MummyDaddyMe / Twitter: @MummyDaddyMe

Siblings – October 2016

Stopping at Watford Gap for Costa

I’m a few days late with this one, as is often the case the middle of the month caught me off guard and even as I’m writing this now I’m know I’m going to have to trawl through the last month of photos in a desperate attempt to find some shots of my little ones together!

The last month has been a busy one and we’re all starting to look forward to half term now.  I would say we’re looking forward to a lie in or two but Ben doesn’t do lie ins, he’ll be looking forward to watching tv in his pjs before breakfast!

Ben and Chloe enjoyed their surprise trip to The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead a couple of weeks ago and while I think it did them good to have a bit of grown up time together, they both really missed Amy and were so glad to get home to her the following day.  Of course Amy missed them too.

I do think that being so close in age means that they are really able to enjoy each other’s company and want to do things together.  Ben and Chloe were conscious that they were getting to do something that Amy would think was fun too (though if I’m honest I think she’d have found the ski lesson really very difficult!)

Although this half term seems to have gone by unusually quickly for the first Autumn term, I can’t wait to get my babies back together for a week – there’s adventures to be had!

Lego cinema

Sisters cuddling

Stopping at Watford Gap for Costa

A very sparse set of siblings photos indeed!  I promise to do better next month!

The Me and Mine Project

The most you can spend on any child is time – Word from the Mr

Family walking through the woods

It’s been a little while since Dave has written a post for me but this is a big one and I won’t deny it made me cry the first time I read it . . . 

Col has been pecking my head to write a new post for the blog for quite some time now.  I shouldn’t complain.  It’s nice to be wanted and I quite enjoy seeing what falls out of my head when I get on a topic where I’ve got something to say.  Therein lies my problem.  I’ve been struggling to find a topic that I don’t write meaningless waffle about.

Anyway this topic has some weight for me, so it’s been nagging at me that I could write something real about this, and as it came up in conversation recently with some friends I thought I’d try to put some of my thoughts down.  Here goes…

I don’t know my Father.

I’ve met him.  Just not nearly enough for a human who provided half the genetic material that is me.  He and my Mum split up when I was very little, and although my Mum put in huge amounts of effort and made sure I saw his family loads during my childhood, he worked away and was very rarely there when I went to visit his side of the family.  So I had a great relationship with his parents, my Nan and Granddad, all my uncles and cousins, but not him.  I spoke to him on the phone occasionally and I saw him at scattered intervals but he has been absent throughout my life.

I’m not asking for sympathy and I’m definitely not suggesting I’m alone in this situation so please don’t get me wrong.  I mainly want to talk about how much that abandonment can and does affect you because it might not be apparent.  I’m pretty well adjusted, all things considered.  However, I undoubtedly have “Daddy issues”.  A phrase which makes me shudder to think about let alone type!  I haven’t always realised that this was the case though.  Throughout my teens, if you had asked me, I would have told you that I couldn’t have cared less about not seeing him.  It didn’t make me feel any less worthwhile or affect me in any way.  It wasn’t just empty bravado either.  I really believed that at the time.  It’s only looking back that I see it now.  Hindsight having such ocular accuracy as it does.

Family photo

I think what really nailed down that realisation for me was one Christmas when he rang me out of the blue because he “wanted to be a part of his grand kids’ lives”, not his son’s life I might add, his grand kids.  I found myself screaming down the phone at him because he wasn’t listening to me.  It didn’t help that I was half cut of course!  The topic certainly didn’t put me in the right frame of mind.  The point I’m trying to make is that at that point I was a fully grown adult who had his life together.  A happy family life with not a care in the world by most measures.  I wasn’t a child and I hadn’t been one for quite some time.  I’d spent that evening getting pleasantly potted in the pub with the in-laws, all geared up for Christmas and within five minutes I was reduced to screaming at a practical stranger because he asked me a question!  That is not my usual response to trouble and strife.  I am better than that.  Some scars run deep and never heal quite as much as you’d like.

It’s a well known phrase ‘You’ve got a face only a Mother could love’.  Not the nicest phrase I know.  I think this phrase is applicable for both your parents, even though it is usually reserved for the maternal side.  The point of it is that your parents should love you no matter what you look like, what you are.

But what if they don’t?  What does that say about you?  Are you in some way unlovable?  Not worth the effort?  I’m afraid to say that these things cross your mind from time to time.  If there’s anyone who can mess you up it’s your parents.  I’d like to point out again that I’m fine and that what I am describing is in no way the worst thing a parent can inflict upon you, but it’s still not great.

If you look at statistics for children who show serious behavioural problems, then aside those who have a diagnosed condition to account for their behavioural issues, the vast majority have fractured home lives.  That dynamic is so important to a child’s development.  Physical development, mental development, emotional growth and stability all start with a happy home life.  That’s not to say it’s the only the only place it can come from, but it helps. I think as parents that’s what you owe your kids. It doesn’t matter how much money you make, how many presents you give them or fancy places you take them. If your kids know they are loved and spend time with you then they’ll be alright because that’s what matters. Show them love and that they are worth your time.

Family in the woods

When I was quite young my Mum met a bloke who would go on to be a major influence in my life.  He was great to me.  I really learned a lot from him, and the effort he put into getting to know me and putting up with the resentful sod I was, really shows the character of him.  I’m ashamed to say that I did not repay that man with the respect and affection that he deserved.  For a large part of my formative years I really didn’t like him because he had the audacity to not be my Dad!  How dare he!  Coming over here making my Mum happy and putting up with her stroppy kid!  The cheek of it.  He was around throughout my early life until he regretfully passed away far too young.  I finally told him I loved him on his death bed and thanked him for everything he had done for me.  I’m so glad that I got to do that but it shouldn’t have only been on that one occasion.

As I look back now I realise that even if my Father had made the effort I don’t think he’d have been a good Dad.  I can’t see us playing football or him helping me my with my homework.  I’ve spoken to him as an adult and I don’t see a great role model, but then again whenever I have spoken to him it has always been through a fog of alcohol at family funerals or weddings which is the only time our paths cross.

In a way the scariest thing for me is that I can see how this situation would arise. I’m pretty terrible at keeping in touch with friends and family. People I genuinely love and care about have drifted out of my life because I don’t pick up the phone. Because it’s easier to not ring or go and see them. Relationships are living things. If you don’t care for them they die.  So I can see that it’d be easy to not ring tonight because you are tired, or you haven’t got anything to talk about.  Then once you’ve done that a few times you feel like it’s been too long to just ring up for a chat.  Once that happens then when/if you do eventually ring it’s awkward because you haven’t spoken in so long. It gets harder to ring or see them and easier to leave it till another time.  That’s the very definition of a downward spiral.  It’s harder to act and easier to leave until things are too far gone.

I knew from very early on that I wanted kids.  I wanted to be a Dad.  I also knew that I would never ever leave my kids.  I am not ever going to be someone who only sees their kids on the weekend.  That’s not enough.  I need to be a part of my kids’ lives.  If I’m going to mess them up it’s going to be from being around them and teaching them my bad habits rather than from being absent.

So the crux of the matter for me, and what I wanted to write this post for, is to say if you are in the horrible situation where you don’t live with your kids then make that effort.  If you make plans, then turn up.  Be there as much as you physically can.  Call them.  Send birthday cards.  Do everything you can to let them know that they matter because that’s what counts.  That they know they are loved and they have people who want to be part of their lives.  Even if it’s hard work it’s worth the effort because they are a part of you and they deserve it.  It matters more than you probably think.  It might change their whole outlook.  It might change their life.

Family walking through the woods

Tried & Tested Tuesday (Week 41 – 2016)

Another week has flown by – can you believe it is half term next week? Before we know it we will be getting ready for the Christmas break!

Welcome to another week of #TriedTested! Of course we wouldn’t be able to say that without you lovely lot returning each and every week to link up your favourite reviews and taking time to read and comment on others. We have always been really proud of the fact that the bloggers joining in with #TriedTested are keen commenters; let’s face it there’s no point in linking up if you’re not going to get lots of lovely people reading your post is there – so gold stars all round. You’re ace, keep it up!

Please have a quick read through the points below to make sure you know how things are working:

* Tried & Tested is open on Tuesday – from 8am to midnight on the same day

* We’d love to share your post on Twitter – please tweet us your link (@Lollinski & @FamilyFever) along with the #TriedTested hashtag and we’ll retweet that for you

* If you’d like Colette to tweet you a reminder each week when the linky is open then please drop her a tweet (@Lollinski) and she’ll add you to the list

* Each week we feature our two favourite reviews from the past week and we have a super special “featured blogger” badge! If you are this week’s featured blogger we will send you over the code which we would love you to add to you blog post or sidebar!

So if this is your first time here then welcome along, where have you been? You can find out more about #TriedTested and how to join in here. If you’re a regular then welcome to you too, it’s lovely to have you back! Crack on, link up and share some commenty love – let’s face it, that’s what makes linkys work.

This week we have loved:

#TriedTested featured blogger

Hatchimals review from Mummyshire. This is set to be the hot toy this Christmas, so it’s great to see an insight into how it really works.

#TriedTested featured blogger

Savisto retro food mixer review from OMG it’s a girl. I love a good food mixer, but they can be really pricey, so it’s great to hear that a more affordable model does a great job!

We don’t have lots of rules for #TriedTested however the ones we do have are really important:
* Please do make sure you visit your hosts Family Fever and We’re going on an adventure to leave a comment on the posts we have each linked up
* Try to comment on a couple of other posts as well if you can – we know that people really appreciate the feedback!
* We do ask that you link a maximum of 2 posts each week to keep things fair for everyone – if you choose to link up an extra post please make sure you visit extra posts in the linky to balance it out. (Additional or irrelevant posts will be deleted out of fairness.)

* Please don’t link up a linky or comment on other people’s posts asking them to join your linky too as it’s really not good etiquette!

We're going on an adventure

The Enchantment of Chester Zoo

visitors to chester zoo this half term will be greeted by a wise old owl character who will help them to save the superpowers of the zoos incredible nocturnal characters

Half term is almost upon us (hurrah!) and I’m starting to think I should probably make some plans!

Top of my list is a visit to Chester Zoo, which in fairness is one of my favourite places anyway but this half term they’ve teamed up with the awesome people behind Just So Festival – Wild Rumpus to bring you “The Enchantment of Chester Zoo” a unique Halloween experience for families.

An evil sorcerer is casting a spell on Chester Zoo, trying to steal the super powers of nocturnal animals.  Visitors this Halloween have until dusk to break the spell. 

This is the first ever large scale Halloween event at Chester Zoo – with performers, musicans, aerialists and acrobats it is certainly set to be spectacular.  Knowing what a show Wild Rumpus pull together for Just So Festival, I’m confident that The Enchantment of Chester Zoo is going to be an event to remember!

A little boy dressed as an owl at Just So Festival 2016

Visitors will need to keep their wits about them on a journey through the newly enchanted zoo, as they meet the inspirational animal characters before discovering the real life nocturnal animals as families explore the dark fruit bat forest, search for the nocturnal aye-ayes in their shadowy habitat and discover the magnificent Montserrat tarantula.

Charlotte Smith, head of discovery and learning at Chester Zoo, said: “This is set to be a spectacular, fun, hands on experience like no other – something families will remember for a long time! What’s more, we hope it will highlight the incredible diversity of our planet. Some of our nocturnal species are under threat in the wild and visitors to the zoo are helping to fund the work that will prevent us losing animal super-powers forever.

The Enchantment of Chester Zoo - wise old owl

The Enchantment of Chester Zoo runs 10am – 2pm each day from 22 – 31 October 2016 and is free with zoo entry, but booking is advised to guarantee a place.

We’re going to be heading down to the event this weekend so watch out for a full review and vlog next week and be sure to follow the hashtag #EnchantmentOfCZ


Bruno Mattress – Review

Ben sleeping on Bruno Mattress

As parents I think we all get a bit obsessed with sleep – how much we’re getting, how much we’re not getting, how we can get more . . . and linked to that of course, how much sleep are the kids getting?!

I remember being really super nervous buying Ben’s first cotbed mattress.  I was aware of the risks of SIDS / Cot Death and wanted to make sure he was as safe as possible.  We were also concerned about the mattress being appropriately supportive for his little back.  We spent ages choosing the right mattress in Mothercare and went on to buy exactly the same one for each of the girls when their turn came around.

Fast forward a couple of years to buying mattresses for the bunk beds and our concerns were quite different. this time we were buying two mattresses at once so cost was a big factor.  We were also conscious of not wanting to spend a load of money on a mattress only for one of them to be sick on it or for it to get ruined with night time accidents.  We decided that we’d just buy cheap ones initially and then invest in something better later on.  Neither child has ever complained that their bed is uncomfortable but I know from lying down on Ben’s bed with him, that I wouldn’t have wanted to sleep on it!  (I’m sure in part that’s due to me being considerably heavier than him!)

A month or so ago, Ben was sent a new Bruno mattress.  Bruno have only recently launched their mattress in the UK market so it wasn’t a brand I had heard of before.

Each Bruno mattress is assembled and vacuum packed in Saxony before being delivered direct to the customer’s door.  I must admit that when the box arrived I did wonder how on earth it could possibly contain a single mattress of any substance!

Once you’ve managed to get the mattress upstairs (a job for Dave!) it’s a fairly simple task to get it out and onto the bed.  Bruno suggest that you lay the mattress down on the bed to unpack it as basically once you’ve cut open the plastic packaging, it will start to unfold itself as it steadily fills up with air.  Very quickly you find yourself with a surprisingly deep mattress.  It’s important to leave the Bruno mattress to settle for a little while so that it can fully recover from being vacuum packed.  Just a few hours before bedtime seemed to do the trick.

Ben was really excited about his new mattress and was keen to get an early night – something which never happens!  Lying down on it together I knew instantly that his new Bruno mattress was in an entirely different league to the cheap put-me-on we had bought four years ago.  For a start, there’s no lumps and bumps!

Bruno Mattress

The Bruno mattress features 7-Zone Support, which means the mattress is ergonomically designed to promote healthier spinal alignment with pressure relieving support no matter what your sleeping position – which is just as well as I find Ben in all manner of strange positions of a night!  As someone who has really issues with their back and hips in bed, this sounds like absolute bliss and I started to feel quite envious of Ben’s new luxurious sleeping arrangements!

The naturally hypoallergenic and anti-bacterial latex top, whilst creating a breathable sleeping surface and promoting even weight distribution, is also ideal of us as a family with a tendency towards asthma and irritated skin between us.

Of course the removable quilted cover top is particularly appealing to me as a mum of small children.  Accidents happen.  At some point someone will be sick or wee on the mattress.  It’s a given.  We do use a mattress protector on each of the children’s mattresses but knowing that I can just unzip the super soft top layer of the mattress and bung it in the wash does just give that extra peace of mind.

Ben sleeping on Bruno Mattress

The proof of the pudding they say is in the eating, in this case though it’s all about quality of sleep isn’t it?  Well Ben loves his new Bruno mattress.  He says it’s really comfortable and I must admit from my own brief experiences of it I have to agree.  Over the last week or so we’ve had my Dad staying with us to work on the house and rather than have him sleep on the sofa as he has done in the past, we put Ben in with Chlo (as she has the bunk beds) and Dad has slept in Ben’s bed.  Until now I would have said the sofa was probably more comfortable for him but the new Bruno mattress meant I was quite happy that he’d sleep well.  Dad is used to a very expensive memory foam mattress and as a result I think he finds sleeping anywhere different a bit of a struggle at times.  He said that Ben’s new Bruno mattress is very firm, probably firmer than he would like, however it didn’t stop him from sleeping and that in fact he has slept really well.  So, if Dad says it’s ok – it must be pretty good!

*Collaborative post*

The Snow Centre, Hemel Hempstead – Review

Chlo on two skis

For the last few years there has been a distinct lack of snow.  In fact Chloe, at 5 years old, has little experience of real snow at all.  The last time we had a fall significant enough to rock out the sledge, she was only a toddler and happened to be poorly that day.  So, when the opportunity arose for us to visit The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead, I was keen to give it a go!

Ok, I hold my hands up and admit it – I’m not a winter sports kinda gal.  Ok, ok. I’m not a sports kinda gal.  Not at all.  Holidays for me are about sunshine and lazing by the pool.  The idea of a skiing holiday really doesn’t appeal.  Far too much effort for my liking.  It will come as no surprise then that I’ve only worn skis once in my life . . . I was about 7 and went to a dry slope with Brownies somewhere in North Yorkshire!

As such, we were all complete novices except Dave who used to snowboard well enough to have at least bothered to buy his own snowboard but that’s before I even knew him so I think it would be fair to say his skills are a little rusty.  We had private family ski lesson booked – an hour long for Dave, Ben and Chloe and half an hour for Amy and I.  Unfortunately, Dave and Amy weren’t able to come with us on the day so Ben, Chloe and I had an hour long lesson with a bonus instructor for the first half an hour!

Of course, as ever, Ben and Chloe didn’t know what we were doing – just that we were going on an adventure and would be staying in a hotel.  Our session at The Snow Centre was booked for 2pm so we set off at 8am giving us ample time to factor in a stop at services and lunch before our lesson.

Stopping at Watford Gap for Costa

When we arrived at The Snow Centre and parked up, I explained to the kids what we were going to do – Ben was immediately excited (he’s such a thrill seeker) however Chloe was really nervous – I’m sure she thought I was just going to take her to the top of the main slope and push her down it!  I explained to her that our instructors knew we’d never skied before and wouldn’t make us do anything scary.  I went on to remind her that she was scared of the water slides at Splash Landings before she did them and that sometimes she just needs to trust me that it will be fun!

It’s worth bearing in mind that although our ski lesson was booked for 2pm, there’s a substantial amount of preparation required – we had to check in and then collect all our equipment.  There is a clothing hire charge of £7 per person (which is of course avoidable if you have all your own ski stuff . . . we didn’t).  The women’s ski gear comes up pretty small and I ended up having to wear the men’s equipment . . . stylish.  Anyway, no matter – it kept me warm and dry which is the most important thing!  Ben and Chloe were able to dress themselves fairly easily.  (It’s worth bearing in mind that jeans are not a good idea of this kind of activity as they tend to get wet and heavy very quickly – I wore leggings and the kids both had tracksuit bottoms and hoodies on under their ski clothing)  I had taken hats for us all to wear but this wasn’t really necessary as we had our helmets on and they kept our heads pretty warm (and obviously safe!).  We took our own gloves, just standard woolly mittens for the kids and my leather gloves.  I realised afterwards that this probably wasn’t the best choice of equipment for the kids as their gloves were soaked through and their hands pretty cold but neither of them complained and it’s only an hour – no different to playing in the snow as kids ourselves I guess!

The Snow Centre - Ready to ski

Once we were all set with our clothes it was onto the rather more technical equipment of boots and skis.  Ski boots are sized according to your shoe size and your skis adjusted according to your weight so it’s worth making sure you know those details ahead of time!  Putting our ski boots on took forever – they are awkward and cumbersome to get your feet into and then tricky to fasten but this is nothing compared to how tricky we found them to walk in!!  I’d also made the mistake of fastening up my ski jacket before I got everyone’s boots on so I was absolutely roasting by the time we were ready.  The guys at The Snow Centre helped us out with fitting the kids helmets and then I picked mine off a rack according to size – this involves a bit of trial and error to make sure you get a good fit.  I must admit that the helmet was probably my least favourite bit of the day . . . it smelt all stale and sweaty, as you’d expect I guess, and I could smell it for the rest of the day!  I think it’s probably the first thing I would look to purchase for myself if I was about to taking up skiing with any regularity.

Finally, we were all suited and booted and set to go!  We were met by Doug and Dave who had a quick chat with us about our previous experience (or lack thereof) and what we expected to get from our session.  As I mentioned earlier we should only had have on instructor but because Amy hadn’t been able to come with us we benefited from an extra half hour’s tuition from her instructor.

The first thing we learned was how to un-clip our skis and put them on.  Doug and Dave were really great at explaining things clearly to the kids so they quickly sussed out to fasten their skis on or take them off again.  (This was especially useful for Ben who seemed to spend half the lesson knocking his skis off and having to fasten them on again!)

The Snow Centre ski lesson

With one ski on, Ben and Chloe practised pushing with one foot as though they were on a scooter to get them used to the feeling of sliding and then learned how to climb up the hill without slipping back down (sideways in case you’re wondering).  Once they had mastered this with one ski, we had a go with both.  (And yes when I say “we” I do me mean as well!)

Chlo skiing

Chlo on two skis

Doug and Dave encouraged Ben and Chloe to make animal noises and actions as they were going down the slope – Chloe got totally on board with this and made some great lion noises, Ben said I did a good job of being “a scared human” as I squealed my way down the slope!

Mummy skis

Once they’d had a few goes of sliding down the slope and climbing back up again, Doug left us for his next booking and Dave took us over to the travelator – which meant we could get a little higher up the slope but didn’t have to work so hard to get there!

Travelator at The Snow Centre

The Snow Centre - Ben on the floor

Now Dave had them doing “heads, shoulders, knees and toes” as they skied down the slope, or even jumping a little.  He explained later that this was good for developing their balance and meant they weren’t really concentrating on what they were doing.  Chloe thought it was hilarious!

The hour passed so quickly but it was definitely just long enough.  By the end of the session it was clear that the kids were tired, they were slower to get back up when they fell!  They’d had a fantastic time but I knew they were ready to stop and have a rest!

The Snow Centre - Ben

At the end of the session Dave sat down with us in the changing rooms and talked through the things that we had achieved and gave us a record card to show the levels we had reached.  He said that both children had done really well and had got a lot done for their first lesson.

I must admit I was particularly impressed with Chloe as she has a tendency to get quite frustrated when things are hard and isn’t always very good at laughing things off.  She loved her ski lesson though and just kept on getting back up and having another go.  In fairness to her she spent less time on the floor than Ben and both myself and her instructor Dave thought she’d done incredibly well.

The Snow Centre - ski instructor with Ben and Chloe

Once we had got changed and given back all our equipment we made our way upstairs to The Lodge where I had expected we would all want to warm up with a hot chocolate but actually we were all still really hot from our lesson and had a slush to cool down instead!  Ben and Chloe loved that we were able to look out over the main slope whilst we had our drinks and were particularly impressed with the snowboarders taking the jumps!  Ben said he quite fancies trying a snowboard next time!


Both kids were absolutely buzzing after their lessons and have both said that it was well worth the effort of driving all the way down to Hemel Hempstead and are keen to have another go!  I’m just gutted that Dave and Amy weren’t able to come and take part this time!

*We were invited to try out a private family ski lesson at The Snow Centre free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

Tried & Tested Tuesday (Week 40 – 2016)

October is well and truly in full swing now, bright blue skies and autumnal colours a plenty – I love autumn, until it rains!

Welcome to another week of #TriedTested! Of course we wouldn’t be able to say that without you lovely lot returning each and every week to link up your favourite reviews and taking time to read and comment on others. We have always been really proud of the fact that the bloggers joining in with #TriedTested are keen commenters; let’s face it there’s no point in linking up if you’re not going to get lots of lovely people reading your post is there – so gold stars all round. You’re ace, keep it up!

Please have a quick read through the points below to make sure you know how things are working:

* Tried & Tested is open on Tuesday – from 8am to midnight on the same day

* We’d love to share your post on Twitter – please tweet us your link (@Lollinski & @FamilyFever) along with the #TriedTested hashtag and we’ll retweet that for you

* If you’d like Colette to tweet you a reminder each week when the linky is open then please drop her a tweet (@Lollinski) and she’ll add you to the list

* Each week we feature our two favourite reviews from the past week and we have a super special “featured blogger” badge! If you are this week’s featured blogger we will send you over the code which we would love you to add to you blog post or sidebar!

So if this is your first time here then welcome along, where have you been? You can find out more about #TriedTested and how to join in here. If you’re a regular then welcome to you too, it’s lovely to have you back! Crack on, link up and share some commenty love – let’s face it, that’s what makes linkys work.

This week we have loved:

Tried Tested Featured Blogger Hello Archie

The Poco Baby Hammock review from Hello Archie – I pretty much want to get in this hammock myself! It looks SO incredibly comfortable!

Tried Tested Featured Blogger Wave to Mummy

Penguins with Sense Organics Kids Clothing from Wave to Mummy Wigan Mum – We just love these clothes!

We don’t have lots of rules for #TriedTested however the ones we do have are really important:
* Please do make sure you visit your hosts Family Fever and We’re going on an adventure to leave a comment on the posts we have each linked up
* Try to comment on a couple of other posts as well if you can – we know that people really appreciate the feedback!
* We do ask that you link a maximum of 2 posts each week to keep things fair for everyone – if you choose to link up an extra post please make sure you visit extra posts in the linky to balance it out. (Additional or irrelevant posts will be deleted out of fairness.)
* Please don’t link up a linky or comment on other people’s posts asking them to join your linky too as it’s really not good etiquette!

We do our best to visit each post to leave a comment but we can’t promise to get round everyone every week – especially with kids and work to juggle too! We would love it if you grabbed our badge and popped it on your post too so other people know where to find the linky.
We're going on an adventure