Saturday 30 April 2011

Duke of Lancaster Regiment Homecoming Parade

It was another emotional and patriotic day in Kendal today as the sound of vehicles on Highgate was replaced by a military band, soldiers' boots, cheering and applause. Our local regiment the Duke of Lancaster's was using their privilege of being able to march through the centre of Kendal to celebrate their safe return from Afghanistan. Before the scheduled march time people were starting to line the streets many of us clutching the flags that survived from yesterday's big day!

We were positioned towards the end of the route and for quite some time we could hear the increasing volume of music and applause as the parade approached. A police motorcycle rider led them down from the County Hall and passed us on to the Parish Church for a thanksgiving service. It was a very emotional moment as the soldiers marched past us in perfect step with each other with their guns on their shoulders. The crowd were clapping and cheering and waving their flags. 

Wish I could have gone to the service and I do hope the crowd was as good if not better for their return leg. We are proud of our local regiment and wish them well in any future action.

Friday 29 April 2011

The Wedding of William and Catherine

Today made me really proud to be British and a monarchist!

It was such a lovely ceremony and only the British seem to do pageants like this. Pomp, circumstance and a couple that really looked like they loved one another. Perfect - just hope they have a long and happy marriage together. 

I am old enough to remember the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981 which seemed a lot more like a fairy tale wedding than today's did. Yes the ceremonials were the same but this one seemed much more real. Catherine came across as mature and composed and in control of her own destiny.

This must have felt like the longest walk ever:

Congratulations William and Catherine.

Thursday 28 April 2011

KLM Delft Tiles competition

Sponsored post

Watch the video to find out how your portrait could appear as  Delft tile on the side of a KLM aeroplane:

Tuesday 26 April 2011

#TheGallery: Green

A lovely challenge from Tara this week to come up with photographs meeting the theme of Green. As the weather has been stunning over the last few days I've been out enjoying the Cumbrian countryside here is a collage of my favourite ones fitting the bill:

From top to bottom and left to right this is what you can see:
  • My children enjoying the amazing seesaw in the middle of Holker Hall gardens.
  • Them resting on the lovers' seat on the lawn.
  • My daughter hugging the Holker lime tree.
  • Lambs near Sizergh castle.
  • Tulips in Sizergh castle gardens.
  • Woodland adjacent to Sizergh castle.
  • Brigsteer woods.
  • Bluebells in Brigsteer woods.
I hope you have enjoyed them. If you want to see more then from Wednesday click on the camera logo to see this week's linky.

Monday 25 April 2011

Family Fun: Sizergh Castle and Brigsteer Woods

Life Unexpected

Another gorgeous sunny day in Cumbria so we set off as 3 generations to visit Sizergh Castle just  outside of Kendal. Once again the children were bribed into enthusiasm by the lure of an Easter egg hunt! This was the first time the children and I had been to the castle but I thought it was time to use the National Trust membership we had got with Christmas money.

By the time we got there (11:30) the first available entry into the castle itself was 1:30. This gave us plenty of time to complete the Easter Egg hunt. This was different from the ones we had already done as it combined instructions on each clue as to where to find the next one, letters to record and some tokens to pick up on the way round. The combination of the 3 prevented cheating! We were also challenged to spot gold and silver eggs hidden around the gardens for a bonus prize. On some of the clues the children also had little extra challenges such as bunny hopping to the next clue. The whole hunt took us all the way around the beautiful gardens and we got to see the vegetable gardens, bee hives, orchard and chicken area as well as the formal gardens:

We all had fun looking for the clues and exploring the gardens. The children were very pleased to win 2 eggs and a balloon each for solving both parts of the trail. To recover from the excitement we had a picnic in the formal gardens. Then it was time to go to the castle for our time slot. Whilst we were waiting in the courtyard we were given a picture quiz to keep the children happy and an information sheet for the adults. Once in the castle we were given a choice of several quiz sheets for children with varying levels of complexity plus an extra Easter bunny hunt just for the holiday weekend. The castle dates back to the 14th century and has a real mix of styles over several centuries. I must admit escorting a supersonic 4 year old round didn't really give me time to appreciate it fully!

A quick refreshment break was required before heading off on a 3 mile family walk my mum had downloaded from the castle web site. This took us on a wonderful exploration of the local countryside through Brigsteer wood and back to the castle:

It was a real nature trail in the woods spotting flowers and butterflies, luckily my mum had some little nature books but wish I'd taken some of the Usborne spotters guides! My daughter really enjoyed helping granny to identify the flowers and butterflies. Both children loved playing hide and seek amongst the trees too. By the time we had climbed up to St John's in Helsington Church above Brigsteer we were all in need of refreshment so were pleasantly surprised to discover that free tea and coffee were being distributed in the church by 2 of the lady parishoners. Apparently they do this on most bank holidays which is a lovely idea.

We then had a slow descent back down to the castle through some more woods and across farmland. If you want to see more photographs then please look at this Smilebox creation:

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I would quite happily repeat any of the day and must get back to visit the castle without any children in tow!

Saturday 23 April 2011

Family Fun: Kendal Museum

Today we were in search of family fun on a shoestring and went for our first visit to Kendal Museum as entry is free and we only had to stump up a £1 for an hour's parking (with hindsight 2 hours parking would have been better!). It's only open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays so there is a limited chance to get in but its worth it.

When we got in another child was asking about quizzes so I paid 10p for each child to have an age appropriate quiz. For my 4 year old it was to spot the objects matching the silhouette and for my 7 year old solve the hieroglyphics and find the objects mentioned in the museum. Both of these took us through all the various rooms in the museum with very keen children.

The museum has a great mix of Kendal/Cumbrian history back to pre-history, natural history and currently an exhibition on the Egyptian excavations of John Garstang. There are also a couple of exhibitions (1 art and one natural history) centred around the dodo:

These are designed to make you think about extinction and what we can do to prevent more animals becoming extinct. I would love to go around without my children to read more about the exhibits!

The museum has a very hands on approach to history and encourages children to try things and get involved. Both of them enjoyed trying out the rock xylophone and having a go at being mini archaeologists:

All in all a fab and incredibly cheap way to spend a couple of hours as a family. We will be back and next time will allow more time to explore. The children were proud of their Kendal museum badges they got for completing their quizzes and I'm sure they will be happy to have a go at another one next time.

Having had a quick browse of their web site whilst writing this they also offer adult education evening classes and a children's astronomy club. A great local resource so we need to use it (and make some voluntary donations/spend in the shop) to keep it free).

Friday 22 April 2011

Family Fun: Holker Hall and Gardens, Cumbria

After 8 months of living up in Kendal I finally got to take my children to visit Holker Hall and gardens at Cark-in-Cartmel. I'd seen their marketing about an Easter Egg hunt so thought it was an ideal opportunity to get my children to agree to go to a garden (not their favourite idea of a fun destination!).

We had a rather wiggly drive from the A590 through various Cumbrian towns and villages. Its a very picturesque drive and luckily my children don't suffer from car sickness. The route is well signposted with brown signs and yellow ones for the current event. We easily found a space in the car park and were able to spread our picnic blanket on the adjacent bank. Plenty of other families were making use of either the picnic tables or their own rugs.

Suitably fortified we got our entry tickets (£7.50 for me, £4 for my daughter and my son was free) and two Easter egg trails plus pencils. When we arrived at the entrance to the gardens a member of staff kindly pointed us in the right direction to find the first clue! My children were very keen and sped off at a rate of knots to find the required letter:

I was more keen on trying to photograph the gorgeous flowers that filled the gardens with colour:

Using a combination of clues and the garden map we headed out of the formal garden and into the wild flower meadow in search of the standing stones. The gravel labyrinth around the stones was great fun for us all to follow and the children quite happily kept going to the middle. In fact all along the route and in the rest of the garden there was plenty to grab the attention of the whole family and entertain us all:

In fact after collecting the children's chocolate winnings from the ticket office they ran back to the garden for more! They both said they want to come back again as they enjoyed it so much. Unfortunately we didn't have time to see the whole garden in one go as the children were in need of some refreshment from the Courtyard Cafe. Of course this does mean that we will have to come back soon...

There was just enough time for a quick sample of the adventure playground which is nicely shaded and has some picnic benches. This area is accessible without any payment and would be a lovely place to spend a morning or afternoon. In the school room there were Easter craft activities for an extra cost but we skipped these on this occasion. 

All in all a fab family day out of you've still got some holiday budget left! If you get there over the Easter weekend then the hunt is on until Monday. The next event is a big screening of the Royal Wedding on the 29th for £2 a car (there is a marquee for a more upmarket viewing of the event).

Thursday 21 April 2011

The Gallery: My Blog

An interesting challenge from Tara this week to post a photograph that sums up our blogs! A toughish one to choose just one.. is my blog about me as a single mum, my kids or our new lives in the Lakes? Think this calls for a trawl back through the photos I've already posted on the blog to try and find one that sums up the entirety of this blog:

These are all hands joined together as one tight knit little family. We have our ups and downs but on the whole are a great team and the fun we get up to is summed up in this blog! 

If you click on the camera icon you'll find the rest of the entries of this week's entries...

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Family Fun: Brockhole, Windermere

Today with a bunch of mums and children I spent a delightful 4 hours at Brockhole the Lake District Visitor Centre. It was an absolutely stunning Cumbrian April day which was perfect to sample the delights on offer at Brockhole. 

It is situated about half way between the towns of Windermere and Ambleside on the A591 on the shores of Windermere and it is an ideal spot to spend all part of the day. There isn't an entrance fee but car parking starts at £1.80 for an hour and I managed to find £5 for a 4 hour stay as it is such a tranquil place to be:

As the party ranged in age from babies to age 7 we started off with a picnic in the outdoor adventure playground. This is fenced off from the main park to keep dogs out and has picnic tables as well as room for picnic rugs. There is a distinct area for children up to age 7 based around a boat and another for older children.

Even though the centre was busy the playground seemed to have plenty of room for the children to play safely. By the time they had over an hour climbing, sliding and having lots of fun it was very hot. Those of us that had opted for a longer stay headed on down to the shores of Windermere to cool off with a paddle:

The water was pretty cold with it only being April but we weren't the only ones tipping our toes or more in the water. In fact the children ended up sitting in the water and having a fabulous time. Other people had brought dinghies to float about on the water under the supervision of their parents. It was about an hour before we had all had enough of paddling and throwing stones and headed off in search of ice creams back at the main house. This was a slight adventure with a push chair as we didn't find the route that didn't have any steps!

Ice lollies for the children and tea or coffee for the mums on the terrace of the big house left the children (those old enough!) refreshed to try out the traversing wall which is adjacent to the cafe. My children then had fun exploring the interactive displays in the information centre and they finished with a session in the new soft play area. With it being a hot and sunny day we didn't make much use of this but I suspect it during a wet day the soft play area would be great for children to let off steam.

My children and I all won't to go back there soon and try out some of the things that we didn't get to do today. There are plenty of activities over the summer and my daughter is disappointed that she is just under the age limit for some of them! I can thoroughly recommend that for a family Brockhole is a cracking day out.

Saturday 9 April 2011

Flashback Friday: first riding lesson

About 2 and half years ago just after his 2nd birthday my son had his ever horse ride thanks to his godmother Kirstie:

Once he got over the initial shock at being a lot higher off the ground than normal he looked like a natural! He sat with a nice straight back and held on to the reins very carefully as Kirstie led him round the paddock. Just a shame we are now too far away to have more rides...

His big sister also had her first lesson that day but I was too busy keeping an eye on a small person to get a decent photograph of her! They were both looking like better riders than I was as a child. My riding instructor very kindly told my mum that she was wasting her money paying for lessons for me... I still remember the horse was called Biscuit and it never did what I asked it to. I have subsequently ridden a few times but never really had much confidence.

Wish it wasn't such an expensive hobby so that my children could do it more often.

This post was held up by technical issues from actually being posted on Friday!

Friday 8 April 2011

Fitness Friday: Week 15

Phew the weigh in this week showed that I've lost 1.5 pounds which means I'm almost back where I was before! So its more of the same and being careful with it being the school holidays!


I have stopped eating the same as the kids and cooked my food separately again. The Rosemary Conley portion pots and scales have also been in use. This has enabled me to keep better track of what I have been eating.

The last few days I have actually been getting up early enough to have a 15 minute session of Wii Just Dance 2. I have also managed an evening session on the Personal Fitness Trainer as well as my normal Rosemary Conley class. Not only do I feel better but its obviously helping me shift the weight.

The week ahead

Thursday 7 April 2011

Wii - Fitness for all the family?

As you may be aware from previous blogposts this year I am really trying to get both myself and my children nice and fit. With all the bad weather and time constraints one of the main ways we have been doing this is by using the Wii to have fun exercise sessions. Obviously with children aged 7 and 3 they have different capabilities and require varying amounts of input so we have experimented with a few different games (thank heavens for Christmas and birthday money!).

We had 2 of the original fitness games Wii Fit for me and Family Fitness Trainer more for the children. In the past I've found the Wii Fit great for a regular workout and for charting my progress. Unfortunately I'm having issues with the balance board which is preventing me using it at the minute (must get around to sorting it out!). 

Family Fitness Trainer uses a mat that is plugged into the Wii. It is fairly simple to operate but requires some level of co-ordination - which my 4 year old sometimes finds tricky. My children do enjoy competing against each other and earning points and high scores. I have to admit that being competitive myself I enjoy staying top of the high score table for Mole Stomper. 

On the recommendation of my Rosemary Conley instructor I bought Just Dance 2 in January. This can be used either just as a fun way to exercise with friends or family OR you can set yourself a daily Sweat challenge to complete 1, 3 or 5 dance routines to earn points. What I like about this is that its easy to squeeze in a 15 minute session including warm up. My children love choosing the silliest songs such as Monster Mash or Walk Like an Egyptian.

My daughter had previously had High School Musical 3 Dance but found it quite hard to follow the directions on the screen to copy the moves. It maybe as she gets older she finds this easier. This year she bought Dance Juniors which is much simpler to use and we enjoyed a couple of sessions, though she doesn't ask to play it often.

Wednesday 6 April 2011

The Gallery: Mother Love

Tara has dedicated this week's Gallery to World Vision's Mother's Day campaign and challenged us to Mother Love for the theme. I looked at the photos I had with my kids and didn't like the way I looked so I've gone off on a tangent:

This mother sheep was lovingly protecting her lambs from the humans looking at them over the wall! An archetypical Cumbrian scene at the minute... 

Click on the camera logo to visit Tara's page and see the other entries...

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Change4Life: Step into Spring - Up and About

My latest Change4Life newsletter popped into my e-mail inbox this week with lots of tips to get Up and About and to ensure they have 60 Active Minutes a day. With the Easter holidays either here or happening next week its great to be able to get some tips to get us all fitter with 2 and a bit weeks off!

Up and About

As I know to my cost its ever so easy to find bottoms glued to comfy sofas on the wetter Spring days so Change4Life have got some tips on keeping more active with your children. I have borrowed a few for here but for more go to kids activity tips.

Budget tips

  • Have a disco in the lounge with some of your CDs
  • Have a catwalk at home and get the kids to parade their favourite clothes
  • Have a toy and clothes swap party with other families.
  • Make a den using some chairs, tables, sheets and towels.

5 minute fillers

  • Play hide and seek
  • Make up a dance routine to a song
  • Use a broom/mop to play limbo
  • How many times can you hop on the spot in 10 minutes

All day games and activities
  • Family Olympics
  • A Treasure Hunt
  • A bike ride

Whatever the weather
  • Fly a kite
  • Puddle jumping
  • Leaf catching 

Getting activity into your daily life:
  1. Limit TV to 2 hours max
  2. Feet first instead of using a car use your feet and walk/cycle
  3. Dance to the TV ads
  4. After school don't let them veg out
  5. Be active after eating to burn off the calories
  6. Have a family activity day at the weekend

Use your feet

There is a great tool on the web site to give you ideas to use your feet more. 

I will be having a look at the 60 Active Minutes at a later date....

Monday 4 April 2011

Usborne books at home parties

An example of an Usborne Easter display.

Check out to browse or book an event.
See how many free books you could get!

Saturday 2 April 2011

April Personal Challenge

I came across the Personal Challenge when browsing other blogs this week so thought I would join in this month. The scheme was started over at and if you want to join in there is a linky and a badge: 


So what am I challenging myself to for the next month?

1) As you may have seen from my Fitness Friday posts I have not only stalled but back slid on my weight loss programme. So my first challenge for April is lose a minimum of 7 lbs over the month. This should be achievable if I stick to the diet and boost my exercise!

2) As a second challenge I need to get myself up earlier in the morning so I can a) fit in my exercise and b) carry on making the best of myself by having time for hair and make-up. So my alarm clock is going to have to be set for an earlier time (and I'll have to actually get up when it goes off!)

3) Thirdly I need to finish making my bedroom a little haven to chill and relax for myself and get the children to assist me into making their bedroom a place they can actually play. With the school holidays coming up we will all need our own space!

So hopefully I've set myself some S.M.A.R.T. goals - come back on the 30th April to see how I did....

Friday 1 April 2011

Fitness Friday: Week 14

OK I haven't posted for a bit as I knew it wasn't good! I have put on a couple of pounds over the last 2 weeks and need to revisit/re-kick by Rosemary Conley plan.

This really hasn't been good recently. I've gone back to eating the same sorts of things as the kids and not checking my portion sizes... Instead of filling up on vegetables I've had too much carbohydrate. Dashing around a lot after my kids means I need to be more organised as to meals and snacks. The Graze boxes are designed to fit in a pocket or handbag so I need to take them and not grab something from the kids' naughty box.

I admit to having done nothing except some walking and my Rosemary Conley exercise classes each week. Yes I've been doing some vigorous house sorting but its not the same as a routine on the Wii or a fitness DVD. 

Plan for the week ahead
Looks like I need to start cooking myself different food from the kids again. Trying to get them to eat my healthier food leads to arguments and if I eat some of theirs its too high in fat! I have portion pots and I need to spend some time measuring what I am putting on my plate (smaller plate may be in order again too!).

I need to get the kids to leave room for me to workout in the front room and try to get up early enough to workout before breakfast. Hopefully my body will have got the hang of the clock change  soon so I can get it out of bed when the alarm goes off!

To see how everyone else is doing please click on the logo at the top...

Flashback Friday: Baby photos

My grandmother is celebrating her 94th birthday with the family this weekend so its a great excuse to dig out her earliest photograph from 1918:

A typical photograph of the era being very formal. I love her little boots and the way she is clutching her cuddly toy. She has changed a bit since then and has produced 3 sons and has 7 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren. Would be fabulous to create a family tree showing us all with baby photographs to compare our looks and clothes!

Happy birthday Granny M! I'd better get off and bake your birthday cakes now...