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REVIEW: Center Parcs, Sherwood Forest.

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Location: Center Parcs, Sherwood Forest.

Length of stay: Monday-Friday, May 2013.

Lodge: New Executive Lodge, 653 (Cedar).

Number of people: 6 Adults, 2 Children, 2 Infants.

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Back in May we went on our first family holiday to Center Parcs, Sherwood Forest. There was a total of 10 of us going so stayed in one of the New Executive Lodge’s, 653 in Cedar to be precise. We were overwhelmed by just how cool the lodge was when we pulled up outside it! My OH’s family have been visiting several Center Parc’s locations since OH was VERY young. But they all confirmed that this was “the very best lodge we’ve ever stayed in!” as soon as we were through the door.

Once inside the door there is space for coats and shoes; plus space for 2 (large) prams to fit in nicely. There was also a huge broom cupboard to house all our suitcases and umbrellas, plus additional bedding, hoover, dustpan and brush, iron, ironing board etc.  There was a dining table to seat 8 plus we had 2 high chairs brought to the lodge in advance. The highchairs were the same as the ones we found right across Center Parcs in the restaurants and places. This meant we didn’t have to figure out how to use a new highchair every time we went somewhere new, but it also meant that Eli knew it was dinner time as he recognised the highchair. This really helped with consistency. The highchairs are all easy clean, but the tray cannot be removed, or even moved closer to your little one. So there was quite a lot of space between Eli and his tray. He managed ok though. We had maid service who replenished bedding and towels and cleaned the lodge daily.

SO! A little look around Lodge 653…

There were 2 double bedrooms and 2 twin bedrooms. We were brought 2 good size cots for the baba’s too. Albeit, we had been told by friends to take our own cot bedding as this is not provided.

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Bedroom’s were very nice sizes, lots of space for a cot. Not a lot of hangers in the wardrobe though! But we made-do. Would have to mention here that the bedding was atrociously LOUD! Never ever tried sleeping in anything like it! The bed was really comfy but the duvet sounded like crisp packets, every time you BREATHED! Huge let down as it looked wonderful! After the first night we ended up taking taking the sheets off the duvet and slept in those instead. Would recommend taking your own sheets/blankets.

Each bedroom has it’s own en-suite, which is absolutely perfect when sharing with so many people! We had an amazing shower in ours. Upstairs, there were also two balconies off the bedrooms, complete with bistro set, overlooking the woodland. The living room was just lovely, huge ‘L’ shaped sofa, that I fell asleep on every night. It was just so comfy! We also had an open fire, which marked my first experience with a real indoor fire! OH led the log-burning ceremony every night. We weren’t blessed with good weather for the duration of our stay (in true British fashion!) so the wood burner was well-used! The kitchen was really spacious, with ton’s of cupboards and two fridges, an oven, hob, microwave and even a dishwasher! You are provided with a tiny amount of washing liquid, so best to take your own too. There was also a really nice breakfast bar, that the kids loved sitting at!

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We had a great patio with dining set and BBQ – we also had regular visits from the local wildlife too! We were lucky enough to have a Lodge with not only it’s own Games Room (PERFECT for the kids and Grandad!) that had a Pool table, huge TV with PS3 and a ton of board games; but we also had our own Sauna! Bliss!

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Eli is such a water baby it’s untrue – he LOVES his swimming. The Sub-Tropical Paradise was amazing. Loads of slides and play areas for children of all ages! We’ve never seen Eli happier than when he was splashing about in the baby pool. He absolutely loved it! OH and I also frequented the Rapids and new water slide. We had a particularly wonderful moment, when we were all in the outdoor pool and it began raining so so ferociously. The water in the outdoor pool was steaming hot and the rain droplets were ice cold. Very memorable and VERY refreshing! This may also have contributed to the Post-CP cold we all had! oops….

I’d also point out that you cannot take a pram or buggy into the swimming area. Eli will only sleep in his pram so this was a huge downside for us, plus our iCandy Strawberry was not cheap! We did however purchase a padlock and locked our pram in the outdoor buggy park. We purchased the padlock for £3 at the Bike Hire shed. I keep the padlock in Eli’s changing bag now, incase we’re ever faced with a similar situation anywhere else. There are ‘cots’ (more like play pens!) for your children but we struggled to get Eli to sleep in one. Could have been that it was so warm and noisy in the Dome too.

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The food was great at every restaurant we visited. The staff at all restaurants really went out of their way to accomodate us, it was an absolute pleasure to eat out! I can really recommend the French Onion soup from Cafe Rouge – I had it twice, it was so good! Equally, their English Breakfast went down a storm as we prepared for the big drive home on our last day. The ribs at Huck’s American Diner were melt in the mouth, just so tasty. I’d also recommend the Indian take away. BEST Indian take away I think we’ve ever had. Very low-cost too!

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Mid-week, OH and I indulged on our first night out since welllllll before Eli arrived. We had a few drinks at the Lodge and then went onto Strada. The manager even brought over a glass of Prosecco as it was almost my birthday! Such a lovely touch. Our table overlooked the Dome, which was just incredible by night with all the trees and tropical plants lit up in the dark. We then went onto Cafe Rouge for a glass of red outside, under a heater. It was so so lovely to catch up with OH and have a proper date night. It was long overdue. We then went for a few cocktails and to the ‘adult disco’. We thoroughly enjoyed dancing to the horrendously cheesy (mostly 90s) music, it was great fun!

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We all had an amazing time at Center Parcs, Sherwood Forest and would go back in a heartbeat. There is a TON of stuff to do, especially if you have a family. There’s also a spa, if you’re in the mood for some R & R. Center Parcs is great if you’re thinking about planning a family break, I seriously cannot recommend it enough!

I have just noted a few things that might come in handy if you’re going to visit a Center Parcs soon…

– Take your own food and drink. The Parc Market is a little bit more expensive than your usual supermarket. You can easily add £1-£2 on the price of what you would pay at home. But, of course, the Parc Market is great if you do forget something – it’s VERY well stocked.

– Take washing up liquid, especially if you’re still washing umpteen bottles like us!

– Take your own cot bedding.

– Likewise, take your own bedding if you don’t want to be disturbed by the crispy sheets provided!

– Be prepared to leave your pram/buggy outside in the Buggy Park. If you have an expensive pram, take a padlock with you so you’re not worrying the entire time about leaving it!

– Would really recommend the Dine In service. The Indian take away was just amazing. SO authentic, so tasty. Very affordable.

– Aside from the take away service, you must book all restaurants and any other activities you’d like to do on your trip. You also need to hand over a £5 deposit, per person, for every single restaurant reservation. This came out quite costly when we booked all our meals all at the same time. The deposit is deducted from your meal however, Bare this in mind if you want to dine out or partake in any activities. At Sherwood Forest, you make your reservations at the desk by the Bowling alley.

– At this particular location, we found that the Family changing cubicles were very few, so had to wait quite a while for one to become available. They were hit-and-miss on size too. We struggled at times with Eli; the changing ‘area’ for babies is made from quite a hard, evasive material, almost like concrete, so not particularly comfortable or easy on the eye. This definitely upset Eli, he didn’t like the cold concrete or the look of it, I don’t think! The entire changing experience wasn’t great, the lockers by the Family changing were miles away from the showers and were also quite far from the pool entrance. The changing area is a MAZE.

MM.

I was not endorsed for this review in any way. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

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Surprises from my best friends!

Table at Babylon restaurant, Kensington Roof Gardens.

On Saturday of last week (9th June), I was whisked off to Kensington for lunch with my best friends at Babylon, Kensington Roof Gardens. The restaurant and garden’s were absolutely amazing… there were real-life flamingo’s in the gardens! On the ROOF, in Kensington! Crazy!

When I arrived at the restaurant I called my friends and they came and met me at the reception and lead me to our table. They’d decked the table out with ‘Baby Shower’ banners and presents! What a lovely surprise!

I thought I’d share the lovely gifts that they got us 😀

Scrummy cupcakes from Whole Foods.
Scrummy cupcakes from Whole Foods.

 

We're massive fans of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar", so this amazing box has taken pride of place in the nursery!

 

Lots of presents! Lots of essentials 🙂

 

Beautiful gifts from The Little White Company.

 

Absolutely adore this super-soft bunny rabbit and elephant rattle from The Little White Company!

MM.

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Our GroCompany purchases: Swaddles, GroBags and GroEgg.

We first came across the Gro Company when researching cot’s and moses baskets. We completely fell in love with the pretty patterns and prints of their now-famous Gro Bags (baby sleeping bags) and decided that on that alone we would definitely purchase a few for baby boy bump! The Gro Company are the original, and only company to be recommended by the FSiD.

So I signed up to the mailing list and received a lovely catalogue through the door. The designs are so lovely we could have bought them all! We had decided that we wanted to swaddle baby boy bump when he arrives – so went straight to the GroSwaddles section.

We’ve gone for the ‘Woodland Friends’ and a twin-pack of the ‘Wish Upon A Star’ print.

Woodland Friends GroSwaddle £11.50. Click here to purchase exclusively online at JohnLewis.com.

We also opted for the ‘Day/Night’ twin pack and a ‘Little Trikes’ sleeping bag. Absolutely love the Little Trikes print. It looks and feels really vintage – but in a good way!

Click here to purchase GroBag sleeping bags exclusively online at JohnLewis.com

From the catalogue you can receive a massive 25% off when you order over £40 – so we thought ‘Sod it, let’s buy a GroEgg while we’re at it!’. So we did. Looking forward to using it! Had a trial run in the bedroom last night…turns out that bay boy’s bedroom isn’t a bad temperature! The GroEgg will also make for a great nightlight too!

GroEgg Room Themometer, £19.94. Click here to purchase at JohnLewis.com

 

All in all, we’re pretty chuffed with the quality of all the products now that they’ve arrived. We can’t wait to use them!

Have you had your little one’s in any Gro Company products?

MM.

 

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Thoughts on the Silver Cross ‘Balmoral’ pram? As seen with Lily Allen.

After seeing this picture of Lily Allen with the Silver Cross “Balmoral” pram I just had to write a blog post to see what you all thought!

First things first, it’s an eerily old fashioned pram – one of which I had a miniature version when I was growing up for my own dolls, and loved dearly! I always said “When I grow up I want a pram like this in real life”. Now real life is happening and I can’t think of a pram worse!

Obviously, this is my own opinion, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

But this pram is clunky, it’s too old-fashioned for dare I say it; modern times…. and this is coming from someone who’s house looks like a throw-back to the 70’s. It just isn’t practical. How on earth would I get on a bus with this pram? It certainly wouldn’t fit into the boot or even the back seat of our modest family car either! Which just makes me think – is this simply a pram for the celebrities? Also, the only time I’ve seen this style of pram recently is on that “Gypsy Wedding” programme (of which I’ve only seen the one episode and was appalled with the explicit dance moves and provocative clothing of FIVE YEAR OLDS, so couldn’t watch it again).

Another thing is, this pram does not come cheap. It’s £1250. I know our iCandy Strawberry did not come cheap, but we chose it on it’s practical-ness, it can fit in all cars, its perfect for public transport, it can rotate to front/rear facing and converts to accomodate a car seat, carry cot and seat unit. The iCandy Strawberry will also cater a child up to 3-4 years old. I can’t see how this Balmoral pram will accomodate a child from 6 months upwards really!?

Also, looking at the gallery of the Balmoral style on the Silver Cross website I couldn’t help but notice that the model looks ‘too tall’ for the pram. Just look how low down that handle bar is! OH certainly wouldn’t be able to push this pram that’s for sure.

So what do you think then? Am I being unreasonable here?! Do you have the Balmoral pram?

MM.

 

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Our iCandy Strawberry: Seat unit/Stroller and Carrycot.

**Quick warning, this post is quite photograph heavy**

We had looked at lots and lots and lots of reviews of travel systems, push chairs, strollers, joggers, car seats – everything! We came to the conclusion that we *needed* the iCandy Apple. No, not because we’re massive Apple fans… but because iCandy products are the most innovative, easy-on-the-eye and well received. Also, it’s quite important to us that iCandy is a British brand – we’re massive supporters of all things heritage, so this was also a key selling point for us!

Upon further investigation, we found that the iCandy Strawberry was due to be released – after much anticipation. We watched a ton of videos from trade fairs and Which, along with reviews, and decided that we now *needed* the iCandy Strawberry. We called up John Lewis dozens of times awaiting the delivery of it to the shop floor so we could look at it in real life. FINALLY, it had arrived at the Oxford Street store, so we dashed down after work to have a butchers.

We were not disappointed – but knew there was a waiting list and all products that were being delivered, were going straight to customers who had pre-ordered, months and months and months previous.

We looked at a handful of forums and spoke to iCandy stockists and found that we were likely to have a 3 month wait. So we thought, ‘sod it, let’s get it ordered’. So at just 12 weeks pregnant, we ordered the entire package from John Lewis in Stratford. We just wanted to keep it simple colour-wise, black goes with everything – and is unisex. So we ordered the seat unit (£450) and seat unit flavour pack in Assam (£75) along with carry cot (£95) and carry cot flavour pack in Assam (£75).

We were told that we’d get a phone call when everything was in stock, ready for dispatch. Personally, I thought it would be longer than the 3 month wait… judging by conversations around the amount of pre-orders and the length of time it takes to dispatch to the stockist – for the stockist to then dispatch to the customer directly. Just 3 weeks later we got a phone call saying that all items would be delivered in a further 3 days time! We couldn’t believe it.

But hey, I did say we were organised, didn’t I? 😉

So, obviously, at just 24+1 weeks pregnant, we haven’t given it a proper test drive yet. But check out the pictures. We’re chuffed with it! Will have to follow up on this post when Baby Boy actually arrives! From driving it around the house, I can confirm that it is smooth, easy to manoeuvre and quite light. The iCandy Strawberry comes with ‘memory’, meaning that it can be folded with the seat unit attached still – it will then unfold back into the same position before it was folded.

What’s in the box? iCandy Strawberry Chassis, Stroller seat unit, bumper bar, wheels, rain cover and instructions/warranty.

What’s in the box? iCandy carrycot, bumper bar, rain cover, instructions/warranty.

Carry cot attached, with bumper bar. The carry cot features the Assam flavour pack – hood and cover.

Stroller, rear facing. The stroller features the Assam flavour pack – hood and seat cover.

Stroller, front facing.

Folded, free standing, with stroller still attached.

Folded, laid flat with stroller still attached.

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We’ve also ordered the Maxi Cosi Cabriofix car seat from Amazon, which attaches to the iCandy Strawberry chassis. You need to purchase the Maxi Cosi Cabriofix adapters (£30) however!

The complete iCandy Strawberry Travel System that we purchased above came to a total of £725 from John Lewis. We still need to purchase a the Parasol (£25), which can now be purchased online at JohnLewis.com

MM.

 

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Our Baby Boy’s first bedroom.

We’ ve been super organised during this pregnancy – despite all the scares and the tests and the anxiety. I think the being organised has been therapeutic in a way; and has given us something to keep our minds focussed 🙂

Here are the first picture’s of Baby Boy’s first bedroom – he’s going to be in our bedroom for around the first six months however! I did say I was organised, didn’t I?

We painted the walls first – ‘Willow Tree’ by Dulux. We must have painted the room at around 12 weeks. We needed something to do while awaiting CVS results.

We then went to IKEA at around 18 weeks and bought all the furniture! Check out the little dog-bum hooks!

This is OH putting together the cot. All very exciting!

Then putting the shelves up! He very much enjoyed using his new drill and fancy spirit level 🙂

I’m particularly enjoying my curtains, which I hemmed and put up myself. It’s quite a small room, but feels so cosy and nice. We just need July to hurry up now!

MM.

 

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Today I’m making…

…Curtains! These are for our nursery.

What do you think of the IKEA bunting print that we’ve chosen?

 

MM.