Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Half term fun and ice skating at the Eden Project

Autumn half term is a much needed break for both children and adults in our house. The kids are exhausted from being back at school and the run up to Christmas is punctuated by Hallowe'en, bonfire night and for us Diwali. I have spent the last few weeks collecting leaves, pine cones and conkers with Blue Bear, he loves taking them into pre-school to show his friends.

The other thing that happens during this half term is we celebrate our wedding anniversary and this year we decided to go away for a few days and for the boys to stay with grandparents. In the past we've taken the boys to Coombe Mill - our favourite holiday destination - and spent a week in Cornwall, but this year we wanted to go it child-free. There are a few highlights that are worth knowing about if you are planning a UK break.

Lappa Valley: 

We visit Lappa every time we go to Cornwall, the boys just love it. By the boys I also mean Hubbie. It truly is the best family day out with steam, diesel and static trains (a cafe on sleepers is the latest addition). There is also a boating lake, crazy golf and a large playground and indoor play for the days when it's a bit too chilly to play outside. Not that anything stops our boys from wanting to go outside and play. There are seasonal events so this half term there is the Halloween Spooktacular and at we've also been at Christmas and seen Father Christmas there.

Eden Project: 

My first visit was when Eden first opened over 15 years ago and I was captivated by it then. I went back after a long time when we brought Brown Bear to Coombe Mill for the first time in July 2014. I had wanted to go back to Eden for years, but with it being so far from home I hadn't had the chance. Now I visit at least once a year if not more. That first year we took Brown Bear to Eden for Christmas and saw the best Father Christmas I think I've ever seen. He was so convincing I had to pinch myself.

My favourite thing to do in the colder months (apart from skiing) is ice skating and the rink at Eden is fantastic, set in a biome of its own outside the rainforest and mediterranean zones. I've taken Brown Bear skiing with me and he loved going round with Pedro Penguin. This visit was my first skate of the year and it's always the same - starts off with me looking like a foal finding it's feet and by the end I'm convinced I'm at an Olympic standard. I'm not. If you can make it to the end of the 40 minute session there is a snowfall that will leave visitors young and old with a magical feeling about the experience.

In my wildest dreams I imagine that I will study / volunteer at Eden and be a regular visitor here pretty much forever. I can hope can't I ?

Fishing villages: 

There are some beautiful places to visit and we have only been to a handful of them so far. The ones I'd recommend visiting with children are:

Mevagissy is a really pretty vilage which has a model railway that Brown Bear loved visiting and there is a traditional sweet shop that drew my eye as well. If you fancy seeing some more here is a list of the top ten fishing villages of which Mevagissy is one:

Padstow is pretty well known and hardly qualifies as a village any more, so it's often busy in the summer months. We still love visiting for the great fish and chips and ice cream that makes the boys' tongues go blue. This visit we went to Rick Stein's seafood reastaurant for our anniversary which was a treat. Not something that we would do with the boys - well not at this age anyway.


We love taking the boys to the beach and even in the Autumn there is plenty to see and do. In the Summer I took Brown Bear surfing at Polzeath beach. We both loved it and while you can still surf I'm not keen to get in the water when it's cold. Instead we like to walk and explore the rock pools. We've usually been lucky with sunshine even on the coldest days in Cornwall. Trebarwith Strand offers a lovely coastal walk to Tintagel and on the afternoon we visited the boys had a lovely time playing with boats and making footprints in the sand.

I can't imagine a time when we won't enjoy going to Cornwall as a family or as a couple. Not when there is so much fun to have and so many adventures yet to enjoy.

Disclosure: We received complimentary entry and ice skating from the lovely folks at the Eden Project. 

Thursday, 13 October 2016

An evening adventure in London

Sometimes we make plans to have a grown up night out and arrange babysitting so that we can enjoy each other's company child-free for just a few hours. Last night was supposed to be one of those and we had tickets to see a comedian in London.

Then Hubbie rang me to say there was going to be a rail strike so it was unlikely we'd be able to both make the early start of the show as our babysitter prefers to take care of the boys when at least one of them is already in bed. As we would have had to leave immediately after feeding the boys it wasn't going to happen.

The last time we had tickets to see Stewart Lee I ended up staying home with a poorly child - despite my best efforts to persuade him that he'd be fine if I went out for a few hours. This time it was my turn to go so off I went to negotiate the depleted train services and jam packed streets of London only to arrive out of breath just in time to see the show start.

As it started so early - Hubbie has a theory that Stew is a fan of Bake off and wanted to get home, but I reckon he has to do bedtime for the kids when he gets in - I found myself in London town on an Autumn evening with no rush to get home.

I've always loved walking in London and the evenings are a special time as everything looks so different. I used to run in St James's park with my friend Soraya at lunchtimes. When it's dark it's a much more serene place and the rain spattered roads add a sheen to the whole picture.

Of course I'd have loved to have had a romantic walk hand in hand with Hubbie, but an evening walk in London by myself was a pretty lovely adventure to have. It reminded me to do something for myself every now and again.

Even better I spotted some traffic signs that made me proud that I'm from London. I only managed to catch this one in a photo, but if you're around Trafalger Square you may spot others.

Next time I hope we both get to spend the evening together - not least as it's going to be our anniversary !

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Say it with flowers - learning a new skill with Julie Davies

If you've been following me on instagram (if not why not ? Go on do it now - it's ok I'll wait) you will notice I've been posting photos of flowers a lot recently. I love flowers and have been taking an online course with Julie Davies that is designed for busy mums (and dads of course) who want to learn how to make the best of flowers. 

I was keen to take the course as I wanted to learn a new skill and taking it online was so convenient for me. You can take as little or as much time as you like and do the homework as and when it suits. There are tasks like preparing flowers, choosing colours and thinking about what flowers mean to you. The practical tasks are fun and result in lovely arrangements - hopefully. 

The first week's homework was arranging flowers in a straight sided jar. I chose some lovely carnations in co-ordinating colours and used one of my favourite vases in a rectangular shape. 

Finished tank arrangement 

Flower foam was introduced in the second week and Julie showed how to soak the foam before use and then how to shape it for the teacup arrangement. I loved watching the online videos of Julie demonstrating skills and showing how to do things. I'm a visual learner so it was really helpful for me to see how it's done before having a go myself.
I chose these lovely blooms 

Flower foam
teacup arrangement 
Overhead view 

Then we did an experiment about what to feed our flowers. I took four clean jars and some simple clean stems. In each jar I put a small amount of water and then added sugar in one, lemon juice in another, bleach in the third and kept the fourth as plain water.

After a week I observed how the flowers had coped in their different containers.


I found it really interesting that the blooms that fared best were those in water and sugar. Those in bleach and lemon seemed to dry out and looked a bit poorly. That really surprised me as although I've heard that sugar feeds flowers I've never tried it before. I'm not saying it will be a regular thing, but it did give me food for thought.


One of the containers I love the most is this metal jug that I use to make small arrangements or to place little bunches of roses from the garden. The task in week three was to arrange flowers in such a way as they would look like you'd just carried them in from the garden. It was tougher than I imagined as the wide mouth of the jar required some thinking so the flowers didn't 'gape.' I was quite pleased with the finished result though.

My jug vase 
Jug arrangement 

The final week was making a hand tied posy. This is my second attempt as my first was a bit clumsy looking. I'm delighted with this as it makes a simple supermarket bunch look really special. Julie also showed how to wrap the posy so it looks really pretty and professional.

Hand tied posy

I'd recommend taking Julie's courses as you get to be creative, your home will be filled with beautiful flowers and you can take your time to do the tasks as and when you can fit them into your life.

I didn't spend a fortune on flowers. All of mine came from Lidl or Aldi and the flower foam was from Hobbycraft and was really cheap. All the vases are my own and I've collected them over the years.

You can try a mini course for 5 days to see if you would enjoy doing a course with Julie. There is so much support online in her facebook group  and on twitter and I loved sharing my work and seeing what others had achieved.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

A first trip to Legoland for my boy's birthday treat

We asked Brown Bear a while back what he'd like to do for his birthday and he replied - unequivically - that he wanted to go to Legoland. I realise that it may be bordering on negligent on our part that he has made it to 6 years old without going, but I think he's now at an age where he can truly appreciate it. I grew up 20 minutes drive from Windsor so we would go there regularly either to the safari park (where the monkeys would snap off your windscreen wipers - a sure sign they weren't happy in my book) or to see the castle long before they introduced an entry charge. 

Before we went I asked for some tips on what to do on our visit. Almost everyone said get there early and I can see why. Even on a rainy day in October the car park was heaving when we arrived. The other tip was to go to the very end and work back as it's a long walk at the end of the day otherwise. This proved to be a great bit of advice as there is so much to see and do that just doing a circuit to see what is where proved helpful in planning our visit. My lovely blogger pal Lou also said go to the Laser Raiders ride so we queued for it. It took a lot longer than I expected, but the boys really enjoyed shooting lasers at targets. I think if we go again I won't go for the long queues as we realised (afterwards) that the notice boards give you a heads up how long the queues are in the entire park. 

One of the things I really liked when we waited the longest was this kids area where Brown Bear sat and watched a lego movie while we stood in line. Blue Bear wasn't so keen to be left so we carried him instead. The queue management is pretty good on Laser Raiders, I guess because it's so popular. You can purchase ways to jump the queues, but as it was our first visit we decided not to. I think that was the right idea and on a future visit I would consider it, but we did so much I didn't feel the need on this occasion. 

Brown Bear was so excited when he saw that there is a fire academy in Legocity. We headed over there and both boys could hardly contain themselves when we got to take part. It is an exhausting activity, but we had such fun that I can heartily recommend it. 

After we'd been on some rides and put out fires we went to see Miniland. This is the bit of Legoland that I have always seen in photos and it's pretty breathtaking. Brown Bear loved London and Blue Bear ran around looking for the moving trains and boats. As the boys missed football to go to Legoland it was with great joy that they spotted a mini version of Wembley (the original one) and cheered on the match that was taking place. 

I had to share a photo of Covent Garden as it's such an iconic London location.  

This year is Legoland's 20th birthday and we were there to see a live show featuring Olly the dragon and his dance moves. The sun came out and we all had a bop along with him on the grass. 

As we were getting tired and wanted to get going we decided to make our way out, but Brown Bear spotted a sign for the Star Wars Miniland exhibit. I'm so glad we did as it is really impressive. Lego depictions of great battles from the movies and all the iconic characters take your breath away, but the most amazing is the Millenium Falcon and a Death Star that sent a chill down my spine. 

We didn't have the best weather as it was rainy and sunny in turns all day. This did result in the perfect end to our day though. A double rainbow. 

Disclosure: The lovely folks at Legoland gave us a family ticket for our day out.