Pensthorpe – a fantastic family day out

On Sunday we headed off for a day at Pensthorpe National Park It was a bright day but blimey it was cold so with hats, gloves and scarves at the ready we took on the elements and emerged triumphant!

Pensthorpe is quite simply stunning and manages to bring together some amazing scenery, wonderful wildlife and a sense of adventure and exploration often missing from family days out.We were there on the last day of the Bee an Explorer event for children during half term, where you could discover yet more about nature on the coloured sign-posts dotted around and all three loved spotting the coloured hedgehogs around the reserve. We stopped off to make our very own hedgehogs out of playdough and to top it off, got to meet a real life little hog – fresh from hibernation.
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Freddy the hedgehog was a huge hit and I have to mention the fantastic chap who gave us a talk all about Freddy. It’s no mean feat to keep two active nearly four-year-old boys and a five-year-old girl interested but he managed it. He was engaging, great with the children and just came across as someone who loved his job.In fact this was true throughout the day – there was a sense that everyone wanted to be there and cared passionately – it’s not something you always come across so hat’s off Pensthorpe!

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As it was rather chilly and wet we didn’t get to do a big walk but having been before I know there are some great walks with the stamp trail being a big hit with my son last summer. Children can build dens, spot the amazing array of wildlife and the wonderful carved wood and metal animals punctuating the walks. This time we were lucky enough to see the red squirrels too – Arthur thought they were amazing as they basically look exactly like Squirrel Nutkin in Peter Rabbit!

You can even see flamingos and they stand out magnificently this time of year against the vast grey skies and muted browns and greens of late winter.

We stopped to refuel at the lovely Courtyard Café – so pretty and I loved the feeling of bringing the outside in with exposed brick walls and huge open windows. The boys loved sitting and watching the birds at the feeders while they tucked into sausage and chips. It had a relaxed vibe with bare wooden tables, plenty of room and a sense that no one was going to rush you.

The children all had sausage and chips and it was great to hear the meat was from a butcher literally five minutes from the reserve. They really champion local produce and it’s a lovely tie-in to the whole ethos of the reserve. Grown-ups had haddock and chunky chips with peas and it was delicious – fresh, well-cooked with crispy chips. There was loads of choice and daily specials and they also have a dedicated hot and cold children’s menu.

imageThe selection of cakes was too tempting to miss so we had a slice of coffee and walnut and a chocolate oat slice, again delicious and generously portioned. Again the feeling the staff really cared about what they were doing shone through and I had a lovely chat with the girl who served us on the til – it’s these moments that make the day sometimes.

The toilets where big, clean and easily accessible even with three children – this is always important on family days out!

After lunch we hit Wildrootz – it’s just the best adventure play area I’ve been to. The children love it so much. With slides, wooden dens, sand galore and the magical, and it has to be said slightly addictive, musical instruments, it’s just a fab place to be. I was worried the cold would spoil it but they ran around so much it didn’t matter. Only when the rain started in earnest did they agree to head back to the car!

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The natural theme continues with animals carved in the benches and lovely bright fact boards throughout – I never new bats always fly left out of a cave. Or that rodent’s teeth never stop growing! They are in the middle of building a £1million indoor play are which will be a fantastic addition and I can’t wait to get back to try it out.

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On our way back we stopped off inside the viewing gallery to watch the birds being fed and listen to the ranger talk about the many species of birds, some of them are really rare.
That’s the real beauty of Pensthorpe, it has managed so successfully to merge nature with fun and education –they have listened, developed and continue to get better. It really does have a special place in my heart – if you’ve not been I can’t recommend it highly enough.

So are there any downsides to Pensthorpe:
I like to write honest reviews because I know families will take time and spend money going to these places. But it’s tough with somewhere like this.

  • It’s limited if the weather’s not great but the new indoor play area will help this.
  • It’s not cheap – but you’re helping to pay for the upkeep of this magnificent place
  • I like my coffee a little stronger!

Cult of the Slimming World

This week has been a somewhat ‘off piste’ Slimming World week.

My downward spiral began with steak and red wine with friends, followed closely by Malteser Cake and fish pie. I’ve carbed up so much I assuming I’m now at least 60% pasta. I can feel the hot breath of our esteemed SW leader, Jean, breathing down my neck – salivating at my despair.

But you see, there in lies the problem. I don’t despair. I really should, I can feign it like a sociopath feigns empathy. I can hang my head in shame and dutifully promise to fill in a food diary for next week. But, I know, I think she knows this is simply not going to happen.
So you might ask why I go each week – it’s a question I’ve pondered. I like the diet because it suits me. I like the fact I get a figure to work with each week. I love the fact the group is comedy gold and because there’s no way I’m giving up now!

I’m not in to the recipe sharing, I do get it but I can Google most of it. This week Sylvia shared her ‘speed soup’ recipe which, to be fair, was simply boiling veg in veg stock and pureeing. I managed not to gag when she said it does her for lunch Monday to Friday if you skim the top. I longed to urge her to throw in some pasta, crack open the chilli but some how I fear Sylvia is too far gone.

Our lovely, skinny Frenchman, Syed, arrived on a motorbike this week, very exotic and only something you can do once slim and agile. His ascent into two-wheeled deity status cemented by another 2lbs off this week. Barbed comments about not losing any more or you’ll ‘get all gaunt’ could be heard from ‘Curly Wurly hidden in jumpers’ woman.

It’s a cat and mouse mind game this Slimming World lark. There’s a dark undercurrent detectable only when I see the slight glimmer in Jean’s eyes when I’ve put on weight, or the even more annoying: “Well done, you’ve stayed the same.” Her claws digging further into my psyche. Once you’re part of this cult it is very hard to leave.

But of course I’m different…I can leave any time me.

Our Weekend Box review

There’s little better on a rainy Thursday afternoon than the postman bringing you a lovely little parcel of fun!

We were asked to review the Weekend Box and the timing was perfect. Ok, not technically a weekend but it was dark wet and we needed something to while a way a few hours.
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Each one is themed and this month it was Chinese New Year – I loved the fact the little cards gave you some facts and snippets of info to talk about with small people. We had a lovely chat about the colour red and what it means across the world – Arthur was intrigued and it opens his imagination and helped start our journey through the Weekend Box.

Each box has four activities aimed at 3-6 years old. Most need at least some supervision but there is plenty for little hands to enjoy. We made Chinese lanterns and Arthur loved using the red glitter paint. They even supplied a little paint brush so great attention to detail.

weekend3Next we spent an hour so so making the Chinese drum – a great idea and we even practiced writing New Year in Chinese – not sure it worked but it all added to the experience!

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The other two activities were making a Chinese dragon and fortune cookies. I’m saving these for next week when the rain falls or it’s just too cold to head out.

The boxes are all made from recycled card and each one can be coloured and made into a certificate – again fab attention to detail.

We had such a lovely afternoon, sitting together crafting and talking. The Weekend Box made it easy as everything is supplied and the bits you need are clearly marked on each activity. A fun, bright, enticing and brilliantly simple concept which we loved.

 

The boxes cost £7.50 fortnightly delivered straight to your door – great value.

If you fancy giving it a go then I have a cheeky little gift for you. Use this code MAMMA and you’ll be able to try out a FREE Weekend Box – come on, it would be rude not to!

My little b boy

Sunday I asked Arthur what he wanted to do. Maybe the sea, a muddy walk, a play on the park.

No, his response was a little unexpected!
” Mummy please can we go and see the graffiti.” So our Sunday was all about urban colour and the wonderful landscape of our local skate park…there’s beauty in everything.

My little urban b boy:

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Cold hard cash to quit the fags

So should we be bunging pregnant women some vouchers to stop them smoking? I say ‘we’ as the presumption is that this money will be from tax payers – but before you think I’m heading full throttle into a Dail Mail rant, let me say that yes, perhaps we should.

It’s all very easy for those of us who don’t smoke to espouse our outrage that anyone would need, what amounts to a cash, incentive to give up. Pregnant women should give up.

Of course they should, just as alcoholics should quit and heroin addicts should stop jacking up. But it’s not black and white. It’s a fag ash shade of grey – if it weren’t no one would continue with an addiction. We’d all be smuggy smugsville from smuggyland.

Smokers aren’t idiots per se, it’s a choice then an addiction. You’d hope they had the strength to stop because it’s revolting and dangerous for your baby but the sad fact is many don’t.

Our wonderful outrage isn’t going to change that but if the thought of cold cash does then absolutely we should do it. It’s not going to suddenly be the only weapon in the NHS’s armour – it’s just another approach. And if your cigarettes are a crutch you use because you’re knackered, alone and skint then perhaps the vouchers might just tip the scales in the favour of giving up.

We all know education should be at the heart of helping people give up or never start but this is ignoring a whole band of hardcore smokers who, maybe through social reasons, maybe because they like doing it, need something to turn their heads.

Sometimes relying on a moral compass is not enough. Be outraged they smoke when pregnant. Be annoyed we have to pay for it but that doesn’t make it wrong and if it does work then maybe we’ve found a way of getting to those mums and improving the health of those babies they’re growing.

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Keeping safe on the roads

A couple of weeks ago we took our car in to get a bearing fixed. Little did we know we’d be walking out with four new tyres! All our tyres had a lot of wear and two were below the legal limit. It’s scary to say the least. We drive round in these big old metal boxes and sometimes it’s so easy to forget what’s at stake.

The mechanic was a lovely guy but said the tread on tyres has a huge impact on stopping distance, ability to drive in icy conditions and loads of other heart stopping stuff. We know this, of course we do. But I don’t about you, I’m so focussed on car seats and seat belts that I sometimes forget about the actual mechanics of keeping us safe. I’m keeping a few names and numbers handy, I guess they are as important as my dentist or my massage therapist! One of the leading tyre networks is Point S! They have a presence across the country from down south to Point S Leeds.

We do so much in the car as a family, holidays, camping, days out and the one place I really need to feel safe in in there. You can’t do anything about other drivers but you can make sure everything on your car in in tip top condition.

Last year I spend hours cruising the Internet looking for the right car seat – it’s hugely important but if there’s something I can do to stop us getting into an accident in the first place then that’s exactly what I’m going to do.we all go to places like Halfords for car seat fitting so why not pencil in a service or get them to check your tyres, while you’re there.

MOTs lull us into a false sense of security, it’s once a year – a lot can can happen in 12 month. So if there’s one thing I’m adding to my New Year’s resolutions this year it’s to think outside the box – big metal box I get in and drive around with my baby in the back. I’m going to get my tyres checked every six months – why wouldn’t I?

Post- Christmas Slimming World update

It’s been two weeks since I skulked back into Slimming World wearing very little – anticipating the heave of the scales as I huffed my post – Christmas body on board.

“Two and a half on” said Jean – who’s newly trained on all things weighing following a complaint to head office about the lack of expertise in our little Saturday morning group. Apparently one old age pensioner who’d attempted to join had been unable to buy the SW highfi bars as no one was on ‘shop’ duty, plus his weight had been written down incorrectly.

Quite frankly the bit that stayed with me was it was a little old man who’d emailed SW head office – it was a little cloud of comedy and while others were scowling at this outrageous accusation, I was having a little chuckle to myself.

Anyway, back to the two-and-a-half poundage.

“Well done”, said Jean. I could tell from the sparkle in her eyes that every gain she registered today made her own horrendous Christmas pudge a little easier to bear. I know this because during holy communion ( group discussion) she said she was going on a refresher course following a slight gain. For this I read HQ had ordered her to explain her bulging waistline and no doubt force a six week boot camp under threat of having her SW posters torn down from all lamp posts.

I was quite chuffed with my gain.Curly Wurly hidden in jumpers woman put on five pounds and one, it has to be said humongous lady gained nine. I fear I may have clapped in the wrong place when this was revealed because. Well because that’s just bloody impressive! The woman who stopped taking her depression medication has not been seen for weeks – I suspect she may be under a duvet with a large bar of Dairy Milk preparing poison pen letters to Jean using cut outs from this month’s SW magazine.

So here I am, I’ve lost that weight plus another three and I’m on a roll. I just have to make sure it’s not a sausage one.

Bunny Jump review

This week it’s mostly been about Christmas films and games in our house. So when we were asked to try out Universal Games’ Bunny Jump gam it seemed a perfect addition to our Christmas countdown. It’s proved a big hit with boys big and small! The premise is a bit of a take on the old classic, Kerplunk.
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A little bunny resides over his fields of carrots and you are each given a basket. The idea is to keep your nerve and remove the carrots for the field, until the bunny jumps. Each player spins for a go and to see how many carrots you need to remove from the field.
Arthur loved trying to catch the bunny when he jumped up – it did mean some of the rules of fame were lost amid the excitement but hey ho, we had fun!

Although aimed at 5+, it was very easy to play with a three a dabble year old and it held his interest. He loved the idea and once he’s seen it jump up he was hooked! It has that element of surprise which even managed to keep me and Jonathan occupied for a few games too.

Easy to assemble and quick to get up and running it’s a great addition to our family games and one we’ll definitely be getting out over the Christmas holidays.

It’s that time again – gym mats at the ready!

So, it’s January 1. The television has turned from warm scenes of festive treats to a berating barrage of Activa yoghurt and that Flora stuff that lowers your cholesterol. Oh how it laughs at our pudgy self- induced slumber, knowing at a flick of an adman’s switch,it’s all yoga mats and gym memberships.

Enough of my anthropomorphic relationship with the TV. I was planning to write my New Year’s resolutions but I can’t really be bothered. I know what I want to do but I’m not quite ready to let you all know. So, in a shameful fit of laziness here’s what I wrote this time last year…the disclaimer still stands.

NEW YEAR…here we go again.

So it’s over. The tree is down in some kind of symbolic needle-fuelled end to the festivities. My bank balance is a quivering wreck and my thighs are hoping for a speedy detox before the increased chaffing causes a small bush fire.

Now it’s time to get through January and yes, yes, there are brisk walks and ooh, everyone loves it when it’s sunny and frosty and bright but it sucks. It’s the motel month to November and December’s sumptuous 5star hotel. It’s ages until anything good happens and February is just as awful. Toddlers and bad weather is another reason to want to run into the arms of Spring. Already this week Arthur has rolled in dog pooh- not directly January’s fault but still.

Plus all he wants to do is go outside and splash in puddles and mud. According to many a Pinterest board this is fabulous but the reality is shed loads of washing you can’t get dry anywhere and constantly having to wear your ‘big’ coat and being on the look out for mud relating incidents.

So while I’m in such good spirits here are my New Year’s resolutions:

1 Sleep as much as possible through January – if it’s good enough for tortoises and all that.
2 Invent a mystery illness that prevents my going outside
3 Increase the level of guilt I place upon Arthur’s dad to take up the mantel and do stuff outside.
4 Buy unashamedly large pants in which to tuck Christmas until Spring when I regain motivation
5 When someone asks what I’m doing this weekend I want to have the courage to say: Nothing, I’m desperately sad it’s January and will be inside until it passes.

*Please note this post is in association with a tongue firmly placed in my cheek.