Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Guest Post: Look who’s talking

Here is another guest post from my friend Squiff:

It’s coming up for a year since my son uttered his first real word “cheese” and unusual and amusing choice for a first utterance and over the months he’s kept us laughing as his vocabulary expands.

He enjoys watching the news and delighted in squealing “Horse meat scandal” every time a new food scare hit the headlines. This was funny at home but attracted some odd looks when he started to shout it from his seat in the trolley whenever we turned into the meat aisle at the supermarket.  I now watch the news with my finger over the mute button as some of the other scandals would sound a little less funny when parroted by a two year old.

He loves vehicles and commentates on the passing traffic easily distinguishing between skip loaders and rubbish lorries but 4x4s don’t feature in his “Things that go” book so he’s had to find a name for them himself and now declares “wardrobe” whenever one passes. 

As I child I got myself in a pickle trying to say “cement mixer” and instead said “cermix menter”. This quickly because a family phrase and my entire family now struggle to pronounce the word correctly as we’ve used the wrong version so often so I’ve stuck to “mixer” when talking to my son.

He loves us to read to him and is always passing books to us. One night I was cooking dinner when my husband shouted through “What’s the Egg and Peas book? He keeps asking for it and I don’t know that one” I was unable to reply for a few minutes as I was laughing so hard “It’s again please book dear” was my eventual response.  

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Guest Post: Our favourite day out

Another guest post from Squiff

We live in East Sussex and are lucky to have Knockhatch Adventure Park on the doorstep. I have an annual pass and my son loves to visit at every opportunity. The park has a small collection of farm and exotic animals, some of which can be met at an animal encounters show.

My son loves to see the different creatures and learns something new each time we visit.
I have a phobia of birds so the birds of prey exhibit is a test of my nerve but I’m determined that I won’t pass my fear on to my son and so far he hasn’t noticed that I’m ridged with terror every time one of them moves.

Beyond the animals are a number of rides and attractions. The tractor ride is a perennial favourite and the jumping pillows always raise a giggle. A huge sand pit and paddling pool provide sunny day fun while an indoor soft play area that means that we visit throughout the year.

As my boy gets older there is an adventure playground to explore and more rides to try so I’m sure we will continue to visit for many years to come.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Guest Post: Always Look on the Bright Side

I am stepping away from laptop and iPad for a couple of weeks to spend time with my children. Some lovely friends have written some guest posts to fill in the gap! First up is my friend Squiff who I met when I did Medieval re-enactment down in Sussex. Here is her debut blog post:

My husband has just started a job abroad that will see him away from home for approximately five months. It’s a difficult time for us as a family and a concept that is impossible for my two year old to fully grasp. So rather than dwell on the negatives and allow a sad atmosphere to get a grip I am determined to focus on the positives. 

Firstly I’m ceasing the opportunity to make a few life style changes and have set myself the challenge of losing a stone and a half while he is gone. No fad diet, no trendy fast days just an increase in my activity levels and a reduction in my calorie intake.

I am using some of the money we will be saving to start my son at pre-school in September. He’s an active and inquisitive boy who almost never sits still and the chance to explore a new environment is one I’m sure he will relish. Another positive is that it will give me a few hours break each week and while some of that will be used to do chores that are difficult to do with a two year old in tow I’m determined to use some of the time for myself, be that getting some exercise or just enjoying a chapter or two of a novel with a hot cup of tea.

I plan to use my empty evening to complete some craft projects and tackle some junk clearance -sorting out all the drawers and cupboards that have had piles of paperwork, heaps of junk and random bits and pieces stacked in them. 

So while the next few months could be long and lonely I’m planning to fill them and make them busy, happy times and as absence makes the heart grow fonder hopefully even happier times will follow when my husband get home.

So glad she is finding plenty to be positive about!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

#CountryKids in the River Kent

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

With the end of term approaching there weren't going to be many opportunities for after school swimming in the river at Staveley so on Tuesday I made sure that the children's swimming things were in the car. It was another hot day so they were very pleased to get in and cool off:

There a couple of tempting rope swings that others have put above the river:

My son hasn't yet had the confidence to have a proper go:

Big sister has no such fear:

He did get brave enough to get this far into the water:

Big sister went further and actually swam:

We are very lucky to have a safe swimming spot that the children can use in hot weather under adult supervision. There are plenty of stories in the news about people dying when swimming in unsafe places but hopefully my children know to watch out for warning signs.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Use your local forest to cheaply entertain the children this summer

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I had this timely press release from the Forestry Commission this week:

New Survey Reveals Parents ‘Dread the Cost of Summer Holidays’

Families are being invited to enjoy public forests this summer, after a new survey shows parents dread the cost of entertaining their children during the school break.

A Forestry Commission study has revealed that in the average family, parents spend nearly £4,8001 (£4,762.66) each year on keeping their children entertained.

Nearly half (48%) admitted they dread the cost of occupying their children each summer, when the costs of entertaining them rises by nearly £60 (£59.96) each week compared to during term time.

Researchers found that items like attraction tickets, toys, computer games and sports activities mean most mums and dads will part with around £400 (£396)2 each month in the year to keep the kids from becoming bored.

If the cost of family holidays is factored in, when the average British family takes two holidays per year, this rises to an average of nearly £630 (£626.50) per month or a total of £7,500 (£7,517.84) a year.

Rather than spending money on expensive excursions or indoor activities this summer, the Forestry Commission is urging parents to look to their local forests as a one stop shop for all kinds of exciting activities.

Contrary to popular belief, half of the population of England lives six miles from the nearest forest and the Forestry Commission wants more people to treat the country’s public woodland spaces as their very own playground.

Josephine Lavelle from the Forestry Commission said: “You don’t have to spend hundreds of pounds to keep your children occupied this summer as there is one place that combines all the fun of an adventure park, wildlife attraction, science centre and art gallery where admission for all is free* - your local forest.

“It is concerning to see that so many parents dread the prospect of financing their children’s entertainment through the summer holidays and it doesn’t have to be this way.

“A day out to one of the Forestry Commission sites makes the most of the summer holiday without breaking the bank as forests can be visited again and again and enjoyed in a variety of ways.

“Rather than worrying about spending money on games consoles or expensive theme parks, taking your children into the forest shows them how much fun it can be to play outdoors, climbing trees, enjoying bike rides, exploring nature and using their imagination.”

The survey also revealed that 78% of parents felt guilty for not having as much time as they would like with their children and 45% said they would find it difficult thinking of ways to keep their child entertained.

Lack of money prevented 40% of parents from doing more to entertain their children, while a further 38% blamed their hectic workloads and 32% said they were simply too busy.

Frequent visitors can also save money on trips to the forest by using the Forestry Commission’s Discovery Pass, which offers generous discounts on parking, shopping and activities, along with a seasonal e-newsletter packed with forest news and events.
The survey results have been generated in a survey commissioned by the Forestry Commission of 2,000 parents of school-aged children. Click here to view the full survey.

* Forestry Commission sites are free to visit but parking charges may apply at different locations. The National Arboretum at Westonbirt is the only Forestry Commission site which charges for entry and until 30 September costs £8 per adult and £7 per concession, with children going free between 20 July and 1 September and paying £3 until 30 September..

1 From Forestry Commission Cost of Entertaining Survey 2013. Calculated by adding the amount spent by parents on activities each month to the 29% per week additional spend over the six week break plus two visits per year to attractions, where the average cost for a family of four is £142.56

2 Calculated by adding up the amount spent on activities each month and adding the cost of the amount spent on attractions, divided into 12 monthly instalments.

I know that I will be heading up to Whinlatter during the holiday to make use of the great outdoor space up there! Why don't you head out to your local forest?

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Reasons to be cheerful: Royal edition


Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

I am amazed how many things Michelle found to be cheerful about just from one day this week! Then again mine are all from yesterday's royal visit by Her Majesty the Queen and the Princess Royal to Kendal. I am very much a royalist so I was glad their visit worked out as being when I wasn't in work. This is mostly a pictorial edition:

Crowds gathered from about 9 to get a good vantage point:



There were plenty of flag waving/screaming school children though some got tired of waving flags after an hour's wait:


As we were down hill it was hard to tell if things were starting to happen but there were plenty of local big wigs and soldiers around whilst we waited:


Eventually we got a tantalising glimpse of Her Majesty in a bright turquoise outfit:

She was doing a proper good Royal walkabout with Princess Anne following behind.


After what seemed like forever the Royal Party headed down the hill closer to us to receive their bouquets:


Just as we thought we were going to get really close thebroyalncar turned up:



So we had to make do with pictures through the car windows as they passed us:



It was an amazing atmosphere and the soldiers on parade got a huge round of applause as they marched off:


Made me proud to be British!



Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Weigh in Wednesday Week 11


After a gap due to missing my aerobics last week it's back to me in Lycra! This time it's a post workout selfie as my kids on strike again:



It's not been a brilliant week exercise wise as due to lack of time and an injury the only real workout I did was the Race for Life. Luckily all the picnics and refreshing glasses of cider must have been balanced out as I lost 1/2 pound over the fortnight. Not a huge amount but not bad considering!

So now I enter the danger zone - 6 weeks off work at home with the children. I nearly always gain weight over the break so its a good test of the thinking slimmer pods. Will I manage to eat sensibly and not pig out whilst enjoying time as a family...

There is going to be a bit of a pause in weigh posts as I'm shutting off the laptop and iPad for the first couple of weeks of the holidays! So you'll have to wait a while to see how I do...


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Toy Review: Dr Who Playset

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We are big Dr Who fans in this house so when I was offered a chance to review a new Dr Who Cold War Playset and characters I jumped at the chance. Then I had my daughter asking every day if the parcel had arrived! When it did she was very keen to rip open the packaging:

We were out and about at the time so the characters got a chance to admire Windermere:

The Playset came with the armour-less Ice Warrior (top) and the armoured one was separate. My daughter wasn't sure that the size of the armour would be big enough for the unprotected one.

That night I had to construct the Playset itself. I don't have a good track record on these and the fasteners went flying but eventually it was done:

It clearly is the inside of the Russian submarine from the TV episode complete with TARDIS:

The set is around £9.99 which is a reasonable price. It's not able to cope with robust play but perfect for acting out scenes from the show. We just need to acquire the right size Doctor and Clara to fit it from the 3.75 inch range. Our current Doctors are from a slightly larger series... However the ice warriors are the perfect size:

My daughter has found that the characters can be neatly stored in the missile silo too! A good fun set for recreating scenes from this episode. You would need to add a second character for about £6.99 but I think my daughter will get hours of fun from it. Just watch that it doesn't need reassembly too often from rough play...

The other item we received was River Song's future sonic screwdriver from her encounter with the 10th Doctor. All fans need at least one screwdriver and this is the funkiest looking:

Not only does it look good it has sound effects and lights up:

This is something my children have argued over which is a good sign of a popular toy. Again these are around £9.99 so not too expensive.

My daughter has definitely given these the thumbs up and quickly took them all to her room. I think they are all a great addition to any dedicated child Whovian's collection. Think that someone will be wanting more from this range for her birthday...

Monday, 15 July 2013

Scottish Power's High 5 Challenge and the Race for Life #high5challenge

Having enjoyed running the Race for Life in Preston in June I was very excited to be asked by Scottish Power to run again yesterday in Manchester for their High 5 Challenge. They paid for my entry fee and have donated £200 towards my sponsorship. It was great this time to be involved with a team of bloggers from across the north west. We all arrived with our special blinged up High 5 gloves:

There was plenty to do in the Scottish Power tent including posting our own high 5 message on the wall:

My daughter and I took our turn at doing the Cancer Slam dance and I am waiting for the video to appear on Facebook! Hopefully I don't look too awful ;-) I didn't risk doing a high 5 jump before the race as I was already nursing an injured leg which I had to strap up for the race.

Update here is the video:


After what seemed like ages it was time for the warm up. I was with Chayz and Charlotte with the other mad runners. It was a really hot day and not a good one for running but we were all determined to do our best. After a minute's silence and a cancer roar the hooter went and we were off!

The route turned out to be pretty hilly which was a nightmare in the heat. Good job there were 4000 of us out on the course plus 1000s of supporters to cheers us on in the heat. I have to admit I walked up every hill but attempted to run the rest of it! I was never going to beat my previous time of 29 minutes though..

One of the best parts was the high 5 people at about 4.5 km in who encouraged us to keep on going:

They did lie about the fact that was the last uphill section though! Eventually the finish line came in sight and I just about managed to up my speed on the home straight to cross the finish at a proper run and a time of 37 minutes. It was a great relief to be handed my finishers medal and a bottle of water! 

It is always a fabulous atmosphere at these events and we stayed around for a little while longer to soak it up:

I am glad to once again have been given a chance to help raise much needed funds to fight cancer. Roll on 2014 when I will be out there again getting hot and sweaty for a good cause! Nickie and I are on the case to organise a massive blogger team at Preston race for life so watch this space... Here are the other fab blog posts by the lovely ladies in the challenge:

Saturday, 13 July 2013

#CountryKids at Tower Wood

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Back in the days when councils had money to spend on leisure activities Lancashire County Council bought Tower Wood on the shores of Windermere (then in the county of Lancashire and now in Cumbria). My colleague's husband works there and I was told about the Water Days last weekend. We made it on the Sunday and it cost us each £6 for a day of trying out various activities on the lake.

As it was a wet activity I couldn't take a camera on the water which was a real shame. My daughter first of all headed off in a one person dinghy and was soon getting the hang of sailing. My son and I went out in a double canoe that I was assured was very hard to capsize! He wasn't too keen on this mode of travel so made me come back in quite quick..

Then we went on a funboat which he was steering and I did very little! There wasn't much wind so we had to be towed back to shore...my son really loved the sailing.

We queued for ages for the metal Canadian canoes then neither child wanted a turn! So I joined the queue to be taken out to one of the larger sailing vessels whilst the children paddled in the water. Eventually we were taken out to The Legend in the safety speed boat:

This was one of my favourite parts of the day as I got to steer her backwards and forwards across the lake! I could have spent all day out on her.. Instead I once again queued up to go on the Funboat with my son at the tiller. My daughter opted for a second go in kayaks - her favourite activity of the day despite (or because of) capsizing and getting a swim!

Sadly the day ended and we had no more time to go out on the water. My daughter now wants a kayak and my son a Funboat so they had better start saving up! I'd love to encourage them to continue making use of our fabulous water sports up here so hopefully I can find some way round the cost..