Thursday, 27 December 2012

The Head Gardener and Robin

We have had a lovely day today.  We went into town first thing to spend the Christmas money that was burning a hole in J's pocket, then headed over to RHS Wisley.

For the next few weeks at Wisley is the Enchanted Story Trail so we thought we'd find out a bit about it. It was also a great excuse to try out the girls all-in-one waterproof suits that the grandparents had bought them for Christmas (geocaching in every weather is a real option now).  Snuggled into them and wellies on, away we went.

It was very quiet at Wisley but I suspect the cold and rain had kept a few people away but as we got there, the rain stopped and we had a very enjoyable walk around.  

Picking up a map of the story route, we initially thought there was some work going on by the fountain.  

The scaffolding looked more like you'd expect to see in China than in the UK but then it clicked - this was part of the story trail.  We got to the 'entrance' at just the right time for the next performance and it was just us there.  
Meet the Head Gardener
The 'head gardener' came out and introduced himself. Normally you don't see him as he is invisible but this is a special time of year.  N was a little unsure at first and said "We go home now mummy" but she soon settled down.

In we went to this undercover area and the girls had a lovely time helping him find a seasonal clock and working out with him why the flowers weren't there any more.  Sophie enjoyed telling him that they were asleep as it was Winter and would be out in Summer again.  

The girls helped him dig for bulbs. S had a trowel (nol not the thing you dry yourself on after a bath Mr Gardener) and N, J and I had rubber gloves to use. N wouldn't give hers back afterwards so we have a rather odd souvenir of our visit.

Once we had finished there, we headed off to the next area which was in the Glasshouse. Unfortunately it was a 45 minute wait until the next performance so we had a walk around instead.  The girls wanted to get outside again and jump in puddles so we decided to wander back towards the entrance and come back another day to do the rest.

Spot the Robin (on the 3rd sign from the right)
As we were walking along, I mentioned to J that we were by the area where the friendly Robin was last time we were here in the snow and who should appear?  Yes, that's definitely his territory!  He flew right up to the handle of the pushchair then off again into the bushes.  He flew down right by the girls feet much to their delight and they gave him some of their puffs to eat and some apple which he seemed to enjoy.  How lovely to see such a friendly little fella.

Me and my shadow
More splashing as we headed back to the car.  The girls had a great walk, run and splash.

Sulking as she doesn't want to go home
We arrived home to find that N was dry as a bone whereas S had very wet feet. I suspect this was more to do with the wellies than the suit so I think I'd best nip out and buy her some new ones (not that I could spot any holes).

Saturday, 22 December 2012

High heels, dinner, toilet hunting and lights

It was a busy day in this household yesterday. It started with me going to our local Sainsburys and picking up some clothes for S and N.  They both had money given to them for their birthdays and Christmas and they needed (and love) clothes so I went and bought some pretty tops and trousers.  Two delighted little girls when I got home.

Then the teen and I headed off into our local town centre to do some Christmas shopping.

Being a person who does not mind walking (remember all the geocaching?) I am happy to park for free and walk 20 minutes into town. I'm not one of these idiots people who need to park on the doorstep of a shop by their sliding doors.  So, off we both trotted.  

We had a few plans of where we wanted to go and so started by heading into Debenhams.  Fortunately they have a sale on already (yippee) and I needed some clothes from hubby for Christmas (well, it's easier to buy it yourself isn't it) so I picked up a number of items to try on.  

We got to the boots and shoes section and I noticed that they all had 30% off.  I need some ankle boots.  Unfortunately there was only one pair in my size but I tried them anyway.  They were quite lose. Odd.  I tried on a size smaller which were too tight.  Typical.  I then decided to try some varying heels and styles in sizes up and down from mine, finally settling on a lovely pair with a couple of inch heel (I'll rue the day I bought them when I first walk in them - I'm used to flats now) which were a size bigger but a very comfortable fit.  Yay me.

While I was looking around teen had spotted some gorgeous 3 inch (don't forget the 1/2 inch platform too though) black shoes with a little bow on the front. Telling me that her dad had agreed to a pair very similar to this before (somehow I doubt that), she tried them on and loved them.  Fell in love is more accurate.  Anyway, she went and checked the price to find they also had 30% off.  A quick negotiation about no pocket money next month and me putting a bit to them and they were hers.  Yay her.

"Dad said I could have something like these before Mum"
A try on of the clothes I had weeded out the things that looked far better on a hanger than me and we were at the till.  Oddly, my card was declined. What? I know I have enough money in my account - I only put it in there this morning for this very trip.  Assistant was not phased and said sometimes if they didn't press the button quickly enough for the amount to go from the till to the little machine (or some such thing), it did this.  She pressed the button again and everything went through. Phew.  I knew we would not have gotten out of the shop without tears (probably mine) if we hadn't managed to buy everything.

We then went into H&M to have a nose around as I had a 20% off voucher for teen. Nothing she wanted there at the moment so we'll look again after Christmas.

Back to Next where I found a little denim skirt and jeans for S which I wanted to get.  It was the only one for her age group that didn't try and make her look like some demented child beauty pageant reject.  Why would anyone want a denim skirt full of holes and looking like it's been beaten on a stone in a running stream for 3 weeks?  Come on, they are little girls and pretty is the order of the day.  Happy with my finds, I went to the till. Card declined. Oh come on this is getting tedious. Please try again.  Card declined. I phoned my bank while at the till. It turns out that Debenhams had made an error and had 3 transactions (what?) processing - all for the same amount within seconds of each other.  With my huge Sainsburys shop that had also just gone out, those extra transactions had left me precisely £7 in my account. I asked if they could cancel the two, clearly erroneous ones but until one had cleared (the proper one), they could not. They suggested I go back to Debenhams and see if they can clear it from their system.  Back we trottted. Of course they couldn't, I'd have to wait.  Shopping trip prematurely over :(

Home we came and I called the bank again who had seen the proper transaction clear and now cancelled the others.  A sit down and refresh while hubby went and bought a few bits for his parents having been terrorised by S and N for nearly 3 hours ;-)

Guildford High Street Clock
In the afternoon we headed off to another local town to eat and see the lights.  Now, we don't tend to go out for food very often.  This is not due to us being unduly tight (although we can be) but mostly as hubby is working so much.  However, he's now on holiday until Boxing Day so we decided to see some Christmas lights and treat the family to dinner out.

Again, we parked up away from the town in some free parking area. Teen was wearing her new heels - hope she could cope with the walk!  I was a little unsure about the area we were parked in and time limits (they aren't all written on boards and posts around the area except for some streets) so I decided in the spirit of not getting a ticket/clamped, I would move the car to an area I knew was 4 hour limited.  The rest of the family headed off slowly into the town and I moved the car, catching up with them just up the road (me in flat boots is faster than teen in new stilettos).

We got to TGI Friday's and sat down to eat. The plan was to have food, wait for it to get dark and then see the Christmas lights in Guildford. We had thought about going to London then decided the girls wouldn't know much difference with the lights, the train would cost a fortune and the food would be busy so we opted for local.  We had a lovely meal and I have to say their peppercorn sauce was the best I have ever tasted.  N loved the Jack Daniels dip (oops!) and kept putting her chips into it when daddy wasn't looking.  She'll sleep well.  

Desserts eaten, balloons given and off we went to see the lights.  Not quite as exciting as I had hoped but still pretty and the girls were enjoying being out in the dark and the Christmas music playing in the shops.  

Naturally as we went into Gap Kids, S wanted the toilet, despite us asking and checking about 3 times before we left TGI.  No toilet for them to use there.  Hubby ran over to Boots with her and no, sorry they had none. Spotted a coffee shop and went in. Disgusting toilet and no toilet paper but at least that was sorted. Wouldn't want a coffee in there *shudder* (no, I don't mean the toilet, the actual shop if that's the level of cleanliness).

Into M&S we went and I found an equally nice denim skirt and jeans for S and a new warm coat for N which I bought.  Poor hubby had been trying to look at jumpers for Christmas with the youngest two when teen and I had wandered off to find things for S and, typically, they had wanted to follow mummy so he got a bit forgotten about. He's off to get some clothes he needs tomorrow for me to wrap ;-)

Back up the High Street and at the top teen swapped her heels for her flat boots. She did really well for a first time wear and even managed the odd cobble!

Back home we came with two very tired little girls who didn't hesitate to go to bed and were both straight to sleep.  What a cracking day

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Wet tights and an inverted 'V'

We have been going a little stir-crazy in this house with all our coughs, colds and illnesses so today we wrapped up and decided to go and grab a couple of local geocaches to give us a walk and some fresh air.

We drove up to St Johns and parked (none of us felt like walking up there as we were all coughing too much still).  Off we went to find the clue to the puzzle for Canal Crossings - Kiln Bridge.  The numbers were found and we worked out the coordinates and popped a waypoint in.  I then had a totally daft moment and navigated us back to almost the clue, just across the path from where we were standing, to a tree which hubby had a look around.  Realising my mistake, I opened the map a little more and off we went to the correct area.

Typically, as we were coming up to GZ there was a fisherman (why are they out in this weather?) but fortunately for us, we veered off onto a path through some trees and it was a quick find.  The pile of sticks is always a bit of a a giveaway ;-)

Next we went off to try and find St Johns Lye 01 which had eluded us earlier this summer.  Walking across the field I expected us to sink any moment. The grass was absolutely sodden.  We walked to the path as quickly as we could but had some more grass to walk the other side that was equally wet but much longer.  S said she could feel water going into her wellies so we knew we had to be reasonably quick.  Cold feet in this weather after a cough wasn't going to be good.

It was much easier near GZ at this time of year as we weren't up to our waists in nettles and brambles. In fact, the ground leading to the cache was almost flattened out which certainly helped.  It looks like lots of people have been here as there was almost a little path in the grass towards the fence.  

Naturally the GPS gave up and the compass was all over the place under the tree coverage.  We all plodded along the fence to another clearing when the compass suddenly turned around and pointed back the way we had just come. Hard to judge when it said 36m with 32m accuracy!  Well, we had a clue and looked around based upon that.  There were a few of the inverted V's to be seen and hubby and S explored them.  No joy.

I found a picture of some other cachers with the prize. Ah, now I know what we're looking for but a green bullet container by a green fence in among green holly was not going to be easy, even without the nettles to contend with.  

As we did our second sweep, hubby spotted something and the clue suddenly made sense.  A nice find and a good hide.  The log was very damp but still fine to sign so I did that and then took a photo of S with the cache as you can see.

Back we went down another road we had not walked before and headed back to the car.  It was really nice to get out but we're happy now to be back in the warm. The girls tight had got very wet so they now have lovely thick, Christmas socks on and are enjoying a picnic on a blanket in the lounge :)

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Croup and vomiting - not a good week

Unfortunately our household has been hit by illness again.  The youngest two are both suffering.  S has missed her last day of nursery and her final swimming lesson.  N just isn't well - simple as that.

N has been croaking like a little frog for some time now.  We all had coughs and colds what seems like years ago now but they never completely cleared up although we weren't unwell.  However, over the past few days, N's voice got worse. It was almost demonic at times. Quite scary.  Tuesday night was not a good one. Poor little N was coughing uncontrollably and I had to bring her downstairs a few times as it sounded like she was struggling to get her breath a bit.  As soon as she was upright, she had a few more coughs and fell asleep.  As soon as she was laying down, it started again. You get the drift.  She finally did manage to go to sleep with a second pillow under her head but she kept slipping off it.  What with the coughing and constant checking to prop her up again, it wasn't the best nights sleep.

At 5am S woke up and all we could hear was the familiar sound - she was being sick. Oh no!  Hubby scooped her up and rushed to the bathroom with her but it was too late. I stripped her bed but unfortunately the duvet and pillow themselves also needed washing so I borrowed one of J's pillows and put a sleeping bag on the bed for S.  She finally got back to sleep with the bucket beside her.

My poor girls.

We suspected S may have Norovirus as that is (pardon the pun) going through the population again this Winter.

As for N, we weren't sure as at one point it almost sounded like she was starting Whooping Cough!  Hubby took her to the doctor while I looked after S.  It turned out she has Croup.  Not a very nice infection of her voice box and throat.  The doctor said if she gets worse we may need to take her to A&E as they can struggle with their breathing. He gave hubby a prescription for antibiotics but said not to get it unless it doesn't start to ease in a day or two. The trouble is there is a viral and antibacterial version so it's not easy to treat.  He suggested we run a shower in the bathroom, nice and hot, and sit in there with her for a while to try and ease the congestion.  It's all in her throat area (he checked her chest and temperature) so that may help.  We did that on Wednesday night and it certainly did help her. She slept all the way through last night.

S is feeling better as well. I think now it was just a little tummy bug.  As we all came down with the Norovirus earlier this year, we know what that is like and I'm pleased to say it isn't that.  She is better today but still coughing as well.

Isn't it rotten when children are ill.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Santa and Joseph

Quick, my bottom is getting cold!
Today has been magical.

It started with a visit to Chessington Garden Centre to Santa's Grotto.

The girls didn't know where we were going and, oddly, were excited when I said we were just going to look around a new garden centre. Maybe I'm taking them too Wisley too much and they are now over-excited about plants and flowers. Hey, that's not a bad thing surely.

We had set off early as the traffic on the M25 can often be so bad, so we had a little time to kill first.  We went and looked around at the lovely Christmas decorations and the sparkling trees that were in the garden centre.  N kept bending down and kissing the little soft snowmen on their noses.  I was sorely tempted to buy one for them as they were just so cute.

We then wandered over to the aquatic and reptile area.  S was amazed to see tortoises and lizards.  N was simplyl fascinated with the Koi.  They were huge and around £200 each. I'm not surprised people with those in their gardens don't want to see any herons around.

Can I have it with chips?
Ten minutes to go and we headed to Santa's Grotto.  S realised what was happening and got very excited.  We had a little film to watch first and it seems my timing was spot on as the Elf who took my ticket said we had just made it before a school party were arriving (we heard them as we went around - it would have been hard not to!).  Well done mummy.

After the film, we had a walk around the grotto area looking at all sorts of magical characters from Alice in Wonderland, Toad of Toad Hall and elves working in Santa's workshop.  There were even ice-skating penguins.

At the end we went in to see Santa.  That was just magic!  Santa picked the girls up and plonked them both on his knee.  I think their faces say everything.

Meeting the 'real' Santa
Santa had a lovely chat to them and told them to be good and make sure they were asleep before he arrived on Christmas Eve as he can't leave presents when they are awake.  He also said they were both in his good book and so was I.  Daddy, however, needed some improvement!   The girls were given some super gifts and we left to drive home, where they opened their presents and were delighted.

In the afternoon we went off to see S in her school nursery Nativity.  All the girls were dressed up and looked amazing.  The youngest girls (Chicks) did some lovely songs and poems about Christmas and the older ones (Ducklings) who are S's group did the traditional Nativity story.  S was Joseph.  That is one of the cutest things about being in a girls' school.

My little Joseph
The whole thing lasted about 15 minutes and was simply magical.  The outlaws (grandparents to you) had come too and my mother-in-law was in tears at the end.  Proud grandma.  I have to confess to having watery eyes when the children all filed into the hall.

The nursery girls
Considering they are 3 and 4 years old only, they did an amazing job. They were all involved and all had their own things to do and they behaved impeccably.

Today has really been the most super-duper day!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Wisley with just a dusting of snow

Me and the girls at Wisley
I was surprised to look out of the window this morning and see a dusting of snow on the cars and rooftops.  The girls loved it!  It is always so exciting when children see snow.

After I collected S from nursery, we decided to head over to RHS Wisley. We had promised the girls yesterday that we would go today and we stuck to it.  A crisp walk would be great fun.

I was surprised to see the car park so quiet as Wisley is one of those places that people love to see no matter what the weather.  Perhaps the cold had put a few off.  We found a nice spot, parked up and headed in.

A few paths were shut off as it seems they are very busy getting rid of branches and having a tidy up.

I wasn't surprised to see the large grassed areas cordoned off as you can imagine what a mud bath that would become in winter if everyone walked across.

Quite a lot of paths were still covered with a dusting of the white stuff and, of course, the girls wanted to walk down those ones.  N managed to fall over 3 times as we went around. I think the combination of snow, wellies and running wasn't the best.

We went into the glasshouse and they were setting up a display of Poinsettas with a Christmas tree made out of them as a centre piece.  It looked lovely already so I can only imagine what it will be like when it is all completed.
Poinsetta Christmas Tree

N loved the pink passion flower. We have a white one in our garden that has produced so many fruit this year but this colour is beautiful.

Pink Passion Flower
We had a walk around in the glasshouse (what a super place to warm up a bit in the cold weather!) and then headed off out the back door towards the wild gardens and the children's play area.

Sun in cloud
Despite being to Wisley so many times now, we still had not managed to get to the play area and I was pleasantly surprised by what awaited us.

Welcome to the Playground
I am not sure why, but I never expected Wisley to have swings and a slide but what greeted us was magical. The carvings made out of the wood were amazing and the girls loved them.

I bet that's a tough snail to get off your lettuce
They were all around and the detail was lovely.  The girls were running from one to another looking at them and shouting for us to come see.

They had a look at the den building area.  This basically consists of large pole frameworks which children can then place other lengths of wood, branches and sticks around to make a den.  I could imagine this being a lot of fun (and very busy) in the summer.  The girls went in to explore.

We then headed over to the rest of the play area for them to have a look around and have a climb on some of the rope shapes, stepping stones and bridges.  There is even a little area with lots of fixed binoculars so that they can look around the gardens but they were all a bit steamed up (no surprise there).

Once they had finished exploring, we decided to head back to the cafe to warm up again as the sun was already starting to dip in the sky and it tends to get quite chilly all of a sudden when that happens.  They had to go and look at the sculpture of the Hare though.

We just stopped N from disappearing under the little fence that was around it or it would now be a pile of sticks on the ground!

Back we went past the glasshouse again. How the colours have changed at this time of year.

Winter glasshouse
As we walked back along every path that was covered in snow, we spotted a little Robin watching us.  We walked right up to him and instead of flying away, he hopped off his branch down by our feet. The girls jumped back at bit at first as even our friendly garden Robin never comes this close.  I'm sure he is well known to the gardeners here as he was a very brave and cheeky little fellow who came right up to the girls and was about 6 inches away from me when I crouched down to take this photo.

He stayed with us just hopping around near our feet for ages, much to the girls' delight.  I only wish we had a few crumbs to feed him. He even hopped off to hubby when he stretched his arm out towards him.

Can you spot the Robin?
Back when went to the cafe by the shop but they didn't have any Ribena (which naturally the girls wanted) so  we just headed back to the car where I had some ready in my bag.  Mummy always knows you know ;-)

We are looking forward to coming back again soon as Wisley starts its 'Enchanted Story Trail' before Christmas and we are certainly going to have a wander around and see what we can find.

Monday, 3 December 2012

The tree has arrived

Two very excited girls jumped around on the sofa when the Christmas tree arrived on Friday afternoon.  We were going to wait until Saturday to decorate it as J wanted to join in this year too.

Saturday morning arrived and S didn't want to go to ballet (I wonder why?) and so we set about decorating the tree, Christmas music playing of course.

It was lovely to see how much N joined in this year and how much she enjoyed it.  Although maybe she hadn't quite got the idea of how to put baubles on.

We had bought new baubles this year in purple and gold as I fancied a change of colour scheme.  We have had the other scheme for almost 10 years so I think that is fair enough (I'm not one of these people who has a new theme every year you know).

Tree done and we just needed chocolates to go on it.  Fortunately Cadbury are very kind and made the parcels in purple and the caramel bells in gold so they fitted perfectly with the tree.  Not sure how long they will last though.

We are all really looking forward to Christmas this year. Isn't it just the best when you have little ones around.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

5 caches and 2 FTFs - a good day

Not a yummy sandwich
Dragged J out kicking and screaming today.  OK, not quite kicking and screaming but she wasn't brimming with enthusiasm to start with. I needed some fresh air as I've been a bit housebound this week with the girls and it's nice to get out with her and do some caches quickly and near roads and places it's not quite as good to take the little ones.

We parked up easily and walked off to In a Massive Sandwich. I had guessed what it was likely to be as we approached and J made the find.  Not exactly an easy place to be inconspicuous! One down.

We walked up the road towards the next cache, Special Branch.  Now this bottom part of the road is two-way but when you get to the public footpath and farm, it becomes one-way but judging by the speed of the cars travelling up here, they all assume they aren't going to meet anyone coming the other way. I'm rather surprised not to see little piles of glass and metal at the roadside.  We were safe and ducked down the footpath towards GZ.  GPS playing up a little bit due to tree coverage but as we walked under a tree that had fallen across the path, J spotted something but we carried on for a moment as the GPS was taking us past.  It adjusted itself and J went in for the find.  Good spot and the very thing she had noticed.  We were about to carry on up the footpath when I did a refresh of the map and a new cache had appeared - Hooked!  J said "I want a FTF" so off we went.

This really was taking out life into our hands in the name of tupperware as we had to go up the one-way part proper now and there was no footpath.  Instead of racing up the road like headless chickens, we really should have headed back to the car and driven up but we were on a mission.  I've got a cough and cold but still I was being marched up the hill by J, as we clambered up the bank a few times to let speeding cars through (at least they were only coming from behind us!).

Two FTFs in this ring of trees (image Google Earth)
At the top we went past the turning we needed so had to double back.  Blasted GPS.  As we approached, we spotted the pond and had some ideas.  Compass was bouncing between two suspects so we took one each.  As we were rummaging around, a lady approached us (where did she come from?) and asked what we were doing. We were cornered so I had no choice but to explain.  She commented that it was interesting but don't people need permission for that kind of thing?  I said they did when it was on private land and cache owners were generally very good about asking.  She pointed out that even public footpaths went through land owned by someone.  It was then that she said she owned the pond and wanted to know what had been put there.  I explained some more and offered that if we found the cache we would show her if she was happy for us to do so (I didn't want to be trespassing!). She said that would be good and went a little way down the road to clear leaves.  I suddenly spotted something and the cache was in hand. Brilliant!  I called to the lady and she came to have a look and asked me what now happened to it and how long would it be there, etc. I was feeling very awkward and said perhaps it would be wise of me to contact the cache owner and ask him to get in touch with her. She provided me with her phone numbers and name and said she would have a chat to him as it could be that the cache may not be able to stay there (I won't say why as it would give too much away). [It turns out the CO spoke to her and all is well, it can stay]

We signed the log - a FTF for us both, although J said "I haven't actually found it properly myself though" but hey, she was searching with me.  She was so excited about this first though that she stuffed the log back into its container without the protective plastic bag. Oh no.  We both tried for a good 20 minutes to get it out again but I had swapped handbags and had no helpful implements with me :(  We had to give up in the end and just let the CO know - with her sincere apologies.

Back we went down the dodgy road scrambling up the bank again for passing cars and back to our car and home for some lunch.

However, I could not log this last cache as it kept giving me a message saying "The listing has been locked and is not accepting new log entries."  

I decided to check what this could mean so I asked on the Facebook geocaching group and it seems that either Groundspeak or the Publisher may have locked it. I wonder why?  I emailed the cache owner to mention this and also tell him about the conversation I had with the lady and pass on her details. I hope he's not in trouble as he's a very nice chap and has placed lots of caches around us. [All resolved in the end and successfully logged - still no idea why it did this though]

We had some lunch then realised another cache by our friendly cache owner that had appeared seemed to still be unfound so off we went again.  A short walk down by the golf course and we had Really Branching Out in hand. A 'true' FTF for J this time and she was delighted.  A fox was running backwards and forwards across the path around us which was interesting to see.

Can you spot the fox?
We had a walk down to KBR 18 Revival that we needed to collect and then realised this would have been a much safer (even if a tad longer) route back to our car last time rather than run the gauntlet of the one-way system on foot.  There was that fox again...or was it another one?

Back to the car very satisfied. It's not often you go out to hoover up a few odd caches around the area and end up being lucky enough to get two FTFs as well :)