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Drusillas Park: Britain’s Best Days Out

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drusillas monkeyWe were given a free family ticket to review Drusillas Park in Alfriston, East Sussex as part of MoneySupermarket’s Britain’s Best Days Out competition. Over the last couple of months, bloggers have been visiting attractions around the country to find the best family days out.

Small one loves a zoo (as do the rest of us), so we jumped at the chance. Rather than going straight away, we thought it would be nice to wait for her big brother to arrive home from university, and of course we wanted Grandma and Grandad to come too. I was going to buy the extra tickets online, but decided to just get them on the door as after the booking fee there was no real price advantage. Despite our best laid plans we ended up going, big-brotherless after all, on the coldest, windiest mid-January day imaginable.

The visit didn’t start well. There are good points and bad points to visiting attractions in mid-winter, the best of which is no queuing – lucky, as the combination of freezing rain and biting winds meant that standing still was extremely unpleasant. It did feel as if a lot of things were unavailable though, and had I paid full price for all of the tickets, which would have been charged as peak-season, I would have been disappointed, especially as the fabulous looking adventure playground was far too slippery for a rainy day.

Arriving at 11:30, we skipped straight to lunch in the cafe, which served pretty uninspiring fast food and had no toilets, meaning that midway through eating I had to get all dressed up in rain gear again to deliver a small child to the loo. Having said that, there is usually an alternative restaurant, which was closed on the day we visited, but may well have been more what I was looking for. The younger members of the family, who are less fussy than me, enjoyed their lunch thoroughly, especially the self-fillable individual tomato ketchup pots.

The zoo itself was deserted, with the exception of a couple of other families who I suspect had also made foolish promises to their small people. Despite the weather, there was lots to see, and I cheered up as we followed the map in the guide book to find monkeys, penguins, bats, and my personal favourite, the binturong.

drusillas penguins binturong drusillas

Cold weather at DrusillasA lot of the animals seemed unimpressed by the rain, and I didn’t blame them. I gave up on any pretence at style early on, when my lizardlike circulation demanded that I borrowed hats and snoods from all my near and dear, layering them attractively over a metallic knitted boob tube, a relic from my mispent youth which has since served as belly band, doll’s blanket and most recently scarf. Curly one advised me I looked like a “ninja nun”, which I chose to take as a compliment…

drusillas ottersThe otters, on the other hand, were completely in their element and we waited with them for their lunch, as they ran up and down like mad things, squeaking aggressively and demanding meals with menaces from anyone who came near. When their keeper eventually arrived to feed them, an adorable baby stole the show, as he tried to get the hang of a boiled egg.

Despite my early misgivings, there were lots of things to keep kids of all ages busy and interested – more than enough to fill a day. Small enjoyed the spotter books and stamper stations where you could keep a record of all the animals you’d seen and we all had fun doing the “Zoolympics”, where you could compare yourself to a variety of animals for speed, strength and volume. The highlight of this was the phonebox where you had to shout as loud as possible, proving beyond doubt that the curly one is the loudest of us all. We all competed, but none could come close (unsurprisingly – she burst her Dad’s eardrum as a baby!).

drusillas spotter book drusillas decibels

We thought the animated displays and talking bins were well thought out, encouraging kids hygiene. Unfortunately, small isn’t fond of ”pretend animals” so we had to move away swiftly whenever one started.

We finished the day with hot ring donuts and an exciting ride on the Thomas the Tank engine train, which took us all around the park.

All in all it was a great day, and would have been even better in the sunshine. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

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Christening Tales & Daddy Fails (or never knowingly underdressed…)

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Tesco histening gownYesterday we went to the christening of my best friend’s daughter. An important christening – myself and Mr MilkChic are her godparents. It started at 10am and we live 45 minutes away, so we figured that if we showered and packed the night before, and got up at 6.30, we’d just make it on time, and maybe even manage to deliver a potato salad to a cooler storage place beforehand.

(If anyone reading this is questioning the need to pack for an event less than an hour away which would only last a few hours, or indeed why you might need just under 3 hours to get ready even without showering… I’m hoping you don’t have kids? Just don’t tell me – I can feel inadequate without your help!)

It was all going well. Small one, who had been rather ill, hadn’t been sick for 24hrs and was in bed on time, with my Dad standing by as contingency babysitter. The Curly one had found her dress and shoes. Mr MilkChic had declared his kilt wearable without alterations, and I spent a glorious hour and a half in the bathroom alone – dying, shaving, moisturising, and generally acting like a woman without kids before a big event. Admittedly I wouldn’t have considered a christening such a big event back then, but I don’t get out much these days.

With the weather so variable, it didn’t seem worth getting small one’s outfit ready the night before and I didn’t want to risk waking her up so Mr Milkchic was briefed to bath her in the morning while I organised clothes.

Military planning is clearly the route to a successful family outing and we moved like a well-oiled machine… I ironed my dress and did my hair while Mr got small one dressed. He even found socks to match her outfit! I did her hair while he got into his kilt. We packed nappies and snacks in record time. Curly was wonderfully self-sufficient, managing to wear a dress AND a smile at the same time… and, a few minutes later than planned, we were standing on the drive, groomed and ready to go. Perfection! Smug? Moi??

Well, almost perfection.

As I bustled small one into the car, she looked confused.

“I can’t, Mummy.”

I tried again in my best Mary Poppins impression, “Of course you can. Just squeeze past Mummy and hop in like a rabbit!”

She looked distressed.

“I can’t, Mummy! I’ve got NO KNICKERS!“, lifting her dress above her head to emphasise the point.

At least Mr MilkChic had the grace to look sheepish. Apparently he’d spent so long chasing her around the house to get the rest of her clothes on that knickers were overlooked.

And it could have been worse. She could have waited until we got to the church…

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Feeding your baby in the car the easy way

Breastfeedig Baby
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This post is a guest post by the Sainsbury’s Finance Blog team. Please see full disclosure at the end of this post.

Breastfeedig BabyTravelling even a short distance in a car with a baby can involve juggling a whole load of equipment, and a certain amount of hoping for the best. A long journey brings the added challenge of having to feed your baby on the way – so here’s some advice to help.

Routine
To help keep the whole experience as stress-free as possible for baby (and therefore everyone else), stick as closely as possible to their usual routine. Your baby might not be able to tell the time yet, but they have a very reliable internal clock, and having their expectations met on time helps to keep everyone calm and relaxed.

How to feed your baby
There are several options for feeding your baby during a car journey.

  • Breastfeeding: This is the easiest option as you won’t need to pack any special equipment or worry about getting the temperature right. You can’t do it on the move, however, as it would mean taking the baby out of their car seat – which is both unsafe and illegal.

Should the idea of breastfeeding your baby in a succession of unknown public venues make you uncomfortable, plan ahead. Make sure you are wearing easily accessible clothes and offer milk to your baby whenever you stop even if they don’t seem hungry. You’ll need to plan stops every couple of hours to feed and/or change nappies.

If you think you might need to feed between stops, or you prefer to express when out or about, you can bottle expressed milk and store it for up to 24 hours in a cooler bag with ice. To warm it up, you could either take a flask of hot water and a bowl, or ask service station staff to heat it for you. If you do the latter, always check that the temperature is right for your baby before attempting to feed them.

  • Formula feeding: An easy travel option is to purchase travel packs of ready-made formula at the chemist.

To prepare powdered formula on the road, fill a flask or two with hot water, pack some sterilised bottles and teats, and prepare small packs of pre-measured powder. Bring extra powder along: service station staff should be only too happy to refill your flask en route.

  • Solids: If you want to give your baby a snack to chew on while travelling by car, make sure that an adult is sitting next to them. If this isn’t possible then give them a teething ring instead, or something else that doesn’t involve swallowing, as there is a danger of choking if they are unsupervised. If hunger is getting to them, pull over somewhere safe and allow them time to eat.

If there is someone present to supervise the baby, food such as rice cakes, fingers of cheese, or slices of apple are nutritious and relatively mess-free. For freshly made meals along the way, bring food your baby is happy to eat at room temperature and that are easy to mash, such as banana or avocado. Or you could make up pots of their usual food before setting off, and reheat these when needed.

Author Bio: Kath Morgan writes about a whole host of motoring topics, including family travel, car insurance and safety concerns. An avid traveller, she spent many years living abroad and understands the lure of the open road only too well.

Disclosure: I was offered this post as part of my membership of the Sainsbury’s Finance Family Blogger Network and have not been paid to publish it. As part of my membership, I received a Sainsbury’s gift card but this did not obligate me to publish a post. I have chosen to host this guest post as I feel it gives useful information.

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