Monday, 1 September 2014

Two Wheels Now

On Saturday, after a friends birthday party, S decided she no longer wanted her stabilisers on her bike. I have no idea why this suddenly occurred to her (no, it wasn't a cycling party) but can only assume it was due to yesterday when we went out with friends and one of her stabilisers bent quite a bit.  Whatever the reason,we removed them and then proceeded to try and help her with how to cycle without them.  You will notice I used the word try.

Nothing we said to her she listened to. We could not hold her seat and help her balance. We could not advise her to put the pedal up and push off. Nope. Nothing.  She was going to do this herself and that was that.  And do you know what?  About an hour of wobbling around trying to put her other foot on the pedal before the bike tipped over and she did it. Yes!  She cycled for 4 revolutions of the pedals.  I was jumping up and down with pride.

Yesterday, she wanted to ride around again.  First we went to the outlaws house (with bikes) and she cycled around their garden. Well, more a straight line with hubby pushing her off as granddad really does need to mow his lawn *grin* No matter, she did it - showing off to us all.

When we got home, she wanted to carry on riding. We took her to a nice pathway near where we live and off she went. She starts herself off, pedals backward a bit to get her leverage and she's away.  No help from us at all.

Today, we had promised she could go riding again so we took her over to Brooklands which has a fabulous place to ride around and the two girls went around the track and big, flat area for an hour - in the rain! No, not even rain was going to stop her.

N is a little speed demon on her bike so they had great fun whizzing around together.  I'm so proud of my little girl and her determination to do it all by herself. For such a shy, quiet person, she has some wicked determination.  Her friends are now all trying it too!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Sorgenfresser Time

No, I'm not talking gibberish.  These are the girls new toys.  Saggo is on the left and Biff on the right (that's the toys names, not what my girls are called).

Sorgenfresser - or Worry Eaters - I am sure will be the new Christmas craze.  These gorgeous characters are from Gerd Hahn's TV series in Germany.  The cute little monsters have zips for mouths so children can write down or draw their worry on a piece of paper, pop it in, zip it up and their own sorgenfresser will eat it for them and take it away.  How cool is that?!

I was keen to give this a go as S (on the right) is quite an anxious little soul and does worry about all sorts - from what's for dinner to what she'll do when she leaves school (and she's only 5)! Anything that may help her is worth a go as sometimes - mostly at bedtimes - it can be very frustrating trying to calm her down when she gets all wound up about what I consider to be something 'silly' but clearly it's not to her.

There are lots of different types of Worry Eaters and sizes range from a bit bigger than the girls are holding here to keyring ones (yes, I've ordered one of those for me even though I'm not worried about anything - well, not much anyway).

Biff
Saggo


N, on the left (top picture, not the one above clearly) doesn't need a Worry Eater but hey, you can't give to one without the other now can you.  I'm sure I'll find her one stuffed with money, sweets and glitter by morning!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

It's good to talk Reg

 Yesterday us girls headed up to see our friend in Cambridge.  Having had a good old natter when we arrived, we decided to head out to the Pig and Abbot for a lovely spot of lunch again.

The landlady here is just wonderful and with the waitress found a table that us two adults and four children to fit around.  The price of her kids meals is amazing for what they get so I would highly recommend them if you are in the area.

The girls played their own version of Jenga and snap before the food arrived.  Once the main was eaten, they had their ice cream (fortunately L and I didn't have to fight over dessert this time) and then for being so well behaved, they chose a sweet each from the landlady's tin :)

Having enjoyed a hearty lunch, we definitely needed to walk it off a bit.  A spot of geocaching seemed the ideal solution :)

Last time we were here we had tried (for about 20 minutes) to find It's Good to Talk - Abington Piggotts but without any success. Today we were going to give it another go.  Yes, you guessed it, we must have been in and out of that phone box for about 15 minutes or more.  At one point we were almost all in there looking.  I wonder what the locals thought of us?  The girls were then all walking around and around the phone box singing "we're going to find it".  Subtle huh?  Anyway, having looked high and low, we decided to try some more unusual angles.  Bingo!  There it was.  I pointed it out to L and she was amazed too.  Little did we realise what the cache container was.  I won't spoil it for you but give it a go if you're passing.  Hooray, a find for today.


We then headed off to Litlington and parked up to do the Litlington Loop - in reverse order.  Our first find was #6.  There were definitely too many stingers here for me and my lot in sandals so we sent in a very sensible L in her trainers and long trousers to make the find.

22 Ashwell Street was next and this proved an ideal find for our littlest cacher who is just 3 1/2.  She was delighted with her find (yes we check it's all 'safe' beforehand for her to do) and it was logged against her own account.  One happy little girl.


#5 was next and I was sure I had spotted it immediately.  I ventured over and no, these were not fakes. Oops!  The other girls had actually spotted the cache so a quick find but how funny to have more than one thing that it could have been at this point.  Signed and away we went.

#4 was quite an easy spot but we disagreed with the hint.  It certainly wasn't one of those. Perhaps the hint needed updating?

#3 saw us searching when some people with dogs walked past us. They looked a bit puzzled before mouthing 'afternoon'.  For once an ivy covered tree didn't phase us and I spotted something so picked up S to make the find herself (all the girls had to find one you see). She was delighted and had it logged against her account too.  It's the little things that make them happy :)


#2 saw L nip into the shrubbery whilst I walked past to see if there was a closer entrance.  While I was looking, she made the find.  The log was getting a bit full up but she signed for us.

Litlington Clunch Pit was next and I picked up a bit of the stone to do the test on later. I hope I have the answers right as I am both useless at chemistry and geology!  Nice to get an Earthcache too though on the loop.


#1 was last of the day.  A quick find again and we pulled the log out to see that other cachers were clearly around as it had been signed by two today.  All done it was back to the cars and away home for us all.  Another lovely day with friends and some nice caching around fields.


Saturday, 16 August 2014

Camping or Glamping? I'm doing nothing without electricity!

We have a tent! I know, it's crazy right as I really don't do 'roughing it'.  We happened to buy it when hubby was off for his eye test.  Yes, before you ask, he had the eye test before we bought it ;-)  We were passing Millets and they had a sale. Well, really, even I can't resist the bargain of a tent reduced from £300 to £140 (and it's not even shoes I got excited about see).

Said tent arrived and we put it up in the garden.  Of course, the girls wanted to sleep in it. I was less keen.  The following day teen and her bestie were here so we decided to have a girls garden sleepover (hubby was working until the wee hours) so we put the littlest ones to bed first and at 10.30pm when we'd finished watching a DVD of The Walking Dead, we woke them up and headed for the garden.

Much giggling ensued and we found out, having settled everyone down, that the girls double airbed I had bought from Argos was going down. The point of an airbed is to keep the air in surely?  I asked the teens to swap with the little ones as I knew the little ones would never get to sleep otherwise (I couldn't as I was on a single airbed from Millets, as we the teens).  They kindly did and laid on a wafer of slightly puffy plastic all night - bless them.

We finally got off to sleep around 1am (ish). I woke about 2am when a cat (I'm guessing) made a heck of a noise jumping onto the bins outside the garden gate.  Made me flippin' jump!  I then woke at 4am (I know that was the time as I looked at my phone) as there were some people talking by our fence. At 4am? Sod off home you weirdos!  Anyway, of course then I needed a wee so had to come into the house.  At 5am the youngest girls started to giggle and chat and that was the end of sleep.  I felt jet-lagged the whole next day.

Before you ask - yes the teens slept through almost all of it and didn't emerge until around 10am when they wanted breakfast ;-)

So, I have now purchased a 'luggable loo' so no more trips out of the tent (although admittedly we're unlikely to need it if we camp in the garden again but that's not likely) and a power switch. Yes, you heard me. Power. For a tent.  Sorted!  Camping - no.  A bit of glamping - yes.  It's a cool switch that plugs into a caravan socket at the camp site and then has 20m of specially insulated lead that goes to a 3 gang socket with surge protectors, trip and amp reading thingy.  Hubby knows.  You'll have to ask him. It cost a lot and weighs almost as much as the tent but hey, safety first!

So, we're ready for camping now.  Shame we weren't when the weather was good and hubby was off work for a bit of holiday but it will all keep until the next half term so I'm hoping, as you can imagine, for a very mild October! Watch this space...

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

I'm the captain!
Wow, hasn't it been a blog-tastic week! Yesterday we travelled down to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard for a day out.  I had obtained a half-price family annual pass through the great deals that Eagle Radio offer for the summer holidays.  What's even better about this ticket, is it allows 2 adults and 3 children to visit - perfect for our family.

We got the train down as Southwest Trains were also offering some fab deals and the youngest two love going on the train. What could be bettter?  A nice hour's journey down and we arrived.

We queued up to change our voucher into a ticket and away we went. HMS Victory being our first stop.  The girls were very excited to see this ship although they did, at first, think it would take them out to sea so wondered why it was held up 'with wood'.  I haven't been on this ship since I was a child and now it seemed even more cramped and the steps even steeper. Can you imagine having to run up and down them and around the ship when it was out to sea...out to sea in rough seas....out to sea in rough seas in battle...you get my drift.  I feel seasick just thinking about it ;-)







Who stole the top of the mast?
 




Having had a good explore of Victory, we decided to get a bit of lunch as we'd arrived around 11.30am here and tummies were rumbling.  We went out of the dockyard to a fish and chip shop and sat at the seafront (well, boat yard where someone started a diesel generator up - ummm..goes well with lunch) and ate our food.  The girls were having fun waving their arms around saying the seagulls were going to eat their fish.  They were wrong - it was daddy who got in their first!

HMS Warrior
Back into the Dockyard we went and on to HMS Warrior.  This trip lasted about 5 minutes before the shout for toilets went up.  Away we went.  Having sorted everyone out, we decided to go into the Museum of the Royal Navy before heading back to Warrior.  We opted for the Naval History side rather than the Nelson side as I have been shown around here before and remembered about the interactive areas and the dressing up part.

Teenagers will sleep anywhere!
J found the interactive screens first. A few didn't seem to work (mainly ones with the big, push buttons) but the tablet sized ones were great. She was choosing a crew and supplies for a trip. She had fun picking alcohol only to take and seeing her crew were all drunk so didn't go into battle, or water and juices only finding they mutinied.  I had a go too - naturally I won the battle. The two youngest then had a go as well and enjoyed pressing the buttons.

The youngest two were fascinated with the swords, lances and canons.  They spent the rest of the time there trying to kill each other and everyone else that came along saying "BOOM!  Canonball. You're dead" or "Argh...I've spiked you. You have a to die now" pretending they had a lance or sword...*cough* oops.

The fancy dress part came next and they were straight in.  A lovely lady from the museum came up to tell us more about each piece they were putting on and helping them get dressed (I'm sure hubby and J were now having a go at pretending to shoot everyone as they were nowhere to be seen).  The girls loved putting the clothes on and when hubby and J arrived a few minutes later, we got a photo of us all. Hubby went for the captain's hat but as I said to him "there's only one captain of this family - and it's me!" ;-)  Great photo the lady took for us.






The girls then spent about another 20 minutes trying on different outfits.  They absolutely loved this area and I think could have stayed all day.

We headed off finally back to HMS Warrior to finish up the tour.





A barrel of monkeys
 



Amazing to see the pistons going round at the bottom.  So smooth.

video

As we arrived, we'd seen a wedding party heading off the ship and the staff were now preparing it for the reception.  What a lovely idea.

Having had a good look around, we headed back to the station and hopped on a train back home.


The girls have had a super day out and so have we. If you can get to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, I recommend you do. It's worth it.

Next time we'll be off to Explosion and the Submarine museum but the queue and timings for the boat weren't quite right for us today.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Camden Town Market (and being ripped off at the Darkside shop!)

Teen and I hopped on the train and headed to Camden.  I have to say I love my student railcard as two travelcards cost us just over £24.  That's good value!

Arriving at Camden this time, we aimed straight for the Stables Market which we entirely overlooked last time!  Wow!  This place is huge.  Absolutely adored all the wonderful horse sculptures everywhere.  Had a good look around and J got the cutest little necklace that is actually a mini pocket watch style.  What a neat idea.  There was a huge variety of styles of them but she settled for one with little wings.  She said it looked like The Golden Snitch from Harry Potter films.

Found a lovely lady selling some steampunk gear and had a good chat to her.  I'm going to need a fortune for this trend.


Having had a good look around, stopped for lunch at our favourite Chinese place at Camden Lock and ate our dishes of rice, bang bang chicken and sweet & sour chicken. Very filling. Lovely sitting on those half Vespa bikes. What a good use for old stuff like that.  Refreshed, we walked around that part of the market.


Next we headed off and picked J up a lovely H&R dress.  She looks amazing in it.  I decided to buy one two but in a different style. Having tried a couple on (quite a challenge over clothes you're already wearing) I found one that was perfect.  The stall holder wanted £85 for them both, giving me a 'saving' of £10. I said £80. He said £85 minimum...you get the drift.  Anyway, we settled on the two dresses we liked, he bagged them up and I handed him £80 and said, there you go, £80 as agreed. He looked bemused. We said goodbye and walked off.  Smug face (but only for a while - I'll tell you at the end).


Then off into a shoe shop as J wanted some school shoes but a DM style. She spotted a pair she really liked and tried them on. They looked great and she said they were really comfortable. I was surprised at the price - just £30. Turns out they are vegan shoes!  I asked about leather ones and was told they had 'proper' DMs but they were almost £100.  Hey, vegan is great ;-)

Darkside Camden - come on in (and be ripped off big time!)
We then headed off to try and find a band merchandise place we'd seen last time we were there. Having walked up and down the street twice, we just couldn't spot it.  I then decided to head into Darkside to gawp at the amazing boots they have and have a look at their steampunk and Hell Bunny clothing. I spotted a cloak I'd have loved (but where would I wear it?), a 'Victorian' style outfit (hubby would have killed me at over £200 for a skirt and top) and a boddice for £90.  We then went downstairs to see some more dresses.  I tried on a Hell Bunny hell bunny one (yes, the rabbit on the dress had demonic eyes) and then a Spin Doctor - Hell Bunny's darker side - one with 3 straps at the waist and a kind of occult type pattern.  Very funky. I fell in love with the Spin Doctor one and with it costing £69.99, just £10 more than the HB one, I decided to go for it.  Yippee!  Two dresses for me.  We then headed back to the market to pick up a band t-shirt for J and I got a t-shirt with skulls on too (J liked it - it says 'forever young' which made me smile as she said I am) :)

Having now shopped for over 3 hours, we decided to head home as there was nothing else we wanted.  Nice train ride back and home late afternoon.  Hubby loved my dresses and J looked amazing in hers (without her other clothes underneath).

This is where it all goes wrong....

I decided to see what sort of bargains we had got today.  It turns out none.  Yes, you heard me, NONE!  It seems Camden Town Market and shops are now the biggest rip-off going.  Why?  Let me explain.

Firstly, Darkside.  A store selling Spin Doctor and Hell Bunny outfits to name but a few.  My dress £69.99.  I have found the same dress - THE SAME - on 5 other websites. Guess how much?  An unbelievably, ripped-off, sick feeling £49.99.  That's £20 CHEAPER than Darkside.  WTF?  I sent a stinking email and Tweet to them.  How could they possibly justify such a price hike?  Had their pricing been incorrect?  Hey, I'd like a refund of that 'extra' £20 you appear to have skimmed off me.  Their response?  Nothing. Nada. Zip. F*** all.  My advice - NEVER, EVER, EVER buy from DARKSIDE CAMDEN! Go in, try it on, then go home and order it online for far less money  (from Kate's Clothing, Violent Delights, The Gothic Shop or even Amazon!).  Use them as a glorified changing room.  I'm utterly disgusted.  Serious lesson learned.

Oh, it gets worse still. The two Hearts & Roses (H&R) dresses I bartered the market trader down to £80 for?  Yep, you guessed it.  J's is £25 through Amazon (£15 less) and mine is £35 on Amazon (£5 less). So in all, going to Camden *COST* us £40 more for the clothes we bought.


Now, all that said, we had a lovely girlie day out together which you just don't get online shopping.  But I'll tell you something for nothing, if'/when we next go, I'll be looking at Amazon's website, and places like Kate's Clothing, etc as I'm in the shop or at the stall, and will pay not a penny more than they are asking or we'll try it on, test it for fit, and buy it at home where we're not treated like mugs!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

West Wittering Beach

Yesterday we decided to head to the beach before the weather folded for the rest of the week (if the forecasts are to be believed).  Having had a quick look at the map, we opted for West Wittering Beach as it sounded perfect and not too far to go.

We packed up the car with some snacks, drinks and swimwear and headed off, arriving at West Wittering at 10.30am.  As you arrive, you go to a 'toll booth' type affair with a ticket machine attached to it. The cost per day is £6.50 (which we knew in advance as their website tells you this).  In went my £10 note and out popped the change - a £1 coin fell on the floor. Oh no, barriers open, money on the ground and hardly any space to open the door of the car.  A bit of twisting and bending and I had the coin in hand.  Away we went to park.  The car park was pretty much empty bar around a dozen vehicles so I chose a nice bit of green right at the edge of the road (well, if it does get busy I can get straight out).  Car and family unpacked and off we went.


We started out sitting by the sand dune area just down from the lifeguard tower on this lovely Blue Flag beach.  It said no dogs allowed which is ideal for us.  Hubby and the 3 girls headed off to investigate how cold the water would be so I sat with our stuff and began to relax.  Unfortunately for me, with nearly the whole beach free, Mrs "I will say f**k every other word" and her family arrived. Despite the husband repeatedly saying "please don't keep swearing" she carried on.  The thought of sitting next to this horror for the rest of the day filled me with dread, so I picked up our stuff and carried it all down onto the beach itself and set us up about midway between the water and the dunes.  Ah...peace again.


Back came the gang from the water and sat down. The youngest two girls delighted in rolling in the sand all wet and then proceeded to commando crawl around us.  S then says "my hands are all sandy" - surely not! ;-)  Much sand castle building began before about 10 minutes later they wanted to go back into the sea.  It was cloudy but warm so that was fine. A good breeze blowing across makes the heat feel less strong.


Teen decided to listen to music at our 'camp' and I headed off and took some nice pics of the girls splashing around in the sea. That wobbly pattern the waves makes was harder than you imagined as you walked across and hurt my instep.  Girls having a great time in the water and hubby had rolled his shorts up too.


Back I went to sit with J.  The beach was filling up and all you could hear was the tap-tap-tapping of people putting up wind breaks.  Blimey, almost every family had a tent or standard wind-break with them and a rubber mallet so I don't think during the day there was one point there wasn't a mallet bashing wood somewhere around us. Not a peaceful place then.  Not to worry, we had our own noise making machines and they were back making more sandcastles now.  Lots of kiddies running around having fun which was great to see. Children so love the sand.


Facilities at the beach are good. Toilets and showers at both ends and in the middle.  Beach huts (presumably rented to locals - although none were open).  A small shop selling usual beach stuff - buckets and spades, windbreaks, umbrellas, mini surf-boards, sun lotion, etc - and an ice cream section.  By midday, the car park was full and it seems the overflow car park had been opened.  Kites were flying and BBQs lit.  I have to say I was impressed as there was no litter on the beach or in the car parking area.  There are large bins everywhere so there's no excuse really but you know how people are sometimes regardless. Here it seems everyone was happy to bin it.


Spotted someone walking a dog at the waters edge in the 'no dogs' part but they certainly weren't being a nuisance - only guilty of being illiterate.  Apparently dogs and their scooping companions are permitted on a stretch of beach to the East.

Kite-surfers and jet-skis are given separate areas to use allowing the swimming area to remain as that.  The tide does go out a long way so lots of sandbanks and little water inlets for the children to explore.

After eating our lunchtime sand-wiches, sand-apples, sand-crisps and sand-muffins (yes, it really does get everywhere) and an ice-cream, by 2.30pm it had started to get a bit chilly so we packed up and headed off the beach to the showers to de-sand the girls before off to fly the kite for a while before going home.


One thing I did notice about this beach is that if you wanted to leave, say for lunch at a local pub - you would have to pay all over again - the full amount - to get back in. There was no tickets produced by the machines and no way you could prove you had paid.  I doubt many people leave but some may want to so that is something I think the estates people could consider.

All in all, a lovely time and would visit again.

P.S. I've ordered a tent windbreak (ah the joys of Internet on the beach) and we've got a rubber mallet ;-)