Balancing, Books and Bakes

It seems apt in the run up to Christmas that I spend some time to share with you what we’ve been up to lately and what I’m planning for 2018. I set myself a reading challenge at the beginning of 2017 and I want to try a new challenge or challenges for 2018! I think being a little competitive, I prefer a challenge. I like the idea of a bigger reading challenge as well as a fitness challenge.  Do you have any challenges/targets you’d like to set for 2018?

READING:

As I have already mentioned, I set myself a reading challenge for 2017, which was to read 12 books in 12 months.  Miraculously, I managed to hit the target and surpass it back in October, and I am current;y searching for book 18 to start. Despite having a large ‘to read’ pile and an uninspiring trip to the library this morning, I am still struggling to pick one. Naturally, suggestions are welcome! I have finished work for Christmas so I have a bit more time than usual to read, although the current 0530 starts from the children aren’t allowing much bedtime reading at the moment, Zzzzzz.  Here’s a list of my reads so far:

  1. Hurrah for Gin, Katie Kirby: a lighthearted book on the trials and tribulations of being a Mum.  I laughed out loud and really enjoyed this book.  If you’re after a giggle this Christmas, this could be a purchase for you, or wife/partner.
  2. Shopaholic to the Rescue, Sophie Kinsella: I’m a bit of a sucker for a Sophie Kinsella book and this one didn’t disappoint.  I’ve read all the books in the ‘Shopaholic’ series, and I would recommend you read them first as it sets the scene, although not essential.
  3. Hope to Die, James Patterson: Again I am an avid James Patterson reader, although I am way behind on the Women’s Murder Club series! I find the short and sweet chapters really easy to read and a fantastic help when I’m often forced to put down the book and pick back up another day.  Book three was a bit of struggle for me as it took a while to get through, in fact, I was already well into month four by the time I’d finished this.
  4. Scummy Mummies, Ellie Gibson & Helen Thorn: Yet another ‘Mum’ read, and again an easy read with yet more crazy tales from Motherhood.
  5. Cross Justice, James Patterson: Shock! Another JP book, similar to Book three, this one is part of the ‘Alex Cross’ collection which are wonderful.  They are up to the mid twenties and they’re all still amazing.  James Patterson really is a wonderful writer, well I think so anyway.
  6. A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness: My tutor group at school (yes I take reading advice from 15 year olds!) suggested this one, and my two lovely friends Hayley (hayleyfromhome) and Kat (bookwormandtheatremouse) seemed to agree that Patrick Ness was a good read. It was a lovely book, but I was not prepared AT ALL for the tearjerker ending! (a little prep if you decide to read it, although might have just ruined it!).
  7. The One Plus One, Jojo Moyes: A Jojo convert after reading this book.  A really lovely tale, and although I could see how it might end, the story was beautifully written with some twists and turns along the way.
  8. One With You, Sylvia Day: Similar to  the Christian Grey stories, this one wasn’t the best book, but I got through it.
  9. The Queen of Wishful Thinking, Milly Johnson: I’ve never read a Milly Johnson book before and I don’t know what drew me to this book in my Amazon order.  I think its the colourful front cover, I know the saying, never judge a book by its cover, but I am a sucker for brightly coloured front cover; they always seem a bit more appealing. I’m trying to do better and read the back before I discount them now.  This was a beautiful and eloquently written story, a romance novel if you will.  I do love a good ‘boy meets girl’ story.
  10. The First Time Mums’ Club, Lucie Wheeler: I grabbed this off the ‘new books’ shelf at the library and after failing to get on with a few books, this one grabbed me.  Was a fun story about becoming a Mum for the first time.  No motherhood tales in this one, but just a lovely story about making new friends during pregnancy.   I am super lucky to have such wonderful friends, and amazingly we all have children the same age!
  11. Sunshine at Wildflower Cottage, Milly Johnson: I seem to be a creature of habit and often try and read books by the same author.  This was such an easy and enjoyable read.  I’m getting to the point where I feel like I should probably branch out and read something a little more thought provoking, but honestly, I don;t know if my brain can manage it!
  12. Paris for One, Jojo Moyes: I was right when I said I was a Jojo convert! This was a really short story, in fact only 100 pages, so I felt a bit of a fraud calling it my 12th book.  I think there is another version of this book which has other short stories in, so it would be nice to read the others.
  13. Me Before You, Jojo Moyes: This book is so good, it is now a motion picture, which i dutifully watched yesterday in my mammoth 2.5hr present wrapping session.  If you’ve not read this, I can absolutely recommend it.  I think I preferred reading the book first and watching the film second.  It really is a moving story.
  14. After You, Jojo Moyes: I won’t lie, I preferred the first story to this one, but none the less it was still good.  An interesting read: a love story, a broken heart and a grieving heart all wrapped up into one book.
  15. Triple Threat, James Patterson: Although I have many more James Patterson books on my Kindle, I found this one on the book shelf in our church whilst attending Community Cafe. It’s actually three short stories in one book.  The first and third stories were really good, but the middle one freaked me out a little. James Patterson has a similar longer story called Zoo which also freaked me out, so I’m not sure why I continued, but I did.
  16. Almost a Bride, Jo Watson: Another find from the ‘New Book’ shelf at the library. I’ve never heard of Jo Watson and upon starting this story, I discovered she is a South African writer (the story is set in South Africa).  Heartbroken and jobless, Annie is having a bit of a dilemma so books a holiday with her girlfriends as rehab, and the story goes from there.
  17. Talk to Me, Jules Wake: After I said I was trying to be good and read the back before discounting a book.  Well I actually didn’t look at the front, it was the red spine that attracted me to this one.  It was until I got it home, did I see the front cover and I thought I’d picked up something a bit more sultry than I had anticipated.  But, it was a gorgeous romance novel instead about a girl being in love with someone she couldn’t have.

A BALANCING ACT:

I have had two children for over two years now (I know, still can’t believe it myself!), but I still struggle with the balancing act, and I’m not sure I will ever be happy! I currently work 3 days a week, and have 2 days with the children. Although H goes to pre-school in our village on both days that I am off.  I’ve really enjoyed the difference compared to last years 5 days, but I still find myself pining to fit more in or do more with the children.  It does make me wonder if I will ever be content with my work:life balance. I’ve toyed with the idea of becoming a SAHM Mum, but then I wonder if I will pine for the adult conversation, solo toilet trips and the buzz of using my brain I suppose. But then I long for a slower pace of life, and I find myself constantly trying to think of new and exciting ways to entertain H and L, and would they still be happy if we’re at home more.   Do you have the right balance? 

TERRIBLE TWOS AND TESTING THREES:

I think we have turned a corner with H these past few weeks were he is beginning to understand a bit more and accept reasoning, but I find all of that goes out the window if he is tired.  Honestly, you just can’t get any sense from him if he is overtired. He has started accepting that he has to say sorry and learn why he shouldn’t have done the things he’s done and just in the last week or so, he has finally become more engaged with sitting and doing something a bit academic.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we’re at the MENSA or Nobel Prize winning stage yet, but this is a big leap forward.  He is now asking to draw, write his name and is enjoying doing some more thinking tasks.  I had been so worried about him not being able hold a pencil at school in September, let alone write his name, but I think I’m ok about it all now.

       

His younger sister on the other hand is something else.  I joke to my Mum that she is a lost cause! I’m not sure if she’s stubborn, strong minded or just the devil child sometimes! Mum also offers zero advice, and just laughs as apparently I was like this as a child.  We have got to the stage where she will say ‘Sorry’ now but she is still a little monkey.  We still share a bed every night, which as much as it annoys me, I do love having a quick cuddle and a squeeze of squidgy thighs

FITNESS:

Ever since the clocks changed back in October I have really struggled to ‘train’.  This week I managed two days by myself without the children and I went for a run on both days, but when I’m at work or at home with the children, I have zero motivation.  Once my husband is home, and I’ve finished bath/bed time, its 7pm by which time I’m usually starving and going for a run is the last thing on the mind.  Most people say I’m fit anyway because of my job. My job is obviously active, but I’m not actually improving my fitness.  I think I need to enter a race to set myself a target to hit or even just something to train for.  I will have to set myself a challenge for 2018; a race or a number of sessions/miles per month perhaps.  What are your fitness aspirations for 2018?

BAKING:

Brownies: I’ve recently been experimenting with some new and slightly healthier recipes, which my work colleagues have been testing out, albeit sometimes begrudgingly! Perhaps the most popular of these new recipes was my dairy and sugar free Avocado Brownies. These have been a bit of trial and error really as the recipe uses coconut flour, after some research I discovered I could swap it out for a mixture of self-raising and plain flour as long as I added extra eggs to compensate as coconut flour is extraordinarily absorbent.  This is the recipe I followed (https://www.thehealthymaven.com/2015/08/healthy-avocado-brownies.html), but I had to adapt it slightly, so here are my ingredients:

  • 1 large avocado
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup ( used a mixture of golden syrup and honey because I had no maple syrup)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 cup of cocoa powder
  • 1 cup self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup plain flour

Add the wet ingredients to a food mixer, ensuring you blend after each addition.  The recipe states that you should transfer to a bowl before adding the eggs, but I’m a little lazy so I just mixed it all in the blender and it turned out ok.  Pour the mixture into a greased dish, I used a square one, and bake for 20-25 mins.  If you prefer them slightly gooey, check them after 20 minutes, if you prefer them more well done, leave them for longer.  I have a measuring jug with cups on, but if you don’t, here is a conversion website: (http://www.tuscanrecipes.com/cooking-tips/dry-liquid-measures.html).

Breakfast Bites: I tried this last week, and they got a mixed review at work; well actually only 1.5 out of 6 liked/tried them, so not a raging success.  Although my biggest critic when it comes to cake (my little H) enjoyed them! These can be used as a cake snack or as a breakfast on the go. The Mango Coconut Bites were quite tasty, if a little out there (I have officially been nicknamed ‘Mrs Cropley’ by my neighbours!).  These were super easy to make, and the children enjoyed helping me, even though they bickered about who was mixing!

  • 40g raisins
  • 1 ripe banana (mashed)
  • 195g oats
  • 33g of desiccated coconut
  • 250ml coconut milk
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 140g of frozen mango

Soak the raisins in boiling water. Add the coconut, oats, desiccated coconut and coconut milk to a large mixing bowl and combine. Now add the mango and stir, followed by the egg. Drain any remaining water off the raisins, and stir into the mixture. Pop into a tin and bake for 25-30mins at 190C. (https://www.healthylittlefoodies.com/coconut-mango-oat-breakfast-bites/)

Nutella Christmas Tree: Honestly, this isn’t healthy at all, but my word, it was soon good and easy to make.  Roll out a sheet of puff pastry, I then cut out a shape of a Christmas tree and used the cut off triangles as the top (you could use two separate sheets though).  Spread a good layer of nutella (or other chocolate based spread on the top and cover with the leftover triangles.  Cut slats all the way up both sides of the Christmas tree and then twist the ‘strands’ into a kind of plait.  Bake for about 20-25 mins, and then enjoy whilst warm.  I am planning this for Christmas Day breakfast! For a youtube tutorial, try this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7So4_MSdjpA.

 

What are your go to quick bakes or healthy treats? My secret santa bought me a Paul Hollywood cookbook for Christmas and the first recipe is for Churro’s which are high on my list of bakes over the festive period.

CHRISTMAS

I don’t think I could write this post without mentioning the ‘C’ word; I think I am ready.  I have bought and wrapped everything, we just have the small matter of building a play kitchen and dolls house, shall we wait until Christmas Eve…..? For children, Christmas is really all about the magic and of course the presents.  Our little H is just that bit older this year, and is beginning to get more excited, although I’m still not sure if he’s cottoned onto to everything yet, but he knows Father Christmas brings presents and he has to be on the good list, BUT, I really want to try and make it extra special for 2018.  I’m probably crazy for already looking to 2018 when most people still aren’t ready for Christmas 2017! But, I want to get H (and hopefully L) engaged into the meaning of Christmas a bit more.  We talk a lot about being on the good list or naughty list, but I want to get the children thinking about how important and special it is to spend time with our families.  My family live 150 miles away in the North West so we don’t get to see them that often, so it is always special when we see everyone as we’re not often together with my parents and siblings.  I have had a bit of an enlightening week were I am feeling very grateful indeed that we are able to share Christmas with my family and despite all the travelling and traffic, we are really very lucky. Some of us will be missing loved ones this Christmas, or not be able to all be together, so I am hoping to make next years’ festive period more about giving and family.  One of my old work colleagues has been telling me about the ‘Kindness Elves‘.  Although, not strictly just for Christmas, I really want to incorporate some of their ideas into our next Christmas, so I will researching that in the new year, but for now, I think we will go and pop some food donations into box in our Church.

Thanks for reading

C xxx

Bullet Journal; Part Two

Those of you who follow me will know I have attempted to dabble in a spot of bullet journaling this year. At school I always loved ensuring my work was neat and more often than not colourful. As a teacher, I have a ridiculous love for stationary (weird as I teach PE!), so keeping a bullet Journal was a great excuse to get some new pens and I picked the Stabilo fine tips which are great. As 2017 is fast coming to an end, I’m looking to utilise my journal a bit more in 2018 so I’m trying to plan various things, but I’m looking for help and/or inspiration on how to set it up:

 1. I’ve experimented with different monthly lay outs this year. Although I’m unsure if this is the best set up for me as I often don’t get time to sit and go through each month, but I could start using it more like a diary? How do you set your monthly layout or do you do a weekly layout?

2. I’ve really enjoyed my ‘memories’ page and I think I’d like to keep this up but perhaps a quarterly memory page. Do you record your memories?

3. I’m bypassing a traditional calendar this year where I usually plan my meals. I’ve gotten a bit lazy of late with my meal planning and want to bring it back for 2018. How can I pop it in the bullet journal?

Thoughts and suggestions as always, are most welcome, especially on ways to utilise the bullet journal more as well as keeping it exciting and fun!

Review: Wansford Country Lounge and Cafe Bar

“A cosy retreat for a quick bite and catch up”

The Wansford Country Lounge and Cafe Bar opened its door this weekend (4th November), we were lucky enough to get a table for Sunday lunch earlier in the week.  Initially, just the four of us, but we increased our booking to six (we took the Grandparents for back up!).

 

Our booking was 11.45am as we thought it would be best to have ordered by 12pm to make sure the children didn’t become to distracted.  On arrival, the staff were really accommodating, our table was laid out ready for us, complete with menus, they helped get us seated and came back to take our drinks order straight away. We ordered drinks for everyone and the children’s came in plastic cups (mine are 3 and 2, so this was ideal) and straws, and were immediately drunk! I requested a children’s menu, and to my surprise, it was really quite versatile (most children’s’ menu are usually the same things), and I thought everything was reasonably priced, ranging from £5-.00 – £6.95.  The menu included: sandwiches, pasta as well as the usual favourites of fish fingers, chicken nuggets, and chips etc.  All meals served with a scoop of ice cream for dessert.  Both of mine opted for ham sandwiches and chips.


Now for the adults, the starter menu looked very inviting indeed (prices ranging from £4.50 – p£7.95), but we opted just for a main course as it was still relatively early on.  My husband and mother-in-law both opted for the roast beef (£12.50); my father in law, the salmon with roasted cauliflower and quinoa (£10.95), and I chose the roast chicken (£10.95).  To my delight, they brought the children’s food out first so we were able to get them settled just before ours arrived.  The salmon looked divine, the roast beef delicious, and the chicken was really succulent and the accompanying seasonal vegetables were really scrummy! There were clear plates all round, unusually for our party, we declined the dessert menu (the children were beginning to lose interest in being out for lunch), but managed to reserve just enough enthusiasm for their desserts, 3 small scoops of vanilla with chocolate sauce.


Sadly, I didn’t get much chance to peruse the cakes, drinks and light bites menu, but that is most definitely an excuse for a return trip, which I’m most certain there will be! The staff were all really attentive and nothing was too much trouble. For those of you with smaller children, there are high chairs available, another big plus was the space at the tables.  I often take some activities for the children: cars, papers, pencils etc, and there was plenty of space for them to play at their seats.  During our visit, there was a steady stream of happy customers leaving, and I can’t wait to go back and sample a breakfast or a cuppa and cake or both!

Disclaimer: i have carried our the review independently, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thank you

AWOOE x

Re-post – ‘Bad Mum-itis’


After what has felt like a bit of a car crash morning of seemingly constant fighting, an (over-tired) 2 year old who wants to wear pants, a brother who wants a snack 5 mins after just eating his previous snack, and goodness knows what else.  The little one is asleep, the big one is at pre-school, I’ve had a cuppa, and I’ve sat down to take stock, and it really wasn’t that bad a morning was it! Here’s a bit of a repost of something I wrote a few months ago.  I think we all need reminding once in a while that we are doing a good job, to relax, and go with the flow.

What is ”Bad Mum-itis’?

I think we all suffer from this at some point. I know I have and still have my moments! I suppose ‘Bad Mum-itis’ is your inner Mum conscience….

As Mums, we are constantly fighting a battle to be the elusive ‘Supermum’-  bake cakes, have a tidy house, make wholesome healthy meals every night or do something your friends did or just doing a better job. The fact remains; we are all GREAT Mums’ and we shouldn’t be second guessing ourselves or our ability. I think the very fact we do this to ourselves or strive for better makes us fantastic at what we do, because we care.  These are exactly the values I want to instill in my children; not the negativity, but the positive: that I care about doing better, having the resilience to forget despite a bad day.

Motherhood is a HUGE learning curve (a steep one too!) but that’s all part of the fun. I’m not ashamed to say I’m probably ‘winging it’ 99% of the time or take the easy route just for some peace and quiet (hence why my 2 year old still co sleeps with us because I actually get some sleep!).

I think we need to stop worrying about what you think you should be doing, what you aren’t doing and start celebrating what you ARE doing. Because believe it or not, these little humans will love you regardless. Live each day as it comes and cherish EVERY moment.

You’re doing a great job!

Review: West Lodge Rural Centre – fantastic family day out!

** “One of Northamptonshire’s premier family days’ out” **

My first visit to West Lodge was just over a year ago, and I was so impressed with it, I  became an annual membership holder before my next trip.  I have since visited many times, and my children (aged 3 and 2) really enjoy going back time and time again.

A little background on the farm: The Dee Family have been at the farm for over 50 years, spanning a total of three generations.  Today, the farm is run by Farmers’ Tony, Ed, Mo and Ryan.  Set in 540 acres of beautiful Northamptonshire countryside, there is more than plenty to explore!

This Saturday (14th October), we arrived at the farm at 9.25am (keen beans as it opens at 9.30am!) for the opening of the NEW ADVENTURE PLAY BARN.  I have been eagerly following the progress on both Instagram and Facebook for the past few months, and boy, it did not disappoint.  My two were off straight away exploring everything, and I’m not ashamed to say I happily joined them as well!  The centre of the play barn is a beautiful tree sculpture and everything joins to this point, its the heart of the barn.  It is clear that, A LOT of time, thought and heart has gone into the building of the adventure play barn, as it absolutely beautiful; the murals all over the walls are like being outside, but inside, everything is made of wood, and beautifully crafted, and it seamlessly joins with the feel of the rest of the farm.  All the equipment has been designed with both children and adults in mind as it is all capable of sustaining a grown adult, this really does put your mind at rest knowing it is safe to guide your children through.  An extra bonus of the barn is the newly fitted cafe offering a variety of packed sandwiches, delicious cakes, and hot and cold drinks.

And if the adventure barn isn’t enough, there is PLENTY more to see and do at the farm.  I’ve visited quite a few farms with my children, and West Lodge has the best ‘petting area’ I’ve come across.  The guinea pigs and rabbits are wonderfully tame, and the staff are both knowledgeable and friendly.  Animal feed for the goats and other animals is available in the reception area for 30p a bag.  My son is a big fan of feeding the goats, my daughter is slowly coming round to the idea, but enjoys watching her big brother do it.  And if feeding goats and petting small animals isn’t enough, there is always an opportunity to feed cade goats and lambs in the Spring as well as shearing in the Summer.

Another treat is the outdoor play area, or the ‘castle’ as we like to refer to it.  There is a sand-pit, pedal tractors, a castle, climbing frame, and swings.  We can easily spend more than hour pottering around the various apparatus on the play area.  The play area is well equipped with a number of picnic tables (as well as many others elsewhere on the farm), perfect for a sunny day picnic.  Although, if al fresco dining isn’t your thing, there is a fantastic restaurant on site with hot and cold food, delicious cakes and plenty of drinks.  After your play, and lunch, you can have a ride on the ‘barrel ride’, this is a free tractor ride around the play area, it is always popular, so beware, you may have to wait your turn.

 

If all this isn’t enough to tempt you to visit West Lodge, do look at the their website as there is always a fantastic themed day in the pipeline! October is always Halloween themed with spooky tractor rides, witches houses and pumpkin carving.  November sees the big bonfire party. December is Santa’s grotto, Christmas card making and the Christmas experience.  Spring sees lambing, lamb feeding, the Easter bunny and egg hunts.  This list is just a snapshot of  the many things the farm has to offer throughout the year.

  

Still not worn out? There are plenty of tracks and trails around the farm taking in lots of animals on route, including pigs, sheep, cattle, horses (you can ride a pony for an extra charge), chickens, peacocks, ducks and more I have no doubt forgot to mention!

Overall, I would definitely recommend a visit to West lodge Rural Centre, they really have nailed a family day out come rain or shine. Make sure you book your tickets online to avoid disappointment!

http://www.westlodgeruralcentre.co.uk

Admission prices (on the day):

Adult – £7.45, Child – £7.45, under 2 – FREE.

Disclaimer: I have carried out this review independently, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thank you

AWOOE x

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! 

** As the summer holidays are now upon us, I have updated last years list win a few additions and price changes. **

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, Child (2-13) £10, 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, 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 £14.99, Child (3-12) £9.99, 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 £1.75, Child (4-12) £7.95, Under 4’s £5.95, Under 1’s £3.00.  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

tent/uploads/2017/08/IMG_9908.jpg”> Top left: NVR, Top right: Sacrewell Farm, Bottom left: Hill Farm PYO, Bottom right: Ferry Meadows

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NORTHAMPTONSHIRE:

West Lodge Rural Centre – Back Lane, Desborough, NN14 2SH. Admission prices: Adult £7.45, Child £7.45, Under 2’s FREE (cheaper if you pre-book online). 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 including 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. New in October 2017 was an indoor Adventure Barn which is AMAZING! Words don’t do it justice, but do read my previous review here. Well worth a visit!

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

Top Lodge, Fineshade Woods – Fineshade, Corby, NN17 3BB. Admission prices: FREE, parking £3 for 4 hours or £5 for 12 hours. 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, and open play area including a sand pit, little houses and zip wire/ pulley; and new for Summer 2018 a water play area. 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

Sywell Country Park – Washbrook Lane, Ecton, Northampton, NN6 0QX.  Admission: FREE, Parking £3 for 4 hours or £5 for 12 hours.  Similar to Barnwell with its walks, lakes and play areas.  If you don’t mind travelling a little further, its worth a trip and then there’s always Beckworth Emporium for afternoon tea afterwards (its on my bucket list!!).

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

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

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!). Burghley are repeating last years epic deal, they will automatically convert your ticket to an annual pass, so you can re-visit for free anytime (during opening periods, check their website for details) 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

Bowthorpe Park Farm – Manthorpe, Bourne, PE10 0JG. Admission prices: Adult £4.50, Child £3.50, TWO and UNDER: FREE. Bowthorpe is on my list, as it seems really good value for money.  Although not open all the time (just weekends).  Bowthorpe is famous for its Oak Tree which is thought to be over 1000 years old; but if an old tree doesn’t float your boat, then you’ll be able to see various animals and have a wander around the grounds.

http://bowthorpeparkfarm.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!  For those of you who have older children, you may be interested in the Rutland Aqua Park, or if you fancy an afternoon child free! A crazy floating obstacle course, I definitely want to have a go, but need to get organised and book it!

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

Rutland Farm Park – Uppingham Road, Oakham, LE15 6JD.  Admission: Adult £6, Child (3-12) £5.00 and Under 3 FREE.  Recently re-opened (September 2017), Rutland Farm Park is a great attraction, offering good value for money.  Theres a large variety of animals to see including the usual suspects as well as alpacas and llamas, but there is also a tea room on site which offers a good range of food including afternoon tea.

http://www.rutlandfarmpark.co.uk

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.

Disclaimer: please check prices on individual websites before you travel.

Review: Bank Chambers, Knaresborough: A Hidden Gem 

* * * * * 5 stars – A Hidden Gem!


Nestled away on a busy high street, In Hot Property have come up trumps with these serviced apartments.  There are 4 in total, and we have been staying in Apartment 4 on the top floor.

First impressions are wonderful.  On entering Bank Chambers, you are greeted by the most beautiful period doorway, and a wonderfully clean, light and airy hallway with the most grand sweeping staircase I’ve ever seen.  It is truly beautiful, and being on the top floor, I had the pleasure of climbing it!


Apartment 4 has two bedrooms, a lovely double bedroom with walk in wardrobe and a second bedroom with bunk beds. The kitchen diner is light and airy and well equipped with a dishwasher, microwave, cooker and hob, toaster and superb collection of kitchen knives (I often find holiday properties have really rubbish, blunt knives, so this was a mega plus from me!). The lounge area has a sofa (which is also doubles as a sofa bed), two lovely tub chairs by the window overlooking the high street, and a wall mounted television.  All in all, I felt like I was in a swanky London pad (note to self, must visit Vauxhall Apartments in London!).


Knaresborough:

Knaresborough itself is a lovely market town. There are some delightful quirky independent shops.  We enjoyed ‘The Wine Shop’ (weekend away without the children!) and ‘Knaresborough Toys’ were just two that we purchased from. I found these painted windows really interesting and after a bit of research I discovered they’re from an arts festival that happens annually.


We stayed for 3 nights and enjoyed various walks down by the river, a visit to Mother Shipton’s Cave (there’s a really good pirate ship playground here too), Knaresborough Castle, a day trip to Fountain’s Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens (well worth a trip particularly if you are a young family and National Trust Members), and Ripley Castle. We were on a child free weekend so were quite laid back with our plans, but there is so much to do very close by.

Walks by the river, Mother Shipton’s Cave
As recommended by Mark, we sampled the dinner menu at Carriages Wine Bar just down the road and it did not disappoint, it was delicious. We also had a lovely Sunday lunch at the Boar’s Head in Ripley (just 15 minutes away). There are also plenty of independent cafes and tea rooms for lunches and cakes, we had a yummy scone and shortbread down by the river. There is a Tesco Express just over the road and a Sainsbury’s about 3-4 minutes walk away for all the essentials if you wanted to do full self catering.

Carriages Wine Bar, 89 High St, Knaresborough

It’s the little extras that MAKE a holiday property:

Not only is Bank Chambers perfectly situated, beautifully decorated and well equipped, there are some lovely extra touches that make this property a wonderful stay.

  1. Helpful cooking ingredients – often when you stay at a property, you always end up buying various cupboard staples, but Bank Chambers keeps a Kilner bottle of oil, salt and pepper right next to the hob, just like you would have in your own home.
  2. Towels – I love walking into a hotel and finding towels pressed and neatly arranged on the bed, and walking into Bank Chambers was no different.
  3. Toiletries – I hate it when properties don’t supply enough toilet roll.  Bank Chambers provided more than enough and have even gone the extra mile and included a shampoo and conditioner dispenser in the bathroom.  I had a happy husband as he’d forgotten his!
  4. Umbrella – in the foyer downstairs is on umbrella bucket with a handy golf umbrella which is great when you get caught out in the British summer weather, shame we didn’t take it out when we had to run back in the pouring rain!
  5. COFFEE!! – I’ve saved the best for last and my husbands favourite. He is a big coffee drinker and to find an Lavazza coffee machine was a real plus.  He enjoyed making himself a coffee like he would at home and again, there were plenty of capsules!.

Overall, we had a wonderful stay at Bank Chambers, and would ABSOLUTELY recommend it to anyone (and I am sure their other properties in London and Norfolk would be no different).  The attention to detail makes these apartments a real treat, and there has clearly been a lot of love and care gone into the renovations.

A fab stay, go on, why not treat yourself to a weekend away……

http://www.inhotproperty.co.uk

Bank Chambers, High St, Knaresborough.

Disclaimer: I have carried out this review independently, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

If you would like to work with me, please contact me to discuss terms.

Thanks

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!