Highlights of Christmas 2016

Phew, so, here we are, the day after boxing day and the big day already over for another year. Rather than write a really long post I thought I would write something short and sweet, mainly as a way for me to remember the highs (and a few lows) of Christmas 2016.

Monkey’s excitement about putting things out on Christmas Eve

Reading “Twas the night before Christmas” to both kids on Christmas eve, even if LM wasn’t that interested this year.photogrid_1482844208336

Hearing LM shout ‘wow’ and ‘ho ho ho’ when she saw her stocking on Christmas morning.

Monkey’s excitement at finally getting a new magnet in his stocking (he got one last year but broke it and all he has wanted this year from the big man, was a replacement magnet. Bless him!

Excitement that ‘he’s been!’photogrid_1482844417356
Seeing hubs’ family on Christmas day and watching the kids open all their pressies

Seeing how happy hubs was with his pressies

Opening my pressies :)photogrid_1482844614368

The team effort between hubs and I cooking the dinner meaning all went smoothly and was delicious.photogrid_1482849416336

LM trying out her new balance bike

Being able to sit and relax and read a little of my book ‘Harry Potter and the cursed child’, that I got for Christmas, while lego building was happening and LM was napping.

Hubs and Monkey playing the daft laser gun game I got for them.

My parents and Aunt joining us for Christmas Evening and Monkey handcuffing everyone with the police toys we bought him, saying they were his favourite presents :).photogrid_1482849101599

Playing silly games once the kids had gone to bed (and I actually won for once!)

A relaxed boxing day morning before heading to my brother’s house.

Seeing how lovely my brother’s house is and how much they’ve done since they moved in 2 weeks ago!

The lovely spread they put on.

Watching LM be very gentle with ‘tiny cat’

LM’s excitement at the party balloon that whizzed around the room.photogrid_1482849678598

Playing balloon animals… The fun of this lasted hours! Making ever more complicated animals (when the balloons didn’t pop half way through) and chasing LM with them.

Hearing LM’s giggles as she played with her great Auntie.photogrid_1482850377188

All snuggling up watching the Gruffalo on boxing day afternoon.

Going to bed at 8pm on boxing day to catch up on sleep!

A few lows
(Because obviously no day is perfect with 2 little ones, even Christmas day!)

Being woken up in the night on Christmas eve by a terrified Monkey, who thought he heard someone outside his room (the trouble with telling them someone comes into the house in the middle of the night?) then being unable to get back to sleep myself, even hours after he had.

Getting up at 6am with the kiddies

Feeling hugely stuffed after the Christmas dinner

LM having a major meltdown when we tried to take her out to play on her new balance bike.

LM having a huge meltdown on boxing day too leaving us feeling stressed and like we should take her home, though thankfully it was averted by a bag of skips.

And we’re done for another year? Well sort of. Now it’s time to see a few friends and enjoy some family time while hubs has some time off work.

How was your Christmas? Hope you had a lovely one?

Super simple chocolate fudge recipe

I wasn’t sure what on earth to get for Monkey’s Teacher and Teaching Assistants for Christmas this year. It’s our first foray into presents for teachers and to be honest I didn’t want to spend too much money or time on them, but I still wanted to give them something nice. Having seen lots of seemingly simple recipes around for homemade fudge, I decided to give it ago. I’ve typed it up below as mine are a bit of a variation on some others I saw, and ooh they are scrummy.photogrid_1481736987541

I made two, a white chocolate and cranberry fudge and a minty white chocolate fudge. The first part of the recipe is identical then you add flavours later.

Chocolate Fudge ingredients

397g Tin of Condensed Milk
550g White chocolate, broken into small pieces
40g Icing Sugar (sieved)
For the minty version
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
Handful milk chocolate chips (to sprinkle on top)
For the cranberry version
1/2 cup of dried cranberries

Method

Line a baking tray (deep ones work best) with greaseproof paper.

Melt the chocolate and condensed milk. I did this on the hob in a Pyrex dish over boiling water, but you can do it in a microwave, if you do it in 10-20s bursts. With both methods stir well throughout.

Once melted take off the hob and add the sieved icing sugar. Mix well (you can use an electric mixer).

Add other ingredients of your choosing (peppermint extract, or cranberries, or nuts etc) and again stir well.

Pour the mixture into your lined tray and spread evenly. For the minty version this is where I added chocolate chips and gently pressed them in for the topping.

Refrigerate for 3-4 hours at least.

Take out and cut as desired. Our tray was quite long which meant the fudge wasn’t very deep but I got at least 30 bite sized chunks from each, though it would depend on the size of baking tray you use and how big you cut them up!

So easy and so tasty!

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Feeling Christmassy, 2016

My word of the week this week is Christmassy (I know that’s not really a real word but it’s still going to be my word this week) as there’s only a couple of weeks to go until the big day and things are definitely starting to feel festive around here.

We weren’t planning on having our tree up until this weekend, but with a free afternoon last Sunday and a busy weekend ahead this week, well long story short, we found ourselves in a garden centre buying a tree last weekend. It was a very exciting visit as we also saw the big man himself. If you follow my Instagram you may know that we have a slightly suspicious Monkey when it comes to the big man and he has asked a couple of times “are you sure he is really real?” to which our answer is obviously a wholehearted “yes!” photogrid_1481285716518

He seems to be believing again so this year will be fine but I do wonder how many years we have of him believing to come, as he is such a thinker and things clearly aren’t quite adding up in his head!

When we got home it was time to get the decs out and get the tree up. The kids loved looking at the decorations and finding the santander hats, and Monkey was so helpful with the tree which was adorable! Madam didn’t cause too much mischief with the tree either thank goodness :) photogrid_1481286435436

We’ve also got down the playmobil Christmas scene that Monkey was given as a present last year. Both kids have adored playing with that and there has been some very Christmassy play going on as you would imagine. photogrid_1481286111070

The main event though, that has really made me feel Christmassy is that this morning was Monkey’s school Nativity! He has been singing the songs for weeks and I think I know the whole thing off by heart as well! We weren’t allowed to take pictures of the performance itself though this snap I got at the beginning makes me chuckle. If I stood at the right angle then this was my view, through a sea of heads haha and most of the time it wasn’t even this good. 20161209_123308

He said his line brilliantly though and clearly enjoyed singing all the songs and doing the actions, I properly welled up at one point, soppy mummy but I was so proud of him! We got some pictures of him afterwards looking so happy and so proud of himself.
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Tomorrow I am off to York to meet a friend and hopefully get the last bits of Christmas Shopping done so that should be nice!

Are you feeling Christmassy yet or is it still a bit early for you?

Getting outside in the Winter months

It’s really turned a lot colder here lately and winter is well on the way. My little toddler can be inclined to laziness and would probably be happy sat in front of the telly all day long (I say sat but she rarely actually sits still, she climbs and fidgets and wriggles and goes and potters and comes back again) but she likes the tv on and she likes to be inside. While that is all well and good some of the time, I don’t like that much TV time for her, and it does both of us good to get out and about.

Fresh air is good for her and there is so much to see and explore outside of these four walls… Plus I go a bit stir crazy indoors. A change of scene and some fresh air really refreshes me and makes me a better mummy the rest of the time, so I definitely need to get outside, whether madam likes it or not.

It can be tricky to persuade her though, especially now it is cold and wintry out, and the more she says no the harder it is to motivate myself when it is cold too, but still, it is necessary. So I have a few tricks to tempt madam out the door even on the cold days.

Bubbles

I’m yet to meet a child who doesn’t like bubbles and they are used regularly in our house to get us outside. A wand is my preferred tool as it is easy to get big bubbles, but I will use whatever we have. photogrid_1480488042325

Both kids enjoy a good chase of some bubbles and I must admit I think they are so pretty… I may have 1 or 2 (thousand) pictures of them!

A ball

Simple choice but again it works, both my kids like a good chase of a ball and giving it a good kick about. We have had some lovely sibling moments out with a ball too. (and some less lovely moments in truth, they are siblings after all!)

My bike

Thankfully LM loves a ride on the back of my bike and even seeing her little helmet will get her racing to get her shoes on. We are lucky to live very close to a country park with gorgeous views and lovely play parks. The other day LM didn’t want to get down and play, but she loved seeing the ducks on the lakes, shouting “choo choo” near the train tracks and neighing at a horse in a field, and I got a bit of exercise too.photogrid_1480487652791

Friends

One thing LM is, is sociable, and our girl loves seeing our friends and family. One sure way to get her out the door is the promise of seeing some of those. We have some very good friends who live close by. Their eldest is at school with Monkey and their youngest is a little older than LM. Add the promise of meeting them for a bike ride and well LM is literally running for the door (seriously she did this yesterday, I have never seen her move so fast as when I suggested we get on my bike and go out with them ha). The kids have a lot of fun together and LM adores their Mummy the most of all I think haha.photogrid_1480515042662

Food

I don’t use this too much but there have been a couple of times recently where I have persuaded LM outside with the promise of a treat. Bribery I know but sometimes the end justifies the means and we ended up having a lovely time in the garden, away from the tv, all thanks to half a mini twix bite (I may have eaten the other half haha) !photogrid_1480487761201

Winter can absolutely be a time for snuggling up in the warn with a hot soup of a warm drink… But it’s even more fun to snuggle inside when you’ve had lots of fun outside first. You can see a few more simple ideas for playing outside in the Winter here.

Do you like getting outside in the Winter? What are your top tips for getting the kids outside?

My word of the week, is “outside”

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Me and Mine November 2016

How is it the last day of November? This year is flying and I nearly missed posting this in time. Just crazy. Monkey starting school this year really does seem to have changed the pace of our lives and every week seems to whizz by faster than ever before.

With Monkey being at school all week, weekends are now such important family and relaxing time. We have some really slow paced weekends now, which do us all good and Monkey especially needs after a tiring week at school. Last weekend was one such weekend. I had a horrible bug and Monkey was coming down from a cold too and we basically just pottered about on the Saturday. At one point Monkey hid in our bed then demanded we all got in with him for a family photo. That’s my boy! LM is less keen on sitting still but we did manage to get one good shot :) though I was ill so do look pretty rough!photogrid_148048912965220161126_102258

Sunday we headed to a local farm we are members of for a potter about and a play. Don’t ask me why but when we stopped at the top of the soft play for a cuddle it seemed like the perfect opportunity for a family shot.20161127_112127

So this is us at the end of November. Vaguely healthy but a happy little bunch.

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Discipline and saying No. Sometimes it’s the hardest word

Nope. No. No! No is LM’s favourite word at the moment. She says it all the time. Do you want to get out of the buggy? No. Shall we go outside? No. Anytime she isn’t happy with something, No! It’s such a satisfying and easy little word for her to use to assert her will until her language overall improves. But this isn’t really a post about her saying no, it’s about me saying no. And how hard saying that simple word can be, but how important it is that I do.

Let me start of by saying that in terms of being a ‘perfect’ parent, I know I am nowhere near. I get things wrong, I say the wrong thing. I can be lazy and irritable and I have apologised to my children more than once for being cross with them for no good reason (and I’m sure I will have to do so many more times). But on the whole I think we are doing an OK job of it. We have a very polite and friendly 4 year old who is well behaved at school and who people always compliment. We have a 2 yr old, who lets face it is 2 so kicks off and has tantrums but is also lovely and is learning. I know some of this is luck but some of it isn’t. Some of it is down us and to the hard work we’ve put in.

I hope this doesn’t come off as arrogant as that’s not how I feel but I am proud of us and the way we are raising our kids. And I’m proud of me. I am a SAHM so this is what I do. I can’t get a promotion or a pay rise or be patted on the back by a boss and told ‘well done.’ But I hope I can acknowledge that I have had the strongest role in raising my kids and can take pride in the people they are turning out to be.

I hope I can do that as it is so hard sometimes to stick to my guns. To be the bad guy and tell them not to do things. I don’t do any of it for my benefit you see, I do it for theirs.

We know a family, and this may sound horrible and judgey, but their son’s behaviour is terrible sometimes. He runs over the back of sofas without being told not to. He is rude to old people who pass by, screams when he doesn’t get it own way and doesn’t do as his parents ask. He’s 7. Now don’t get me wrong I’m all for live and let live with parenting and how anyone does it is utterly their choice. Except that getting to know this family a little has made me feel a bit sorry for the child. He doesn’t have many friends at school or outside. I’ve spoken to other parents who don’t want their children playing with him and some children don’t like playing with him because of the way he behaves, and I can’t help feeling that it isn’t really his fault.

Like it or not we live as a small part in a big society and our society has cultural norms. Socially accepted behaviour. Our kids aren’t born knowing this. They don’t automatically know what to do in a given situation and it is our job as their parents to guide them through this. And sometimes this means being the bad guy so that we can be the good guy in the long run.

I don’t get it right every time. I’ve given in when I should have been firmer and I’ve been firmer than was absolutely necessary at times too. Sometimes I say no without thinking it through and then have to be very careful because if I seem to give in to their demands it can set a precedent and give them the wrong message. They have to know that I mean what I say and that no does mean no. So sometimes I have to stick to a no that I regret but I feel I have to stick to it. I try very hard to avoid this happening though as it is no fun for anyone.

Sometimes even when I know I am in the right about something it can be hard sticking to it. Hard to deal with the tantrum when the easy option would be to have let them do what they want. I hate seeing my children upset when I could be the one to fix it and especially when it feel like I’m the one who has caused the upset.

I could have an easier time in the short term but whenever I have made this mistake it only leads to worse tantrums or worst behaviour in the long run. Giving an extra biscuit may make them happy now but then leads to a tantrum at mealtime, refusing to eat their dinner then being tired and grumpy all evening or even the next day. So I may be a bit strict sometimes but my hope is that by giving them boundaries and expecting certain things of them, that it will help our children to be kind and polite, to be children others like and want to play with. To be children who are respectful of others and know the difference between right and wrong.

Maybe I am wrong though. I hope I’m not doing my children a disservice. I certainly don’t want to be too strict and shut down their own personality. I also don’t want them to grow up to be walked over. I want them to be strong but to be good and kind too. I guess all any of us can ever do is hope we are making the right choices for our kids!

I suppose I’m thinking about this a lot for a couple of reasons. 1 being LM reaching an age where she needs me to say no, to give her boundaries. 2 year olds do a lot of experimenting and they need to know what is ok. For example drinking out of my cup is ok, but then deliberately slowly dribbling it all out again is not. Taking a toy that is offered to you is ok, snatching is not. You get the gist.

I think Monkey starting school and socialising with different kids also plays a part though. That and his tiredness from school makes him act up sometimes.. and he has copied some behaviour he has seen other kids do. That’s always a tricky one as how to explain that it’s not OK when he sees other kids to get away with it?

Parenting is a never ending learning experience don’t you find? It’s also tricky to talk about these things as we obviously all have different experiences and think differently about things, so I hope I don’t offend anyone with what I write!

What do you think about saying no?

The Reading Residence

Soft Play in and around Peterborough

With 2 children under 5 I have frequented most of the soft play places around our local area on more than one occasion. Love them or loathe them there’s no denying that kids like them and they can be a lifesaver on rainy days. So I thought I would share a little bit of info about the soft play in our local area to help other mums finding their way in the world of soft play.

The Play Barn at Sacrewell Farm

We love sacrewell farm and the play barn is brilliant. It is cleaner than many a soft play I’ve seen and the kids adore it. There are different areas for different ages and it really is great. The entry cost is high because you get entrance to the farm too. We were given membership as a Christmas present last year and have definitely made the most of it in th play barn alone, let alone visiting the rest of the farm, so it is worth considering if you have little ones.
Food:
There is a kiosk in the soft play that is open at weekends or holidays and a cafƩ in the main farm entrance building. Food is reasonably priced but you can also bring your own food. There are a lot of picnic tables in the play barn and no problem whatsoever having a picnic inside or out.
Parking:
Loads of free parking outside the farm.sacrewell

Big Sky, Orton Longueville

A classic soft play this, a huge building with all sorts inside, big guns that shoot soft balls, a race track, tunnel slides, ball pits and a bouncy castle. They have recently redone the younger kids area which is now fantastic. The rest of the centre could do with some attention though as some of the aforementioned guns don’t work and the carpets are pretty filthy. Fairly expensive and I’m not a fan of having to pay for adults to come in when obviously adults are only there to accompany and supervise children. It’s not like a theme park after all.
Food:
There is a canteen serving some pretty basic but acceptable food and I’ve also never had any problem taking my own food for the kids.
Parking:
A fair bit of parking round the back however I would imagine it would be completely full at half terms and weekends (I’ve only been during term time). It is on the number 1 bus route though.big-sky

Activity World, Fengate

Similar to Big Sky in that is a purpose built soft play. Could definitely do with some attention though as some areas really are filthy. It is fairly pricy and also charges for adults like Big Sky does. They do however give you a discounted reentry if you return after 7 days with your receipt. It is also huge and the kids love it.
Food:
There is a canteen which serves a limited amount of food. You cannot take your own food in and I have a friend who was even charged for tap water for her child.
Parking:
There is a good amount of parking, I’ve never had trouble getting space even during half term though it does get extremely busy.activity-world

The Yard, Stamford

Much smaller than the likes of the above but still a decent sized soft play with a smaller area for babies. Only charges for children which is a plus and is in better condition than Big Sky or Activity World.
Food:
You aren’t allowed to take your own for food in. The food they serve is yummy though and not too expensive.
Parking:
The parking here is limited unfortunately and I have had to park on adjacent streets a few times as there are only a few spaces in the adjacent car park.the-yard

Selina’s tea room at Calmababy, Woodston

20160313_094729Much smaller than any of the above and not soft play in terms of slides or ball pits but this is a very lovely cafe with a large indoor play area attached to Calmababy. There is also an outdoor play area for in the summer but quite a lot to entertain little ones in the playarea indoors while you have some cake and a natter. No entry charge.
Food:
Lovely food and reasonably priced. It’s primarily a cafĆ© so you can’t take your own food in.
Parking:
Quite a lot of parking in the car park, it can get busy at peak times as it is for Calmababy swimming pool too.

Kiddicare

As with the above, a bit of a lose link to soft play. It is a play area in the cafe of Kiddicare. It has a soft floor and loads of toys for little ones to play with while you have a cuppa. Some weekday mornings childminders pay a visit so it can get a bit full. Free to use and not bad when your kids are little but not much good for older kids. Sort of a pre-soft play play area I guess!
Food:
Being free to use and attached to the cafe it is frowned upon to bring your own food and the food there isn’t too bad.
Parking:
Plenty of free parking

Brewers Fayre, Hampton

Slightly odd one but there is a soft play attached to the Brewers Fayre in Hampton. There is a fee to use but it is not very much. It’s a bit dingy and tired but the kids enjoy it and there is an area for little ones as well as older ones. The opening times are linked with the restaurant so are a bit unusual but I believe it opens earlier one morning a week for a coffee morning. Call them for more information.
Food:
It is attached to the restaurant so I think that generally the assumption is that you will have eaten there first or will be eating there. But I have fed the kids snacks at the tables near the soft play without a problem.
Parking:
Shared with the restaurant and Premier Inn so it can get quite full. Don’t park in the McDonald’s opposite as you could be fined if you haven’t bought anything in McDonald’s.brewers-fayre

Wyevale Garden Centre, Crowland

Quite a nice sized soft play that both my kids have always enjoyed. An area for younger ones with big soft bricks to stack, a ball pool and a decent slide. There’s also an outdoor play area and entry to the soft play is not at all expensive
Food:
You can’t take your own food as it is part of the cafe. Some of the food is a bit pricy in my opinion, though if you order early (before 11.30) and can get breakfast beans on toast is quite reasonable.
Parking:
Ample parking at the garden centre.crowland

Van Hage Garden Centre

There is a fairly small soft play area in the garden centre cafe, in a families area that has its own counter. It is small and quite dark but the kids had fun in there. Ok for while you are waiting for food but not great for a long visit I wouldn’t say.
Food:
You can’t take your own food as it is part of the cafe. They serve a few things from the counter in the family area or you can get things from the main cafe too.
Parking:
Loads

So there you have it, a bit of a run down of I think most of the soft play and stay and play cafes in the area. Please let me know if Ā you know of any I have missed, there is one in Whittlesey but I was unable to go in the one time I tried as it was busy and I haven’t gotten round to returning but it is supposed to be pretty good.

All of the above information is correct to the best of my knowledge and based on my most recent visit. I haven’t included entry prices as these are obviously subject to change. This is all based on my own personal experiences and I haven’t received any payment for sharing this post.

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Giving myself a kick up the backside

I’ve been struggling a little lately. It happens from time to time I find, being a Stay at Home Mum isn’t always easy and as our children are constantly growing and changing, nothing stays the same for very long and it is oh so easy to suddenly feel a little lost.

It’s hard to explain exactly how I feel but put simply, the house is a tip. I’m frustrated with LM a lot and the TV is almost constantly on. Now I’ve been criticised before for saying that using the tv to entertain your kids makes me feel like a bad mum as of course it doesn’t make you a bad mum. But the truth is that I haven’t been only using the tv while I clean up or do other important things. I’ve been sticking it on as I don’t know what else to do to make LM happy. Then instead of doing some jobs I sit and play on my phone.

That isn’t what being a SAHM is, not to me anyway. I’m not saying that it isn’t ok to do that occasionally but it’s when the balance tipped and that was happening more and more that I knew I was not OK with it. Continue reading

Aunty Maggie’s Birthday Bash

Last week my lovely aunt celebrated her 70th birthday. I find it hard to believe she is 70 as that sounds old and she isn’t old but anyway. As a big celebration she hosted a party in Buxton in the Peak District. It’s a fair old way away so we broke our journey at Sudbury Hall.

We got to the hotel in Buxton in the late afternoon and settled into our room. The kids loved our big bed and watching TV while sprawled across it. So cute though! Continue reading

Me and Mine October 2016

It’s Me and Mine time again, where I join in with the lovely Lucy at Dear Beautiful with her family photography project. Whereas last month I barely managed to capture a photo of us as a family, this month there are a few shots.

The first shots come from LM’s 2nd Birthday last week. Always a good opportunity to have photos taken of us as a 4. The first is low quality and we are all sleepy as it was taken while opening presents on our bed. Just capturing a happy moment together.Ā  Continue reading