31.12.11

Goals for 2012

Courtesy of Wikipedia: 
 A New Year resolution is a commitment that an individual makes to one or more lasting personal goals, projects, or the reforming of a habit. According to Gretchen Rubin (author of best-seller "The Happiness Project"): "You hit a goal, you achieve a goal. You keep a resolution". 
 This lifestyle change is generally interpreted as advantageous. A New Years Resolution is generally a goal someone sets out to accomplish in the coming year. Some examples include resolutions to donate to the poor more often, to become more assertive, or to become more environmentally responsible. A key element to a New Years Resolution that sets it apart from other resolutions is that it is made in anticipation of the New Year, and new beginnings.
Every year I have the same goals.
*Be better with money
*Lose weight
*Grow my nails
*Be healthier
*Be more organised

This year, although these still, in reality, need to be addressed (other than growing my nails! Woo!) I have given myself goals which I feel are a bit more achievable. And more of a challenge I guess.

Complete a Photo a Day Project.
I've tried this the last 3 years and something always "comes up" and I end up stopping. With my family now complete I want to work harder to document everything we do, something I've been slack in doing since Harry arrived-mostly due to not having a spare hand to hold a camera with! But also with the genius invention of mobile phone cameras I feel this is a lot more achievable.
With a still broken/unreliable laptop uploading the images and editing them will be difficult but hopefully something I will sort weekly/monthly.
This also requires me to sort out upgrading my Flickr account and my Picnik account. £££!!
My Flickr account holds the images to my last attempts of a 365, as does a blog I started last year.

Cooking:
I love to cook but don't give myself enough time or have enough confidence to do what I want to do.
Last month my aunty bought me a food processor and blender and I have, as a result, been a bit more adventurous.
I also purchased some decent cake tins, an electric hand whisk and an electric knife which obviously helps to be able to make certain dishes.
With these as help I have in the last month made my first Toad in the Hole, Trifle, Cranberry Sauce, Stuffing and Butternut Squash Soup.
I have a few things I've challenged myself to make/bake next year.
* Pie
* Sausage Rolls
* Mince Pies
* Chutneys and Pickles
* Pate

Homemade Crafts:
I'm a huge fan of Kirsty Allsopp. I especially love her Homemade Home and Homemade Christmas shows as well as her recent craft programme.
I come from quite a crafty creative family. My aunty used to "draw on wood". I can't remember what its called but she would use a special hot pen and draw and write onto wood. Her stuff was beautiful. I remember her making pencil cases for my brother and me. I can't remember what his had on it but mine had my name and music notes as I was learning to play piano at the time. My aunty would attend craft fayres and fetes to sell her work.
My mum and I also attended craft fayres and fetes. At a young age (9-13) I used to decorate terracotta flower pots. I'd either paint them or decorate them with wallpaper border and pretty pictures (decoupage) They don't sound like much but I was really quite good, if I do say so myself, and would make myself quite a lot of money. People used to think my mum had made them rather than me.
My mum was a glass painter. She'd decorate wine glasses, decanters, mirrors, keyrings etc. She was one of the best around. She then went onto decorating ceramic plates and vases. These were ridiculously popular and she'd have to end up taking orders.
I also remember her and my dad making fantastic mirrors using a tile mirror and MDF. They also used to sell out and were amazing.
We stopped simply as I got older and had to concentrate on school and also gained other hobbies and my mum no longer had time once my dad left us.
This is a shame as I do miss attending craft fayres and its something I'll always treasure in my memories.
So craft has always been in my blood.
For Christmas I was given Kirstie Allsopps craft book from my dad. I looked through the book straight away, feeling a bit overwhelmed with a lot of the crafts and instantly thought that this book would surely end up on my bookcase collecting dust along with all our other useless books.
But then I set myself the challenge. I picked three of my favourite crafts and *HAVE* to at least attempt these three in 2012.
One is quite a cheat really as its bunting and I wanted to have a go at bunting before I was given this book but at least now I know exactly how to do it. Rather than simple guessing.
Both boys will be getting "new rooms" in 2012 and I want to make the bunting especially for that, and maybe even make some for the playroom and our bedroom which is on the list to be redecorated at some point.
I have literally just ordered Kirsties Homemade Home book and will do similar with that. Picking 3 crafts to attempt to do either for our house, or as Birthday and/or Christmas Presents.

Other things are simply getting our garden sorted, tidied and organised. When we moved in it was a blank canvas really. Patio and an area which can sort of be described as grass (its more weeds than anything!) I have an area at the bottom of the garden which for some reason was rubbish at keeping grass alive so I've planted a few plants in there which are doing amazing so far, I just need to add more and make it look more like the 'wild garden' that I want it to. And I also need to section it off so little legs don't go walking around there.
We also hope to successfully grow some of our own veg in 2012. We grew some in 2011 and enjoyed it and loved the novelty of being able to pop into the garden for certain veg. This year we want to do it properly so will be attempting to make our own wooden crates to grow the veg in. The soil around here is so rubbish that veg wouldn't survive...and we wouldn't have any garden left!

Other than that I just plan to have a great year for our boys. To create some bloody fantastic memories for them and enjoy every single second.
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28.12.11

The Perfect Cranberry Sauce

 Ok I know Christmas has now gone but I need to share this with you.

Last year whilst on the phone to my aunty to thank her for Charles' Christmas Present, I mentioned that we'd, once again, forgotten to get the cranberry sauce out of the cupboard.
"You BUY your cranberry sauce?!" Was her immediate reaction. "Its SO easy to make".
"Ok, I'll try and make my own next year" I replied as she told me the ingredients. At the time I had no plans to make my own, why do that when I can buy a jar from the supermarket?!
Except I decided to after all. It can't be that hard surely.
I Googled to try and find a recipe that I felt suited us and sounded a bit jazzier than your basic "cranberries and sugar" recipe.

In the end, I combined a mixture of what I'd found and came up with this:
375g cranberries (I used frozen)
5 tablespoons of Port
175g caster sugar
Zest of one orange
Juice and "bits" of one orange
1 apple, finely chopped with peel (I used Golden Delicious)
4 "glugs" of a fruity dry white wine (I used Echo Falls, California White Wine)

Simply chuck everything other than the white wine into a saucepan and boil until the Cranberries start to pop and burst open. Then turn the heat down and simmer for around 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally so that the Cranberries don't burn against the side of the pain.
Once this is cooked you can serve just like this. After tasting it we liked it (it would've been perfect with a crumble mixture baked on top and then served as a dessert!) but I felt it needed something more.
I took 3/4 of the mixture and placed into the blender and whizzed for around 1-2 minutes. I then added 4 glugs of white wine (add as much as you like depending on how sweet and liquidy you want your mixture to be) then gave another quick blitz and added this mixture into a bowl, along with the mixture left in the saucepan.
You don't have to put the mixture in the blender, you can just stick to the sauce you've made in the saucepan and add the wine to this.
A quick mix together and the sauce was done!
We found the taste was less sharp after we added the wine and less of a fruity dessert taste.

I'll be making this again next year and am even considering making a bigger batch to put in jars and give to family.

Beautiful with Gammon or with Cheese as well as the traditional accompaniment to Turkey!
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21.12.11

Jamie Olivers Epic Hot Chocolate


Hot! Hot!
Ooh, we got it!
Hot! Hot!
Hey, we got it!
Hot! Hot!
Say, we got it!
Hot chocolate!

Oh how I love that song from Polar Express!
Tonight we sat and watched Jamie Olivers Christmas cookery programme.
My husband is a huge fan of hot chocolate (the drink, not the band) and gets quite annoyed if I buy the wrong brand (has to be Cadburys!)
I've always wanted to make my own hot chocolate. We had an amazing cup of hot chocolate 2 years ago at Centre Parcs and are yet to beat it. It was amazing. Almost like a thick chocolate sauce than a drink.

As we watched Jamie making a beautiful looking waffle we sat open mouthed and drooling as he showed us how to make his "Epic Hot Chocolate".

In his own words:
This hot chocolate is off the scale. It’s so simple to make and is much better than that shop-bought stuff you get, which is often full of rubbish and probably hasn’t got much chocolate in it anyway. I don’t want you to feel cheated, I want you to have the real thing… life’s too short not to.

Now, this is how Jamie Oliver says to make it. Personally, I'd add less cornflour as ours was ridiculously thick and undrinkable....well mainly because it was more of a dessert than a drink and wouldn't pour from the mug!

2 pints of semi-skimmed milk.
For the epic hot chocolate mix
• 2 tablespoons Horlicks
• 2 tablespoons cornflour
• 3 tablespoons icing sugar
• 4 tablespoons quality organic cocoa
• 100g quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely grated
• a pinch of ground cinnamon
• a pinch of sea salt

Pour the milk into a large pan, and bring almost to the boil over a medium heat.

Meanwhile, add all the chocolate mix ingredients to a large jar and give it a good shake to combine. You need around 10 heaped tablespoons of the chocolate mix for this amount of milk. Simply spoon the chocolate mix into the hot milk, give it a good whisk and leave to bubble away for a few minutes before serving. You’re looking for that gorgeous, thick, almost claggy, knockout texture.

Recipe © Jamie Oliver. Recipe from Jamie's Christmas with bells on.

If you'd rather Jamie Oliver tell you than me then you can find the recipe on his website here: Jamie Olivers Epic Hot Chocolate!
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Contraception

Since I was 14 I've been on the pill. I had to change to a different one in 2004 because I kept experiencing quite severe hot flushes and tiny blisters on my face.
Once I'd changed all was fine.
Then I came off the pill to start a family.

Once I'd had Charles I didn't go back on the pill immediately as I was advised that it wasn't essential due to me breastfeeding (although I know in some cases women get pregnant whilst breastfeeding anyway)
We had already decided that we would like another child quite soon so contraception wasn't an issue.
Despite breastfeeding my cycles returned 9 months later and then 7 months (approx) later I fell pregnant. (still breastfeeding)
We'd always planned to just have 2 children so knew that once I'd given birth I would have to use contraception.
I knew of the coil as a close family member had used one successfully for 10 years, and after looking in the contraception leaflet given to me by the midwife 4 hours after giving birth, the time I really didn't want to think about ever having sex again, I thought it would be suitable for me.
I made an appointment in August with the doctor who deals with the coil at my local surgery. She told me about what happens, how its fitted etc and sent me away with a prescription.
Aware of my traumatic birth with Harry she told me to have a good think and make sure I'm really ready before I take my prescription to the chemist and collect the coil (which apparently costs around £100!)
Last month after having my smear test I made an appointment to have the coil fitted. I had to wait a long time as they have to get the doctor and a nurse to fit it and finding a time they are both free is difficult, apparently.
The doctor I saw made it sound like it was a good thing to have and confided that she also had it.

So here we are, 4 days before Christmas and this afternoon I should be having this coil fitted.
Except I'm now having last minute second thoughts.

I Googled.

Depression.
Weight gain.
Non-existent sex drive.
Constant light bleeding.
Hair loss.
Hair GROWTH (facially in some cases)
Bad skin
Cold sores

I'm now stuck and do not know what to do.

I'm worried that if I go on the pill and miss one that I'll get pregnant again.
But then I'm worried about all of the side effects listed above and couldn't deal with any one of them.

I wonder if its best that I just go on the pill and re-evaluate the coil later next year, once my anxiety has settled, once my periods have returned, once I've lost weight?

At least with the pill I can just stop if I have any side effects.
With the coil I'd have to wait to get an appointment to get it removed.

But I have the coil in the packet ready to take to the surgery ready to be fitted. Think of that money wasted. My doctor is sure to have a go at me for that.
And surely for some its got to be ok and some women won't suffer any side effects at all.

Do I risk it? Taking the easy option and not having to worry about whether or not I took my pill or forgot it. And just because others suffered doesn't mean I will.
Or do I leave it? Taking the option of the pill (and condoms if necessary) to rule out suffering any nasty side effects. Stick to a routine that I was always good at and didn't mess up on before and worked for me.

I'm moody, paranoid and chubby enough as it is. Do I really need to make it worse?
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19.12.11

1969, 1992, 2008.

December is supposed to be a month of joy, happiness and celebration. More so for us with my dads birthday on December 20th.
Except its not a month for celebrating for all of us.
42 years ago today my nanny and grandad (who died in 1992) did the thing that all of us parents dread.
They said Goodbye to their daughter.
At 22 years of age my aunty died of skin cancer. She left behind a husband and two daughters.
It was the day before my dads 9th birthday.

Obviously I didn't get to meet my Aunty and I don't know much about her, simply because my dad was a little too young to remember much and doesn't really talk about it. And I daren't talk to my nan about it as I don't want to upset her. Due to this this day doesn't ruin my month or my feelings towards this time of year. I didn't know my Aunty so its hard to feel total sadness for someone I didn't know.
I feel sad for missing out on having an Aunty who I never met.
I feel sorry for my dad for having this tragedy happen so close to his birthday and for losing one of his sisters.
But mostly I feel sorry for my nan.
Having to deal with that loss is unimaginable.
Except she had to go through the same in 2008.

My second paternal Aunty was moving back home from Nottingham after her partner had died. She had nothing left there so moved back.
Most of my memories of this Aunty are negative and we had reservations on whether or not her coming back would be good for my nan but my nan was excited so we went along with it.
I was working nights at Superdrug this week and had a couple of calls from my dad just saying that my aunty was in hospital and to expect the worst.
She's gone back to Nottingham to finalise things (house, packing etc) and had fallen ill.
On the Saturday morning I had the call to say she'd died.

I cried.
Partly for my aunty.
But mostly for my nan.
To lose one daughter is awful, to lose two is just cruel.

This leaves only my dad.
I couldn't imagine being the only child left. The thought of something happening to my brother just fills me with the worst feeling.
Being a twin I feel I can't outlive my brother as it wouldn't be fair.

My nan became quite frail after this and we all worried for her health.
Thankfully she fought on, although how much she wanted to I do not know and is now a chirpy 92 year old with life left in her. (I've bet her that she'll live to see 100!)

On her 90th birthday I definitely won best the grandchild award as I spent almost all day with her (others didn't even ring and just turned up to her surprise meal that evening!)
At one point we got to talking about her girls and she told me (my dad and her then boyfriend, who sadly died this year) that she's not afraid of dying as she knows people are waiting for her.
I had to walk off and have a moment as it was hard to hear.
Hard because of two things:
1: She has lots of us here who want and need her.
2: It's so sad that she has 2 daughters waiting for her, when it should be her waiting for them.

I have a lot of respect for my nan for what she's gone through and hope I never go through the same, I don't think I could be as strong.

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16.12.11

Trip To See Santa: Take Two

You may have seen my previous post about our unsuccessful trip to see Santa on Saturday.
Although Charles didn't seem particularly bothered, due to us thinking up an excuse for Santa not being able to see him on the Saturday, we still felt we needed to take him to see Santa and have that experience.

So Sunday morning, we changed plans we'd already made to fit in a last minute trip to another Garden Centre.
We drove there and as we got Charles out of the car he shouted "Father Christmas! My here! My here!" We desperately hoped Father Christmas was there as I didn't think we'd be able to think of another excuse.
We knew our way around this garden centre anyway but thankfully it was well signposted for those who didn't know where the Christmas section was. This was something the other garden centre failed to do.
Also well indicated was the specific till to purchase the ticket to visit the Grotto.
So far, so good.
We were greeted by a cheery member of staff and handed over our £3.50. She spoke to Charles about Father Christmas and acknowledged Harry too which made me happy already.
So far, so good.
Charles skipped to the Grotto.
"My seeing Father Christmas! My excited! My excited!"
He shouted as he skipped.
We reached the Grotto and noticed a small queue. There was only 5 or 6 families ahead of us so we knew we didn't really have long to wait.
Except every now and then Charles would hear a deep voice bellow "ho ho ho! Merry Christmas" from behind the red velvet curtain.
His eyes would light up and then "my need to see him! My need to see Father Christmas"
And he would attempt to run off.
At one point he was able to run fast enough to get to the curtain but I managed to grab him just before he made his way through.
Then....tears.
We were able to distract him and the tears stopped. Then the family in front of us were instructed to enter through the red curtain. As the curtain opened we saw him and Charles squealed!
"Its Father Christmas! Its Father Christmas! My saw him! My saw him!"
Then the curtain closed.
And the tears started and fell down his soft cheeks.
"My want to see Father Christmas"
The Elf came out from behind the curtain and handed Charles a chocolate coin.
"This is from Father Christmas for being such a good boy whilst you wait".
I could've kissed her!
With that Charles stopped crying. Mostly out of confusion as he looked at what had been handed to him.
"Money? Chocolate? Money? Chocolate?"
Then we heard the bellow of "ho ho ho! Merry Christmas" as Santa said goodbye to children before us.
It was our turn to go.
"Quick untuck his wellies from his trousers. Get the chocolate off of his face. Get rid of the tuft in his hair".
I felt as if we were meeting the Queen.
In we went.
And from there it seems like such a blur. Totally caught up in the whirlwind of adrenaline and make believe soaked into the atmosphere from these amazing children.
Charles bypassed Father Christmas and headed straight to the Christmas Tree in the corner. I think he was expecting his train to be there.
We were able to get him to stand near Santa and tell him what he's like for Christmas.
"What would you like then young man? Thomas The Tank Engine? Postman Pat? Fireman Sam? Bob The Builder?" asked Father Christmas.
"He's not really into those anymore" we said. "He's really into Toy Story. Woody and Buzz"
"Oh you like Buzzy do you?" Was the reply. Has Father Christmas not seen Toy Story or know who Buzz Lightyear is?! We chuckled.
As rehearsed Charles asked for his present and included accessories we hadn't discussed previously.
"I'd like a train please, with a bridge and a track" (the bridge was the one we hadn't heard before, thankfully his Brio set has one)
And then he carried on.
"A boat. And a rocket. A blue rocket Father Christmas. A bike"
Then his attention was taken as he spotted the fireplace.

"So, will you be leaving me out a mince pie and some milk please?" Father Christmas asked.
"Well, we thought you'd like a Whiskey?" My husband replied.
"Oh no no no. I can't be drunk and in charge of Rudolf. Just a milk will do thank you"
"Are you sure you don't want a Whiskey?" My husband almost pleaded.
"I guess it could warm me up but no. Milk will be fine"
"We'll leave you one out anyway" my husband ended.

Then Charles was offered a sweet and handed a present from Father Christmas. Which he was about to open there and then.
"Now be a good boy. Be good for your mum and dad. Go to bed early on Christmas Eve. Ho ho ho. Merry Christmas"
And with that we left the Grotto all with smiles on our faces...except for Harry who missed his first Father Christmas experience after falling asleep as we were about to walk in the Grotto.

So, a happy boy, happy parents, a great experience. A brilliant toy which I would've paid £5 for in a shop if I'd seen it!
A much better experience than the first time.

If you are in this area. Avoid Highway Garden and Leisure and instead visit Cherry Lane Garden Centre in Fritton.

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14.12.11

Ultimate Christmas Meme

 Lovely Jenny at Mummy Mishaps has tagged me in a Christmas themed Meme.
I can't turn down a Christmas themed Meme so here goes:

1. The Christmas songs I can even listen to in June is…
I'm cheating but almost every single one. I love almost every Christmas song and think its a shame we only listen to them a certain time each year.
If you made me choose one it would be The Darkness, I'm sticking with my local boys!

2. Hot chocolate, egg nog or mulled wine?
I have never tried egg nog and am not a huge fan of hot chocolate or mulled wine.
If I had to pick one it would be hot chocolate but it has to be the one we had 2 years ago at Centre Parcs. It was out of the world amazing!!

3. When do you put your decorations up?
Either December 1st or the 1st weekend in December.

4. What are you having for Christmas dinner?
Turkey and veg followed by Christmas pudding.
My favourite day is Boxing Day though. Cold meat, Christmas dinner left overs, pickles, cheese, crackers, pate, and warm baguettes.

5. What’s your favourite Christmas tradition?
Two years ago we started going to Carol Service on Christmas Eve. We being my mum, Charles and I. This year we'll have Harry and I've convinced my husband to come as well as my mums new partner.
We have always got party food for Christmas Eve so will continue that.

6. Have you even gone carole singing?
No! It's almost as bad as trick or treating!

7. When did you discover the truth about Santa?
I can't remember but I'm sure we just worked it out for ourselves due to there being more than one Santa at Garden Centres...either that or the Naughty Boy neighbour told us.

8. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
With twinkly blue LED lights, enough baubles that its not overdone and yet not empty. Tinsel, you have to have tinsel.
Star on top and some silver beads if it needs it.

 9. What’s the best thing about Christmas?
Everything! The music, the food, the decorations, my husband getting time off work!
The magic!!

10. All I want for Christmas is.....
For Charles to believe that Santa bought his train and not us.
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13.12.11

Learning to Fly



Tomorrow Charles will be waking earlier than usual. If instructions are followed he'll be heading downstairs with daddy, eating his breakfast and drinking chocolate milk (will be a treat every Wednesday) then back upstairs to clean his teeth, get dressed and come in to see me and give me a big hug and kiss to say goodbye.
Our little baby is flapping his wings and learning to fly.

Tomorrow he starts with a childminder.
Just 4 hours every Wednesday morning. He knows one girl who already goes there but I now feel, and know, that this doesn't matter to him and his confidence whilst there.
On Monday he went for an hour by himself (his friend goes there on a Monday morning so he was with children he didn't know). I dropped him off, well I sat with him for 5 minutes then plucked up the courage to leave him.
To leave my little boy with someone who I had only met 3 times, who he had only met 3 times.
I don't know her parenting style.
I don't trust her 100% but I don't trust anyone 100% with my children (other than my husband/their daddy of course). Not even my mum. Up until now he's only really been left with family other than an hour max with one friend of mine.
I don't know anything about her other than that Ofsted have approved her to care for children.
She seems lovely, and Charles has taken to her which is fantastic.
His hour there on Monday went really well. He loved it infact and took a while to leave her house.

I can't help but to feel sick about it. To feel a tiny bit guilty.
Guilty that I want to send him away for 4 hours every week.
In fact, I don't WANT to send him, instead I feel I HAVE to send him.
At the moment he spends every hour, minute and second of the day with me. He occasionally see's his friends but not often due to working mums and lack of effort on others behalf (harsh but true) and sometimes I watch him playing and wish he had more friends.
Thankfully he is such a confident boy, a little too confident infact, and would play with anyone. Where he gets his confidence from we do not know! His childminder even commented on how confident he is and said you'd never of guessed it was his first time being left on Monday.
Which of course makes me very proud.
But I worry that when he goes to school he'll suffer by not having regular contact and by not having proper friendships.
He has no cousins as yet so the only contact he has with other children is whenever we have a playdate with friends and this can sometimes be a month or two months apart.
I also feel he needs to get used to me not always being around.
As I said we spend a lot of time together and he's only been apart from me a handful of times, and each time will ask where I am after a while and need to see me or know that I'm ok.
We've spent one night apart and that was when I gave birth to Harry. In fact that was the longest we'd spent apart which was 23 hours. He hardly slept.
Of course it makes me feel amazing that he needs to know where I am and obviously shows I am a huge part of his life (which may sound funny but its an issue for me with certain relationships and I desperately need the reassurance).

Recent events, mostly being my anxiety reappearing and Harrys birth, has made me look at life totally different. My eyes have really opened up to how short life is and how bloody important it is to live each second how we want to and with people we love.
If I had my way, my boys wouldn't go to school, they'd be with me everyday.
Because of his I can't help but beat myself up a bit about CHOOSING to send him away to spend 4 hours with someone else. 4 hours I could spend with him that I'm not spending with him.
What am I doing?!
When he's there I'll be at home doing housework (if Harry allows me to) and he could be here too.
Its not like I'm at work and he NEEDS to be there.
I have to keep reminding myself that I'm doing it for him. That he will have fun. That he will hopefully make new friends.

I desperately want him to be liked.
He is such an amazing little boy, and I'm not just saying that because he's my son but because it is true.
He's funny, sensitive, so clever and one of my best friends.
I'm doing it for him.
I'm doing it for him.
I'm doing it for him.

Tomorrow will be the slowest 4 hours since the day I was in labour with Harry I'm sure.
There will be a lot of clock watching.

Roll on 12 o clock!!
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11.12.11

Trip to see Santa: Take One!

After much thought we decided that we wanted to take Charles to see Father Christmas.
I asked on Facebook if anyone knew of places to go around here to see him. I was greeted with just two responses.

We decided we wanted to go have a look at some sofas at DFS in Norwich so we went into the garden centre which we pass on the way there.
It looked busy which is always a good sign.
Charles was really excited and had been talking non stop about seeing Father Christmas in the car and as we walked across the car park.
After taking 15 minutes to find the grotto (no signs guiding your way there) we joined the end of the queue.
We then saw a notice saying we needed a ticket before we get to the grotto. So my husband and Charles went to get one whilst Harry and I kept our place in the long queue.
My husband was gone around 10 minutes and eventually came back and said that you buy the tickets at the front of the queue so, confused, we asked the other grotto-goers infront of us where they got their tickets.
"Over there, but the queue is now closed"
They informed us.
And sure enough there was a sign saying "the queue for the Grotto is now closed"
What? This must be wrong! Its only 2.50! We'd been in the queue for 10 minutes also and this sign was there when we arrived but looked like it was randomly placed there until the queue was infact closed.
As we tried to find our way out (not easy at this particular Garden Centre) we came across the information desk.
There I saw a notice stating Grotto opening times.
"10 until 4.30"
4.30! And we were being turned away at 2.50!
Now even more angry, I asked the member of staff what was going on.
"We have to close the queue now as it takes that long to get through the Grotto"
What?? It takes over an hour and a half to get through a tiny grotto. She must've been joking.
So I questionned this.
"You're seriously telling me it takes well over an hour to get through that Grotto"
"Yes. I'm sorry about that"
"Well, I just think that's ridiculous. And we now have a broken hearted little boy"
With that we walked off. Walking past other children jumping for joy at the prospect of seeing the big man in red, soon to be leaving disappointed with more parents saying the same as us...
"We'll never come here again"
There could've been a sign on the entrance door also saying that the Grotto was closed, rather than wasting time walking around this big garden centre trying to find where Father Christmas was based!

So maybe we were wrong (would love to know others opinions on this) but surely the opening times should be 10-3 rather than 4.30? Giving 4.30 as the closing time gives the impression that customers can buy tickets up until that time, indicating nowhere that the queue will close an hour or so before this time.

I worked at Boots and Superdrug and we never closed our doors at 5.00 because it would take half an hour to get all the customers from that point to shop and go through the checkout.

Also my problem is that Christmas and in particular Father Christmas is supposed to be magical for children.
Highway Garden and Leisure, (at Framingham Pigot, Norfolk) obviously don't feel this way and have no problems sending away disappointed children.

I immediately posted my disappointment on Facebook and had some interesting responses from friends saying they'd had bad experiences also.
One saying:
"We went there last year and qued for ages, then got rushed through seeing him, so couldn't get a very clear photo and toy was crap!! I wouldn't go again!!"
And another saying:
"We had to wait ages to see him, then he walked past us, completely ignored the girls and went into the grotto, nobody told us we could go in so we waited around for a while and then eventually just walked in to find he wasn't even completely dressed as father christmas...not unless he wears jeans anyway!!"

So it looks like we had a lucky escape.

Hopefully our trip to another garden centre will be more successful today.

Dear Highway Garden and Leisure.
I wouldn't bother with a Grotto next year if I was you!
Children should be leaving skipping and smiling, excited that they've just seen Santa.
You are not providing this service properly and therefore have children leaving heartbroken and parents desperately thinking of a suitable reason to tell their child why they couldn't see Santa.
Do it properly or not at all!
Sincerely,
A lost customer.
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8.12.11

You Need Help...

...You've Just Got To Wait A While For It.

I sat in the doctors waiting room. Heart beating faster.
And faster.
Words going round in my head.
"I need help?"
No that's not right.
"I'm not coping?"
Nope, not right either.
"I think I might be depressed?"
No. I know I'm not depressed.
I'd booked this appointment 2 and a half weeks ago.
I wanted to see my doctor. Rather than any of the other ones there.
I'm very very lucky that I have an amazing doctor.
I trust him fully and feel I can tell him anything.
He never thinks, or let's on that he thinks, that I am wasting his time.

Beep
Lauren to see Dr D.

I walk to his room.
Knock.
Walk in.
Smile.
Cheery hello.
Sit down.
Awkward giggle.

"Erm, its become a bit too much. Can you help me maybe?"
Ice broken.
I expected an atmosphere.
Yet all of a sudden everything was ok.
I explained to my doctor about what had been going on.
In my head.
The birth still replaying.
The voice of the midwife who came round to do our home visit on day one.
"It could've been fatal."
Little things. Silly little things which no one else thinks about.
Spiralling out of control in my foggy mind.

"Can you answer these questions for me please?"
My doctor turns his computer screen round so I can read some questions.
The questions are familiar. I've answered them before.
After I had Charles.
All was ok then. Apart from the anxiety. When they put me on antidepressants which I didn't need or want.
I came off them after 2 weeks of being on them and sorted myself out.

We answered the questions together. My doctor knew how I'd answer.
"Ok, so as I expected you are not depressed."
He then asked me questions about day to day life. As I answered I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders.
Someone is listening to me!
I have my husband to talk to.
And my mum.
But sometimes people don't want to hear these thoughts in your head.
And when I did try to talk to them, they didn't know what to say back.
Which is perfectly fine.
As there actually isn't anything that would make me feel better.
I have an answer for everything. And it frustrates me at times.

My doctor didn't think I was crazy.
Phew.
"You have a very severe anxiety disorder"
We discussed my options.
"You definitely need some help"
He remembered that I am not keen on medication. I took comfort in this.
So many times you go to a doctor and you know that they recognise your face but not your problems.
My doctor remembered my problems from 2 years ago.
Little things that wouldn't have been written on my notes.

We discussed the "Mental Health Team" who visit the surgery so many times a month but after 3 visits to them in 3 years I asked for other options as I felt the guy I normally see didn't "get" me.
In order to get better I need to see someone I can connect with.
Who I feel I can say things too, no matter how extreme, and for them to act as if its normal, yet help me to deal with it.

And with that I am now referred to attend Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Its not totally knew to me as I did the same almost exactly 10 years ago and really took to it.
I feel its perfect, well I hope it is perfect, to help me get back to a "normal" way of life again.
Being able to watch tv programmes without having to switch them off because of how they effect me. To be able to read a real-life magazine without having to skip the majority of the stories.
Even the simplest of tv programmes or simplest of real-life stories can get my head in a whirlwind.

Except I saw my doctor around 4 weeks ago, if not more. And I'm yet to hear about an appointment.
"There is a waiting list"
He told me.

So, ask for help, but you have to wait for it.
And what do I do in the mean time.....

Tick...
Tock...
Tick...
Tock...
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6.12.11

To Visit or Not?

Everytime Charles see's a photo, picture, decoration or programme featuring Father Christmas his eyes light up.
"Mummy mummy its Father Christmas! Look mummy LOOK!"

This year is his first year of understanding Father Christmas. He's taken it all in and understands exactly what Father Christmas does.

For this first Christmas 2 years ago I attempted to take him to see Santa.
I was left highly disappointed when, whilst the garden centre looking at the decorations before we headed to Grotto, I spotted Santa walking around.
He was the opposite to what Santa should be.
Short.
Thin.
Short beard.
And a high pitched voice.
He was more like an elf.
With that I decided we'd miss out that year as I wanted it to be so special. It was for the photo opportunity more than anything and I wasn't going to pay £5 to have our photo taken with a fraud!

Then last year we ummed and ahhed and decided one again to give it a miss. For the same reasons as before really.
Another main problem of mine is/was/is that I want a photo of Charles on Santas knee. Yet I can't. Because he's not allowed.
I don't want MY photo taken with Santa. I want HIS photo taken with Santa.
I want to find a decent Santa.
Stick my son(s) on his lap.
*snap*
Photo taken.
Bye Santa, see you on the 24th or 25th.

This year we are left with a new dilemma. Charles is old enough to understand.
Old enough to stand in front of Father Christmas and have his photo taken.
Old enough to tell him which gifts he'd like for Christmas.
He's also old enough to not actually like Santa and create embarrassment when he decides he "wants to go home now" or "doesn't like it no no".
I also can't see how we make it clear to him that he won't be getting the presents he's asked for there and then.
I can't just imagine him getting upset and asking where his train track, rocket, boat and bike is.
On the other hand...he might understand and be fine and love it.

So do we go or not? (Assuming can find a decent one of course!)
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Disney Essentials?

I love Disney. Who doesn't? And I look forward to the boys realising the magic that Disney holds.

I never thought of myself as a girly girl really. I'm not really into pink, I never wanted to be a Princess, and never really liked the idea of girly sleepovers *squeal!*
But I've always loved the Fairytale ending when it comes to Disney.
My favourite Disney film is Beauty and the Beast. Closely followed by The Little Mermaid.
I could watch these over and over.
Yet I've never seen Bambi, The Lion King or Jungle Book.

The boys have received £30 from their Great Aunty and Great Uncle for Christmas, and we have decided to get some Disney dvds with that money. (On a BOGOF offer only)
Except I'm not sure which ones to get!
Toy Story (1, 2 and 3) are already sorted as are the Cars dvds.

Other ones, which I guess are suitable for boys (not suggesting that Beauty & The Beast, Little Mermaid etc aren't) that I have seen and enjoyed when little are
Sword In The Stone
Robin Hood
Rescuers Down Under

So what am I, the boys, missing out on?
Which films are essential for our Disney dvd collection?

And more importantly, has anyone seen Tangled? Is it any good? The trailor looks fab.
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We Made It: Part One

There were certain things I imagined doing with my children.
* building sandcastles
* snuggling on a sofa sharing snacks
* gardening together
And * making homemade christmas decorations and gifts.
This year with Charles being old enough to take part in certain crafts and with us being stuck at home with colds, apart from a brief trip to the garden centre to check out their decorations where we happened to find a pack of Christmas stickers, we decided to make some different Christmas decorations.

The first thing we made is super simple. Charles made two 'sticker papers' as he calls them, basically using his Christmas stickers he made some pictures.
I then found some glitter tubes at the supermarket and HAD to purchase them
We made some patterns and pictures on some paper using a Pritt Stick and then sprinkled our glitter where we wanted it.

All very simple. Except I didn't just want these to be random pictures we would then throw away or end up accidently ripping.
Which is when I had a great idea.
Homemade Christmas Placemats.

For Fathers Day I made a similar item for my husband. Charles had coloured in a picture of two stickmen, one being daddy and one being him. I then had this laminated and meant for it to be kept in my husbands studio for him to use as a [large] coaster for drinks. We kove it so much though that its stuck on one of our Christmas Cupboards in pride of place!

So with that, headed off to my dads work on Saturday morning and he kindly laminated these pictures for me.
Et Voila!!

4 Placemats to bring out every Christmas!

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5.12.11

Christmas Cheese

I love everything about Christmas!
The giving and receiving of presents. The masses of food. The decorations. The films and tv programmes. And especially, the music.

Yesterday, whilst listening to/watching the Christmas music videos on VH1 and Magic and also catching up on some blog reading I came across a post by my favourite blogger Jenny aka Mummy Mishaps
Jenny had listed her top 5 favourite Christmas Songs and I wanted to do the same. Although sticking to 5 will be tough!

1: The Darkness: Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End)
I've never really 100% revealed the town I live in other than saying near Lowestoft or on the outskirts of Lowestoft. This is true but our address can be either X or Lowestoft, Suffolk, NRXX....
I have grown up in Lowestoft and love it! I am very precious of my town and hate people bitching about it.
I'm proud of a lot of things to do with this town and one of those things is the amazing rock group that is The Darkness!
When we moved away I used to listen to my Darkness albums a lot, mostly in the warehouse at work. They gave me comfort, as well as goosebumps.
When they were first released to the country they came "home" and performed a free gig, well it was in Great Yarmouth but still! Due to being engaged to the presenter of a local radio station I was able to attend the free gig! It was amazing!!
I'm not totally into rock music but I make exceptions for The Darkness.
Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End) is one of my favourite songs because I just love everything about it. Its one of those songs that I can listen to on repeat and never be bored of it!

2: Bo Selecta: Proper Bo Chrimbo.
No an obvious or mature choice but who can't help but love "so excited you might wee PROPER CHRIMBO"
I remember when I first heard it. My husband (fiance at the time) received a free promo copy. We'd been watching Bo Selecta on tv and were fans so were excited to hear the single.
We played it in the car on the journey to a date at the cinema...on repeat! And giggled the whole time.

3: Steps: Heartbeat.
I love Steps. I love them, I love them, I love them.
I don't think Heartbeat is a one of their best songs BUT Christmas isn't Christmas for me without this song.
Charles heard this song for the first time yesterday and, much to daddies annoyance, I said "wow! Look Charlie! This is Steps! Aren't they amazing?!"
His response...
"Yeah they ARE!!"
That's my boy!!

4: David Bowie and Bing Crosby: Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy.
This hasn't always been on my top Christmas Songs list. Infact I only really discovered this song two years ago! I think I avoided it as Drummer Boy was one we'd sung a lot in Primary School and I wasn't keen.
But now its a top favourite and Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without it.
Their two voices together.
Deciding which one to sing a long to.
David Bowies beautiful voice.
*Sigh*
Peace on Earth...
Can it be?...

5: Cliff Richard: Mistletoe and Wine/Saviours Day/The Millenium Prayer
Oh yeah! Got to love a bit of Cliff at Christmas!
I do quite love Cliff Richard anyway.
My mother in law is a HUGE Cliff Richard fan. Huge. She even bought us a Cliff Richard fridge magnet last year for Christmas.
Christmas just would not be Christmas with Cliff and I think its disgusting that radio stations won't play his songs, especially at Christmas!

And surely an added extra has to be...
Holidays are coming...holidays are coming...(Charles is obsessed with this now!)

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How Does He Get In?

I remember when I was little, laying in bed, really still, listening out for sleigh bells and listening to the door opening and the man in the red suit delivering our presents.

We had a chimney but a gas fire. Our parents tried to convince us that the front of the fire opened, like a door, and that was how Santa came in.
I didn't like it though. And came to feel worried and would panic that anyone could and would come in.
The story had to change and it turned into my dad waiting up and letting Father Christmas in through the front door.
I felt comfortable with that.

Even before I had children I would think about how the story of Father Christmas would play in our house.
Which gifts would he bring?
What would he drink?
What would he eat?
How would he get in?

We considered the magic key story. Coming in through a window. Daddy waiting up for him (which would totally fail if Charles is having a bad night and ends up in our bed).
We settled on 'The Secret Door'.
We don't know where this secret door is.
Father Christmas does of course and is the only person who knows where it is therefore the only person who can open it and walk through it.
Charles has informed me that Father Christmas will drink beer and eat cake. (Lucky daddy!)

We then last night discussed what would happen if Charles and his friends were ever to discuss and question the different stories they are all given about Santa.
Our answer: "He does it differently for every child so he doesn't get caught"

Its at Christmas time that I really wish we had a fireplace so we could play out the story of Santa coming down the chimney.

How does Santa get into your house?
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4.12.11

Under Our Tree: Gifts for our Boys!

We've been teaching Charles about Father Christmas for around a month now, if not more, and he's really taken in the whole magic of this wonderful man who rides in a sleigh pulled by Reindeer and who leaves presents he's actually asked for under the tree.
Wow!!
He's been fascinated by trees and lights since his first Christmas 2 years ago, when he was only 6 months old.
He knows that tree's tend to have a star on top and notices if it doesn't.

My sister in law got married around this time last year. There was a huge Christmas tree in the room and after sleeping during the ceremony Charles woke up as photos were being taken and proudly said "STAR"...followed by a ripple of "awwww's" by the ceremony guests.

So Saturday night we put up our decorations! Or as Charles calls them our "Christmasations".
 Except this year one thing will be missing.
Presents.
Can you believe that last year I was able to put the presents under the tree and they were untouched by a normally inquisitive 18 month old boy.

This year the presents will be under the tree Christmas Eve night, again once Charles has gone to bed.

But what will he find under there?

I've seen various Christmas Gift Guide blog posts and I guess, in a way, this is mine but its a bit more "realistic" in that these presents are bought and wrapped already.
Nb: no companies have asked me to add their product etc. This is done through choice.

Main present: * Brio train set. He asks Father Christmas, very politely, for this everyday. Although mummy and daddy are buying it, not Father Christmas. (From Amazon)
* Toy Story Rex Hoodie (from M&S)
* Cars 2 Art Carry Case (from Argos)
* Play Doh Value Set (from Argos)
* Toy Story Boxset (trying to find a good deal)
* Toy Story activity pack (from Matalan)
* Peppa Pig Recorder (from Matalan)
* Dinosaur Jigsaw (99p from the Garden Centre)
* Small Toy Story Characters: Slinky and Rex (from the local garden centre)

From Father Christmas (Stocking Fillers):
* Gruffalo Toothbrush (from Boots)
* Iggle Piggle bath wash mitt (from Boots)
* Big tube of Smarties [achem X's 2] (from Boots)
* Cars 2 Poster (free with carry case, from Argos)

From other people (that I know of):
*My Mum: Playmobil Noahs Ark (from Toys R Us), Gruffalo Backpack (from an independent store), Gruffalo pencil case, socks
* My Dad: Happyland Lights and Sounds Rocket (from Argos)
* My Aunty & Uncle: Big Green Tractor and trailor (£10 from Mothercare)
* From his Girlfriend: WOW toys! Motorbike Max (from Argos)
* Mother in law: Cars 2 dvd (hopefully)
* Iggle Piggle Plush toy (from Argos) (hopefully)

And for Harry:
* Fisher Price Amazing Animals Choo-choo train (Have purchased yet but probably from Argos)
* Big Dalmation teddy he couldn't stop smiling at (from Matalan)
* My Pal Scout (from Argos)

From Father Christmas:
* My first Hammer (from Asda)

From others (again that I know about):
* My mum: Light projector and lullabies (from Mothercare), stacking cups (from Mothercare) My Discovery House (from Mothercare) Ocean Spin (from Toys R Us), Bibs
* My dad: a winkel (from Amazon) Brights hoopy cow (from Mothercare)
* Aunty and Uncle: Pop up animals (from Mothercare)
* His Godmother (Charlies Girlfriends mum) Lullaby Gloworm (from Argos)
* Mother in law: (hopefully) sleepsuits and Sophie la Giraffe (from Mothercare)
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Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

After Harrys Christening I phoned my Aunty, who lives in Somerset and was unable to attend, to thank her for his gift and card.
We got onto the conversation of Christmas, as she has bought the boys a present each, and discussed what's on my list (in a jokey way we listed a laptop, holiday, just expensive things I need but can't have). We also talked about my plans to wean Harry and the fact that I want to really make an effort to make his meals myself rather than opting for jars.
I mentioned that I didn't have a blender, well, we have two but both have pieces missing, and that I was really hoping for a food processor from Father Christmas.

Three days later I had a knock at the door. "Hi. I have two items for you" said the delivery man.
"Excellent" I said, not thinking. I was expecting one item but thought the other must've been for my husband.
But my name was on both packages! I easily spotted the item I'd ordered for my husband but the other box was huge.
Straight away I panicked and wondered what I had ordered and forgotten about.
"Oh my goodness! What have I bought and how much is it?!"

Once I'd signed my squiggly signature on his silly electric pad (really, I hate those things!) I rushed inside and opened the great big box.

KENWOOD FOOD PROCESSOR!

What?!
Who has bought this for me?
Emotion and excitement took over as I started to shake a little. I rushed to find the piece of paper to see if it mentioned a name.
It did.
It was my aunties name. With a message.
Why wait for Santa when you can have it now.

I think presents given *just because* are much better than presents given *because we have to*.

I phoned my aunty that night to thank her and she gave me the recipe for Butternut Squash soup. She is an amazing cook so I had no doubts that this soup would taste great. And it does.
My only complaint is that it isn't thick enough for me, I do prefer a soup to be really thick and stodgy, so I could probably add some potato next time but its amazing without the potato anyway.

This is how to make it.
Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

1 Butternut Squash. Peeled, deseeded and chopped into cubes.
2 Chicken stock cubes [could be vegetable stock if you'd prefer]
1 Onion, chopped.
2 teaspoons of butter
1 teaspoon of curry paste

First cook your onions. I cooked mine in some melted butter and they tasted amazing! Once these are cooked put them in a bowl to use later. (I cooked mine in the same saucepan I boiled the squash in)
Then add your Butternut Squash into the saucepan, cover with water, , add some salt and pepper to taste. Boil until the Butternut Squash is cooked. I boiled mine for 30 minutes.
Once cooked, strain the water into a seperate large bowl. To this water add 2 stock cubes and the teaspoon of curry paste. Stir this a little until its all nicely combined.

Next add your Butternut Squash and Onions to a Food Processor.
Blitz until the contents are combined and into a puree.
Add half a pint (ish) of the stock and blitz again.
Then add this mixture to the saucepan and add the remainder of the stock. Boil and simmer for 5 minutes and stir thoroughly, making sure the curry paste has dissolved and blended well within the soup.

Serve with fresh bread.

* If you like spicy food you can add more curry paste to give this a real kick
* As an alternative, this could be served with a warm Naan bread.
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28.11.11

Turkey: How Do You Cook Yours?

As previously mentioned, when I was little cooking the turkey always seemed like such a mammoth task for my mum in particular.
4 years ago my mum then informed me of a new, almost stress free, way of cooking turkey.
She'd seen Phil Vickery (on This Morning I expect) share his way of cooking his Christmas Day Turkey and said it was genius and really quick.
I didn't quite believe her.
Approximately 2/3 hours cooking and then its done? How could this be? How can it go from taking hours to cook this sometimes beast of a bird to just 2/3 hours?
I had to try it.
My husband wasn't so sure but once I'd convinced him to at least give it a try we went for it.
And success!!

Every year we now cook our Turkey "The Phil Vickery Way" (we make some adjustments in that we don't use bay leaves or add stuffing but I believe the key to a good recipe is room to adjust it to suit your families needs and likes)
Our Turkey is ordered from the Butchers (after our Fresh Free Range Delight last year long are the days of hunting the perfect frozen Turkey from Supermarkets-fresh if we were lucky!) so I have dug out this recipe from my recipe folder in preparation for the big day!
I use a large foil tin, the ones which only seem available in the supermarkets around this time of year, as its perfect when boiling and adding the double foil covers.

Taken from his website this is the way you SHOULD be cooking your turkey this year...and every year!!

Serves
8-10 adults
Preparation time: 25 minutes.
Cooking time: 2½ hours, approx

1 x 5 kg just under 12lb, Bronze turkey, with giblets and the wish bone removed.

2 large carrots, peeled
2 large onion, peeled
6 sticks of celery
leek        
2 bay leaves

2 chicken stock cubes
½ bottle dry white wine
2 pints cold water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
55g melted butter
2 tbsp roughly cornflour
4-6 tbsp cold water

Methods/steps
Pre heat the oven to 200°C gas 6.
First job is to remove the giblets from the bird, and if you are using a frozen bird then make sure that it is fully defrosted.
Season the bird well inside and out well with salt and pepper and pack the stuffing into the body cavity.(see recipe)
Tie the legs and the Parsons nose together with a piece of string and secure well, so the stuffing is held inside the bird.
Chop all the vegetables into large chunks and place in the bottom of a large baking tray place the turkey on top, the tray should be large enough so the bird has at least 2 inches gap around.
Pour in the white wine, cold water and chicken stock cube, and place the whole tray on to the stove.
Bring to the boil and cover tightly with two layers of foil and pop into a preheated oven.
cook the bird for about 2 hours, approximately.
To check if the bird is cooked, remove from the oven carefully as there will be a lot of stock, wine and turkey juices.
Remove the foil and insert a knife where the thigh attaches itself to the body of the bird, the juices should run clear. If not, then cover again with foil and cook for a further 20 minutes.
When the bird is cooked, remove from the oven, turn the oven up to 230 degrees C, Gas 8, brush with the melted butter and cook until browned, about 15 minutes.
When nicely browned, remove from the oven and carefully, tip off all the stock and keep warm.
Wrap the turkey in foil to keep warm, it will keep perfectly wrapped for 1 hour.
Re boil the stock and juices, you may need to add a little more water in a saucepan and skim well.
Mix the cornflour and water together and thicken the bubbling stock, don’t go mad.
Carve the bird the flesh will be soft and juicy, and serve the gravy and stuffing separately.
Additional Tips
The above recipe was for a 5kg bird.
For a 8kg bird I would steam it for 2 hours and 30-45 minutes,and then brown it in the same way.
For a 10-12kg bird I would steam it for 3 hours and 45 minutes, and then brown it in the same way.
Please remember that times will depend on each individual oven, but the most important thing is that you seal the turkey well (use a tin with a lip) with foil so that you steam the bird.

Turkey, The Phil Vickery Way! www.vickery.tv
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2005: A Christmas Day Disaster.

I remember when I was little, Christmas Eve would consist of us [me and my twin brother] going to bed early awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus and our gifts. My mum would head to bed soon after us as she would have to wake at around 4am or 5am to prepare the Turkey and stick it in the oven ready for Christmas dinner.
Christmas Day was spent opening presents in a house with windows covered in a misty condensation covering. It was part of what Christmas was about. One of the little things that made Christmas Day what it was.
Sometimes it'd even be put on the night before, we'd wake up, head downstairs, and after we'd opened our presents round the tree with the video camera aimed at us, my parents would head to the kitchen to carve the turkey and prep the vegetables before my grandparents arrived.

I remember when I left home and faced cooking Christmas dinner for the first time. Cooking a Turkey made me panic. Could I live up to my mums standard and get up early just to put the turkey on?
I longed to be the perfect Fiancee/Wife.

As it happened my husband had to work the three Christmasses when we lived away.
We'd wake up early, get dressed up in our nice clothes, and drive along the quiet streets from St Neots into Bedford for my husband to entertain those listening to his radio show on Christmas morning.
2004. We bought our Christmas Pudding early and had it sat in the cupboard. One night, 3 days before Christmas Day infact and feeling peckish, we decided to eat it and planned to get another from a shop in Bedford before Christmas Day.
Big.
Fat.
Fail!
Nowhere had any left! And Bedford is a big town!!
Due to busy work schedules we couldn't even travel that far out of town to see if there were any other puddings waiting to come home with us.
Christmas Day dessert was a cheap supermarket trifle.
It just wasn't the same.
2006. The Turkey hadn't quite defrosted so we spent 3 hours once we got home from his show with it sat in a bowl of water whilst it thawed.
Then there was 2005. Good ol' 2005! Everything was perfect. It was our first Christmas as husband and wife, we'd had a tough few months but now everything was great. I had a lovely job, had made some great friends there and felt almost settled in this new town. We were having a lovely morning, again my husband was presenting his show on the local radio station. We got home, put the turkey in the oven, put the vegetables on, opened a bottle of Champagne and opened our presents.
Except halfway through opening our presents we'd finished the champagne.
"Should I open the Sparkling wine?"
"Yes, why not?!"
So, the Sparkling wine was opened and away we went. Within no time this was also gone.
Now, we have never been BIG drinkers, and never really got drunk together as such. We never went out drinking unless it was a special event and others were with us.
But this day we really let our hair down.
By the time dinner was ready to be served we had consumed so much alcohol that we were ready for bed...to sleep, nothing else!
So that day our lovely turkey and trimmings were wasted and instead were consumed the following few days, whilst nursing sicky hangovers.

We've yet to make the same mistake!
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23.11.11

My Mummy Tummy: My Sons First Home

A couple of years ago I was taking part in a photo a day project on Flickr and one day was feeling particularly brave and decided to post quite a personal photo. I just let the words flow as I looked at the photo. Nothing inspirational but exactly what I think.

I've just been able to find this again after trying for so long and wanted to share it here too.  


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20.11.11

Today Is The Day



After months of planning, meetings and phonecalls with the Reverends, emails to and fro with the pub, outfits dry cleaned, a dress search, cake discussions, chocolate truffle testing and making, haircuts, invitation creating and sending, lack of rsvps sent back, (seriously people, etiquette?!) reception venue decorating, Itks finally Harrys Christening Day!


My camera is charged, lens' have been cleaned and an empty SD card at the ready.
Outfits are hanging in the wardrobe.
My husband, Charles and I all have new hair-do's. Freshly cut and in my case coloured.
Balloons and banners await our arrival at the pub. As will a table full of food.
Added to that table will be my homemade coconut chocolate truffles, hazelnut chocolate truffles and white chocolate drizzled truffles and a 10 inch Christening cake made and decorated by my step-nanny.
Two helium balloons will be placed on this table too.

In the corner, a small table decorated simply with one single Christening balloon and some 'Christening' table confetti, ready to also include some cards and gifts.

In my lounge are two black bin bags filled with pearly blue, green and purple balloons ready to be kicked, thrown and no-doubt popped by the 5 hyper young boys attending.

All that is left is to work out a way to get all four of us ready and out of the house by 12 noon at the latest, without a smear or smudge on our super clean outfits. To get to the church on time and ready to greet our important (and some not so important) guests.
And most of all, celebrate a special day for a very special boy.
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18.11.11

10 Questions

Ages ago I was tagged by Mum 2 Baby Insomniac in a 10 Questions meme. Due to being laptopless I've only just been able to get access to a computer to write my long overdue post!

1) Answer the 10 questions
2) Tag someone to do the same
3) Go and leave a comment on the original blog post over at Super Amazing Mum and comment that you have done so in order for us to find out who has been tagged and therefore find out more about our fellow bloggers!

1: Describe yourself in seven words:
Mummy, housewife, twin, blonde, funny, oversensitive, hollywilloughbywannabe.

2: What keeps you awake at night?
Not wanting to stop staring at Harry or Charles.
And my busy head.

3: If you could be anyone for a day who would you be and why?
Holly Willoughby. I heart her.

 4:  What are you wearing now?
Skinny jeans, tunic and a cardigan.

5:  What scares you?
Death.
Something I can't talk much about at the moment.

6:  What is the best and the worst thing about blogging?
Best: Its like therapy for me sometimes, being able to write down things I can't say to people face to face.
Worst: The fact that people seem to think there should be "rules" when it comes to blogging. No, my blog is my space. My online diary. I wouldn't have rules if I wrote a diary at home so why should I for my online diary?
I'll only follow rules if it concerns a linky/meme.

7:  What was the last website you looked at?
Other than fellow bloggers sites and the usual social media ones it was Daily Mail. Catching up on the celeb gossip with my hairdresser!

8:  If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
I would be tidier and not so trusting.

9:  Slankets Yes or No!?
Probably yes. I'm all about comfort when I'm at home and at night rather than being sexy. I get annoyed at blankets falling off every time I shift a bit on the sofa so a Slanket is probably right up my street!

10: Tell us something about the person who tagged you?
Mum 2 Baby Insomniac is a fab blogger, one of my favourites although I am very slack at commenting on her posts but enjoy each and every one.She is a really lovely girl, funny honest and she also has amazing eyes which she has admitted to not being so keen on. WHAT?! Seriously, they are beautiful.

I think everyone has been tagged now as I'm so late to this so if you haven't, but want to be, then let me know.
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The Things My 2 Year Old Says...

One of my favourite bloggers, Jenny from Mummy Mishaps has tagged me in a super cute and potentially hilarious linky all about "toddlerisms". The linky originated at The Crazy Kitchen. Helen says:
As I was getting Jack ready for bed tonight he said said something to me and it struck me that he often says things that I may have said once...but you will never hear me say again.
Our Task, as written by Helen:
Come up with 5 things that your 2, 3, 4, 5 or even 18 year old says that you never say....I'm not a stickler for rules so if you want it can be things that your husband says. If your baby doesn't yet speak then you can make them up based on what you think they would say if they could speak. Then tag others to do the same - you can tag 1 other or 10 others, again I'm not going to make you stick to any rules on that.

If you haven't been tagged and you want to join in then please do.

The only rule that I would like to make is that you come back here and add your post to this Linky so I can laugh at them read them too, and ask those that you tag to do the same please.

So, five things Charles says/has said that I never will/have/or will say again!....

* In the middle of a shop/public space: I done a poo!! (Or) I need a poo!!

* Mummy, I love your boobies.

* My poo looks like a crocodile/snail/frog/jellyfish/octopus/etc

* Mummy, kiss my bum/willy better please.

* The Rhinos/Elephants/Giraffes/any zoo animal have very big willies!

I tag (sorry if you've already been done)
Seasider In the City
SAHMLovingit
Not My Year Off

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Things I Said....

...Before I Was a Parent.

My child will NEVER watch that...upon first viewing In The Night Garden. I was pregnant with Charles and my husband just happened to find it whilst having an explore on the childrens channels.
"What on earth is that?" We both said.
Guess what happened? It became a favourite programme for the three of us when Charles was around 12 months old.

My child will NOT have toys in his/her room...surely they'll never go to sleep and will stay up all night playing. Naps would be non-existant just due to being distracted by toys and wanting to play.
Guess what happened? We let him take cars to bed, this at one point was the only way he would sleep. Some children like to have teddies as a comforter, dummy, muslin but for Charles it was cars. And it had to be seven cars. Not five, not six. Seven.
He would go to sleep with them by his head and in the morning would wake up and check he had them all. If we put him on his change unit with six cars he would know one was missing.
We gradually let him have other toys in the room, nothing huge, nothing noisy, not lots of toys. Just a couple. Along with books, which are the things that are more likely to keep him up at night.
If we put him to bed and he isn't tired or quite ready to settle we know that he will play with his toys until he is ready to go to sleep.
He's always been really good at settling himself down, recognising when he is too tired to continue playing and will put himself to bed and fall asleep.
He used to fall asleep on the floor by his baby gate but we have since moved his bed near to the door and everytime he now gets into bed.
Naps have never been affected by the toys in his room either.

We will always sit up the table to eat...Sometimes its far more convenient and easy to just sit on the sofa and eat dinner whilst watching tv.
In the mornings Charles is placed in his high chair, in the playroom in front of Cbeebies whilst daddy is in the lounge eating breakfast watching the news.
It works.

I'll never send my children to their room as punishment....I had a feeling that using their room as punishment would mean that bedtime would become hard work and that their rooms would just be seen as the place to go when they are naughty.
I do this now though. I have found, for us, that this is effective. Its not a straight "you've been naughty, time to go to your room". I give 5 chances and if I feel the only way a problem will be resolved is for us to have a bit of time away from each other to calm down then I will take Charles off to his room and shut the baby gate.
Once we've calmed we then cuddle, talk through what happened, what went wrong, he says sorry, we kiss and say we love each other and then everything is ok.
Or, he will go to sleep. Which is a good thing because it shows his behaviour is due to tiredness.
How people use the naughty step I do not know. I tried it Wednesday to see if it was for us, next time I checked on Charles he was on a completely different step and we both just started laughing.
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7.11.11

The Letter That Came Early

Sitting having a natter with a friend whilst our boys played nicely together I heard the postman deliver some letters through our door.
With Charles busy making his friend some cups of tea and they looked over his toy cars (he normally grabs the letters from the door and sorts them into mummys letters, daddys letters, charlies letters and food letters) I went to the door myself.
Straight away I noticed the envelope with NHS stamped in big blue writing on the front.
I felt sick.
The only letter I was expecting was the one with the results of my Cervical Screening Examination from last week. I was told the results would be with me in 14 days...not 5.
So obviously I thought the worst.

The morning of the examination I sat in the bath for an hour. Followed by a shower. I then waited until I needed to be out of the door until I got dressed.
I cried just before I left but pulled myself together and headed out. My life, my health, my boys, Jade Goody, all ticking over in my head. And yes I'd even put on some of my Jade Goody perfume just so it kept her fresh in my mind.
I got to the doctors surgery, signed in at the electronic screen and was informed of a 19 minute wait.
Not good.
I didn't want to be able to sit for 19 minutes and think about what was going to happen. And what happened last time I was examined.

Then the board bleeped and my name was written in small red led lights.
Its time to do this!
I walked towards the doctors rooms and went to head right down a seperate corridor to the nurses rooms, I was called by a lady and told to follow her into a room which was in amongst the doctors rooms.
I'd seen this nurse recently when she diagnosed Harrys oral thrush and I warmed to her immediately.
I walked into the room, and didn't know whether or not to sit down or strip off straight away and get on with it.
I sat down.
"So how are you?"
"Nervous" Then the tears came.
"Ok, we're doing a smear test then are we?" She said in a soft kind voice.
We talked about my concerns, about my labour.
She told me I didn't have to do this.
I told her I did.
We to'd and fro'd for a while with this until I said "I'm doing it today. I have to" and with that she said ok, locked the door, drew the blind around the bed and shut the window.

As soon as I sat on the bed I gave myself a pep talk, in my head of course.
Just relax. It'll be done soon. She does this everyday.
I looked at the wall as the examination took place. Although I was ok with her doing what she was doing I just couldn't look. I'd then not be able to relax.
We were talking through some of the examination and I was surprised at how much it didn't hurt.

All I had been told by women before, for years, is how much a smear hurts, how humiliating it is, etc. Never hearing of a positive story.
Sometimes I think women can be far too dramatic. I think its just in our nature to be like this. And sometimes we can't just say "actually it wasn't that bad". We have to, instead, talk about how it hurt, how we were embarrassed, how the nurse was rude, and just the bad points.
Sometimes I think we need to "man up" and look at things from a mans perspective and just say "yeah it was ok, done in 2 minutes, nothing to worry about".

And that's what I'm saying now.
Ok its not comfortable and I expect the device placed in could hurt depending on your body and the person placing it there but we have a voice.
If its uncomfortable, then say so.
If it hurts, then say so.
I was surprised at how quick the examination was.
I had 3 swabs taken and it lasted all of 2/3 minutes.
The nurse said she was done and I asked what the fuss was all about.
And felt silly for crying.

As I got dressed she explained about when I would get results back and about a possible small bleed.
I thanked her for being so kind and admitted I was glad when she called me through as I found the other nurses can be quite hard and harsh and thinking I'd be seeing them made me nervous.

She then said that for future examinations to ask for her if I want to if it makes me feel comfortable.
I said I would.
Then as I left she said something we can all relate to...
"Its your body and your choice"
She was right. You decide what to do with it, who see's it and who touches it.

I did have a little cry of relief in the car and when I got home.
It did bring back some memories of Harrys birth but more so at how rough one of the midwives was and how her actions could of ended up with the vessel being broken and Harry not being with us.

So then I relaxed, thinking that I might as well relax for 14 days as there's no point in worrying until the letter arrives.
I thought surely the letter arriving today must only be a bad thing.

"The results were normal. This means you are low risk at developing Cervical Cancer"

Now I wait another 3 years until my next one and I do feel relaxed about it.
Its daily routine for the nurses and will now become a 3 yearly routine for me.
Nothing to get worked up about. Infact I wouldn't even feel too disappointed if the tests became yearly.
I will try and make sure I can again have a nurse I am comfortable with and I do believe that we should fight to be able to choose who see's us for private consultations.

As for the examination. 3 minutes of feeling a bit uncomfortable for such an important test is so worth it.
Seriously, if you're putting it off for fear of embarrassment then pick up that phone when the surgery opens tomorrow and book your Cervical Screening Examination PLEASE.
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Nanny X's Comforting Turkey Soup

Every Christmas my nan (and granddad when he was alive) would come to our house for dinner.
My mum would always hand my nan a bowl containing the Turkey Carcass and some meat.
A couple of days later the bowl would be returned filled with a thick homemade soup. Mmmmm. It was always the best part about Christmas, food wise, when I was little.
It was always such a warming thick soup. Great with a slice or two of bread. Perfect for cold winter days and nights.

When I moved out of home it was quite a quick decision. My fiance (now husband) had got himself a job in Bedfordshire. I didn't want a long distance relationship and it was a case of let me move with you or we split up. Delighted at the fact he chose for me to move with him, once my A Levels were done, he moved first, I had to set about learning how to do certain household jobs. I could already cook but wanted to learn how to make this beautiful soup.
My mum also made it and gave me the recipe. Its so simple and a great way to use up leftovers from a Sunday Roast or from Christmas Dinner.
Its now part of my Christmas routine and Boxing Day morning is spent making a batch of soup.
Three years ago my nan lost her second daughter in the March and had a pretty tough time, understandably, and became a bit frail. We saw her at Christmas and on Boxing Day I sent her home with a bowl of Turkey Soup. I felt so good about myself, knowing I was giving my nanny a lovely comforting meal, which would fill her up and put a smile on her face.
Suitable for a snack, lunch, dinner or supper. Roast dinner-Soup Style!

What You'll Need

Chicken or Turkey Carcuss (with tiny bits of meat left on if poss)
1 or 2 stock cubes (chicken or vegetable)
Vegetables (leftovers or whatever veg is in your cupboard-for this batch I am using potatoes, peas, sweet potatoes, carrots. I've even added yorkshire puddings before)

Put your carcass into a large saucepan (break it up to fit it in)
Fill with water until the carcass is covered or almost covered.
Boil for 20-30 minutes, until the water has changed to a beigy colour and the meat is falling from the bone.
Then either, *remove the bones and place in a bowl or another saucepan to make another batch *or sieve the stock into another saucepan and start a new batch in the original saucepan.
Then add your stock cube and vegetables to the stock. If using leftovers then boil for 15-20 minutes. If using fresh vegetables then boil until the potatoes are cooked.
Once this is done then mash the potatoes and vegetables or whizz in a food processor until you are happy with the consistency.
Serve with thick bread.

You'll be surprised at how much meat falls off the bone. Don't throw this away. Save as much as you can and add it to the soup.

To make the soup thicker add more potatoes, add more water to make it thinner. I tend to make a thick batch to begin with as I like my soup really thick. I then add water to my husbands batch as I cook it to make it thinner (as he likes it).

For an alternative to bread why not dip in some Yorkshire Puddings.

When boiling the carcass for a second time you'll need to boil it for a little longer and possibly need to add an extra stock cube.

I find I can make 2-3 batches from one Large Chicken carcass.
Easy to freeze and reheat when needed.
Sorry for lack of photos but still laptopless and having to using my Blackberry.
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2.11.11

A Broken Bed and The Secret Book Place

When Charles was born we agreed that, because I was "in charge" of feeding him, my husband would be "in charge" of nappy time (which he never minded) and bath time.  
He's also always been head of story reading, well as he's a voiceover in the daytime it seems only right that he would use his talents at home too.

There have been times when I've been downstairs cleaning or making dinner, or just having a 5 minute sit down after a busy day and felt the need to rush upstairs to be with them both at storytime.
Not because my husband is that good at reading stories (although he is very good but that's not the reason I rush upstairs)
But simply because I get a bit jealous. I hear them both having fun, giggling away, making little jokes that I don't understand. But also I just love listening and watching them bond.
I love seeing this strong father/son relationship build and get stronger and stronger.

Imagine my shock a week and a half ago when I realised that Charles' bed had somehow broke. I asked him if he knew what had happened and he told me "nanny sue done it" (my mum had been changing the bedding when I found the bed broken)
I told my husband who simply said "I didn't do it" Giggled and scuttled off. When I asked him to explain the giggle he told me that Charles has pushed him onto the bed and it had split.
Surely a toddler couldn't push a grown man hard enough that he could break a bed?
Staring at him I eventually got the truth.
"I might of jumped on his bed when we were playing"
Oh dear!
That night I tried to get the truth out of Charles. He looked at his daddy not knowing what to say. It was quite a sweet moment. He didn't want his daddy in trouble, but at the same time, knew he had to tell me the truth.
He gave my husband a "please forgive me" smile and turned to me and said "oh no, daddy broke the bed".

Other than this secret, they also share another secret.
Secret book place.
I remember putting Charles to bed one night and he kept mentioning "book place".
I had no idea what he was talking about.
My husband then told me it was the place he keeps his current favourite book, rather than with the rest on the shelf in his bedside table.

Although I don't want to encourage Charles fibbing and keeping secrets from me I do love Secret Book Place.
Every night I sneak into his room whilst my husband is getting him ready for bed and ask where Secret Book Place is. Sometimes he'll tell me.
Sometimes he'll tell me he doesn't know, or gives me the wrong answer.

I truly hope my husband is able to build this same sort of relationship with Harry too when he's older.
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1.11.11

Almost.

Looking at memorial photos.
Writing messages of support.
Reading miracle stories.
Reading tragic stories.
All I can think about is that it was almost him.
It was almost Harry.
He was almost a Vasa Praevia Angel.

It was almost my fault.

It's not as easy as people think.
To move on from that situation.
To accept that he is here, and he is ok.

Everytime he smiles at me my tummy fills with butterflies and my eyes fill with tears. Realising how close we could've been to not experiencing these moments.

You can't just move on.
Not just like that.
It's not easy knowing your body almost let you down, right at the very end.
It helped to grow, protect, nourish, love this baby then....
It's almost like a punishment.
Like building your perfect, dream home. Then right at the last minute, it all crashes down, with no warning. Leaving you with nothing.

I realise how lucky I am.
How lucky I was, that my body almost fought against itself. Not pushing hard enough, just incase that vessel burst.
At the same time, my body had planted
the vessel there.
Its hard to decide how you feel about yourself after that.
How you feel about your body.

Ashamed. Respected. Disappointed. Proud. Angry. Joyous.

Its not a case of "just don't look" at the photos and the stories.
I was one of the few lucky ones. (95% mortality rate) and feel that its my duty to show respect and support to those who weren't as lucky as us.

Something I can never get my head round is how hard it would've been to have to come home and explain to Charles that Harry wouldn't be coming home.
I am so grateful that this wasn't the reality.

I'm so grateful that I can look I both boys, smiling at me, smiling at each other, cuddling, babbling/talking to each other.

I'm feel so terribly lucky to have Harry here, next to me...
Every
Single
Day.
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The Jade Goody Effect

I've mentioned before and am not ashamed to admit that I was (and still am, despite her no longer being with us) a Jade Goody fan.

I'll never forget the images of her so poorly during her tough battle with Cervical Cancer.

I was pregnant at the time with Charles.
It was hard to know that she would be leaving behind two boys, especially a I was due to welcome my first into the world soon.

I remember the moment my husband came into the bedroom on Mothers Day 2009 and told me that she'd lost her fight. I cried all day.
The day of her funeral, I cried all day. My husband ended up taking me out for lunch when he got in from work that morning and tried to keep me out of the house for the remainder of the afternoon so I didn't watch the tv footage of her funeral.

Last year I received my letter inviting me for a Cervical Screening Examination. I was, at the time, going through an abnormal bleed which turned out to be a chemical pregnancy but my plan was to have the examination once the bleeding had settled down and my periods were back to normal. This was also agreed with a doctor.

I then fell pregnant with Harry so didn't get round to booking my appointment and having the examination.
And I will be honest, I was quietly relieved.
I don't understand though why we are so self-conscious and shy about "that area" of our bodies.
Why do we treat it any differently to our hands? Knees? Feet?
Since breastfeeding I feel more comfortable showing my breasts to a doctor if I had a problem but still feel tense and anxious about them giving me a vaginal examination.

I'm incredibly self-conscious about "that area". Especially after having two children, and especially as it was only recently that I gave birth.

Last week I received a letter.
It was an invite to a Cervical Screening Examination.
I immediately went all funny and my mind was telling me not to pick up the phone and book an appointment. Just rip up the letter and ignore it.
But I couldn't.
One name popped into my head, Jade Goody, and that was it. I had to book it.
I figured I had to book it there and then before I changed my mind and put it off.

"Next Wednesday at 9:50?"
"Yes, ok. I'm free."
I felt an odd weight lifted from my shoulders yet a sick feeling.
The last time I was examined "down there" was when Harry was born and it brings back awful memories for me due to the trauma I suffered.
Thankfully I know that on the system at my doctors surgery they have noted that I had a traumatic birth so I hope the nurse is aware of this and isn't so harsh when I cry and tense up.

When I was 21 I asked my surgery if I could have a smear test and was told no, because the age in England for smears is 25+.
I honestly think this is disgusting.

If it wasn't for Jade Goody though I doubt I'd of seen the appointment as terribly necessary. Especially as my previous smear test request was brushed off and made it feel as though it wasn't important.

With two young boys now and not being that much younger than Jade was I know how important it is to get seen, to get tested and to seek help when there is an abnormality.
Thankfully this is just a routine test and not due to any abnormalities I have sensed or am worried about.
Before go into the room tomorrow I will think of Jade, her boys and my boys and know that this 15 minutes of discomfort and embarressment will be totally worth it.

If only they supplied gas and air to make it a little bit easier.....
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20.10.11

Days Out in Suffolk: Africa Alive

One of our favourite places to go for a day out is Africa Alive. I used to go there when I was a child and have a lot of happy memories there. One being a particular bird called Joey. He used to fly up to the cage and like to have his tummy tickled. No matter where you went around the cage he would fly and find you and push his tummy close to the bars for maximum tickleage [not a word but sounds good]. We used to try and outrun him and trick him but we never could. He was a small exotic bird.
I also remember going the day after I cut my head open. I had a 2 inch cut on the top of my head after bashing it on the corner of a chest of drawers and was taken to hospital where they glued it back. I remember having to keep my hood up the whole time I was there.
There used to be a big tree which had a circular enclosure around it. This was my mums favourite as it housed the monkeys. She would watch for ages as they would swing from branch to branch, occasionally fall off but do it in such a way that they meant to.

Since then it has changed quite a lot. There are brand new enclosures and it features a fantastic enclosure called The Plains of Africa. At the top of the Plains there is the Rhino house, Zebra house, Ostrich house and Antelope house. At the bottom is the Giraffe house. If the weather is nice the animals are let out to roam together and graze on the huge amount of grass available.

I remember going there with my husband, when he was just my boyfriend, and seeing the Rhino house for the first time. Immediately we fell in love with these huge mammals and in particular with one who was named Harry, as my husband had his cat called Harry.
Whenever we went back we would head straight here. And these days its exactly the same, except Charles is the one who runs straight for the Rhino house as they are his favourite animals.

The Lion enclosure is huge and has always been one of my favourite in the park. Simply because I love seeing the Lions with so much space. There is nothing worse than going to a zoo and seeing animals caged up in tiny enclosures. There is now a viewing balcony which gives visitors the chance to see Lions from above. A clear barrier seperates you from the drop into the enclosure. I sometimes feel quite shakey and scared when up here, especially when Charles goes running towards the barrier although, obviously, he is completely safe.

There are vaious feed talks throughout the day and information of these talks [time and location] is given with a leaflet as you enter the park.

The park is set within 100 acres so it takes a good 2/3 hours to walk around and appreciate all of the animals.

You can walk to the top end of the park to Pets Corner. Here you'll find goats, rabbits, bats, mice, birds and snakes.
This is also right next to the Chimpanzee enclosure. Sadly, one of the chimps died this year leaving one chimp on her own. We have found her to be friendly and she certainly seems to take a shine to Charles whenever we go.

At this end of the park you can board the Safari Roadtrain and enjoy a trip around the whole park. The driver adds commentary as you travel around so you can learn more about the animals you are visiting.

There is also a Lemur Encounter which is a walk through enclosure. This isn't always open but when it is its great to walk through and be really close to these beautiful and cheeky animals. We've always found they are quite "posey" when you get your camera out.
This enclosure also homes some sheep which Charles is always fascinated by because of their white bodies and black heads.

There are information sheets, boards and interactive buttons near each enclosure. These are full of interesting facts and the interactive buttons are Charles' favourite source of information.

Also with some of the enclosures you can find a stamp. These stamps are to be printed in the allocated space in a booklet given as you enter the park. Collect all stamps and then take the book to the shop and recieve a reward of a medal. Children love these medals.
Charles, however, loves the stamps and ends up with prints all over his hands and arms. If it keeps him quiet and happy.........

Also to keep little ones happy there is a big outside play area involving slides, swings and climbing equipment. There is an inside soft play centre too which looks fab but we are yet to explore.

So, for a fab day out I urge you to visit.
I have a season ticket so we now tend to go for as little as an hour or all day.


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