Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Hamming it up by the Thames

We haven't been out geocaching for a while so as hubby was off today, we had a look around for some local(ish) caches and headed out to Old Windsor to pick a few up and have a walk by the Thames.
Nice and easy to park up in a residential road, wellies on and away we went. It was very chilly so I was glad we all had our hats and gloves. I say all but by that I mean all but the teen of course.  She was frozen although I'm pleased that at least she had put on a sensible coat today.
Low flying planes
Low flying planes
Our first cache was Manor of the Ham and was a nice easy spot. Hubby retrieved that for us as it was on the corner of a road. Signed Team Scorpio for us all.  Off we strolled down beside the church and around the corner onto a public footpath, admiring some houses as we passed. It was then I noticed that we were walking away from the cache. Had we made a wrong turn? We doubled back and tried to turn at a different spot but this just led us to the gates of a nursing home. Oops!  Doubling back on our double back (following still?) we then followed the original footpath to the end.  Hooray!  The Thames.  Right on top of the next cache.  Saxon Moorings was a reasonably quick spot and the youngest cacher made the retrieve. Signed and carefully replaced, we started our walk down the towpath.  
The next cache was Thames Path - St Peter's Church. Despite spotting a likely suspect as we walked past the houseboat there (the girls loved the decorations they had up), the GPS said another 30m.  We walked past and then when I looked again, we were past it.  Darn GPS.  I think my phone doesn't like the cold.  Back we went and the 2nd youngest made the retrieve.  Cache lid was breaking and contents were sodden. Fortunately the log book was in a plastic bag so spared the worst of it.  
We came to a little bridge over the entrance to one of the houses boat port (what do you call that really?) where another chap with his children were feeding the ducks.  We walked on down to the lock and the girls fed the ducks here themselves.  Glad there is no flooding for the folk living along the river this year.  Dread to think what it was like here in 2013.
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The next cache for us was Thames Path - Ham it Up! and that was another easy spot.  Decided to walk down to the final one along the river of Bridge to Ham Island.  Another very easy spot and we opted then to walk back along the road which was much quicker as my phone was already shouting it was almost out of battery.  We were hoping to do one more but my phone died and I'd forgotten my Power Monkey.  Oh well.  It was a nice walk.
I suggested to hubby that maybe we need to get a GPS now as the battery life on our phones is getting worse it seems.  Anyone recommend a good one - not too expensive?  We need to input the caches we want to it though so I'd prefer not a bog-standard GPS.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Can children have too many presents? Yes!

'Tis the season to put even more pictures of what you are doing up on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (among others).  We see stacks of presents and numerous photos of Christmas dinner. Really?
I guess it's the same people who photograph every part of their mundane lives that insist on telling us they are drinking a Christmas cup of coffee with a mince pie, having a Christmas sherry, eating a Christmas dinner (no, really?) and having a Christmas fart (too many sprouts). Thanks for that. Where would my life be without your updates?  In actual fact, I didn't bother looking at Facebook until today and only checked my Twitter because someone had posted something on one of my accounts that was actually interesting. 
I've been shocked by some peoples' Christmas present stack. I mean, really? Did Toys R Us have anything left by the time you finished?  Did you children actually enjoy opening 100+ presents?  Did they actually really, really want any of them?  I have been guilty of this in the past as when J was little, she did get totally over-spoiled at Christmas.  She had a positive sack of stocking presents along with a ton under the tree. This was complemented by another how sack from my eldest sister (who also spoiled her) and then she had another sack and ton under the tree from my ex-husband. Spot the guilt-trip here?  Exactly!  Anyway, it all stopped after one Christmas and I'll tell you why. She got bored of opening presents.  Yes, bored.  Not just a bit fed up trying to get into the wrapping but she actually said "how many more have I got to open?"  She said she didn't want to open any more.  She suggested I open them while she watched TV.  What?!  That's when it hit me. We simply had bought her too much. Almost everything she'd mentioned in passing the year before had appeared under the tree.  She had nothing special. No one present meant anything to her.  Some were never played with at all.  What the heck had we done?  The following year I listened carefully to things she talked about.  I bought one special present and lots of fun bits including colouring books, felt pens, craft stuff.  I changed the huge stocking for a tiny one that you could fit about 8 tubes of Smarties into and filled it with proper stocking bits.  I asked my sister to buy one big present for her, or at least a couple of decent ones rather than a sack of things she wasn't bothered about. She had a fabulous Christmas. She loved opening every gift and was excited about them all.  Phew.  
Now my children have around 8-10 presents for Christmas plus their little stockings (Santa fills those). It's perfect. We open them one at a time and everyone watches everyone else.  It's fun.  I spend the same on each of my girls and hubby and I usually exchange smellies (we're always out of perfume/aftershave by this time of year as the last Christmas one plus holiday ones have run out).
So, you won't be seeing any pictures of my Christmas dinner as I'm sure you know what a Sunday roast looks like.  Yes, that's another thing. Why do people get so stressed about Christmas dinner? They manage a roast dinner many times a year but at Christmas it becomes a trauma for some. I've never understood that.  I've also never understood people fussing about turkey. Hey, if it's that great, why don't you eat it at any other time? Yeah, because it tastes horrible, no-one likes the legs and it takes 5 times the cooking of a chicken.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Santa Special Train

We took the girls along today to Mizen's Miniature Railway in Woking to ride on the Santa Special trains.  They were very excited and we had booked our slot early to make sure we got as close to Christmas as possible (it was the last set of runs yesterday, 21st).  We arrived and exchanged our receipt for train tickets and drink/mince pie vouchers then set off to queue up.  It was really nice watching the other people on the trains.
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Our time came and we got into a very sweet set of carriages. We each had a little cushion to sit on with one person facing forward (the children) and one backwards (the adults) in each bit.  Off we went.
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The girls were delighted to see teddy bears and snowmen all around the track. N didn't like the smoke from our steam train and kept trying to wave it away (we sat right behind the driver).  Finally we arrived at the tunnel...sorry, Santa's grotto...to meet the man himself.  He spoke to every child and they got a bag of presents.  Off we went again back around to the station.  Lovely.
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The girls opened their presents while hubby wandered off to get me a cup of tea and the mince pies plus a few bits for the girls. It was very mild so we sat on one of the benches overlooking the station and watched other people getting on and off the trains.  Quite  a few friends from school were spotted!
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After a bit more train spotting, we headed off home.  Another great experience with the super folk from Mizens.
That's all folks!
That's all folks!
Happy Christmas everyone!

Friday, 19 December 2014

First ever Build-A-Bear

Yesterday we were sorting out the presents the girls would be getting with their Christmas money (they always get some in advance of Christmas from a family friend).  N decided she wanted a Barbie with wings from Amazon so I placed the order for her using my super-dooper Amazon Prime delivery service.  Hooray, it would arrive tomorrow.
Anna and Elsa Bear
Anna and Elsa Bear
S wasn't sure but had seen an advert showing an Elsa bear.  We started to look for one and realised it was from Build-A-Bear.  I thought about ordering it online then wondered if it would be more fun to go to the shop and do it. I called the nearest store (High Wycombe) and spoke to a lovely lady there who said they had plenty of Elsa's in stock. Clearly I wanted to check this first before heading all the way to High Wycombe only to find they are sold out!  She also told me about what a sweet experience it was for children to build their own bear. I was sold.  We were going to head off the next day (that's today now you see).
Naturally, once N knew we were off to Build-A-Bear, she decided she no longer wanted winged-Barbie but wanted an Anna bear.  I hastily cancelled the order with Amazon and fortunately it was just in time so the cancellation went through.  Two excited girls went to bed last night.
This morning we were up early. I was woken by calls from the girls' room saying "Are we going to Build-A-Bear now mummy?"  It was 7am so I said not just yet.  By 7.30am I had been asked about 20 times if it was now time and could they put their shoes on.  We finally headed off at 8.15am.  
 A surprisingly quiet drive across to High Wycombe and we parked up easily in the mutli-storey car park over the Eden Shopping Centre.  I got on the 1st floor which was a shock as I thought everyone would be out at the crack of sparrows to hit the shops at this time of year.  Arrived at Build-A-Bear and it wasn't quite open.  We waited outside and I chatted to another lady who was waiting too.  
Opening time!
In went the girls and chose their floppy bears.  The process was really lovely.  They went to the stuffing machine where the lady asked them their names and wrote them on their bears' collars.  A little bar code was taken off and popped into the bears tummy in case they ever got lost and hopefully were handed in to be reunited with their owners. What a fab idea!  ID tagging for teddies!  I love it!  
The girls then put their foot onto the pedal one at a time and filled their bears with stuffing before choosing a little soft red heart, doing a little ritual with it before giving it a kiss and popping it into the bear.  They loved every bit of this.  Once the lady had sewn the bears up, we headed to the dressing table and the girls dressed their bears in the Elsa and Anna outfits we'd bought. They gave them a little brush and they were almost ready.
Finally, the birth certificate. I sat at the console and filled in the details for the bears for each of my girls.  They chose a name - of course Elsa and Anna were the first names but both bears have other names too - and their bears were born.
They were both delighted to get a box for their bears. It's a house you see and they are colouring them in as I type this, customising them for their own bears.  They also got a little Team Santa medallion so they can play a game on their tablets.
The icing on the cake for me was being able to pick up £10 gift cards for £5 each. I had a couple of those as I know we will be back to Build-A-Bear to buy some more little outfits or get more bears next year.
I am so glad we went there today.  Such a lovely little experience.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Not Box(ing) Clever

I've been slightly frustrated by a couple of presents my girls received for their birthdays. Don't get me wrong, the gifts were well received and made the girls happy, but from the perspective of a parent, I am a bit perplexed.
The gifts in question are the Melissa and Doug stamp sets.  On the surface, these look quite sweet and have some nice stamps in them with fairly easy to grip handles for children to work with.  The stamps are nice and bright and the stamp pads seem to last for a while. Each box is beautifully painted, made of strong wood and well set up for the stamps inside. All good then.
My gripe is simple.  Why on earth do Melissa and Doug spend so much time and effort (and no doubt cost) on a wooden box for all the parts to fit into and then put a piece of plastic over it which has to be ripped off and thrown away.  The box is utterly useless then as if you want to keep the stamps in the box, you have to have it standing on a shelf somewhere to ensure everything doesn't fall out!  
So Melissa and Doug, here's a suggestion, make:
(a) a lid for the box with a little catch so children can keep all theirs stamps safely together or,
(b) a disposable box and reduce the price of the sets?  
Moan over.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Oh no they didn.t...

oh yes they did.  Love panto that is.  Sorry pantomime.  I keep being corrected by my 3 year old on that.
Yesterday a group of us mums (and a dad) from school headed off to see Aladdin in Woking.  It featured Justin Fletcher again this year and I have to say it was very good. The songs kept on coming, the kids danced in front of their seats and there was plenty of cheering and boo'ing.  All in all, a great time was had by the children (and even the teen sang a few songs).
I'm so glad we went this year as, to be quite honest with you, after last year's panto at the theatre (also featuring Justin) I never wanted to go to one again and had tried - and failed - to avoid it this year.  Last year was Cinderella and to be quite frank, I think the cast were trying to hard to be 'act-tors' if you know what I mean.  Hell, this is panto. It's supposed to be fun not serious!
Highlights this year were Justin being the wrong side of the curtain when a scene was taking place which made everyone laugh so much and stopped the two cast members on stage being able to say their lines properly as they were also laughing too much; and the day 12 of the Christmas song with the genie having brought 12 gallons of water which meant super-soaker water pistols were fired into the audience.  Much fun.
If you have a chance, get along and see it. It's a far better panto this year...honest. 

Friday, 12 December 2014

It's a wrap!

Yesterday, while hubby entertained N (S was at school still), I snuck (that is a real word surely?) off to the bedroom and wrapped up the stocking presents for the girls.  This was the last bit of wrapping I had to do. Yay me for being so organised.
ChristmaspresentsLast week I wrapped up the main presents as the girls were both at school and it seemed like an ideal time to do it. Unfortunately my research got in the way a bit (you did know I'm doing my PhD right?) and instead of beginning wrapping about 9.30am, I started at 2pm leaving me an hour to do it all.  Nuts huh?  I wrapped like a demon and had it all done with 5 minutes to spare.  Hubby had to keep out of the dining room while I wrapped his stuff up of course.  He isn't much use when it comes to wrapping to be fair.  He's normally reading the paper and by the time I say "put your finger there and hold it" he looks up dreamily and says "Huh? What? Where?" so I often leave him out of it completely and just put something a bit heavier on the package and do it myself.  
I've got sticky tape down to a fine art and usually have little bits of it cut into correct sizes for middles/ends of packages stuck to the back of my dining chairs (don't worry, it's not damaged them yet - unlike the drawing N did with a biro on the seat of one when she was tiny).
Despite being the official 'present wrapper' in our house, I'm not great at it.  I am pretty neat with squares or rectangles but other shapes baffle me and can end up looking a bit odd.  Tubes are hard work and so are hairbands (I discovered this year).  I really should keep the 3,000 (or so it seems) Amazon boxes and packs I get during the year and put things into easier shapes to wrap. That would make sense. Or to buy Christmas bags to put stuff in.  Hang on, why didn't I think of that? I do it for parties all the time instead of birthday paper.  Maybe that will be next year's trick!
The stocking presents have different paper to the rest of the presents of course. Well, Santa isn't going to have shopped at Sainsburys to get the same paper as I have now is he.  The girls have little individual stockings each with their names on them.  Unlike some parents, they get a few small bits for stockings and the bulk of their presents from us.  Stocking stuff usually consists of hair stuff, chocolate, colouring pens, colouring books, stickers and the like.  Then I ensure that they have the same number of main presents each, of about the same value too.  That way it's fair to them all - not that they know what we spend.
However, before Christmas there is N's birthday so a bit more wrapping to do.  I can't fit her present into a bag unfortunately...

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Bargain Hunter

I'm good me.  I do love a bargain and enjoy my eBay sprees but recently I've also been looking on a local sale page on Facebook  It's a bit nicer to buy and sell on there as you don't have eBay and PayPal fees to pay but you also do get a lot of messers...you know, those people who say they'll buy it, take your address, and then never turn up. Oh well.
Sometimes these time-wasters work in my favour. Take today's case in point.
New Rock Goth Metallic Boots
New Rock Goth Metallic Boots
About a week ago I spotted these boots on the local for sale page.  I leapt in to say that my teen would like them but I was pipped to the post by another buyer.  Damn.  Never mind, I said to the seller on the page that could I be next in line if they don't go and she said yes.  I suspected they would go so quickly though as they are £225 to buy new and these were a bargain as they'd only been worn about half-a-dozen times.
Yesterday I got a message on Faceache from her.  Yes, the first person who wanted them was a messer. Hooray!  She asked if I wanted them still. Yes!  Today I picked them up for...wait for it....£30!  I know, crazy right?  My teen is over the moon, and some.  I've given them a polish and they look amazing. I haven't mentioned to her yet that they weigh a flippin' ton and she'll probably have leg muscles to rival a Russian lady weight lifter by the time she's worn them a bit but that's a minor inconvenience right?
Dead Threads Dress
Dead Threads Dress
I also picked up this fab dress.  Don't I look great in it?  Ok, ok, you've got me. It's not me (although I am very close in looks and size naturally *cough*).  Yep, it's not a dress on me, it's just a top (as it was on it's previous owner).  However, having tried it on, my boobs are just too big for it.  I bet there are men out there scratching their heads saying "How can women's boobs ever be too big?"   Oh well, either I lose 2 stone to shrink said boobs or the teen has another dress (yes dress for her with her figure), albeit a slightly relaxed fit *cough

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Christmas is coming

I have been super organised this year. Bar a few little pressies yet to arrive from my favourite shopping venue – Amazon – due to the outlaws not knowing what they wanted for Christmas (what *do* you buy 80+ year olds who have everything?), I’m done. Yes.  Done. In fact, I was done in October *cough*.  I know, what am I like? I have even wrapped said presents and now they are all boxed up on weighing down the top of our wardrobe.
I am quite an organised person anyway.  Usually this is good and means I plan ahead but often it means that I plan so far ahead that I worry myself to death about something that may or may not happen at the end of next year.  You have to take the good with the bad right?  Anyway, I digress.
This year has certainly had its up’s and down’s but on the whole it’s not been the worst we’ve had but a few more pennies would be very welcome in this household.  I did win the Lottery but I’m saving that £25 for a rainy day.  Having been so good and saved/planned ahead, Christmas has been taken care of.  Of course I still need to get those little packets of compressed air and other fresh veg on Christmas Eve (ok, no, I won’t go, I’ll send hubby *cough*) but that’s it.
We put our tree up on 29th November. I know but I was impatient ok! Also it was the fact that all 3 girls wanted to do it together and that was a weekend before Christmas that they were all around. Yes, I know there are other weekends a bit closer but we normally put it up on/around 1st December anyway so it’s only a bit early.
Our Sky+ box is now fairly crammed with Christmas films for the girls and a few new releases for hubby, teen and I to watch (yes, I am the person who really wants to see Godzilla and the new Transformers movie – who needs kids for those?).  I still plan to have a wander around the shops though but just to enjoy the lights, bustle and festive spirit without the pressure of having to actually shop. I may even head up to London to do that with the girls and see all the light displays there.  A walk from Waterloo across the bridge to Covent Garden would be lovely. Umm…I feel a plan developing.
Nativity plays at the school are beginning along with lots of additional mufti days (whatdoes that stand for?) and Christmas jumper days (I had to buy one especially for S last year for heavens sake – I hope it still fits!).  It’s the countdown to Christmas and I, for one, am very happy it is.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Wisley Winter Walk

We've been so busy of late we've not had the chance to take a stroll around one of our favourite gardens - Wisley.  Last Friday though, N and I went out for a lovely couple of hours just wandering about together.

It was absolutely manic in the car park at 9.45am and I wondered why. It turns out there was a craft fair on so we parked up. A rather irritating parking attendant rushed over to the car to tell me to move it over more. I stuck my head out of my window and said that I gladly would once the lady next to me had finished getting her things out of her car and closed her door.  She turned around and smiled at me and thanked me.  Rude man stood there waving his 'parking' sign at me.  Well, he'll just have to wait. Once she shut the door, I moved the car - yep, a whole 12" over and he was satisfied.  You know when you give someone a day-glo coat and a sign...yes, that!  Anyway, annoyance over, we headed in to the gardens and were one of what seemed like only a dozen people walking around. It was near deserted.

I followed her and, of course, we had to go into the glasshouse. She wanted to know why there weren't any butterflies still (impatient miss) and when we got out of it, she wanted to know why the ice cream kiosks weren't open (because it's freezing).

Wisley is a great place at any time of year with the different plants and changing colours.

After our walk around we decided to pop into the craft fair and have a little look see.  Free entry to RHS members (phew) and away we went.  Fabulous saxophonist playing at the entrance which was a delight to hear.  The stands were colourful with lots of different art and crafts.  I have to say in all honesty, it was probably the most expensive craft fair I have ever been to so I'm afraid we didn't buy anything but we enjoyed the looking.