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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19.10.11

Not Ready To Leave Yet

Do you ever just look out at the world and say wow?
No?
Do it!

Today we popped to the beach with my mother in law. As she and Charles walked behind playing with sand and stones, I walked ahead with Harry and just looked at what was around me.
Taking in everything.
I walked up some steps taking us from the sandy beach to the paved seafront and stopped. l looked out at the view before me.
The sky and its changing colours as the sun prepared to set on another completed day. These colours against the assortment of blues and greens of the sea made for a breath-catching view.
It all looked so beautiful.
I looked around and asked myself a question.
Did appreciate all that could see?
It wasn't anything specific to be appreciative of.
It was everything.
Life.
The World.
Everything.

I had a pretty horrific dream on Monday night which involved a family member dying. The dream seemed so real and its taken me 2 days to settle my mind and calm down and accept that this didn't really happen.
Also recently a young girl in our town, early 30's, died of a rare form of cervical cancer. I knew her, she was a friend of my brothers. She leaves behind three young children.
Jade Goody for some reason is also strongly in my thoughts at the moment. possibly because I like her, now have two young boys and I can't help but struggle to imagine what happened to her and she wouldn't see her boys grow up.

I looked again at the sky.
At the clouds and just how far away they are.
At how deep it is up there and wondered what is next for us all.

Then I looked down at Harry in the sling I was carrying him in. I gave him a huge squeeze.
Had we not been so lucky 15 weeks and 1 day ago I would've been standing there alone, looking up wondering where he was.
I looked down at Charles walking slowly on the sand, inspecting the footprints his weelies were leaving behind and every now and then bending over to dig away at the sand just like a dog does.
I couldn't help but smile.

To my boys the world is so innocent. They don't know of any evil that goes on. Of fighting, war, illness and disease.

I wish I could live in this innocent, pure world sometimes.
Where we turn on the tv and the news is all good and happy.
Life would be easy.
Nothing to worry about.
Waking up everyday and having little responsibility or worry.

I then look out to the sea again. It goes on for ages, and ages. Just 1 boat on the horizon today.
A jet skier whizzs around far in the distance.
Freedom.
Fun.

I ask myself again.
Did appreciate all that could see?
I did. And I do.
Every.
Single.
Thing.

When I think about the future I can never imagine myself as an old lady.
But I know for sure that I am not ready to leave this wonderful world just yet.
I want to explore.
Have fun.
Be happy.
And embrace life to the full.
For my boys.
I want to make every second count.
Life is far too short as it is but it can still be bloody amazing.

Get out there and have a wow moment.
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Pretty Marshmallow Cakes

For Charles' First Birthday we had a little party for him at home. We decided to lay on a buffet style spread of sandwiches, crisps, Nigellas mouth-watering Cocktail Sausages [these were a huge hit and were gone within seconds!] chocolate rice krispie cakes etc
I wanted something fun to make too. Something that would be colourful, pretty, and uber tasty.
I found this recipe on the Nigella .Com website and had to make them!

You will need:
  • 45g butter
  • 300g mini marshmallows
  • 180g Rice Krispies
  • Edible glitter or sprinkles

  1. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a low heat.
  2. Add the marshmallows and cook gently until they are completely melted and blended, stirring constantly.
  3. Take the pan off the heat and immediately add the cereal, mixing lightly until well coated.
  4. Press the mixture into a greased 32cm x 23cm tin [I just placed greaseproof paper in the nearest tin I could find and they came out fine!] You may have to put on vinyl CSI gloves and press it down into the corners, as it will be very sticky. Flatten the top and then scatter over the edible glitter or sprinkles, if so inclined.
  5. Let the marshmallow crispy squares cool completely in the tin and then cut them into squares.
These were also a hit and the adults enjoyed them as much as the children. They can be sticky and a tiny bit messy so make sure you have some baby wipes at the ready.
PicMonkeyCollage1A
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Chocolate Apple Cupcakes

I'm really into Bramley Apples at the moment. I tend to go through stages of being obsessed by them, then being sick of them through eating too much and completely forgetting about them, then I love them again.
I normally just boil them with a tiny bit of water and some brown sugar and either eat by themselves like that or add some frozen summer fruits.
I'm also a huge fan of Chocolate Apples. So much so that at Easter I melt down any eggs I get and just chop up apples [Granny Smiths or Golden Delicious] and dip them in. Mmmmmmm.

So this morning I started boiling some apples and Charles asks me if I'm making cakes. Why not I thought? In fact, why not combine cakes and the apples?
I knew I had a bag of raisins in the fruit bowl so originally planned to make apple and raisin cupcakes but then *ting* apple and CHOCOLATE cupcakes seemed a lot more appealing.
With that Charles scuttled off to get his Giraffe chair to stand on, came back, placed it by the side of the work top, stood on and said "mix, mix, mix" and away we went.

Firstly I made my cake mix. As I usually do I made a big batch so I could make quite a few cakes rather than just 12..
To make the mixture I used:
250g butter
250g caster sugar
Mix those together in a bowl then add
250g self-raising flour
4 free range eggs
(Add one egg at a time, each time folding in some of the flour)


I decided to half the mixture into a separate bowl so I could make two different flavoured cupcakes.
To make the Chocolate Apple Cupcakes I firstly cooked some Bramley Apples. I add a small amount of water and some brown sugar and keep stirring them round the saucepan until soft.
Then transfer into a bowl to cool down.
I added some Nutella to the apples and mixed. [I don't measure added ingredients but I'd estimate that I used 1 large Bramley apple and 2 dessert spoonfuls of Nutella.

Then add this to the cake mixture. "Mix, mix, mix" then spoon into cake cases [my mixture made 12]. I also decided to add a dollop of Nutella to the top. For 2 of the cupcakes I experimented by adding a small amount of cake mix to the case, then added a tiny scoop of Nutella and then topped this up with more cake mix. They were probably the best of the cakes and this is what I would do again rather than/as well as putting the Nutella on top.
 These then went into a preheated oven at 180degrees for 24 minutes.

Once cooked. I took them out of the oven, removed them from the muffin tray and left to cool.

These cakes are truly delicious. The Bramley Apple tastes amazing and I did worry that maybe it would be too sweet but its perfect as the other flavours of the cake itself tone down the sourness of the apples. Even Charles ate one!
Try it yourself!


With the other half of the mixture I made Banana and Raisin Cupcakes.
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Banana and Raisin Cupcakes

I have a confession.
I HATE bananas! Therefore I cannot tell you personally whether or not these cupcakes taste good. But my husband has tried them and says they are nice.

I had half a bowl of basic cake mixture left after making my scrummy Chocolate Apple Cupcakes and looked at our fruit bowl. In it sat 2 Bananas and a bag pack of Raisins. So these seemed a great idea to use as flavouring for my next cupcakes.

So, basic cake mix again if you missed it before [if only making 12 cupcakes half the mixture to 125g and 2 eggs]
250g butter
250g caster sugar
Mix those together in a bowl then add
250g self-raising flour
4 free range eggs
(Add one egg at a time, each time folding in some of the flour)

Half of the mixture was left in the bowl and to the I added a sliced and chopped banana. I stirred this round and mashed it as much as I could but also left some larger pieces too. Then I added a handful of raisins. This was mixed and then spooned into cake cases and placed in a preheated oven, 180degrees, for 24 minutes.

These smelt delicious and did look nice. After they had cooled down I made my husband try one and he assured me that it tasted beautiful. They were really easy to make and a great way to use up bananas which are going too brown!
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15.10.11

I Left My Heart In St Tropez


There's a world that sleeps within you
It's a world of freedom,
It's a place
Where every dream you dream inside can come true

I’d always wanted to visit St Tropez. The idea of the beauty of it, the richness, the romanticism, classiness. It just sounded perfect.

Then along came the Ricky Martin song, which made me want to go more. Nothing to do with the words in the song, but just because he’d sung about it. Simple as that.

Then came my chance. My husband and I decided in 2009 to book a weeks Cruise around the Mediterranean and one of the stops was to the South of France and there was an excursion to St Tropez.

For this cruise I’d decided to plan my outfits ahead of going. This is something I did whenever I went abroad. Planned which top would go with which skirt, etc. But for the cruise I wanted to plan my daily outfits too. I didn’t want to be stuck with my short denim skirt and scruffy vest top for St Tropez now did I!
I picked just a purple skirt I’d bought in the Matalan sale and a cheap black boob tube I’d bought years earlier. Not an expensive outfit but I felt nice, comfortable and felt reasonably chic.

Disaster struck as we were about to leave the ship to head to our excursion coach. I couldn’t find my camera. Now I’d headed off on holiday with 4 SD cards for my camera so this shows just how many photos I take!
I looked all over the cabin [so I thought] but running out of time I had to leave without it. I cried as I got onto the coach. With cloudy weather and a slight cool breeze my day of perfection seemed a distant dream away.

We first stopped off at a romantic, quant little place called Port Grimaud.
I remember my husband was poorly and every stop we went to we would try and find a chemist so he could stock up on Strepsils or any other medication he felt adequate. We had to do the same here.
This little down was almost unreal. It was the sort of thing you’d expect to find in Disneyland.
In a Disney Movie in fact.
A big square, a small bar with barrels outside. Balconies with pure white sheets hanging, swaying too and fro in the gentle wind.
The day was getting better.
If only I had my camera.

We were given time, around an hour and a half, to explore this little town ourselves before we moved on to St Tropez.
We decided to take a boat trip to explore the lagoon village. We didn’t expect to see what we did but soon realised why it is suitably nicknamed “Little Venice”.
Tall picturesque houses, painted in beautiful colours: soft pastels, pink and turquoise.
At the end of each garden was a mooring space, set for every household to show off just how wealthy they are. There was a wide range of boats, from large expensive yachts to small basic rowing boats. (which still ignited the green monster in me)
The village hardly seemed real. The architecture was astonishing.
Again, wishing I had my camera.

We then waited for the coach and on we went to St Tropez. There is one road which is apparently hectic all the time but our driver avoided this so we got there with plenty of time to encounter St Tropez at its best.

As we parked up by a grubby petrol station my dreams of St Tropez were almost crushed.
We were told to walk along the small stretch of path. We did so and then……
BOOM.

There's a world that sleeps within you
It's a world of freedom,
It's a place
Where every dream you dream inside can come true

A HUGE WAVE OF EMOTION CAME UPON ME.
THIS
IS
IT.

The earlier breeze and slight chill had disappeared and the weather was bright and warm. We walked along the quay side, hand in hand. It was amazing. It almost felt like we floated along. The atmosphere was light: despite it being busy, everyone seemed in high spirits, content, totally soaked in the ambiance that is St Tropez.
We were given a good few hours, 3 if my memory serves me correctly, to look around, explore and discover this stunning place.
Our bodies were just taking us along, almost like we were fixed on a conveyor belt with no choice to get off. You had to stay on.
Why?
The yachts.
“Big boys toys which never get played with” as someone recently called them. 
You basically become so hypnotised by these big, beautiful boats that you just cannot tear yourself away from them. I remember seeing shoes neatly lined on the quayside which belonged to the people who were sitting or laying on the boats. The shoes were all so clean but it showed just how pristine these boats have to be.
I walked along and wondered how many people on the boats actually owned them or how many were hired out. What did the people do for a living to be able to afford these magnificent beasts.


I remember one restaurant very clearly. It was pure white. Everything. The table cloths, the walls, the ceiling, the uniform. Everything. The menu looked fantastic but we feared going inside and spilling even a tiny amount onto the crisp white sheets….and we imagined other people thought the same as us….as no one else was sat there.

After lunch we decided to go for another explore.
It was a Sunday, and the afternoon, so we found a lot of the businesses were shut but we I had fun playing “spot the designer shop”. 
I didn't go in any of the designer shops for fear of being treated like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman but very much enjoyed having my photo taken outside of some of them [with my husbands camera...yipee!!]. For me, you can visit these shops in cities in the UK but there’s something even more expensive and exquisite when seeing them in St Tropez.

After a walk around the shops we headed down a small side street, trying to find our way back to the quayside. At times I worried that we would end up lost but we eventually found our way back and again down another aisle of shops and ice cream parlours.
Whilst walking down the side streets I saw the most beautiful window display I've ever seen [excluding Christmas displays of course] A scattering of crystals all over a shop floor. As the sunlight caught each side of the crystals they sparkled so beautifully. This display was mesmerising and my husband literally had to drag me away.

As we headed back to the coach to then journey back to our Cruise Ship I felt a real aching. I wasn’t quite done with St Tropez yet. I wasn’t quite ready to leave. I still had so much time to spend there and so much more to explore.
When we got back to the ship we were shocked to hear that those who went on the other excursions ended up soaked with rain as there had been a storm in the town they had visited.
St Tropez didn’t let me down. I had a feeling it wouldn’t.
I hope I can visit there again some time, even if it is just another 3 hours on an excursion or be it yacht hunting when we finally win millions on the lottery. 

Have you ever visited somewhere and felt like you had a connection to it? 
That you loved it so much? 
That you needed to know more about it?
St Tropez is one of my places. [as is Port Grimaud]

There's a world that sleeps within you
It's a world of freedom,
It's a place
Where every dream you dream inside can come true


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6.10.11

Just Because









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