When Casa Costello visited Center Parcs, Whinfell

Family Holidays at Center Parcs

We are well known for a our love of holidays and equally well known for our love of Center Parcs. Even before we became Center Parcs Family Bloggers, we had spent several holidays both at Whinfell and Sherwood Firest. We were in no doubt that we would thoroughly enjoy our recent break but it was even better than we expected. Having 3 children of wide age ranges sometimes poses difficulties in what we can do all together but CP caters for us perfectly.

We got up to all sorts! I’ve made a short video of just some of the stuff we got up to …

Hair Braiding
This was number one on the girl’s lists of things to do. There was much discussion about which colours to have. The braids have lasted well over a week after we have got home (We are now experts on hiding the braids during school hours!)

Ten Pin Bowling
We weren’t quite sure how a 3 year old would get on but she loved it! She was so excited when we got in – the atmosphere with the blue lighting is fab. We had the sides up and could use the trolley to help Tara even more (To be honest, I could have done with a bit of help too!)

They say you never forget how to ride a bike – It may be try but it didn’t stop me being awfully wobbly. All good entertainment for the girls (and the other holiday makers!) Tara had a truck which was brilliant for putting all our swimming kit in … and a minion!

There’s no excuse for going hungry at Center Parcs – I’ll be sharing another video of all the eateries we visited very soon.

Well, we wouldn’t be us without a pool, would we? The girls spent HOURS on the rides … and I went on them too!! Mega brownies points for me. You could literally spend your whole holiday in the water park – its toasty and warm and there’s always something different to do. I think Me & Derm were the only people to be drinking tea in there though! You can take the people out of Ireland but …

After 10+ visits to Center Parcs, we’ve come across some of the more hidden activities that you may not know about. Here’s our tips for some of the extra treats you can find…

  • Free Children’s Disco – Every night in the Bowling Bar at 6Pm
  • The Swimming Pool is much quieter after 5Pm – Fabulous for evening swims when they dim the lights and no queues for the rides
  • Free WiFi in the main complexes
  • Later Opening hours in the shop – Open til 8PM most nights now
  • Most restaurants provide colouring kits for the children. Most also have play areas in them.
  • Hidden play area above Cafe Rouge (You’ll be amazed!)
  • Toilets have steps for toddlers- Its the simple things that work best.
  • Hair Diffusers in the Accommodation – The ONLY place I have ever known to provide this!
  • Straighteners available for £1 a go in the Swimming Paradise (You can’t have 3 girls without thinking about hair … a lot!)
  • Cash Free wrist bands that can be used in the Swimming Paradise – also serve as your locker key and your lodge key. Amazing!
  • Bowling – You can say which people you want the bars on and which you don’t. And also change your mind half way through if you find out that you aren’t very good.

I could go on and on, but really I think you should just find out for yourselves. For more information about Activities at Center Parcs visit the website. One of the massive bonuses for me is that Whinfell don’t have frogs (massive phobia!). We’ve already talked about going back next year sometime.

I’ve got tons more to talk about our trip but for now, we would like to say a huge thank you to the team at Center Parcs.


Frozen Inspired Food – Marshmallow Olafs

frozen olaf food

It was a very exciting day for my children yesterday. Violet has never been the same since we took her to see the movie, Frozen just after Christmas. She has lived and breathed that film. Like a lot of children, she knows every word of every song. She spends many an hour ‘researching’ the film on the internet (YouTube!). She has waited and waited, and asked and asked near enough every day, ‘When is Frozen out on DVD?’ and yesterday was THE DAY!

Off she went to school with me promising to get the DVD (Nah, I’m not organised enough to pre-order it) and so off I tripped to the supermarket. I decided we would make a celebration of film night by having a Frozen inspired tea.

Here’s what I came up with – I’m pretty impressed with myself considering I only had an hour. Once Tara got the drift of what I was doing she was solo excited – I’ve never seen her jump up and down so much. Really cute!

I had seen on Pinterest, a few people have had Frozen parties and loved the idea of Olaf noses (Carrots!) so there was one dish.

olaf noses

We had snow topped pizza (Marguerita with some extra Mozzarella) cut into mountain shaped peaks.

My ultimate favourite (and the one that took the most time) has got to be the Marshmallow Olafs – 3 marshmallows stuck together with sugar glue. Matchmakers for arms. Mini chocolate drops for buttons and orange marzipan noses, I drew the mouth and eyes with edible pen. As you can see from the picture below, Tara was more than chuffed with her Olaf! God knows why, but all 3 girls changed into white onesies for the film – bit strange at 4pm in the afternoon but who am I to argue?

Frozen inspired food

Millie made us some paper snowflakes …

disney frozen food
We had snow topped popcorn (Freshly popped kernels with melted white chocolate mixed through it), Snow Mice, Snow topped Marshmallows (dipped in blue icing and edible sparkles), Blue shortbread cookies (which were vile – far too sweet)

frozen white chocolate mice

And best of all…Me & Derm had Chilli for tea (Get it?)

The girls had a ball and were high as a kite from all the sugar when Grandma came to visit as we had parent’s evening.

I think I earned some Mum Brownie points and I did it all without the help of gin!

Life as a Synchro Mum

synchronised swimming juniors

About to swim her solo at National Age Group comp 2013

2 years ago we set out on a journey that we had no idea would take over ours and Millie’s life. 2 years ago last week, Millie attended her first ever synchronised swimming lesson in Manchester. God knows why we thought it was a good idea to all troop off to Sale on a Saturday teatime, but off we went. M was soooo nervous but no word of a lie, within 10 minutes those eyes looked up at us on the viewers balcony, and we knew. We were going to be spending a LOT of time poolside!

Even then we didn’t have any concept of how life would change. I’ve mentioned Millie’s swimming on here several times but haven’t really wanted to go into it too much. I do all the proud mum stuff, but its her story really, not mine.

Within months, M was training between 5-7 times per week – sometimes we enforce a day off out of the water but you can bet your life there’s always some element of stretching, splits or dancing going on in her room.

10 months after starting synchro, M passed trials to be accepted onto the England Talent Squad which just blew our mind. She is also on the Development Squad for 2014 which makes us massively proud and makes her hugely happy.

This past weekend she went down to Sheffield to swim in the display at the #swim4Leukaemia fundraising event.

swim4leukaemia becky adlington

The Day Rebecca Adlington was lucky enough to meet the girls from Trafford synchro #swim4leukaemia

Here’s some of the stats of what 2 years in synchro has involved:

  • 74 Nose Pegs (with 20 more on order)
  • Approx 15 boxes of gelatine
  • 21 nights in Premier Inns
  • 250+ miles per week to training – This isn’t including the various trips to Leeds, Crystal Palace, Glasgow, Gloucester, Sheffield
  • 312 cups of coffee whilst spectating
  • 256 washed towels (ish)
  • 12 pairs of goggles
  • 9 Swimming Caps
  • 6 Sports Water Bottles
  • 17 Swimming Costumes
  • Millions of sequins
  • Even more tears (mostly mine)
  • milliearms

And its all been worth it! To see our nervous 9 year old turn into a confident, happy and ambitious 11 year old is fabulous. She works incredibly hard but also applies that to her school work. She gets digs from jealous girls who cannot deal with something ‘different’. She tells no-one in school what she is up to. She gets up at the crack of dawn to go training at weekends. She spends endless hours deciding on what music she would like to swim to next. She watches programmes whilst sat in the middle of the living room in split positions. She loves the girls she swims with – it doesn’t matter whether they are 10 or 18, they are all lovely.

Yes, its all been worth it – even today.

Today being the day that every synchronised swimmer gasped as they heard that Olympic funding for Team GB has been completely stopped.

Today the day that those young girls had their dreams and ambitions crushed.

Today being the day, that M went to bed asking what would all their hard work be for.

Today being the day, that the athletes that they are, decided to work even harder to get that funding back.

My Millie is one of those kids that we all talked about when we discussed the Legacy of 2012 – We can’t give up on those kids can we?

NB: Many Thanks to Martyn Bowes for permission to use the above swimming photos.

Food Technology – The start of a new era

There is great excitement in the Costello household this evening. Tomorrow sees the 11yo’s first ever practical Food Tech class (At school – obviously the 11 years that I’ve been trying to teach her in the kitchen don’t count!) She is beyond excited and has been rabbiting on about this day since Year 5 of primary school. No idea where she gets her obsession about food from. *cough*

I’ve had my instructions. I was given my shopping list. I have made her promise NEVER to be one of those kids that tells me at 10PM the night before that she needs 18 ingredients that we don’t have.

I can now reveal what they are making …what they had a 2 hour theory lesson to prepare for last week … what all the excitement is about … They are making (Cooking is far too strong a word for this…)

teaching children to cook


Be afraid Gordon Ramsey, be very afraid!

While I am freaking out slightly at the thought of her boiling a kettle (I know! Don’t judge) I’m still rather proud that she’s completely gone to town on her ingredients.

She’s an A* pupil all the way with this one.

Hot Chocolate

with Whipped Cream

With Sprinkles

With Marshmallows

With Gold Spray!

There’s my girl. Look forward to many more updates on the life and times of a school girl cookery lessons – Not least the week when they make trifle using Angel Delight instead of custard. I think the cat may eat that week’s installment ;-)

Winter Hands and New Babies – with Dettol

how to stop hands from getting sore chapped

I was set the task by the good people at Dettol to come up with some tips of how to look after your hands. Its due to get a lot colder shortly and from my experience, hands soon start to suffer.

Before I had babies, I didn’t appreciate how many times you end up washing your hands and the effects of chapped skin – I had the lot … cracked fingers, bleeding knuckles, red raw skin. By the time daughters 2 and 3 came along, I was a bit wiser. Aswell as making sure I used moisturising hand wash, I had a few other tricks that I followed:

  • Handcream – Have some by every sink. This was from my mum – I argued that I didn’t have time to allow it to sink in, but looking back she was right. Even if its only on for a second, it does some good.
  • One Handed Jobs – Yes, I’m serious – There are some jobs that only need one hand and therefore only one hand needs to be washed. Believe me, if your hands are that sore, you go for the one handed tasks … i.e. Getting washing out of the washing basket, wiping surfaces down
  • The Order of Events – There’s some jobs that you can do before others – I used to Empty the washing machine, peel potatoes and then feed the cat – all with one hand wash. I’m not suggesting you skip hand washing if its something that need clean hands for i.e. cooking, washing the baby, just that even one less hand wash a day can help.
  • Accept Help – If someone visits and asks the immortal question, ‘Can I do anything to help?’-  Let them! Let them wash their hands instead of you.
  • Before you go out – Last job = Put your hand cream on and put your gloves over the top. I’m going to pretend that not everyone is like me and forgets something EVERY SINGLE TIME!
  • Bedtime – Last job of the day, hand cream on before lights out. Aren’t we hot in our house? (and obviously everyone has hand cream next to their bed?!)

Disclosure: I received no payment for this post, although Dettol did send me some E45 Handwash and a beautiful gift. All the tips are my own! Thank you to Dettol.

A Christmas Message …

Thought the Minions could say it better than I could!

minion cake toppers, sugarcraft minions, cremem egg minions, Merry Christmas Message,

Wishing you A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS! Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my posts, commented and taken part in competitions during the past year. I hope everyone has someone to share their Christmas Day with tomorrow and some sort of treat to enjoy.

As per normal, the Costello children are finding it hard to go to sleep. Tara is refusing to take her Christmas Onesie off even though she is sweltering. Me & Mr Costello still have a mountain of wrapping to do, Dinner to eat and a lot of Port & Lemon to consume. At least 2 of us have the annual Christmas cold. I still have 2 cakes to finish and I’m wondering where Santa might have stored the rest of his presents for safe keeping. I will have my one bath of the year later (a LOT later) – I’ve even remembered to buy myself some bubble bath to mark the occasion.

Wouldn’t change it for the world!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Lots of Love

Helen xxx

Makie Doll Review

making a personalised doll

We have a house full of dolls here. They get a hammering as Violet and Tara in particular are doll mad. When we hear about a doll that is slightly different, we want to hear more. We’ve had the dolls that pretend to eat, perform bodily function and that we can’t stop crying (It eventually resulted in us taking the batteries out!)

We were asked a few weeks ago if we were interested in reviewing Makie Dolls. They are described as the ‘World’s first and only 3D printed toy’. To be honest that didn’t mean much to me – in short, you design your own doll, order it and your doll is created in the ‘MAkieLab’ using a 3D printer.
Our doll took us only 8 minutes to create – we have sent it off and are waiting the 2 weeks until delivery now.

We have made a short video about what your Makie Doll box has inside and how we found the ordering and design process. We really loved it – it was good fun for Millie and Violet to do together – once again it is really handy having an 11 year old around, a slightly younger child may need a tiny bit of adult help. (I bet you can’t stop yourself having a go!)

More information about the Makie Doll:

  • Dolls can be designed and ordered via www.makie.me
  • Our Makie Doll Gift Box is worth £69 – We received the Gift Box (and will receive the doll) free for review purposes.
  • Dolls are CE-Marked and EU-certified safe for children aged 3+

Body Parts – Wots so Funee

funny children

What do you call this? A belly button? A tummy button? Navel (Eew!)

Apparently in our house. we have a new word for it – Tara has this week become obsessed with showing everyone her BELLY BOOB!!

We’ve had a few alternative names for body parts over the years – Violet at 7 still calls her big toes, her THUMB TOE. I admit I quite like it and am in no rush for her to change its name.

I’m sure most kids also get mixed up between their Shoulders and their Elbows.

Do you have any Body Parts that have unusual names in your house – Clean Names Only Please!!!

I’m joining in this week with Helen at Actually Mummy with Wots So Funee.

Wot So Funee?

A Younger Me – The Gallery

Helen on Wicker Chair

I knew exactly which picture I wanted to use for this week’s Gallery entry. I came across it recently when I had tons of pictures up of me all over the house for my 40th party.

I’m 2 1/2 on this picture – almost exactly the age that Tara is now. We still have the wicker chair. Its a bit battered – a few of the strings are missing but all 3 girls have sat on it as toddlers (and quite a few teddies too!) It now lives in Tara’s room – Derm and my Mum have tried to get rid of it loads of times – how could they?

Here’s Tara sat on the chair today (the teddy has been changed as a) I can’t find the other one and b) it would be a germ-ridden stink by now.

wicker chair1

There’s some fabulous pictures of bloggers in their youth over at Tara Cain’s blog today – Why not join in with the Gallery yourself and show us what you looked like as a child? I particularly like Mummy Barrow as a 6 year old – too cute!

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Last night in our house …

Last night in our kitchen when I’m trying to make a cake …

Daughter: “Mum, what is Tou-rex?”

Me: *Thinks hard before answering* “Its a condition that sends messages from the brain sometimes making the person do things that they don’t want to do”.

Daughter: *looks puzzled* “Er, like what?”

Me: “Sometimes people with Tourettes have what are known as Ticks where they twitch or move involuntarily. Sometimes they say things they don’t mean to say like swear words. You might meet people with this condition one day but it is very important not to laugh at them. It must be very hard”

Daughter: *Looks even more puzzled* “So what’s this for then?” Points to a box …

Me: “Oh, that’s Trex – I use that for greasing cake tins!”

Just when I was pleased with how grown up a conversation we were having!

The difference between Trex and Tourettes

I’m joining in this week with the lovely Helen over at Actually Mummy…

Wot So Funee?