Friday, 30 December 2016

Christmas fun

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas. We did.  The girls were very excited on Christmas morning to see the new, named stockings that Santa had left them, along with one of the reindeer they had 'made' at Lapland UK.

Favourite presents this year?  Snap-circuits for N and Time Shock for S.  Two great fun things.  Also, Screwball Scramble turned out to be a big hit, even for the adults (competitive Time Shock was also played).  Nice to have a variety of games for a change.

The little ones both did well with money too and a couple of days after Christmas we headed to the shops for a walk around and for them to buy some fun things. They both chose a range of Shopkins packs - another very popular toy for them.  I also bought myself something new - a PS4 and Final Fantasy XV (I had no idea why it takes so long to download when you have the disc!).  I also bought a little rose Pandora charm in memory of my late mother-in-law.  They called it the 'British Rose' but I corrected them and said it was an 'English Rose'.  British Rose? Really?  Anyone ever heard of a British Rose?  I thought not!

We're having a lazy New Year's Eve as hubby is working and I'm not going out. Just going to chill with the girls and relax. I'll probably be in bed by 10! Happy New Year!

Friday, 23 December 2016

Lapland UK

This morning the girls and I headed to Lapland UK.  We wanted to do something extra nice for them as it was their grandma's funeral on Wednesday so it was good to really lift their spirits ready for Christmas.

Our time was 9am (first ones of the day) and we got there are just turned 8am. They suggest you arrive 30 minutes  before your time anyway and as you can never tell what the traffic is like, we didn't mind being early. The doors opened around 8:50 and we went to check in and get ourselves some Elf Jingles (currency of Lapland - 1 EJ = £1).  Had a pastry and then got ready to head in around 9am.

First area was meeting some of the elves and finding out why they are much taller than you expect.  All to do with the size of pinecone they come from. The girls loved this and then at the end of the story, we headed into Lapland and to the Toy Factory.  Little people have their own door to go through and head to a table, whilst we sat around the edges. We then found out that there had been more good children than ever this year which is why Santa had invited the children to come and help as the elves were so busy with presents.  First they made a reindeer...

...then they made a wooden teddy.

Once this was over, we headed out down another snowy path to Mother Christmas' house where the children heard some secrets about Santa (including the fact that he loves gingerbread, so not to give him any) and then they decorated some gingerbread men.  After doing that, time for a story.

We then moved into the Elf Village where we went straight off to ice skate (hint: take a spare pair of socks each as when you take your boots off to get your skates, your feet get soaked on the mats, and vice versa).  Lots of penguins for the children to use and skating elves to help out.

Girls had lots of fun here and we skated for around 20 minutes (my ankles were starting to hurt).

We then went for a look around the elf village.  The girls posted a letter to Santa in the Post Office and collected another stamp (the Elf Passports they are given when they check in are stamped in each area).  We headed to the restaurant and had two portions of chips between us (3 EJ per portion) but I didn't get drinks as I felt 2EJ for a can of Coke (or similar) was pushing it.  Once we'd eaten our chips,we walked to the sweet shop (4EJ for a cup of sweets but we didn't want that many and no half cups), and a final look around the Elf Emporium.

Then we went off to our meeting point by the bauble shop to go and see Santa. Off down the snowy path past the reindeer and then into the waiting room to see the big man himself.

An elf came and called the girls' names and off we went to Santa's house.  The man himself was smashing.  The girls believe he's the real Santa - he knew lots about them!  He had a nice chat to them and I took photos and a video (the elf did some photos too).  Then he asked them to close their eyes and they each got a lovely Husky soft toy as a present.

We said goodbye to Santa and went off to get the photo of the girls with him (included.  You could buy additional ones if you wanted).  I then exchanged my Elf Jingles that were left back into pounds and off we went.

The girls had the best morning.  We were there around 3.5 hours and at no point did it feel packed or that you were pushed along. It's all very magical for young children and they enjoyed every bit of it.  Time whizzed by - even the 'free time' part.

Now just to wait for Santa to visit on Christmas Eve.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Mizens Railway Santa Special

It was an extra special day today as it's N's 6th birthday and on top of all the presents and cake, we were off with our friend J to see Santa at Mizen's Miniature Railway.  We always enjoy a ride on these trains and go quite often in the summer months when they run at weekends, but the Santa Special is just extra special journey to meet the big man himself.

Girls were very excited as we arrived. We had a nice walk down as we don't live too far away and we need to work off the breakfast birthday cake!

We could go straight on as we arrived almost at our allotted time.  We got the steam train which the girls were delighted by (not that they mind any of the trains).  The staff, as usual, were really friendly and helpful and took some smashing photos of us.  We even got the station master to photo-bomb a pic!  Doesn't he look dapper.  


Away we went to have a lovely ride and see all the toys at the stations and around the track enjoying Christmas.  Arrived to meet a very jovial Santa who handed out some nice presents (thank you Mizens, you always get some great gifts for the children) before we headed off for our cuppa and mince pie back at the station.

A nice walk back home followed (this time to work off the mince pie!).  See you next year Mizens!

Friday, 16 December 2016

ICIS 2016, Dublin

I was fortunate to have a paper accepted to present at ICIS 2016 in Dublin this month.  Pretty exciting for me as it's my first academic conference where I was presenting - and it's a biggie!  I flew off to Dublin (leaving hubby in charge of the house and girls) last Sunday.   BA flight was spot on time and we'd barely got up before we were coming down again. Short flight.  Not even a headphone socket on the plane though so glad it was so short.

CCD Dublin
Grabbed a coach to the city centre and my hotel, The Clayton at Cardiff Lane, which was very festive in its decoration.  Staff very nice and friendly too.  I was volunteering at the conference (never again!) so started 'work' on the Monday.  My paper was that day too so I was a bit nervous as the time got nearer. I had chance to pop back to the hotel to put on a nice dress first.  My bit of relaxation in doing this was countered by the rooms being moved around at the last moment with those delegates using the App knowing where to do, and those using the printed booklet, not.  We got there in the end but my 22 minutes of presenting/questions was brought down to 10 so it was the fastest I've ever been through the presentation!  Met two of the fabulous academics I've quoted so many times in my thesis, which was fab as I got to have a chat to them and they seemed to like my work (hooray!).

Got to explore a bit of Dublin as well - getting a Dublin geocache too, of course - and picking up the girls some sweet little 'sheep' t-shirts.

The final day we had a nice lunch and then our social in the evening at the Guinness Storehouse. This amazing place was hired just for us and it was absolutely brilliant.  We had Irish bands, a U2 tribute band, other music piped around, a chance to pull our own pints of Guinness, food, views from the 7th floor around the city and time to shop. Heaven!  All in all, a very good time in Dublin.  Now to get my papers ready for the next set of conferences that are happening.  I could get used to this academic life.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Garden centre shoes?

I popped over to Longacres this morning to pick up a few more little bits for the girls. They both love these new trendy 'Top Model' books. The books feature girlie pictures that you can add to in various ways.  For example, each picture is an outline of a girl and you can colour in her clothes and accessories or use the stickers provided to make your own fashion picture.  I'm not sure why they are so popular but there you go (I used to have the paper ones you folded the clothes around - remember those anyone?).  I  bought S a Manga one (I want her to try Manga drawing) and N a Fantasy Princess one.


As I was walking to the toy section, I went past the area where they sell all the wellies. Guess what they had there?  Red party shoes! Yes, party shoes (although party wellies would be an interesting concept - any farmers fancy that?).  The things you can buy in a garden centre now *grin*

Oh yes...before you ask....I did buy lemon drizzle cake too. Just for the girls of course *cough*

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Taking your child to the wrong party

It was the girls' joint birthday party yesterday and lots of fun was had. I thought you'd appreciate this little story though.

The party was just getting started when, about 15 minutes later a little girl and her dad came in.  She was about the same age as my youngest and I didn't recognise the dad (no surprise there as I still don't know all the parents from her class).  She was dressed as Spiderman and although it wasn't a dressing up party, you know children like to wear what they want, so we didn't bat an eyelid.  She plopped her present down in N's pile and went straight off onto the bouncy castle. None of the children thought this odd. She was in full Spiderman mask after all.  She was up and down and having a great time, finally taking her mask off as she was hot.

After about 15 minutes of playing, she came over to where a friend was face-painting and was choosing her design when her father walked in. It turns out he had dropped her at the wrong party!  So, not only was she supposed to be at a superhero party (none of our girls were dressed like that), she didn't know anyone (didn't stop her joining in) and none of our lot knew her (but were happy for her to join in anyway).  Don't you just love children?

I bet the poor dad got it in the ear from his wife when she found out what he'd done.  We did wonder why N's present was addressed "To Leo" though!

Monday, 21 November 2016

Wisdom, Justice and Love

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight
Because my conscience leaves me no other choice
A true revolution of values will lay hand
On the world order and say of war
"This way of settling differences is not just'"

This business of burning human beings with napalm
Of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows
Of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins
Of peoples normally humane

Of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields
Physically handicapped and psychologically deranged
Cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love

(Parts taken from the context of a speech by Dr Martin Luther King)

Friday, 18 November 2016

Longacres Open Evening

My friend J and I popped along to Longacres Open Evening yesterday. It is always a nice event with lots going on and a good atmosphere.  First thing that struck me was that, although the car park was busy, there were nowhere near as many cars queuing for spaces.  Perhaps as the event was a little longer this year, people were a bit more spread out.  Not as packed inside either which was good for us shoppers.  Santa greeted us with a chocolate to start our wander.

I decided to pick up a few bits of the girls’ Christmas stockings today, along with a gorgeous table runner (I’ve never really had things like that before).

 I tried on one of the ‘hats’ by the Christmas trees. I was surprised to see only one left. Who would wear a hat like this? ;)

Nora Batty eat your heart out!
After a bit of shopping, alcohol and mince pies beckoned J, so we headed over there to have a drink and listen to the Salvation Army band playing carols.

Back to the Christmas decorations for a few more little bits. We loved the cute little mice and string people so a few of them were purchased, along with some ‘wobbly’ decorations.

Another smashing evening over at Longacres.  As usual, bought far more than I planned – yes, including a lemon drizzle cake (it would have been rude not to).

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Flying, Ski-ing and Surfing

We were down at i-Fly again today.  S and J were doing another indoor skydive and N was having her first ski-ing lesson (not that we're going away ski-ing - she just wanted to do it). As usual, S and J did really well. J got a 'high-fly' this time but the instructor was not qualified to take S up.   Bit disappointing we thought at first....but he really made her day in other ways - he got her doing flips and spins, and let her fly up halfway on her own! How awesome was that?  Thanks Jesse!

S flying high alone!

N loved her ski-ing lesson with SkiPlex.  Hubby and I thought that she would be near the 'bar' the whole time but no, within minutes, she was halfway up the slope and learning to snow plow, stop and turn.  She was a natural.  The instructor said she could move on to normal lessons now (this was a total beginners session).  She was really hot and sweaty after 15 minutes but fortunately they have a break of 15 minutes while the  next group go on, and then swap again.  Good idea.

After all the fun of that, we headed downstairs for S and J to have a go a brush-boarding. A bit like surfing on rotating shoe cleaner brushes!  Very bizarre as you seem to wear a ping-pong bat on your hands as well.  They both enjoyed this too.  

All-in-all, another very successful trip to the i-Fly location.  There is so much to do under one roof. We've booked our return trip already.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Oh Christmas tree

Decided to pop down to Longacres this morning and get a new artificial tree. We've had our existing one for over 13 years, and apart from one year when we had a real tree, it's been used every year since.  It's still ok but hubby and I decided that a new one was in order.  It's certainly looking very Christmasy down at Longacres now!

They had a great range of trees but I think I hadn't anticipated just how pricey artificial trees were. The one I was immediately drawn to was nearly £200. OK, lower the expectations a bit.  Found an Arctic Spruce that was nice (and, most importantly, within budget) so bought that. 

Collected the tree from the Click & Collect area. The box is a lot smaller than that of our current tree so will be a lot easier to get into the loft!  Girls were excited about it when I got home so that's a good sign.  

I noticed that Longacres are already taking orders for real Christmas trees too!  Order before 20th November and you get 10% off your real tree.  I've made sure I've passed that message along to friends who have real ones.  I'm also looking forward to their open evening which is in November.  Just awaiting the date!

Oh yeah...I also bought cake.  

Sunday, 30 October 2016

18th birthday weekend

Teen and her best friend over for the weekend. Bit of a celebration as she's 18 next week. Wow! How did I come to have an 18 year old daughter?  She opened her presents on Saturday morning as hubby was working all weekend but was around then. We got her a few bits and pieces but her main present from us was a lovely (black - naturally - with a little gold) watch.  I also wanted to get her something memorable so decided a Zombie Bunker Survival experience was the way forward.  Can't wait to find out what she thinks of it!

Me and my girl
We went out Saturday night for a girls' Chinese meal at a local restaurant. The food was amazing. Everything beautifully cooked and not in the slightest bit greasy (which you can get with a lot of Chinese food).  We really enjoyed the meal.  Even S had something to eat!

Today we chilled out and had the brother-in-law and sister-in-law over for cake (yes, we got her a birthday cake) and they bought her a mermaid tail blanket.  Really nice it looks too. Don't tell the youngest two but they've got one each for Christmas (shush).

All-in-all a lovely weekend. As teen started her job last week, it was an ideal time for her to get a watch as she can't look at her phone all day now ;)

Saturday, 15 October 2016

iFly (formerly Airkix) fun

Today we went down to iFly (formerly Airkix) in Basingstoke for S to have a birthday flight. She's always wanted to fly so when she saw the video of the teen and I doing it, she said she'd love a go. She was a natural.  She did 3 flights and loved every minute of it.

We booked a return set of flights for her before we left, along with another set for the teen and indoor skiing for the youngest.  I think we could be here quite a bit!

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Cake and other stuff

We popped over to Longacres this morning to pick up some cake.  Hubby wanted some of the scrummy lemon drizzle to take to work as he has a very important meeting today and it seems Waitrose cake didn't cut the mustard.  The girls and I headed off and also had a bit of a look around.

They really liked the Halloween display and said some of the features were 'really creepy'. My particular dislike is anything clown. Yep, I'm one of those people who hates clowns.  The whole 'IT' masks hanging there I could happily have taken down and jumped up and down on. Heaven help anyone who turns up at our door on 31st wearing a clown mask (you have been warned)!  I did get away with buying nothing more than a couple of witches hat hairbands though - phew!

The bakery area is one of our favourite parts.  The girls chose their cakes (yep, the 'usual' ones) and then we got some huge bread rolls for lunch.  Only one problem with the bakery that I noticed - the croissants. I have a nut allergy and they had the plain and almond croissants in the same basket, touching each other.  No go for me I'm afraid but hubby had asked for an almond one, so he was in luck.  I think I must have picked it up a bit like people pick up their dog's poo!  I literally held a plastic bag over it and scooped it up, turning the bag inside out as I did so, so I didn't have to touch it.

We then went and got some beads that you can use on top of plant pots for decoration. I wanted them to put into a glass bowl that hubby had bought.  It's sitting on the shelf in the lounge so I filled it up with three different types of beads, layered, and put a little string of white flower LED lights into it as well. It looks really nice now.  Not sure whether smaller lights may have been better, but I can always get some next time.

I also bought some fake tealights that flicker.  I like these for a little candle holder I have in the lounge.  They look really effective in the evening and give a cosy glow.  Since we've decorated, I'm always looking around for little 'homely' bits and bobs.  Nice to have the house feeling fresh again.

Monday, 3 October 2016

No Man's Land

Saturday afternoon we went up to London to the matinee performance of No Man's Land by Harold Pinter. I was very excited as it had two actors that I love in it; Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.  I'd managed to get the tickets for £10 each. We were up in the Gods but who cares!  When I saw the show advertised, there was a press release saying 100 tickets would be made available for £10 each and guess who got 2 *grin*.   This appears to be an amazing achievement as hubby checked out the prices of the show on Friday before we went. If he'd had a stool, he'd have fallen off of it.  Guess how much....£150 (or more) per ticket!  What?!  I actually thought hubby was exaggerating (he is prone to that at times - he had a kettle that must have cost a million pounds when we first me I'm sure).  I even looked it up myself. He wasn't. Talk about feeling a tad smug.

We nipped up on the train so parked in the station car park. I was expecting £10 for the day but oh no, on a Saturday it's £2 for the day.  Perhaps we should buy a lottery ticket today too?  Luck seems to be on our side.

We arrived quickly (it's an easy journey for us) and went off for a light bite and a drink first almost opposite the Wyndham Theatre, which is where the show was. 

Picture credit
Very excited as it came to show time. The two stars were absolutely brilliant and the lines had us laughing out loud as an audience.  As we were right at the back at the top (see pic) we saw a lot of the top of their heads. It would have been nice to see the expressions too but I'm happy for £10 a seat. You wouldn't want to sit there if you suffered with vertigo though.  There were people standing behind us as well and bar one or two seats we spotted, it was a full house.

I can't honestly tell you what the play was about as I haven't got a clue.  They seemed to be drunk and waffling in the night scene and boasting about having affairs with each other's wives in the morning scene.  No matter, it was good and they are a great pair to see. 

It was about halfway through that hubby turned to me and said "I've just realised it's Magneto and that other chap". I give up....!

Sunday, 2 October 2016

New furniture

Our new suite arrived on Monday last week and we love it.  We ordered it from DFS as, believe it or not, they had a sale on!  I know. Amazing right? Anyway the delivery chaps arrived about 8.30 in the morning and were the nicest people.  They got a tip and well deserved it was too as they brought everything in carefully, unpacked it and took the rubbish away.

The girls adore the swivel chair and we all love the corner suite.  It's just so comfy.  Although we did like our leather one, now that the girls are older (although I'm not sure they drop less crumbs), it's nice to sink into a warm, material suite as opposed to the chill of plonking yourself onto a leather sofa.

The lounge looks bigger now with everything rearranged. I really like the new layout.  We've only got one more room to decorate - the dining room. Hubby is going to start on that one this week he informs me (is that before or after fixing your two motorbikes and tidying up the garage and put the new racking up in there?).  We'll see.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016


We're decorating the lounge as our new suite arrives on Monday - hooray!  We sold our old three-piece suite within 1 day of advertising it and have been sitting on garden chairs ever since (around three weeks). Fortunately they are nice garden chairs with big cushions but even so, we can't wait to get our new suite.

Today hubby was painting the walls whilst I was trying to work out how the spaghetti of cables behind the TV would work if we moved said appliance to another wall.  Sadly, it looks like we can'nay do it, we're going to need more cable Jim (Star Trek reference).  Of course when we had our Sky box installed, it seemed unnecessary to have a spare 3-4 metres of cable behind the TV so the installers cut it off so it fitted nicely.  Thus, we need more cable (hubby's job for tomorrow along with painting the last two walls).

I'm really looking forward to having more space in the lounge, even though we've ordered a corner unit. I've replaced 3 Argos DVD/CD shelves with a new bookcase from John Lewis to match the one we already have.  As you've gathered, they aren't for books.  The girls are really excited about the 'love seat' swivel chair we're getting. There may be a fight over who sits which side.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Spring bulbs,wine and...Halloween?

The teen and I headed down to Longacres today to pick up some spring bulbs. I know, summer is just about over (so the weather tells me when I look out of the window) so I thought it would be nice to prep the flower pots for spring.  Some of my summer plants are dying off a bit already which is a shame.

As usual, there was so much variety I thought it would be a tough choice but then the teen said "Look mum, flowers the colour of my soul" holding these up. Decision made.  I got three different colour packs of these.  I have to say that I'll be curious about how black they look when they come up.  I've never had black flowers before.

It seems that Longacres is totally ready for Halloween as well. They have some pretty creepy displays there that you can put outside your house.  I may even have to get something more for our house.  I normally go crazy with just a pumpkin *grin*.

As you can see, I also spotted the ideal wine glass for my sister (sorry Kate!) LOL.  Gives a new meaning to 'just the one' doesn't it.