Friday, 29 August 2014

Hotel stay with under 5's @ Park Inn Heathrow

This week we stayed at the Park Inn in London Heathrow. It was part of our LEGOLAND trip booked with holiday pirates. (This is a great site, if you are after some cheap trips and holidays) Our stay for 4 people in the 4 star hotel, with LEGOLAND tickets was £119... in the summer holidays!!! WOW!!! The tickets alone would have cost us £101.
We were very impressed at the hotel, we are used to budget hotels, catering for round 100 rooms. On walking up, the girls were captivated with how big it was, with revolving doors and a statue in the middle of the reception. We were greeted almost immediately, and once checked in, the children were given an activity pack each. Great start after 4 hours in the car. And Daddy was very happy, as there was free Wi-Fi too, with no fiddly passwords to enter.
We were given our room card, and told where to go for the lifts... the lifts had multi-colour changing mood lights... the girls were fascinated. We found our room easily enough, and when entering, we realised we had a great view of the airport...
View from our window
Once again the girls were fascinated. The family room was made up with two double beds. This was the only thing that let it down to me, in the budget hotels the girls had their own single beds pulled out from the big double base. But this did not cause a problem for us, the girls refused to share, so mummy had to share with S, whilst daddy shared with J.
S soon found the complimentary shampoo and soaps... I didn't get around to taking a picture of the bathroom, but it was very modern, with a glass shower guard over the bath, and glass shelves on the wall, you can tell its recently been refurbished.
The room had an extra something that we weren't used to either... a small fridge. This would have been perfect if we'd known about it before, as we could have bought some milk for the girls hot chocolate. Along with a safe and 4 cups, not the usual 2! And a bottle of fresh water, I really liked this, as I enjoy a drink at bedtime, and don't really like tap water when away... I know I am fussy!!
 ...along with the usual wardrobe, iron, and ironing board, and spare towels.
and TV, with Freeview...
We didn't try out the restaurant in the evening, but we did try out the breakfast buffet. I've never seen such a variety before. There was the full English breakfast with actual fried eggs.. and fried bread, along with the usual hash browns, sausages, bacon etc.. but also the pastries, fruit, yoghurts, ham, cheeses, breads, cereals, smoothies, juice, and noodles and a rice dish too. With hot tea and coffee bought to the table.
This cost us £21 for the 4 of us.... great deal, as the under 8's eat for free. We also did not need lunch this day as we were still full from the breakfast. I would recommend this breakfast, but the restaurant was busy, and as a result, noisy.
The hotel also has a swimming pool the children can use, but we didn't get the chance as the girls were too naughty, and as punishment, they got it taken away from them. (S refused to go to sleep, keeping J up, then when S finally dozed off, J would wake S up, then S would hit everyone trying to sleep, and run around crying, they were bot still away come 10.30pm- mummy was not impressed!)
Would I use this hotel again? Yes, definitely. They are so close to Heathrow, if we were ever to fly out from there, we would book here for sure.


Thursday, 28 August 2014

Exploring Hare Hill

For J's Birthday, Grandma and Grandad have purchased the M family a family pass for National Trust, THANK YOU!! (And I was cheeky and asked for it early!)  So whilst Daddy was working, I decided to christen the pass with its first use with a trip to Hare Hill for a picnic, from the recommendation of Mummy3+1dog.  
Its not far from where we live, so didn't take too long to get there. Once parked up, we set off, and was greeted by a very helpful volunteer, explaining that there were garden games in the walled garden to enjoy, and wooden sculpture Hares to find in the gardens, so we were off to hunt them down... didn't take long to find the hares....
...we stopped off in the walled gardens for our picnic, and for the girls to have a run around playing tag, and we even got to play a game of crochet...  the sun came out especially for us....

After the picnic and games, we headed back into the other gardens, to find the other hares. Along the trail there was a prompt to get another one of the #50things to do before 11 3/4
Mummy had a quick go, and failed miserably.... even google couldn't help mummy... but we had a good try... but failed....HOWEVER.... when we came back to the car park, we found a national trust member of staff, and she very kindly showed, and demonstrated to us.... which meant mummy managed it, and very shortly after J did too.... so that's another one off the list... S will try when she is older...
We stumbled across a bird hide, which was well stocked with bird books, and a blackboard for people to note what they saw... which helped the girls tick #44 Go Bird watching off the list. Thank fully the free binoculars that came with our passes were packed in the bag!

 The next part of the trail took us to a pond, that looks magical...
We also done some climbing on fallen trees and stumps...
...then finally we found a big bound of wood chips to climb, toss, and run down....
 All in all another lovely afternoon spent with National Trust, I can see us gaining so many more happy, muddy, memories with this new family pass.
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Monday, 25 August 2014

J's 5th Bithday Party

Friday was J's 5th Birthday party. I have previously mentioned that this is a few weeks early due to daddy's working shift pattern, resulting in no weekends off around her birthday, and September being busy as she adjusts to starting 'big school' along with re-introducing dancing, and starting swimming lessons, so having her party now meant we could enjoy the summer weather, and enjoy her cousins company along side her friends, all at the same time.
She wanted a frozen theme, and in theme, we didn't really do much in the theme as I had originally hoped for, as it was all planned in 1 week. We hired a bouncy castle from bubbly bouncers. And this kept the children occupied for the majority of the time. We also had some games as a wet weather option, but we were lucky enough we didn't have rain, but used the games as a calm down time before food. This worked great. Here is the party in pictures....
The girlies home made costumes
J welcoming her friends onto the castle
Posing beautifully
J dancing to the music whilst her friends bounce around
Close up of J dancing in the bubbles
Inside the bouncy castle

Drinks fountain came in handy for the children to help themselves to juice
J had tears, as she fell over and grazed her thigh, and ankle
Pin the nose on Olaf, one of the only themed things of the party
Was a big success, with thanks to Daddy's artwork! :-)
Pass the parcel then followed...
It then went very quiet, whilst all the children tucked into party food
Cake time....
Before they all went back out onto the bouncy castle
Whilst a few slipped further back in the garden for a kick around...
Whilst a game of tag in the bubbles went ahead...
It was then time for everyone to go home, BUT... we had promised J musical statues... so her cousins were happy to oblige.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

How to make a spiral Frozen cake

I have had a lot of feedback regarding J's 5th Birthday cake. She asked for a frozen cake, but I wanted something slightly more challenging then just a round sponge. (I only get to make proper cakes for birthdays) I also refuse to buy a birthday cake, as they don't taste as good, and I want my girlies to have something a little different from the 'norm'. However this was much easier then I was anticipating. I am not a professional, and I don't have lots of tools. Its not flawless, but the effect was still a wow one from J.
The spirals go all around the cake, not just the front. It is made up of 3 tiers, and a cake board. I bought a cake board from ASDA, so was very limited, and was stuck with a 10" which meant the bottom could only be a 8" middle 6" and top a tiny 4".

I used my usual fairy cake sponge recipe which is:
100g Self raising flour
100g caster sugar
100g butter
2 eggs
1 tbsp. milk
0.5 tsp baking powder

and mixed it all together in my food processor with the whisk attachment. Of course for the bigger tiers I needed more so I tripled the amount, and the bottom tier is actually 2 cakes one mix doubled the next tripled, and the top two was one double mix split between them proportionately....

Once they were baked and cooled, I then wrapped them in cling film and froze them.... yep stuck them in the freezer so they wouldn't crumble as much when I hacked into them.
When I was ready, I took them out and left them for 15 minutes to thaw slightly. It was then time to trim the cakes.... which means cut the tops off so they are all even...
We also cut them in the middle to add buttercream frosting inside too. I cheated and used a Betty Crocker frosting, as it worked out more economic then making my own buttercream. We also used this frosting to add the two bottom cakes together, and to use it to 'glue' the tiers to each layer. I just popped them on top, but after looking at the final result, for a more professional look, I would use cake boards of the same size underneath each layer, with dowelling to stop the cakes squashing.

I layered the cake like this, to make it for a natural spiral shape.
I then used cocktail sticks to lay out the steepness of the road all around the cake until it reached the bottom. We didn't want to loose to much cake so we made the path thin, so we also marked out the thickness on the tops with cocktail sticks too.
I then used a steady hand and cut into the cake from both directions being extremely careful, and this is where the cake being frozen really came into it. As my cakes are fluffy, they would have just crumbled away, but instead I had neat lines, which spiralled all the way around and down.
The next job was to put a crumb coating on, so again I used the Betty Crocker frosting. This is where I decided fondant was the way I wanted to go, as I wanted a smarter finish. If you want a buttercream icing, once the crumb layer had hardened you would pop the buttercream layer on.

The next step I had to ask Daddy M to help me. After I rolled out white fondant big enough to cover the whole cake, we then had the challenge of lifting it all, and over to then rub into the places it needed to be, and cut big chunks of the fondant away. This was the trickiest part of the entire cake. and the 2nd pair of hands I would say is essential due to the size of the icing.
It was then time to decorate the cake... here you could do anything... make it into a race track for cars, make it into a hill for a walkers cake? I have seen a piano cake with a deeper spiral. But this is where I chose to make it the ice mountain. I made the ice a few days prior , which you can find out how here. Broke it into pieces and stuck it on to make a path up to the top. The top then looked a little bare, so I used bigger pieces, to make it into an ice castle. I also used the girlies Frozen characters from the Disney Store to really bring it into the Frozen scene. And then finished off with a numbered candle...
All in all the icing time took about 90 minutes... this is nothing compared to the time I have spent on previous cakes for my girlies.
In this photo you can see where the cakes were unsupported and started to squash into each other at the back, I have learnt from this though, and no in future if I am to make a tiered cake, boards are needed. In this situation though, it added to the mountain feel... and it still looked pretty good form the front, even if I do say so myself.


Casa Costello

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Penrhyn Castle

When we were on our camping holiday in Wales, we took the opportunity to visit Penrhyn Castle.
It wasn't the best day to visit, as it was pouring down with rain, but it didn't stop us getting out and about. The castle was very grand, and the walk up, got the girlies excited.
It was like a fairy tale castle, all in tact.
The girlies are used to seeing castle ruins, and think this is the first intact castle they have been too.

Inside the palace, was like a stately home. The girlies enjoyed the entrance and main hall, as they could explore freely, and sat on the chairs that were once sat on by the original owners. But as we got further in, the red ropes appeared, and they didn't like not being able to explore and touch. Our girlies are little explorers. We did the activity that gets the kids to spot things around the house, as in the eyes of the resident dog. And they even saw a bed that was made for Queen Victoria.

Once we left the insides of the castle, the rain had disappeared, so the girlies got a chance to go to the park, and run around the grounds...

 Then it was the run back down the hill to the car.... on slippery gravel...
 Which resulted in grazed knees and mummy cuddles...
 It was a lovely day out as a family whilst on holiday, and a new experience for the girlies, seeing such a grand castle/house.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall