And just like that, you are two!


So today is the day that my darling baby girl turns two, I literally cannot believe she is actually two.  Two whole years!  All my friends seem to be popping out second siblings at the moment causing my uterus to weep for a third; although like my friend says, “I’ll have a third baby and be divorced in the same year!”. She still seems so baby like to me, I think because I treat her a bit like that (savouring the baby days) and her speech seems less developed than her brother’s was, so it makes her feel younger, although now I’ve written that her speech seems to be improving loads just this week.

You were a shock arrival at just under two weeks early and we were not prepared in any way! The car seat was still in the garage and the moses basket had been in the loft for well over a year! You were such a little dot too at just 5lb 8oz; you had these tiny little legs like a sparrow.  You were fussy to feed and struggled to gain weight in the beginning, but you wouldn’t think it to look at you now.


You are beginning to become such an independent little girl, I guess having an older brother does that.  I can sense potty training is just around the corner (although that would mean no more changing nappies in the day which would be great, but it also definitely signifies you’re a big girl!), you refuse to sit in a high chair anymore and we are constantly asking you to ‘sit down’ at the table, you won’t let me open your yoghurt anymore, you love playing with dolls as well as splashing in muddy puddles and you love watching Peppa Pig and your new favourite phrase is ‘No Mummy‘; usually said with a frown.

However, there are still some baby-ish ways you are accustomed to which I love.  You are a terrible sleeper (ok, I don’t love this trait!), a constant source of my moans and groans.  I think I could count on my hands the amount of times you’ve slept through in two years.   When I went back to work, we got into a bad habit of allowing you to come and cuddle in bed with us as we were exhausted constantly getting up.  I tried sleep training you in the summer holidays and it succeeded for about two weeks, but old habits have crept back in, and you are once again a ‘bed invader’.  Whilst it can be terribly annoying to co-sleep with a child (thankfully for me, my husband usually bares the brunt of the kicking!), I try (and I mean TRY) to take pleasure knowing she likes to be close to us and loves a cuddle, and you do love a cuddle or ‘TUDDLE” as you call it. You are still very much attached to your dummy, it’s essential for getting you to sleep so I don’t think it’ll be going anytime soon! I’m desperately trying to hold onto the baby days just that little bit longer and have recently bought you some more babygrows for bedtime, and boy do you look cute.


She is such a little dare devil: running around everywhere, jumping off anything and everything, climbing anything and everything.  I honestly need eyes in the back of head, and I thought mine were good being a teacher and all, but boy do they need honing to match little L. My Mum will laugh when she reads this, but L is most certainly a chip off the old block.  It is almost like she is ‘baby me’ reincarnated but with the tantrums multiplied ten fold.  She is such a headstrong little girl who knows what she wants, and will definitely sulk if she doesn’t get it.  Obviously, now you are two, we enter the realms of the ‘Terrible Two’s’, although we most certainly seem to have learned how to tantrum with the best of them already.  Jeepers, you can be difficult at times, and I can already see we will clash when you are older as we are so similar minded!

Sadly, she is yet to have a proper birthday party with her friends, but I have attempted to make her some Peppa Pig cupcakes for nursery. We have my parents here for the weekend so I am looking forward to enjoying some family time, more cake and lots of adventures!

I still can’t believe you are actually two, as I remember 2.42am on the 5th October 2015 like it was yesterday.  I hope you continue to be you with that cheeky grin and gorgeous smile as (and I think you know this) it melts my heart everytime.

You’re funny and frustrating, inquisitive and infuriating, caring and challenging, yet I can’t imagine a single day without seeing your infectious smile.

Happy birthday my sweet little baby girl

Love Mummy

x x x x

A Summer of Fun!

Already, the summer of 2017 seems a distant memory as we are hurtling towards Autumn.  It seemed like that the summer break passed by in the blink of an eye, and here I am back at work with a thud of reality. It’s been a while since I’ve written a post about what we’ve been up to, but we have been busy bees having lots of adventures and making memories.

Finishing Work: This summer saw me leaving a job I’d been in for five years, my longest serving teaching post to date. It was most definitely the end of era (well for me anyway) leaving what I’d known for five years and my comfort zone. Whilst I am incredibly sad not to be working with some truly great friends anymore, I am excited about my new prospects: working in a more part time role and being able to spend some more days at home with H and L. We are still adjusting to our new routine, which I’m sure will be sorted by the end of the week.  I see smile every time I walk upstairs and see my beautiful leaving gift has taken up pride of place at the top of my stairs where I can see it everyday.


Our Spanish Holiday: I am lucky enough to work in an independent school, with this it brings an earlier finish for summer. Because of this, we were able to go to Spain before the main state school holidays had started. So on July 8th, we flew to Barcelona for our holiday on the outskirts of Girona with 10 of our friends and their families (4 children in total). The villa was set in beautiful grounds atop a hillside with gorgeous views of the Spanish countryside. It took us a few days to get H’s courage up and get him in the pool (he wouldn’t go in the pool at all on our holiday in 2016!), after the first success it was difficult to get him out! My favourite day by far was our day at the beach. H absolutely loved it (although I’m not sure the Spanish tourists approved of his naked bum!), L needed a touch more convincing on the sea front but still a very enjoyable day by all!


What I’ve been reading: I tried to read a few books over the summer. Gone are the days when I could read for hours on end I the summer, with a 3 and 1 year chomping at my heels, it’s rare I get my book out before bedtime. We were lucky enough to have a cheeky weekend away without the children (courtesy of my parents) and I managed to read a book over the weekend inbetween sightseeing around Knaresborough (see review here). But, here is my list of summer reads:

1. Jojo Moyes – The One Plus One

2. Sylvia Day – One With You

3. Milly Johnson – The Queen of Wishful Thinking

4. Lucie Wheeler – The First Time Mums Club

5. Milly Johnson – Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage [currently reading, and enjoying]

Decorating: this summer has seen a decorating mission!! The house has been in dire need of some updating as it’s virtually not been touched since before H was born, if at all. I had a weeks grace of paid nursery care for both H and L, so I worked like a trojan for 3.5 days to sort the hallway, and paint the front door and garage.  I can safely say I won’t be in a hurry to paint the bannister again!! After a few weeks off, I set to work in the kitchen. This time I didn’t have the luxury of childcare, so it was an evening job.  Each wall required three coats (I know!), I repainted the Welsh dresser and half moon table too.  We also bought new dining chairs as our old ones were disintegrated.  Its now almost finished, I just need to get my custom made pallet wood shelf up and paint the skirting boards and it will be done.  I am so so pleased with how its turned out and absolutely love it! Next on the list is Lily’s bedroom which will be October half terms job.


Memories:  There have been many memories made and such wonderful times with the children this summer, and I still can’t believe its all come to an end, although I do love some puddle jumping and leaf kicking, so I will be welcoming Autumn with open arms (one of my favourite seasons).  Highlights of the summer memories have to be: splashing in the pool and at the beach in Spain, our childfree weekend, lazy mornings, baking, seeing family, the village produce show, the zoo, and many more.

The next few weeks see quite a hectic social calendar for the children, and my little L turns two. More on that in a few weeks.

Entertaining the children over summer! 

After what can only be described as a bit of a washout last week and being half way (yes half way!!) through the holidays, I decided to draft a list of local places you can visit to jazz up your summer holidays and hopefully make it easier to entertain your little ones.  I’m lucky enough to live bordering quite a few counties, so I’m able to visit Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Rutland all within a 20 minute car journey.  I’ve sectioned them by county and have tried to include information from my own visits, although there are some I have not yet visited!

CAMBRIDGESHIRE:

Ferry Meadows – Ham Lane, Peterborough, PE2 5UU. Parking – £1.50 for the first hour, 50p per half an hour after that. Ferry Meadows country park is a great place to blow away the cobwebs.  There are plenty of play park areas, a sand pit, and a small water park area.  There is also a train ride (surcharge applies) and plenty of grass to run around, play football or have a picnic in.  Lakeside offers an array of light bites, coffees, drinks and ice cream; and the Visitor Centre has activities on offer for children throughout the summer holidays.

http://www.neneparktrust.org.uk/ferry-meadows

Peterborough Museum – Priestgate, Peterborough, PE1 1LF. Free admission. There are three floors of interesting artefacts and information at Peterborough Museum, including a fantastic area on the history of Peterborough.  My two loved pottering around when we have visited before when we needed to kill a few hours.  There is also a lovely coffee shop on site.

https://www.vivacity-peterborough.com/vivacity-venues/peterborough-museum/

Sacrewell Farm – Thornhaugh, Peterborough, PE8 6HJ. Admission prices:  Adult £7.50, Child (2-16) £5.40, Under 2 FREE.  Sacrewell Farm is just off both the A1 and A47 but is packed with exciting things to do.  There are lots of animals to visit and some you can pet, a lovely play park outside, and a newly restored Mill.  The main attraction for me is the ‘Playbarn’, a huge barn filled with soft play.  It is fantastic with 3 distinct areas, there are plenty of picnic tables inside the play barn as well as toilets and a cafe which is open during most of the summer holidays.  Best to arrive early to avoid crowding in the play barn and to get a table for lunch!

www.sacrewell.org.uk

Hill Farm P.Y.O. – Oundle Road, Chesterton, Peterborough, PE7 3UA.  Admission prices: FREE.  Hill Farm is one of our local ‘Pick Your Own’ farms.  Although the strawberry crop has now finished, their summer fruiting raspberries are ready.  A great bit of fun for the kids, and there’s a cafe and play area on site too!  Please check their website or Facebook page before travelling as they update the levels of crop available and you wouldn’t want to be disappointed when you turn up.

http://www.hillfarmpyo.co.uk

Hamerton Zoo – Hamerton, Sawtry, Cambs, PE28 5RE.  Admission prices: Adult £13.99, Child (3-12) £8.99, Under 3 FREE. Although technically in Huntingdonshire, I thought Hamerton Zoo was a worthy addition.  A small, yet perfectly formed zoo with many exciting animals such as tigers, and cheetahs, as well as monkeys, meerkats, lots of birds and a small farmyard.  There is a wonderful play park and a cafe on site, although I have found the cafe to get very busy and always take my own picnic.  There are plenty of tables to sit at and high chairs available as well as plenty of green space to sit and eat.

http://www.hamertonzoopark.com

Flag FenThe Droveway, Northey Road, Peterborough , PE6 7QJ. Admission prices: Adults £6, Child £4. There are twelve acres of history and archaeology at Flag Fen and lots of activities to entertain your little ones. During the summer holidays, the ‘Big Dig’ tent is open to children as well as a play area for younger ones.  There is also a cafe on site for that all important caffeine hit!

https://www.vivacity-peterborough.com/heritage/flag-fen/

Van Hage Garden Centre, Peterborough One Retail ParkVan Hage, Peterborough, PE1 4YZ.  Admission: FREE.  Throughout the summer holidays, there is an outdoor beach and a Gruffly inspired soft play kid zone (under 5′ only) at Van Hage Garden Centre.  There are also plenty of shops for Mummy to peruse.  Van Hage has a lovely cafe with a great array of snacks, lunches and drinks and at reasonable prices too.

https://www.vanhage.co.uk/garden-centres/peterborough/

Nene Valley Railway – NVR, Wansford Station, Stibbington, PE8 6LR.  Admission prices: Adult £16, Child £8.00, Under 3 FREE.  Nene Valley Railway is the home of Thomas the Tank in Peterborough. A trip to NVR wouldn’t be complete without a ride on Thomas.  You can take a trip to Ferry Meadows (see above) as well as look around the Station at all the steam engines. There is a cafe on site which stocks a range of lunches, snacks, drinks and ice creams.

http://www.nvr.org.uk

Big Sky – Wainman Road, Peterborough, PE2 7BU.  Admission prices: Adults £1.50, Child (4-11) £6.90, Under 4’s £5.50.  Big Sky is Peterborough’s Soft play centre.  Although I love soft play, I am still yet to visit hear, however, I have head GREAT things.  As well as traditional soft play, there is also a climbing wall, rides, cars and trampolines. It is split into 0-3 and 4-11 areas as well as the rides.  On site, there is free parking and a cafe which offers coffees, cakes and other delights.  There are plenty of seats to rest whilst your children run around!

www.bigsky.co.uk

Bretton Water Park – Flaxland, Peterborough.  Admission: FREE. Although I have never been (little H is somewhat wary of water), this place looks awesome.  I have friends who have visited who say it is great.  A big play area with soft playground floor with lots of fountains. Non toilet trained children must be wearing a swim nappy, if you forget, you can purchase one from the attendant.  When researching information online, there is little about Bretton Water Park, I couldn’t even find an address!! However, once you have turned on Flaxland in Bretton and gone past the Aldi, it is signposted.  Worth a look for sure, although you would need a sunny day!

http://fis.peterborough.gov.uk/kb5/peterborough/fsd/event.page?id=AcY6hbfZH2U

Crazy Golf at Dobbies – Phorpes Way, Cygnet Park, Hampton, PE7 8NY. Admission prices: Adults £4.50, child £3.50. As far as I am aware, Crazy Golf at Dobbies is relatively new (I could be wrong!).  I love a trip to Dobbies especially if it includes a coffee and cake from their delicious cafe!  We are yet to take ours to play crazy golf (I think L might be a bit young at 22 months, and I fairly certain someone would end up being hit with a golf club!), but the course looks great fun, and the pricing isn’t too bad. A trip into Dobbies is always fun especially to have a look at the fish and small animals in the pet zone.

https://www.peterboroughminigolf.com

Bounce – Wedgwood Way, Peterborough, PE3 8AY. Admission prices: Adults and 5y+ £9.99, Child 3-4y £4.99 per hour, each hour after £4.99.  (Please note, these are online prices, £2 surcharge for walk in prices), you must also purchase Bounce grip socks for £1.99 if this is your first visit.  ‘Bounce‘ looks super fun, but I am yet to take H and L, although I am adamant they will have an amazing time (if their jumping on my bed is anything to go by), but I am petrified of a broken bone (silly I know!).  Friends who have visited (both young and more mature) have had a whale of a time, and I am sure this would be fantastic on a wet and miserable August day!

http://www.bouncegb.com

Top left: NVR, Top right: Sacrewell Farm, Bottom left: Hill Farm PYO, Bottom right: Ferry Meadows
NORTHAMPTONSHIRE:

West Lodge Rural Centre – Back Lane, Desborough, NN14 2SH. Admission prices: Adult £6.95, Child £6.45, Under 2’s FREE. Hidden away off the Main Street is West Lodge Rural Centre, but boy is it packed with things to see and do. Each day there are time lots for small animal petting, pony rides, tractor rides, lamb/kid feeding, piglet racing and much much more. There is an amazing playground with a ‘castle’ as my son calls it. As it is a working farm, there are plenty of animals to see insckuding goats (animal feed is just 30p a bag!), pigs, chickens, geese and ducks, cows, and ponies. Around the farm, there is an area for den building, a big sand pit and a fantastic play area. There are picnic tables in abundance as well as a cafe on site which has a delicious lunches, cakes and a great selection of drinks. Well worth a visit.

http://www.westlodgeruralcentre.co.uk/index.php

Top Lodge, Fineshade Woods – Fineshade, Corby, NN17 3BB. Admission prices: FREE, parking £4 per day. Just a stones throw from where we live, we are lucky enough to be able to walk to Fineshade Woods.  There are plenty of trails and tracks throughout the woods which are perfect for cycling or just pushing the pushchair.  Beside the cafe (which sells a great range of sandwiches, panini’s, cakes and drinks) there is a play area perfect for toddlers, however, there is a more adventurous play area a short walk away.  Finished Woods is also the home of the Gruffalo trail,  activity packs are just £3.

https://forestry.gov.uk/toplodge

Kings Cliffe Underground Centre – Church Walk, Kings Cliffe, PE8 6XD. Admission prices: £2. I am fortunate enough to live close by, so I get to use the Underground quite a bit.  There is so much going on for children and young families.  There is something on everyday of the week. My favourite sessions are Tiddler’s Cafe and Play (£2): lots of toys for children and tea/coffee for Mums and Dads (Monday and Wednesday), and Messy Play on Thursdays is fabulous too.  Search the underground centre on Facebook.

Barnwell Country Park – Barnwell Road, Oundle.  Admission prices: FREE, Parking £3 for 12 hours.  Barnwell offers a variety of things and my two always have a lovely day when we visit.  There is a great, large, open play area including a sand pit, little houses and zip wire/ pulley.  There are plenty of walks around the various lakes, with lots of birds to look out for.  I am yet to see a Kingfisher although I don’t think I have the patience to sit and watch! After your walk, you can sit down on one of the many picnic tables and have a picnic, or the Kingfisher Cafe offers a great range of snacks, lunches and drinks.  After your picnic, the Visitor Centre is open throughout the summer which has interesting facts to learn and often craft paper and pencils for your budding Picasso’s.

http://www.northamptonshireparks.co.uk/barnwell-country-park/Pages/default.aspx

Lyveden New BieldNr Oundle, PE8 5AT.  Admission prices: £6.40, Under 18’s and NT members FREE.  One of my best most recent purchases has been a National Trust Membership.  I have been to Lyveden New Bield once before to run a 10k would you believe, but I only recently visited with my children this Summer.  We went during the May half term on a gorgeous sunny day when they had various activities for the children.  We did pond dipping and wandered around the house.  Lyveden is an incomplete Elizabethan house. Throughout August, there is ‘Wild Wednesdays’ (see their website for more details).  No trip to Lyveden is complete without sampling one of their delicious cream teas for me and a chocolate brownie for the children.  Well worth a visit!!

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lyveden

Cheeky Monkees – Curie Courtyard, Cockerell Road, Corby, NN17 5DU. Admission prices: £5.50, Under 1’s FREE. Cheeky Monkees is Corby’s answer to a soft play barn. The centre is split into four sections: Babies area, Under 3’s area, Play frame and Sports area.  Having these sections are great and helps keep all age groups occupied.  The baby area is great as it is all padded and has various toys to keep your little ones entertained. The play frame should keep even the most active soft play go-ers amused.  There is also a cafe on site which sells a variety of lunches, drinks and snacks.

http://www.cheeky-monkees.co.uk/cheeky-monkees-corbys-number-1-indoor-play-area.php

Savoy CinemaParkland Gateway, George Street, Corby, NN17 1QG.  Admission prices: Adult £7.95, Child £5.95.  The Savoy Cinema is lovely and clean inside, and the seats are comfortable with cup holders. One of my favourite features of this cinema is they do ‘couples’ chairs, two seats in one so you can sit and snuggle with your other half or your children.  This is perfect for young ones to sit and snuggle with their parents as I know most children don’t love that the chairs fold up! Another great thing about the Savoy is the ‘Kid’s Club’ screenings.  These are £1.95 for all children AND accompanying adults, perfect if its your child’s first visit to the cinema.  Check the website for screenings.

http://savoycorby.co.uk/SavoyCorby.dll/Home

East Carlton Country ParkChurch Lane, East Carlton, Market Harborough, LE16 8YA. Admission: FREE.  A stone’s throw from the pool is East Carlton Country Park.  This is a great park for a run around and play.  The parking is free, there is a cafe, fantastic playground, lots of walks and green space, and a duck pond to feed the ducks. A lovely venue for a walk, picnic and play.

https://www.corby.gov.uk/eastcarlton

Swimming @ Corby International Pool – Parkland Gateway, George Street, Corby, NN17 1QG. Admission prices: Adults £4.40, Child £2.60, Under 5 FREE.  Corby International Pool is by far one of the best swimming pools I’ve been to especially for children.  There is a small 20m learner pool, as well as a 50m eight lane traditional pool, diving boards and the best bit is the fun splash pirate themed pool complete with slide and pirate ship.  The changing facilities are unisex and include big family changing rooms with changing tables in, FAB!  Corby pool offers fantastic Mum friendly facilities including a creche.  The creche is £3.10 for an hour, I have used the facility for both of my children and they have enjoyed their time in there. One of their most useful features is ‘Swing and Bring’: this is the opportunity to have 60 minutes of Mummy time whilst your children play in the creche, they will then bring your children down to the pool for some fun.  Check out their webpage for more details and the full swimming timetable.

https://www.corby.gov.uk/home/leisure-culture/leisure-community-facilities/corby-east-midlands-international-pool/details

Lodge Park Sports Centre – Shetland Way, Corby, NN17 2SG. Admission prices: various.  Lodge Park is a big sports centre in Corby.   Lots of the activities run alongside the activities on offer at the pool.  I have taken H to a gymnastics session when L was little and it was fabulous, he loved it!  Over the summer break, they are running similar sessions: “Soft Play Sessions’, these run on Thursdays 10am-12pm.  They are designed for children from crawling –  6 years and are £3 per child or £5 per family.  A wet Thursday is all you need!

https://www.facebook.com/LodgeParkSportsCentre

Wicksteed Park -Admission prices: £6 to park all day; Adult £15, Child £18, Mini-me (0.9-1.0m tall) £15.  Wicksteed Park is basically a theme park.  Lots of rides, play areas, water play and good old family fun. Be aware, that to go on some rides you have to purchase and use ‘tokens’ as well.  They start at £22 for 20 tokens.

www.wicksteedpark.org

Planet Bounce – Princewood Road, Corby, NN17 4AP.  Admission prices: Adult £4.99, Child £4.99 for one hour.  (Please note, these are online prices, £1 surcharge for walk in prices), you must also purchase grip socks for £2 if this is your first visit. Essentially the same as its Peterborough counterpart,  ‘Planet Bounce‘ looks super fun, and I am sure this would be fantastic on a wet and miserable August day!

www.planetbouncetrampolinepark.com

Oundle Library – Glapthorn Rad, Oundle, PE8 4JA.  Admission prices: FREE.  Bundle library has updated its children’s section of late, and it is really fab.  There are some tables set up with a few toys and the book supply is great.  If me and the kids are at a loose end, we often drive over for an hour or so and take out a few books.  But the next treat is a real child pleaser.  Just next door (although not part of the library) is ‘The Hub’ at Fletton House.  This place does DELICIOUS cake and really good cakes and sandwiches.  If you’re lucky enough, there’s a little spot in the corner with some toys, sofas and books which are great for entertaining the little ones whilst you sip your coffee and if you’re like me….stuff as much cake in my mouth before the kids notice!!

http://www3.northamptonshire.gov.uk/councilservices/library-service/visiting-your-library/list-of-libraries/Pages/oundle-library.aspx

Stanwick Lakes – Rockingham Forest Trust, Stannic Lakes, Stanwick, NN9 6GY.  Admission prices: FREE; however car park charges apply.  Stanwick Lakes is a wonderful attraction virtually on our doorstep in Northamptonshire.  There is a fantastic adventure playground to keep your little ones entertained which does include some water play so be prepared and take puddle suits or spare clothes/shoes.  In addition to the fantastic playground, there is also loads of events going on throughout the summer, but do check their website as booking may be essential and age limits may apply.

www.stanwicklakes.org.uk

Top left: Stanwick Lakes, Top right: National Space Centre, Bottom left: East Carlton Country Park, Bottom right: Lyveden New Bield
LINCOLNSHIRE:

The Yard – Unit 2, West Street, Stamford, PE9 2PL.  Admission prices: Adult free, Child (2-7) £4.50, Under 2’s £3, Under 6 months FREE.  The Yard is Stamford’s answer to soft play.  It is a really well thought out space with plenty of space to sit and drink coffee, and a fantastic set up for the children which isn’t too big that they get lost.  The drinks and cake here are delicious too.  The one downside of the Yard is the parking or lack of.  If you’re prepared to park elsewhere and walk, then this is perfect.

http://theyardstamford.co.uk

Burghley House Gardens – Burghley House, Stamford, PE9 3JY.  Admission prices: Adult £12 Child (3+) £8.  Although you can wander around Burghley Park for free, it is well worth a trip into the Gardens at least once this summer particularly if we get a sunny day (we can wish!).  For this summer, Burghley are trialling a new deal.  If you book online, they will automatically convert your ticket to an annual pass, so you can re-visit for free anytime for 365 days after purchasing your ticket. In the gardens, you will find: sculptures, lovely walks, a lake, picnic spots, and the real draw is the ‘Gardens of Surprise’ which are lots of lovely water fountains and cool water features.  My two have grown to like it, but it is always a stressful visit for me as they always seem to run in opposite directions! I don’t like to go without the back-up of another set of eyes!  It is a really lovely day out especially if the weather is nice and a promise of an ice-cream at the end!

www.burghley.co.uk/about-burghley/gardens-deer-park/garden-of-surprises/

My Artful Splodger – West Street, Stamford, PE9 2PS. Admission prices: £7 per session.  A relatively new thing (I think), My Artful Splodger looks like it would be really good fun, and best bit: NO CLEARING UP at the end for you! There are lots of different themes and activities on offer, including: play doh, shaving foam, crafts, water and much more.  All the children will be given a drink and a biscuit and the parents get that all important tea or coffee! Booking is essential so have a look at their Facebook page for more details.

https://www.facebook.com/MASStamford/

Swimming @ Stamford Leisure Pool – Drift Road, Stamford, PE9 1UZ. Admission prices: Adult £4.90, Child £3.25, Under 5’s £0.80. Stamford Leisure Pool is the council run pool in Stamford.  There is a large pool, small splash pool, wave machine and slide.  Changing facilities are clean and adequate.  Check out their website for the swim timetable.

http://www.1life.co.uk/south-kesteven-district-council/stamford-leisure-pool/home/

Belton House – Belton House, Grantham, NG32 2LS. Admission prices: Adult £15, Child £9.60, Under 5’s and NT members: FREE.  Belton House is AMAZING! After visiting Belton once with my sister and her children, I immediately signed myself and my husband up to be members. The Adventure playground here is fabulous, relatively new, but superbly designed! Their is a small cafe and toilets on site at the cafe, a mega plus for potty training toddlers! There is so much on offer at the playground, that on my first visit we didn’t manage to see it all.  For a small charge, you can ride on the miniature train which H loves.  As with Lyveden, there are some fun activities on offer on Wednesdays in their ‘Wild Wednesday’s’.  Towards the house, the gardens are well worth a look round or for a sit down and/or picnic.  In the courtyard, there is the Ride Play Cafe, a smaller indoor playground, perfect if its a little chilly.  At weekends and during school holidays, the Discovery Centre is open which offers craft activities and on special holidays (Easter/Christmas) there are usually some extra special activities.  I could go on, but we love it. Definitely worth a trip.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/belton-house

Stamford Children’s Centre – Green Lane, Stamford, PE9 1HE.  Admission: free although there may be charges for some activities.  Similar to a library, Stamford Children’s Centre offer a vast timetable of activities throughout the week.  I am yet to visit (our holiday schedule seems to getting busy!), but Wednesday’s keep appealing to me as they have their ‘Story Box’ hour from 10-11am which involves reading a story and having a play related to the story.  We love a bedtime story in our house, and some of the featured stories (follow them on Facebook) have been some of our firm favourites.

https://www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/parents/childrens-centres/stamford/

Grimsthorpe Castle and Gardens – Grimsthorpe Estate, Bourne, PE10 0LY.  Admission prices: Adult £6, Child (5-18) £2.50, Under 5’s FREE.  I’ve never been to Grimsthorpe Castle, but stumbled across it whilst doing some research for this post.  It looks a bit like a combination of Burghley and Belton House.  There are toilets and a cafe on site, as well as cycle hire.  A big plus for young families is the adventure playground which includes the usual suspects: zip wire, slides, swings, climbing towers, etc etc.  Check the opening times before going as Grimsthorpe is closed on Fridays and Saturdays.

www.grimsthorpe.co.uk

Woolsthorpe Manor – Water Lane, Grantham, NG33 5PD.  Admission prices: Adult £3.59, Child £2.50.  Woolsthorpe Manor is on my list of places to visit.  As you’ve already seen, we love a National Trust place! For those of you who don’t know, Woolsthorpe Manor is the childhood home of Sir Isaac Newton (yes, the one who discovered gravity), in fact, that very apple tree is in the gardens.  During the summer holidays, there are workshops on Wednesdays.  At the manor, there is a ‘science centre’ which looks great and very interactive for young and inquisitive minds.  Naturally, like all NT properties, it wouldn’t be complete without a delicious cafe, and this one looks to be famous for its soup and science! Looks like it would be a great trip!

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/woolsthorpe-manor

Top left: Belton House, Top right: Burghley Garden of Surprises, Bottom left: Bugtopia, Bottom right: West Lodge Rural Centre
RUTLAND and LEICESTERSHIRE: 

Bugtopia – Sykes Lane, Empingham, LE15 8QL. Admission prices: Adult £7.50, Child £6.50, Under 2’s FREE. Great for a rainy day, I took H a while ago now when Lwas still quite little. I was able to wheel the pushchair round with ease which was a plus. There’s an inside section before going ‘out’ into the rainforest section. There’s some really cool dragons and other creatures in enclosures, but the exciting bit is seeing the butterflies and other insects flying around free. The staff here are very knowledgable and most approachable for any questions. The only downside is there isn’t anywhere to have a picnic/packed lunch inside, but there are plenty of picnic tables at the play area just across the car park.

http://www.bugtopia.co.uk

Rutland Water Beach -Sykes Lane, Empingham, LE15 8QL. Admission prices: free, but car parking charges apply.  Rutland Water has a lot to offer and the man made beach they introduced a few years back has been a fantastic addition.  My two love the beach, but I can’t face the 1.5hrs trip to Norfolk for the day by myself, so this is ideal as its only down the road.  Take a picnic and your bucket and spade and enjoy the sun!

http://www.anglianwater.co.uk/leisure/water-parks/rutland/attractions/Rutland-Water-Beach.aspx

Oakham Castle – Castle Grounds, Market Place, Oakham, LE15 6DR.  Admission prices: FREE.  Set in the beautiful market town of Oakham, Oakham Castle is a lovely way to occupy the children for a couple of hours.  They are very family friendly here with lots of things to entertain your little ones with a dressing up box for all your budding knights, colouring books, stories, quizzes and trails.  Most days, there is even self service tea and coffee! Oakham also has plenty of lovely cafes for that all important sugar fix, did I mention I love cake!

https://www.oakhamcastle.org

National Space Centre – Exploration Drve, Leicester, LE4 5NS. Admission prices: Adult £14.00, Child £11.00, Under 5’s FREE.  This is on my bucket list for the summer holidays! The National Space Centre looks great.  There is lots of activities going on over the summer, and tonnes of interactive things to look at for inquisitive minds.

http://spacecentre.co.uk

Twin Lakes – Melton Spinney Road, Melton Mowbray, LE14 4SB. Admission prices: Adult £19.99, Child (108cm+) £19.99, Child (95cm-108cm) £9.99, Under 95cm FREE.  Similar to Wicksteed, just another county, Twin Lakes in Melton Mowbray looks to be a fantastic day out, particularly if you have an older child.  If the website is anything to go by, then it looks like psychedelic fun, which, lets face it, every child adores! Take a peek at their website for more details.

https://www.twinlakespark.co.uk 

Twycross Zoo – Burton Road, Atherstone, CV9 3PX.  Admission prices: Adult £16.80, Child (3-18) £12.48, Under 3’s FREE.  Although technically in Warwickshire, Twycross Zoo is worth a look.   There is a large range of animals to look at as well the traditional smaller animals,  but also on site is a soft play centre, complete with cafe!  The soft play centre is £4.50, but free if you have paid to go into the zoo.  Use their website to book tickets and have a look at what’s on offer.

www.twycrosszoo.org.uk

Mini Monsters – Long Row Business Park, Long Row, Oakham, LE15 6LN. Admission prices: Adults FREE, Child (2-7yrs) £4.95, Under 2’s £2.95, Under 6 months FREE.  Mini Monsters is Oakham’s answer to soft play.  Friends who have been say it is clean and good fun  the cafe provides a variety of delicious snacks and worth a trip

http://minimonsterssoftplay.com

THANK YOU for taking the time to read such a lengthy post. I have enjoyed researching all the places on my doorstep, and I hope you get some enjoyment and inspiration from reading it.

Travelling with toddlers

I’m hoping come July, this will have been one of my better ideas!!

Having been mindlessly scrolling through Pinterest a few weeks ago, I came across the idea of an activity bag made from a hanging toiletry bag. With a roaming and feral toddler and an energetic three year old to entertain on a flight to Spain, I HOPE this ‘plane activity bag’ will be just the ticket. 
So, I set to work on researching a cheap hanging toiletry bag and ended up settling on this black one. In an ideal world, it would have a proper handle but for £6 I can’t go wrong. It has two zip clear pockets and a large detachable black zipped bag. 

After a bit of thought and a wander round some shops, this is what went in.

1. Cars: my two love toy cars, so it was an easy decision to take a few cars and two planes (we are going on one of course!). You can get cars from Wilkinson’s from 50p – £3b 

2. Pens: I already had a packet of these pens, but I would recommended these if you’re going to a holiday home/holiday as they are washable! I bought these a while ago from Amazon for £3.30. 

3. Paper: these little notebooks were 50p each from Tesco. I picked these because they were small and I could fit two in the bag. 

4. Animals: I popped these in as I thought they were reasonably priced, were quite big so they wouldn’t get lost and I thought they would be durable around the pool/beach. Hopefully they’ll enjoy playing with them. These were the most expensive of the items at £3.00 from Tesco. 

5. Play-doh: fortunately we had some small pots of play doh from a birthday present, so these were perfect. I have put four pots in purely because we are going on holiday with two other children. I also added a couple of rolling pins, cutters and utensils as they were small. These retail at £4.99 for four pots of playdoh. 

6. Craft bits: my two aren’t overly enamered by crafting but I’ve picked up some pipe cleaners, Pom poms, foam stickers and some googly eyes. The last thing I need to add is some pritt stick but I might just buy a small one when we’re in Spain. I bought 2 craft packs from Tesco, both containing foam stickers, Pom poms and pipe cleaners, they were £1.50 each and I have used half of each.  The googly eye were 94p. 

7. Spyrograph and tic-tac-toe: these were a bit of an impulse buy. I don’t think my youngest will have a go with the spyrograph, but I’m hoping she’ll use the tic-tac-toe as a phone. The spyrograph was £1.00 and tic-tac-toe was £2.50 (pack of 4)

8. Mini click and catch and floppy snakes: another impulse buy. My oldest has played with a click and catch but I fairly positive this set will either lose the ball within 30 secs OR it will break within a minute. The floppy snakes will just be a bit of fun I think. The click and catch was £1.50 (pack off 4) and the snakes £1.50 (pack of 4), both from Tesco.  

8. Toiletry bag: I got this from Wilkinson’s for £6. 

 

Everything I had to purchase including the toiletry bag, the ‘activity bag’ cost about £15 and I still have craft bits left over to make up another if this one is a success. Hopefully I won’t spend the final 45 minutes of our flight picking up googly eyes and Pom poms! 

Potty Training: Part Two

Well, I’m hoping we’re almost at the finish line now, 4 weeks in….here are a few highs and lows:

Day Five

Impromptu to the park, I’d already established that with a boy we can ‘water the trees’ if necessary/desperate when out and about. So, my two siblings, parents and I with the 5 grandchildren went to the park after lunch to burn off some energy. All was going swimmingly until H had an accident (a no. 2 accident). I was ill prepared for everything, no wipes, spare clothes, nappies, nothing, nada! Being caught out, all I could think of was to take off his shorts and underpants and deposit the underpants (complete with turd) into the dog poo bin (I apologise to the council member/dog warden who has to empty that bin)!

Day Twenty-Four (yes, really!)

I LOST THE PLOT! It was first day ‘off’ with the kids and I was busy rushing around doing jobs (why do I do this on my day off!). Going to Asda to collect shopping because I was too cheap to pay for the delivery on a Friday, and waiting for a plumber. Two accidents in 15minutes despite asking H less than 5 minutes before if he needed the toilet. Theee accidents total by just after lunchtime led to me losing the plot and shouting at him for weeing on my carpet. This basically resulted in H crying and me feeling like utter crap and I put him in a nappy for the afternoon! 

 

But since then it has been great. Loads of days accident free and a few accidents, but more importantly, three weeks after we started we finally managed a poo on the toilet! Hoorah. He’s now started taking himself off independently for the toilet which is great, but we still have to remind him to go when he gets engrossed in playing. 

In hindsight, I don’t think H was ready, but we are hopefully out the other side now and still have some sanity left. I’m a little bit sad (not about changing a pooey nappy) that he feels more grown up now, like I’ve lost a bit of my baby. It will make me treasure the cuddles just that little bit more. 

Potty Training: Part One

Well…..this is new! It’s like weaning for the first time again (well weaning of a different kind) = Mum out of depth. 


Day One – Tuesday 4th April:

I decided to jump in to the potty training world around 10.30am after a lazy morning  and when I asked H if he wanted to wear big boy pants, he actually said YES

Not a single wee/accident until I went out of the room to prep lunch, cue ‘mega-wee’.  Full change of bottoms and a scrub if the carpet, but all fine and still insistent on wearing big boy pants. Lunch went without a hitch, we then put his sister to bed and had some quiet time together. 

I asked him if he wanted a snack, and asked him to do a wee on the potty. Hoorah, a big wee on the potty and a biscuit with jam in for H (otherwise known as a nutri-grain bar!). 

Getting ready to visit Nanna and Grandad and another accident, so a quick change before getting in the car. I popped a bed mat in the car seat to keep it dry if there was an accident. H fell asleep a nanosecond into the journey, but thankfully dry on arrival to Nanna’s. 

At Nanna’s, he managed three wee’s on the potty which was great and I praised him lots afterwards as did Nanna. Back home and time for bed. I feel a bit like I’ve taken a backwards step tonight putting a nappy on, a bit contradictory I suppose. Is this normal?

We are going on a 3hr car journey tomorrow, do I put him in a nappy or stick with pants and the bed mat in the car seat?? Help!!

What are your tips for potty training? Lots of praise? Treats? Reward charts? 

Watch out for ‘Potty Training: Part Two’ or ‘I Give Up!’ 

Scottish Adventures: Part Two

Gorgeous weather, Castles, fussy eating, bamboozelling, night time monkeying around, Scottish edibles, and family adventures. Wowzers, it has all been going on this week!

Fussy Eating

Both my children have been through and still go through fussy eating phases. Currently, it’s the big one and it is so so draining. We deploy all the ‘bad parenting’ tricks in the book to get H to eat. He can never sit still for longer than 30mins and often gets up from the table mid meal. It’s taken me such a long time to get over my children missing a meal and telling myself ‘they’ll eat when they’re hungry’. It can be so frustrating sometimes when you prepare wholesome food for them and they don’t eat any of it, yet they eat all their food (and often seconds) at nursery. This week has been testament to that and I’m ashamed to say H (and consequently L) have eaten ‘beige’ food a lot more than usual this week. My saving grace for H is that he devours fruit and so I hope he gets some vitamins.  Anyone else have a fussy eater? What tricks do you use to get them to eat? 

Night Time Monkeying Around

Both H and L have tested mine and Stew’s patience this week. We’ve had every trick in the book from H: snuggles, stories, snacks, clean nappy, you name it we’ve had it. I find it hard to resist when he asks for a snuggle as I love having a cuddle just H and I, but I have to drawer the line sometimes and camp outside his room checking social media until he gives in and stays in bed.

L on the other hand is definitely a night owl. She goes to sleep (usually) straight away and wakes up around 10pm, my particular favourite time is at exactly the same time as my foot touching the bottom step as I trudge upstairs exhausted after a day at work and catching up on school work of an evening. We are regular co sleepers as it’s a quick and easy solution for us to actually get enough sleep to function! A bad habit to have gotten into, but the simplest and easiest solution. She can sleep through, and when she does it’s usually twice in a row and then not again for another 4-6 weeks. We had a sleep through on Thursday night, so that should be us now until at least March! Do you have sleep issues? How do you try and combat them? 


Scottish Edibles

Having never really visited Scotland until I met my husband, we’ve been quite a few times over the years as he is of Scottish Heritage. Since our visits, I’ve come quite partial to some Scottish delicacies. I do love some good honey, haggis, neeps and tatties, butteries, potato scones and our favourite is a steak pie from the bakery in Ballater. The one thing I have never gotten into though is whiskey; we did a tour of the Glenlivet distillery some years ago, but I spent the whole hour holding my breath as much as I could as the smell made my stomach churn, but my husband loves some whiskey and we picked up some Royal Lochnagar Whiskey this trip. What are your favourite holiday treats? 

Family Adventures

Landmark Adventure Park is somewhere my husband frequented every summer on his family trips to Scotland as a child, so we decided to take a trip over there for the day. Sadly, on arrival we learned all the play areas were closed (which was a shame as we’d driven an hour), but the ‘Bamboozeleum’ was still open, so we paid £6 to go in. H and L thought it was great fun, and Stew and I had fun messing in the funny mirrors and playing with the illusion pictures. My particular favourite was the weird hand grabber illusion…

L loves a good mirror and ever since Christmas, H loves some sparkly lights! There were crazy mirrors, sparkly lights, illusion pictures, an interactive floor tv, and some other pretty cool bits. We then went on a red squirrel hunt on the wooden walkway. Definitely worth a trip, and we’d go back when it’s fully open next time we’re in the Motherland.

After our jaunt up Craigendarroch Hill and trip to Landmark, H was quite tired so we decided a bit of a lazy day was in order, so we went for a walk around Ballater and visited the sweet shop and the park. The park is actually brand new after ‘Storm Frank’ caused a lot of flood damage back in December 2015. Both H and L enjoyed a run around and H especially enjoyed looking through the ‘telescooter’ (telescope).

L’s first flump, and H exploring the park

H was wanting a visit to a castle, so not wanting to disappoint; we popped to Balmoral, the Queens Summer Residence. Sadly she wasn’t there to say ‘hi’ nor was the castle open to visitors, but we did manage a walk round the village of Easter Balmoral and up a hill for some lunch which gave a beautiful view of the castle on what turned out to be a beautiful Scottish spring day. We sat overlooking the castle scoffing our steak pie from Chalmers bakery (Prince Charles’s favourite bakery).

On our way back down we searched for pine cones, squirrels, diggers and tractors. On our way back south 🙁 we stopped in to H and L’s Great Aunt in Braemar on what was yet another gorgeous spring day and popped to Braemar Castle for a sneaky peak and then had lunch in the ‘Bothy’ in Braemar. We even managed to see a red squirrel!

The long drive south was much less eventful for the kids. They napped until Johnstonebridge where we stopped for dinner and then watched the iPad for the last hour before we handed them over to Nanna and Grandad so we could enjoy a peaceful cuppa!

The River Dee; Looking for the Queen; Tree peeping; Cheeky grins; Balmoral Castle; Braemar Castle; Shadows; Lunch; View admiring.

Scotland, it has been a blast and we will most certainly be back, until next time!

Scottish Adventures: Part One

Driving – 11th February

After a mammoth car journey (6hrs driving with a 2yr old and a 1yr old!). We finally arrived at our Scottish destination, a beautiful cottage in the heart of Ballater. A quick dash to the supermarket and had a pizza for dinner.

Relaxing in the evening, I sat and contemplated how one can ‘best’ prepare for a journey of that length with 2 toddlers and a dog! Top Tips and Top Don’ts from us below:



How to Survive a Long Car Journey with Kids:
Top Tips

1. Download ALL the episodes of anything and everything you think your littles will watch on Netflix (yes, you can now download and watch later with no wifi on Netllll, who knew!)

2. Pack EVERY snack under the sun and chuck them into the back at the first hint of a whinge.

3. Make sure you have the dummy and/or comforter and a back up dummy or comforter.

4. Have adequate tunes for the journey, and by this, I obviously mean a nursery rhymes CD (kill me now!). I have no idea how they know, but as soon as you even try to flick to anything remotely close to being in the Top 40, they demand ‘my songs’!

5. Take a pack up tea for when you arrive otherwise you’ll face a fraught ‘quick shop’ where you will buy a bunch of food you don’t need in a frantic bid for a quick and peaceful dinner.


What Not To Do (Tried and Tested by us!)

1. Don’t pack just one measly snack per child; thank goodness for my Mum who baked us a box of cookies and absolutely saved my bacon. Half the box was gone before we’d even crossed the border!!

2. Don’t got without a pack up lunch,  which will mean you will stop at services and pay ridiculously high prices for mediochre food and drink, and whilst you  try to eat them, the bigger one will charge around like a nutter and NOT eat the sandwich you paid £3+ for.

3. Forget a pack up dinner, so will end up doing a mad dash to the supermarket for dinner and breakfast provisions as naturally the following day is Sunday and everything will be shut!

However, despite the lengthy journey and crazy 2hrs frantically trying to unpack the car, shopping and put everything away, we managed to get both kiddies off to bed around 7.30pm and instead of working like I usually would during the school term time or watching tv, I actually sat down to read my book. The second of what I hope to be a series of 12 in my #ayearinbooks2017 challenge. It was blissful! And the cottage is gorgeous!



Hill Walking – 12th February

After a somewhat challenging morning, trying to get the children to eat breakfast, shower, chase the children round the house, we made it out of the house at what I thought must have been close to 10am, when in actual fact it was 8.50am!! (we usually struggle to get out of the house by10am on a weekend, so this is some kind of record!) I thought we were going for a walk round Ballater and perhaps to the park; but no, we ended up hiking up a hill with both kids in tow.

Daddy carrying L in the backpack and holding the dog lead and me in charge of H. The hill was a 15 minute walk away from the cottage, but onwards and upwards (literally). It was a bit rough going for the first 10 minutes or so (H kept saying ‘it’s too slippery for me’) until we found the easier circular route, and thankfully by this time H was really getting into it and L was just starting to not get into it…..but we soldiered on. As we reached the peak (a whopping 315m), the snow got slightly thicker, but the sun was out. By this point, L had reached the end of her tether so we let her loose at the top along with her brother and the dog. A quick snack and we were soon on our way again with an even whingier L…..

We marched down as fast as we could trying to laugh about walking along with an overtired, crying 1 yr old, which is actually quite loud when she’s in a backpack! At the bottom, her brother decided he was too tired to walk anymore and needed a cuddle (his clever way of being carried). So we swapped over and I carried Chief Whinger and Daddy had H on his shoulders. We took a minor detour (aka wrong turn!) at the bottom but made it home in time for lunch: Scottish potato scones and cheesy beans, yum.


After lunch, Daddy and I were counting down the minutes until nap time; how am I going to survive when they don’t nap!? An hour later and the ‘sanity saver’ had arrived (Alleluia!) and I even managed a 10 minute zizz myself. Phew.

Stay tuned for some more Scottish Adventures….and hopefully some snow!

Comment with your top tips or top don’ts for long car journeys with children.