Saturday, 29 August 2015

Bulb planting for children

What's happened to the weather?  One minute I'm sweltering in the garden and the girls are splashing about in their pool, the next we're chipping through ice on it.  Well, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but it's certainly shifted to being a tad nippy hasn't it.  We decided earlier this week to pop down to Longacres and pick up some bulbs to do a bit of planting ready for spring.  Let's face it, it will only take a couple of frosty mornings and all my geraniums will have snuffed it.

I like bulbs as they are always a surprise to me. This is mainly to do with the fact that I inevitably cannot remember what I planted where from one year to the next, so it's always exciting to see what pops up in my pots and borders (I'm not normally that forgetful, honest.  Now, where are my car keys...).

The girls were excited about buying bulbs.  I should mention that they were also keen for me to buy a big ball that was by the entrance door, a jacuzzi that was outside and an ice cream.  Two out of four isn't bad.  Jacuzzi comes next week...just kidding.  We decided to take advantage of the deals that were on of 3 for £10 and 3 for £12.  Every packet was met with 'ooos' and 'ahhhs' as they do enjoy a bit of colour in their lives.  They want to keep the pictures on the packets too for a collage - bonus craft idea!  S loves purple and N pink, so you can imagine that every packet that contained these colours (even if it was just the writing!) was what they wanted.  I had to draw the line at how many bulbs I was prepared to buy otherwise we'd have had more bulbs than garden.

The bulbs they chose were anemone (with much pointing at the packet and prompting by me), 2 varieties of tulips and crocus, iris, hyacinths, and a separate packet of crocus containing blue, purple, white and striped varieties.  All of these bulbs can be planted from August onwards (so before it's too blinkin' cold to be in the garden for a while).  They should give a wonderful burst of colour in the spring.

Then they then spotted the 'cram a pot' section.  Naturally they wanted to do this so we ended up with a very full pot of daffodil bulbs for £3.99 - bargain! They were busy balancing them as high as they could. Whilst it was tempting to take this pot with a pyramid of bulbs on top to the till and hope we got away with it, I suggested that I thought the idea is a level pot.

Now I just have to work out where I want them all and hope they aren't on top of existing ones.  Quite a few we can't plant yet as I want them in my pots at the front of the house, but currently these are occupied by some very large, colourful geraniums.  So, we started by planting a selection in a border by our patio doors.  I mixed the different bulbs up and the girls chose what they wanted (the ones that 'look like rabbit poo' were the most popular) and planted them in the trenches I dug.  I did stumble upon a few already in there from last year though. What was I saying earlier about my memory?

Friday, 28 August 2015

Hatchlands Park

Today we headed off to Hatchlands Park near Clandon in Surrey.  I have just joined the National Trust so we were eager to see what this is all about, especially as we seem to have quite a few NT properties near us.
The house was closed but there was a tent on the lawn ready for childrens' (paid) activities. We wanted to have a walk around and see what was here so headed off towards the wooded area. Lots of nice big tree stumps to play on and around and plenty of den building stuff about.

The girls liked the wizard walk area and then we headed off through another piece of woodland.  I spotted some children with scooters but no bikes so I'm not sure that this is a place we can cycle round.  May have to find another NT property for that.

I'm not sure the NT will be for us (judging by today) but we'll give it a go anyway this year and see how we get on.  It wasn't instant enjoyment like Wisley was.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

WWF - Snappy crocodiles

Took the girls to WWF at The Living Planet Centre in Woking today to join in the fun making a snappy crocodile.  I may sound a bit mean but as it cost me £6 last time (suggested donation) and I didn't see anyone else put so much money in the panda, I did £5 this time.  Actually it was £5.02 as the note got stuck and I only had a 2p in my purse to push it in with.  Still, not bad for using an old eggbox, some Pritt stick and paper really.

The girls enjoyed sticking but without proper glue pots (like we had last time when doing the fish), everything was just falling apart. We had to keep asking for sellotape (which we were told they are running out of) and when we got home, I had to re-glue everything back on with PVA, which would have been the thing to use this time.  Bit of a shame really.

At least they got to finish their crocodiles in the half hour allotted but this session did not feel anywhere near as organised.

Friday, 21 August 2015

GCSE results are finally in

I am delighted to say that the teen passed her GCSEs.  Phew.  She seemed fine about the wait but admitted to me yesterday that she hadn't slept at all the night before, felt physically sick in the morning waiting to head to her school for when they opened at 10am, and shook as she walked in and got her results.  In the end, it was good news for her. 
She is doing 3 A Levels, the ones she really wanted - Maths, Biology and Chemistry.  Smiles all round.

She's looking forward to going into Year 12 in September (and not wearing school uniform anymore), although the pressure is heaped on again as soon as she starts as all new A Level students have to sit a Biology and Chemistry test when they arrive to prove they are at the right level to proceed.  Really?  Have the GCSEs not told her school that already? I find this part seems wholly unnecessary but hey-ho, you have to go with the flow don't you.
It goes without saying that I am proud as any mum could be.  She's worked very hard, faced problems with being in a failing school, and put in a lot of effort having additional tutorials after school in quite a few lessons to help push her, and the other bright ones, along.  Hopefully she can now relax for the remainder of the school holidays and look forward to the next stage of her education with a smile.  

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Wisley amble

Had a friend and her daughter over today for a catch up for us and a play date for the girls. After an hour of nattering, we hopped into the car and headed over to RHS Wisley to have a walk around and blow the cobwebs away.  Another look around some of the Alice in Wonderland exhibits was also planned.

The girls enjoyed seeing the sculptures of the characters and showing their friend all of them, whilst her mum and I chatted away putting the world to rights (stopping long enough for this mad selfie - I'm not doing a pout, I was mid sentence!).

Got an ice cream (shame all the ice cream huts inside were closed again) and had a bit more of a wander around before heading home for a final bit of play here.  Car park was busy today but still plenty of spaces (we didn't arrive until turned noon).  We're back again next week with more friends who aren't members so will enjoy another look around our favourite gardens.
P.S. My teen passed all of her GCSEs with great results!!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Friends and Cake

One of my lovely friends came to visit today.  We don't see each other too often now that she's moved a bit further away, and what with children in school, work, study, etc, it means we tend to catch up two or three times a year.  So, when we do, we get our jaws ready and chat away for the full duration!  We can set the world to rights in a matter of minutes.

Of course, the other thing about not seeing each other too often, is that a few extra treats come into play (which means I forget entirely about my diet *shush*).  What better than cake?!  So off I went first thing this morning to Longacres to pick up my selection of cakes and bread for today.  A garden centre for cakes?  I know, sounds a bit mad doesn't it but the reason I love going to Longacres so much is that it is far more than a garden centre.  I sound like a bit of an advert don't I. Sorry!

Longacres bakery section
You see I'm a bit of a fan of Longacres and have been for quite a few years now.  It has evolved into so much more than a garden centre.  Yes, of course you have your usual items such as plants, containers, outdoor furniture, BBQs, toys, and a lovely cafe, but did you know there is also a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker department?  My particular favourite area is the bakery as they do some seriously yummy cakes and bread (yes, yes, I know that's bad for my diet...I can start again tomorrow right?).

Anyway, they do the best cupcakes I've had in ages and at a cracking price too of 12 for £5.99 - that's cheaper than my local Sainsburys!  I tend to find that most supermarket cupcakes are generally a bit too much about the icing and not enough about the cake for my liking, but these are just perfect.  The cake is wonderfully soft and if it wasn't for my friend and our combined children, I would probably just eat the lot!  As you can see from the picture, S really enjoyed hers!

Guess the flavour

I wanted to do a bit of lunch for us too so I decided to pick up some fresh bread while I was there to have with lunch.  I do love these crusty loaves and the bread is so soft.  This one disappeared in one sitting.  Hubby was most annoyed as he was hoping to have some for his sandwiches for work tomorrow...oops!

We had a great day catching up, with another friend and her boys joining us for a few hours later in the afternoon as well.  Don't worry, we saved them a cupcake each (although it was a close call).

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Wild Tots

The girls had a fun time today for 2 hours up at Newlands Corner with The Surrey Wildlife Trust's Wild Tots.  

Two lovely ladies (both called Laura so easy for me to remember) gave the children all fun things to do from making clay models and collecting bugs, to hide-and-seek and getting ingredients for a potion.

My girls are both tired now from running up and down hills and the fresh air so it was money well spent.

We may join the organisation and go on a bat watch one evening as the girls also enjoy doing that in our garden.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Poole, Swanage and Corfe

We have had a lovely couple of days away.  We went down to just outside of Poole to stay overnight with a very old friend of my family. In fact, she used to babysit me when I was very small.  Lovely to have a day catching up (and we got her DVD player working).  We headed off into Poole and got on a double-decker bus. Of course the girls and hubby headed upstairs and I stayed down with our friend.  S apparently fell off the front seat when the bus went around a corner, much to everyone's amusement.   We arrived and had a walk around the front, spotting Sunseeker yachts (which was not hard to do).  BTW, if Sunseeker would like me to test a yacht out for them and review it on the blog, I'd be delighted!

The weather was a bit drizzly but we weren't put off - have raincoat, will travel.  I found my 800th geocache and promptly found out also that my pen had run out.  Thank goodness for mobile phones so photographed the girls with it and sent that to the CO (cache owner) as proof and hope they would be happy with that as it was quite a momentous point for me.

Having had fish and chips, and an ice cream each, we then walked back to the shopping centre where I spotted a shop that the teen would like. She was basically in t-shirt heaven and wanted everything in the shop!  Fortunately we'd been to Camden a last week so my spend limit had been reached.

The following day we headed down to Swanage to ride on the Swanage Railway. Our neighbour works there as a guard and had reserved some seats for us (a lovely surprise).  We met up and waited for the train to be hooked up. The girls found this fascinating, although a bit scary with the noise of the steam.  The trains are gorgeous and there's even an old dining car that has been converted into a restaurant.  Every station has plenty of picnic tables and areas you can sit and watch the trains go by and is very clean and tidy.  Lovely and helpful staff too (sounds like my TripAdvisor review now doesn't it but who cares).

We had a lovely ride to Corfe Castle Station and got off to have a walk around for an hour or so.  I would mention that all the stations are lovely and have some great things to look at in them such as old luggage, a small museum, posters, etc.

We visited the Model Village which was lovely. So many fun games on the lawns for children to play and a very cute little fairy garden as well.  Can you spot the Tardis in the model castle?  The ticket also lasts for a week so nice if you are staying locally.

After a walk around and a few games of Jenga, J and I shared a cream tea while the others had drinks (very well priced too).  

Back onto the train for our journey to Swanage.  We watched the train move from the front to the back of the carriages (push/pull) before we left.  A quick stop at the car to collect pink fishing nets (I'm saying nothing) and away we went to the beach. 

Now the weather had been predicted as cloud and showers so I didn't pack swimwear.  Naturally it was lovely and hot and we sat on the beach and had a few hours watching the girls building sandcastles, eating chips and having an ice cream.  I think next time we may even venture to take the tent down here and stay for a few days.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015


Found my 800th geocache at Poole yesterday.  Here's a picture of my girls with it.

As a celebration, I have ordered myself a unicorn travel bug that I will keep with me to collect miles and locations.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Legoland - More like Lego Hell!

We headed down to Legoland Windsor today for a family trip out.  Fortunately for us, I have a friend who works for the group who got us in for nothing, saving us almost £200 for 5 people.  Is it just me or is that absolutely crazy money?  Despite it not costing us to get in, I feel offended. Offended for every person there who paid that silly money and left a bad TripAdvisor review because their costly day was so very, very poor. Shouldn't Tussauds Group feel utterly ashamed of that?  Yes.  Do they? No, they don't give a fig.

We headed straight down the path to Land of the Vikings and aimed for the first ride, Vikings' River Splash. The queue here was about45 minutes and that's at 10am when the park opened.  The girls were already getting bored in the queue.  You can't really expect a 4 and 6 year old to do this length without irritation (and they weren't the only ones by a long chalk!).  Teen just put her earphones in and phased out to her music.  We finally got on the ride and it was fun. We got quite wet.  Clearly we weren't about to buy the pictures or pay £2 for the drying machine, but at least the sun was trying to shine.

We walked to Spinning Spider next where we had a 30 minute queue. One of the cars wasn't working which I felt was a poor show for a resort in the height of its season.  Got in and the girls enjoyed the ride (teen and I felt sick).  

Left and aimed for Knights Kingdom via the toilets of course.  The girls were feeling peckish and we'd decided not to bring a picnic today and just get a few nibbles. Small chips for each of us came to over £14!  I could have fallen over. I know you're a captive audience in these places but there is paying a bit more and then there is completely taking the piss Mickey (probably Mickey takes it too but at least you're in the sunshine in Florida for that)!  Chips eaten we headed for Knights Kingdom.  The queue for the little roller coaster (The Dragon) which was not exactly big time was standing at 1hr 20mins so we decided against it. We looked at the kids version (Dragon's Apprentice) but that was a 60 minute queue so not doing that either.  The girls were getting a bit despondent.  Everything they wanted to do involved a very long queue.  Kids don't understand this.  To be fair, parents get pretty fed up of it too quite quickly!  Anyway, the two youngest went on Castaway Camp but it was heaving with children and looking a bit dangerous with kids literally climbing over each other on some high equipment, so hubby walked around with them (hell, they wanted to go on something) but he soon called an end to that when they got trapped up a tower thing with bigger kids not letting them get down the ladder - he had to go up to retrieve them.  No number control anywhere here.  Other parents complaining about bigger kids pushing theirs out of the way, too many children trying to get on the equipment, etc.

The park was crazy busy.  We had one go on the Carousel as this had the shortest queue we'd seen yet of about 15 minutes.  We all enjoyed that little ride.

We then walked around to the new area called Heartlake City (well old area painted a different colour).  Four ice creams here cost my husband another obscene amount of money and they didn't even have a sodding flake!  The show was about to start so we were squeezed against railings when it started.  What was it like?  Awful!  Dreadful! Dull.  It was the 'Friends' show and was so twee I felt positively nauseous.  Even my girls wanted to leave at the first song (hooray).
Please jump - your show is awful!
While this show was on we thought we'd get a chance to go to the Submarine over at Adventure Land.  We raced up there to see the queue was 1hr 45mins. No chance.  Sad little faces about this. How about the the little boats at Coastguard HQ?  Yes!  I saw only a tiny queue and we raced in.  This was the Q-Bot queue for people who had paid up to £75 EACH to jump queues.  Who the hell has this kind of money on top of a couple of hundred pounds for entry alone?  Off we went to join the main queue with a time of 30 minutes from where we started (so said the plaque on the wall). Yes, 30 minutes IF no Q-Bot people come. An hour later we were just getting close enough to the stairway and within 10 minutes of actually boarding a sodding boat. Now, I appreciate these Q-Bot people have paid even more money than others to use this facility (they must be insane!) but to see groups of 10 or so of them get let in before you is beyond irritating.  The people running these queues (teenage kids by the look of most of them) were, quite simply, clueless.  So, over an hour later, we finally got on the boat for a 3 minute ride.  What a waste of time.

The girls wanted to see if the submarine was any better now. It was not.  It was worse.  Legoland has smoking in designated areas - no-one seemed to be taking any notice of that and there were people even having a cigarette in one queue!  
We walked to Mini Land to see the original Lego creations.  They look so tired and some of them seem to be coming apart.  It could really do with a good spruce up.  We left and faced the final middle finger that Legoland gives you - £5 to get out of the fucking car park!  Legoland had crammed so many people in, all the car parks had cars all up the pavement and grass areas.  Hey Legoland - ever thought of saying "We're full"?  No, of course not.  You'd rather have miserable children and parents who want to scream.

I've subsequently joined the throng of people putting poor reviews up on TripAdvisor.  I agree with them all. It's simply awful.  Would I ever go back?  No, not even for free.