National Trust Basildon Park, Reading

Whenever we go on a long car journey we generally try and find somewhere to stop off along the way for a run around and have a bit of lunch. On our journey down south for our Dorset holiday we looked at a few places around halfway and settled on Basildon Park near Reading – partly because it was a filming location for Downton Abbey (we very much enjoy the show), also because we have National Trust membership and it looked like it had some lovely grounds for Monkey to have a run around.

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The house didn’t disappoint, though smaller than some (which, obviously, doesn’t make it small) it was still very grand and had some gorgeous rooms. We rarely go round inside but couldn’t resist seeing the rooms Downton was filmed in and were allowed to take some piccies.

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The grounds were very lovely too and what made it really perfect was the fact that they have fantastic ball runs dotted around the grounds. Upon entry you pay a couple of pounds for a tennis ball and put your name on it. Then as you go exploring you come across various different ball runs throughout the park, which really are great fun.

The first was in the woods on the way up to the house. It is worth noting that there is a fairly steep walk up to the house from the car park which included a few steps that we carried the pushchair up.

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Then there are various in the grounds, I loved these ones made out of big old logs and tree trunks – as did Monkey! He had great fun running backwards and forwards and putting the balls down holes and working out where they would come out.

Basildon park ball run

This big long one was brilliant too and Monkey had so much fun chasing his ball down and trying to catch it at the end. He managed a spectacular fall at one point though, literally going down head first (:() thankfully he was fine though and carried on running after a brief cuddle from Daddy!Basildon park ball run 2

There was also a great ball run which was perfect for older kids which had various bits and bobs so they could assemble it themselves. A bunch of kids were having great fun with it and had made a fantastic ball run which Monkey loved testing out – and once again, chasing his ball down to see which way it would go!

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For her part LM enjoyed having a wander and watching her brother running about like a loony :)

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It was the perfect little stop off on our journey and Monkey had so much fun that I actually wsh we lived nearer so we could revisit the ball run which will be there all summer. It is definitely worth a visit if you live nearby!

My Travel MonkeyWe're going on an adventure
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Crawly Baby (9 months old)

Yup, it’s official, we have a crawler! Our little lady, at just over 9mths old is now well and truly on the move.

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When she wants to she can really go at a pace but actually for the most part she doesn’t want to crawl and much prefers to stand. So she will only crawl until she can find something (usually Mummy who she knows is a soft touch) to pull herself up on. She is so determined to stand and walk that even if there is nothing (or no Mummy) to grab onto then she will try and stand. As a result, much of the time she ends up like this, with bum in the air.

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She has even done a couple of steps like this but I think she hopes to push herself to standing and just can’t quite get herself there yet!

It’s a whole new world for us as Monkey never crawled properly and just did a sort of commando style drag across the floor. The speed that LM can go and the distance she can cover is a whole new thing so we are having to be extra careful about what is on the floor – especially some of Monkey’s smaller toys. It terrifies me even thinking about it to be honest!

It’s so lovely seeing her so proud of herself for accomplishing it, even though there is still just as much frustrtaion as she would rather stand and walk. I have a feeling that won’t be too far in the future though!

Love watching her grow into a little person :)

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Our next big project

We moved into our house about 3 weeks before Monkey was born. It is in the area both Hubs and I grew up in, an area that we love. We got it at a really great price because it needed work doing to it, more work than we initially realised to be honest! We moved in to a garage that was basically flooded from an old roof, a kitchen that was falling apart, rotton soffets with birds nesting in the eaves, pretty nasty bathrooms and both front & back gardens were a mess. Initially we thought we could live with a lot of it but gradually we realised we needed to do some work sooner rather than later.

So when Monkey was still a baby we did many of the repairs needed, had a new kitchen fitted, a new bathroom, and created a shower room out of the existing downstairs toilet and hall cupboard. We completely gutted and landscaped the back garden and made some “smaller” changes to the front, including a new gravel driveway area.

The 'small' changes to the front garden!

The ‘small’ changes to the front garden!

Our itchen when it was brand spanking new!

Our itchen when it was brand spanking new!

There have been smaller changes over the last 3 years, lots of decorating and replacing ceilings but one of the things we loved about this house was it’s potential to grow with us. Since early this year Hubs has had a bee in his bonnet that he has wanted to start this process. He felt, quite rightly, that if we want to extend in any way then we should do it now when the space is really useful to us. If we wait until we can more easily afford it then the kids will be older and it won’t be as useful to us as it is now.

So, it has taken months of decisions and back and forth and organising architects drawings and building regulations (thankfully we don’t need planning permission) and now it is finally happening. We are converting our existing Garage into a Study/Playroom, and the carport will become our garage. We are also moving our existing front door, gaining a utility room and potentially re-doing our driveway. Eek!!

We thought originally we had a month or so before work started but all of a sudden the builder is available and bam it starts this week! So we came back from holiday a little earlier than we would have, and have had some work to do ourselves. Thankfully we cleared out the garage a few weeks ago but we hadn’t got round to selling some of the stuff we want to sell :S. So all of that stuff, plus other garage bits are now filling our conservatory!

Plus because we are moving the front door, we have some bushes and plants to move around too so we have had some old horrible plants dug up and then we have been moving the plants we like into the spaces they left behind.

We have also been working out how we want our new room to look so have already ordered most of our furniture, some before we went away and some while we were away! All very exciting but always nerve wracking! Fingers crossed it all looks the way we imagine… I will share more details with our choices in another post.

I am nervous, excited, apprehensive and everything in between. Wish us luck with the chaos and noise and fun having the builders in for the next 8 weeks or so (!!!??!!!) will undoubtedly bring!!

So bye bye garage, car port and front porch, with the annoying front step and garage doors that barely close let alone lock. Spiders it is time to find a new home! :)

old garage and carport

My word of the week this week, is project!

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Silly Selfie Videos – Me & Mine July 2015

You may have seen that we have been on a lovely holiday recently so it seems apt to share some of our lovely family shots while we were away. It can always be tricky getting photos of the whole family. We use our phones as cameras these days and don’t have a tripod so selfies are the best way to do it. BUT the front cameras on our phones aren’t that amazing (how I miss the Galaxy S6!) and my arms certainly aren’t long enough to get a good shot of four of us.

Enter the selfie stick! And a fab feature on hubs’ phone whereby you take a video with the main camera, and then can go back through, select the perfect frame and save a high resolution image. The downside is that you can’t see the screen so there is a bit of guesswork involved.

We did this a lot on our lovely holiday at some really gorgeous places so I have loads of family shots for this month’s Me & Mine. Some of the shots worked surprisingly well… but others less so. As after all we can’t see the screen and the stick moves around and we have a 3 year old and a 9 month old who aren’t always cooperative and who don’t always smile or look where we want them to. So sometimes there are 3 of us similing, sometimes we cut off heads, cut off whatever is in the background of the shot… and trying to make kiddies smile, oh the videos are amusing to watch!

So here are some of the best shots… and some amusing out-takes… and, purely for fun, one of the videos we took to get these shots!

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So if you fancy a chuckle have a look at one of the examples of the videos… one where Monkey is being particularly uncooperative and driving us potty! :)

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And then the fun began...Mummascribbles

Our Dorset Holiday

You may have seen that we have just had a very lovely holiday in Dorset. We have been house sitting for just over a week for some friends of ours who live in a very cute, quaint little country cottage. It is picture postcard pretty but also a little run down with cracks in walls and damp ceilings and TONNES of spiders!

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It is also in the most gorgeous setting, on a farm in the middle of the countryside. The farmer’s (massive) house is nearby along with a few holiday cottages they rent out but otherwise it is just surrounded by fields, trees and rolling hills.

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Being on a farm there are lots of animals around too, cows, horses, sheep, dogs, a”barn cat” who is a mouser that lives in the barn. She’s also about 1010 yrs old, very gentle and so good with the kiddies! The little ones have loved stroking her and even when LM has gotten a little over excited and pulled her fur (eek) she has barely flinched! Lovely pussy cat.

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We had the real extremes of weather, from blazing sun to torrential rain and we obviously had some highs and lows. Some highs of the trip include gorgeously sunny days out to the coast and on steam railways to castles (posts about those to follow) and actually a wonderful day at Stonehenge which was in parts disastrous but also lucky and just good fun, despite being a very wet day! More of that to come in another post.

We did have some lows too, including the most disastrous trip to the beach ever. I was on my own with the kids while hubs got his head down to do some work and as the forecast was for sun headed to the beach. It rained a little on the way but hoped we were headed to blue sky. I had researched and found what I thought was a sandy beach not too far away. Then we arrived and saw this mountain of stones at the edge of a completely stony beach.

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Walked around a little and could find no sandy beach so at the lowest point I could find proceeded to make a few trips up and down the hill of stones to get me, 3 bags, buggy, both kids and a wind shield onto the beach. Only to be faced with an evem steeper decline on the other side of the hill towards the sea.

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LM decided she didn’t like the noise of the sea so I didn’t want to get any closer, though it was blimmin windy at the top of the hill! I started to set up the wind shield,and the heavens (which had been darkening but I had been ignoring in my task of just getting up the hill) opened. So we ended up huddled behind the windshield, both LM and Monkey crying because they were cold and wet,trying to eat a picnic. Then the rain stopped, a few more trips back down the hill later, more screaming from the kiddies,and I packed them back in the car. Disaster!! Talk about best laid plans!! My feet hurt so much after all the running up and down the stones barefoot (my flip flops made it even worse so had to go with bare feet) and that was by far the low point of the week.

Some of the best bits though were seeing my kiddies having a whale of a time on the playpark on the farm (which had an awesome boat swing that I want to get for our swing at home) and just in running around the cottage garden.

 

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Oh and watching Monkey jumping in muddy puddles on the very wet days!

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Lots of happy times and though hubs was working a lot of the time we also got a lot of time together as a family which has been very lovely. By the end I both didn’t want to leave and get back to normality, but was also looking forward to getting home and our creature comforts, family and friends.

And then the fun began...

Best of Worst

Picturesque

My word of the week this week, is picturesque, as we have been in a very picturesque part of the country. We have been housesitting for a friend in Dorset in a very picturesque little cottage.

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It has been such a lovely week, and we have seen some beautiful places and had lots of fun. It’s a semi-holiday as Hubs has been working from here but we have been able to spend a lot of lovely time together as a family. Plus there is something about being right out in the countryside that can’t help but make you feel at peace…. although the cockerel crowing at 5am every day is slightly less peaceful!

I have never been to this part of the country before and have very much enjoyed exploring it. Back to normal for next week so will write more about what we have been up to on another day. But for now, the internet connection is not great for uploading pictures so here are just 1 or 2 of the gorgeous places we have been.

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Dancing Monkey, age 3

Earlier in the year Monkey and his Auntie Ericha went to see a couple of shows at our local theatre, one being the Northern Ballet’s “The Elves and the Shoemaker.” As he enjoyed it so much, for his 3rd birthday Auntie Ericha bought Monkey vouchers for some dancing classes. At the moment Daddy goes with him and it is safe to say that Monkey loves it. He is forever doing “good toes, naughty toes” (good toes being pointed and naughty toes not) which I remember doing at ballet as a little girl! He is also dancing round the hosue a lot more since starting the classes and I thought I would share an example of his amazing dancing with you.

Shot in portrait on my phone but you get the idea… I love how he does different dances according to the tempo of the music! Watch this space, he’ll soon be on the stage ;)

Do your kids love to dance?

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