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What makes a happy childhood?

28 Jan

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If you try to envisage your happiest memories from your childhood, what comes to mind?

For me, it is the memories of family time. As children we spent a lot of time with grandparents and other family and it is something that I am determined my own children should experience. We were so lucky that our grandparents lived close by and we were able to enjoy so much quality time with them.

I remember hot, lazy summers when the time seemed to move as slowly as pond water. We spent much of our time blackberry picking and playing pooh sticks then would head back to my gran’s house where she would cook up a delicious blackberry crumble. Gran’s house would always smell of something yummy like  freshly baked saffron buns or warm fresh bread.

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Blackberry picking with my brother

It is funny how smells can instantly take you back to your childhood. I only have to get a whiff of roast beef and I am transported back to my Auntie Kath’s house. Perfectly cooked in her old Rayburn, the smell would greet you as soon you walked in the door.

The smell of Peppermint reminds me of the Peppermint creams that I would make with my mum. They were usually a very bright green thanks to my obsession with food colouring. These were just one of the many treats I would be allowed to make on my own using my little Ladybird cookbook.

The best times were of course the summer holidays which were spent mainly on our bikes or playing illegally (!) in the school playing fields. We lived just two doors away from school which had its advantages. We used to have a lot of fun making use of the sandpit and hurdles and running away from the school caretaker when he decided to turn up on his ride on lawnmower! We had numerous trees to climb there and that is where we started our first famous five den, right at the top of a huge pine tree. We had a biscuit tin to store important supplies, all we were missing was a dog!

We would have family games of cricket on this school playing field with cousins, aunts and uncles all joining in. These were the best days and looking back I think it was probably because all of the adults were laughing and having fun too. It makes me realise how important it is to have fun with my children now so that they will also have these happy times to remember. Note to self: make more time for fun!

Other memories I will cherish

Snowy winters.

Oh how I would love to experience a real blizzard again. I remember being out all day sledging with my dad and brother, screaming with delight and terror as we approached the massive hedge at the bottom of the hill.We didn’t realise until we got in the door just how frozen we were. Mum had to try and extract us from our icy clothing to warm up in front of the fire. We built a snowman that was bigger than me and it lasted for days.

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Epic snow day!

Playing cards.

Rummy, Canasta, Seven of Diamonds, we loved them all and still do. We try to fit in a game whenever we meet up with Dad. He has taken over from my Gran when it comes to being the most competitive card player.

Holidays.

Our holidays were normally kept fairly local. We didn’t go abroad and normally went to Butlins or hired a holiday cottage in Newquay. Holidays were just fantastic as a child. In Newquay we would swim in the sea for hours and in the evening we would walk the headland, go to a Punch and Judy show or play crazy golf. At night we would sink into our beds exhausted, happy and smelling of the beach. Morning would bring the sound of gulls and the excitement of a whole new day of adventure.

My Gran, who lived slightly further away from us, would take me on holidays by train which was such a treat. We spent the whole day travelling to Blackpool. I remember listening to Mel and Kim on my Walkman, eating all the lovely snacks prepared by my gran and nodding off to sleep with the gentle rocking of the carriage. We took a tram to see the Blackpool illuminations and I remember being wide-eyed with wonder at how fantastic they were. We visited the Blackpool Tower Circus which was a real eye opener for my younger self. I imagine Blackpool is very different now so I’m not tempted to go back with my children. I want to keep it in my memory just as it was.

Christmas

If I think really hard I can still remember that butterfly feeling that you get when you wake up in the night and realise Santa has been. I am sure I could smell the wrapping paper at the end of the bed. I remember how even the smallest presents would fill me with happiness. I had a beautiful Jemima Puddle Duck bottle of perfume which I treasured for years and a Victoria Plum notebook which I just loved. I love seeing this same joy in my children now when they open their presents.

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EPSON MFP imageEnjoying nature

Looking back, It feels like the majority of my childhood was spent outside. We had a nice big garden so we would play on our scooters, make obstacle courses  and in good weather play in the paddling pool. There were lots of children nearby so we were often in and out of each other’s houses. I enjoyed getting involved with the gardening and I remember one night being in the green house until it was getting dark. I was sieving the earth ready to plant tomatoes and I did not want to go to bed until I was done.

Lily and Thomas haven’t quite got this eagerness to help in the garden (where did I go wrong?) but hopefully we are now creating similar happy memories for them.

This post is dedicated to my lovely grandparents!

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Ponies, picnics and songs about pants!

28 Feb

My little man turned 6 last week. How did this happen? It only seems like yesterday that I wrote this post about him turning two! This year we gave him a Bow and Arrow as he has become a real fan of archery since Grandad has been teaching him.

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We decided to have his party at Pennywell Farm. After hosting many parties at home I kind of feel like I’ve got ‘birthday party burn out’ so decided to take the easy option! We planned a full day out and packed a picnic lunch, a birthday tea was provided as part of the party package.

When we arrived Thomas was given a lovely Birthday rosette which meant that everybody at Pennywell knew it was his birthday. All the staff that we met throughout the day made a huge fuss of him and he was made to feel so special.

The highlight of the day was a show by ‘Nutty Noah‘. As we knew he was going to be at Pennywell, this was another reason why we had the party here. We had seen his act before and it is just so funny! If you are looking for an entertainer for your child’s party I would highly recommend him. Don’t expect any educational slant on this act though…. it is purely designed around what children want and he had them all roaring with laughter! Expect lots of jokes about ‘pants’ and ‘wee’ and lots of silliness… just perfect for boys of Thomas’ age! Don’t worry, there are a few hidden jokes for mums and dads in there too! Here’s a video of Thomas joining Noah on the stage.

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A few more photos from the day :

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A big thank you to Thomas’ special friends who joined him on the day, and to my mum who helped us to keep track of all six children throughout the day. Luckily we came home with the correct number which is always a bonus!

Dover Castle and other Kent adventures

16 Nov

At half-term we enjoyed another fun-filled trip to Kent to visit the in-laws. Trips to visit Grandma and Grandad are always much-anticipated and the 5 -6 hour journey is always filled with cries of ‘are we there yet?’ As soon as we arrive the children race around to the garden to see what delights Grandad has in store for them. This time there was a treasure hunt awaiting their arrival which took them all around the beautiful garden. See this post for more on this magical garden.

A new archery target was just too tempting and we’d hardly had time to unload the car before they were shooting off their arrows. They both love archery and it definitely helps having an ex-archery instructor as a Grandad! This time he had added to their collection, a hand-made quiver.

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It’s so addictive that even I had to have a go!

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The following day Grandad’s home-made zip wire was installed which gave them hours of pleasure. On some visits there is also a pirate-ship fashioned out of scaffolding poles, spare planks and bits and bobs that he keeps in his Aladdin’s cave (otherwise known as ‘The Shed’).

We spend as much time outside as we can when we go to Kent, come rain or shine there is always something to do. This time, on a chilly day we headed to Dover Castle. Nick and I visited there around 10 years ago but we’ve never been with the children so it was a real treat. Visiting the castle is not cheap, for a family of 4 it would have been £50! We decided to bite the bullet and invest in membership to English Heritage instead. This means that as well as visiting the castle we can visit numerous other historic sites throughout the UK. We can also go back to Dover Castle as many times as we like in 12 months. Joint adult membership (you can also take up to six children free of charge) is £86 but if you enter the code ’20off’ at checkout you can get 20% discount. You can also get English Heritage Membership by using Tesco’s Vouchers.

We had a great time here, it was SO busy that unfortunately there were parts of it we didn’t get to see, including the underground hospital and the secret wartime tunnels. If you can go outside school holidays I would definitely recommend it but of course that’s not possible for most of us now (note to self.. don’t go off on a rant about school holiday rules!)

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Inside Dover Castle, with Grandma, Grandad and Great Uncle Stephen.

During our visit we also enjoyed a walk on Shakespeare Cliffs, taking in Dover Harbour Beach. A blustery chilly walk with amazing views and a chance to blow away the cobwebs!

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Buttercups and Boomerangs

25 May

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Last weekend we were tackling a big project in the garden so there was not much time for anything else. We are lucky that the children still amuse themselves well in the garden, we don’t have a lot of space for them to run around but they certainly do make the most of the space that we have. At the end of the weekend we really needed to escape from the digging and pruning and decided to head out to the woods.

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We happened to come across the most beautiful field of buttercups and had so much fun for a couple of hours. Luckily we had taken some Boomerangs with us that our lovely Auntie Tina brought back with her from her last visit home from Australia.  Needless to say none of us could get the Boomerang to come back! If anyone knows the art of throwing a Boomerang so that is does return, I would love to know!

Lily loved make a Buttercup necklace and the husband and I enjoyed just being able to relax and watch the children having fun. It just goes to reinforce what I have always believed. Children do not need electric gadgets and games to be able to play. All they need is the space to be free!

 

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Finding the Boomerang was sometimes a challenge!

Finding the Boomerang was sometimes a challenge!

 

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I am linking this post up with Country Kids over at the Coombe Mill Farm Blog. We hope to visit there one day, it looks amazing and everything my children dream of!

The great outdoors – Center Parcs Challenge

24 May

Our camera is always full of photographs and I can only hope that I will eventually get around to downloading and saving them. I really need to be more organised with this so that I can find them when I need them.  I will add it to my list of things to do!

Anyway, I wanted to share these sunny shots that I took in the beginning of May. As I sit here writing this the rain is coming down like stair rods and I have my big woolly jumper on. We certainly have some changeable weather in the UK! I am linking this post up to the Center Parcs May Challenge. Entrants can win a holiday to Center Parcs by entering this challenge. Head on over to the entry page to have a look.

Apple Blossom is always a welcome sight  after a long wet winter

Apple Blossom is always a welcome sight after a long wet winter

 

Talking of apples ... look at this one that we spotted at Cotehele Mill!

Talking of apples … look at this one that we spotted at Cotehele

 

Our Wisteria has had the best blooms ever this year.

Our Wisteria has had the best blooms ever this year.

 

One of my favourite flowers

One of my favourite flowers

 

Another favourite of mine!

Another favourite of mine!

 

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Hellebores

 

One thing I really love about late spring is that it gives us the most amazing light. Perfect for capturing those shots that we want to keep in our minds forever. This is another picture take at Cotehele, I love the light in this one and the cheeky look on my little man’s face!

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‘I’m a Center Parcs Family Blogger and I visited Longleat village with my family in March. You can see my review here.  If you want to enter to win a place as a wildcard winner just go to the challenge page to find out how http://bit.ly/1okzxJv

Braving beautiful Plymouth in the storms of 2014

9 Mar

This post is a little late, especially now that spring seems to have finally arrived (yippee!)

I just wanted to share a few pics of us braving the storms to get some wild and windy fresh air in February. I must admit I don’t really like being out in the wind, it always makes me nervous and I can’t stand being cold. Thank goodness for my coat with a decent hood!

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Plymouth took quite a battering in the storms this year with 40ft waves smashing into the coast and destroying local restaurants. Hundreds of trees have come down in and around the city, rivers have flooded and walls have come crashing down. Also of course our rail line was cut off at Dawlish during one of the storms and this has caused mayhem for commuters.  Hopefully we have now seen the last of it until next winter.

There’s no doubt the storm has been exciting in its own way and we couldn’t resist taking the children out to see some big waves (always staying safe of course). People will always talk about the storms of 2014 so here are some of our memories.

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Looking a little windswept!

Looking a little windswept!

We finished our walk off with a well-deserved cream tea in the Duttons Cafe on the Hoe. This is a lovely little cafe, the owners are so helpful and friendly. They offer lots of gluten-free options including these gorgeous scones. Definitely the best I have ever tasted!

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Open Day at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth

21 Oct

Yesterday we had the exciting opportunity of exploring the newly refurbished Theatre Royal in Plymouth. The Theatre is opening its doors for FREE open days over the next couple of weeks and they have an extensive programme of events for all the family.

We love the theatre and go to shows when we can but yesterday’s visit was a chance to visit back stage and view behind the scenes of Swan Lake! We saw some beautiful costumes, props and scenery and had a chance to chat to staff about how things work ‘behind the curtains’. The children were wide-eyed as we went onto the stage and looked out at the auditorium. I wonder if they will ever be up on this stage again? Who knows…..

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We took part in a treasure hunt which took us all over the theatre hunting for stamps that needed collecting. Our completed sheets were handed in and will be entered into a draw to win panto tickets. We are keeping our fingers crossed for this as Robin Hood looks like it has a great cast this year.

Other activities we took part in were making masks and crowns. This was a big hit with all the children. I have never seen so many sequins and feathers, we were in our element!

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There was the opportunity to visit the make-up artists and have a gruesome scar to scare unsuspecting members of the public. We didn’t manage to do this as there was a big queue and we were all needing our lunch by this point. We did see lots of children with them though and they were scarily realistic.

I think the dressing up was Lily’s favourite. She was thrilled to try on a Japanese costume that had been worn during the Aladdin panto!

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We made shadow puppets which was an activity that all the children were getting stuck into.  We brought ours home with us and already have plans to make more so that we can put on a ‘Room on the Broom’ shadow puppet show.

shadow-puppets

There were various talks throughout the day including sessions explaining how the sound and lighting worked, a Q & A session with the Theatre’s Chief Executive and also a Q & A session from the Director of Creative Learning.

Also running throughout the day were drama and dance taster sessions. We couldn’t persuade our children to join in with this but most of the children taking part were quite a bit older than our two.

All in all it was a fantastic day, we had a lovely cup of coffee in the new cafe on the ground floor. I did think it was a shame they didn’t open the restaurant as I’m sure they missed out on a lot of income from this, had it been open.

Thanks to everyone at the Theatre Royal for arranging these open days. If you would like to visit I would highly recommend it and there is another one on Saturday 2nd November.