Project 365 (2014) Week 16

week 16#103.. Finally feeling a bit better today and we managed to get in the garden. I sat in the shade reading while the kids played. Thomas spent a lot of time in the tree.

#104.. We didn’t do much today other than spend more time in the garden. The caterpillars have grown a lot though.

#105.. We went to Groombridge Place today. You can read about it here so I won’t try and do it justice in one paragraph.

#106.. Our first Easter Egg hunt of the year. We had some friends over and I set it up in the garden while the kids made baskets and masks.

#107.. Our second Easter Egg hunt! This time it was just us but the kids had just as much fun!

#108.. We went to Claremont Landscape Gardens for the NT Cadbury Easter Egg Trail and the kids had a great time searching for clues to complete the puzzle and get their egg at the end. Thomas discovered a hole in this tree, crawled through and popped up inside – it is hollow! Of course, everyone else followed him in!

#109.. The Easter Bunny has visited and left eggs for everyone to find in the morning!

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A magical day at Groombridge Place

On Tuesday we went somewhere new to us, somewhere I hadn’t even heard of until very recently. It had been recommended by several people and now we have been I can see why. We went to Groombridge Place; formal gardens, animals and birds of prey, and an enchanted forest near Tonbridge Wells on the Kent Sussex border.

As usual we had planned to arrive mid morning, and as usual we arrived just in time for lunch – although this time it wasn’t all our fault and we had been stuck in traffic for around half an hour, just 4 miles from our destination. So, as usual, we began with our picnic. Once eaten we studied the map and decided to begin our day in the Enchanted Forest. I had seen a sign suggesting that you should allow one and a half to three hours to walk through the forest so I thought we might be able to look around the formal gardens afterwards. I was wrong! We spent almost all afternoon in the forest and could have spent longer I think.

There are two ways to get to the forest; on foot or by canal boat (at a small additional cost). We initially thought we’d take the boat but we waited for a few minutes and saw no sign of it so we decided to walk. Of course, about two minutes along the path the boat came past us but we continued walking and told the kids we’d be better getting the boat back as our feet would be tired by the end!

Groombridge1As we walked there was a wonderful smell of wild garlic all around us and beautiful bluebells all over the woodland floor.

When you reach the Enchanted Forest, the first place you come to is Crusoe’s World, inspired by the TV series Crusoe. Original props from this TV series were reconstructed to create the two tree houses linked together with rope bridges and a central viewing tower. There are two boats for children to play in and some wooden shelters, complete with skeletons hanging up outside. It is fabulous and the kids just loved it!

Groombridge2I knew we couldn’t stay in any one place for too long or we wouldn’t be able to fit everything in, but the kids could have stayed and played here for ages, especially Thomas who was in his element running up and down the ladders to the tree houses.

We gathered everyone up, bought ice cream and walked further in to the forest past a stone lion, a pterodactyl and lots of dinosaur bones. We also saw a sea monster on a nest in the middle of a pond! Finally we reached The Groms Village where the kids played for a short while and Thomas went on the swing.

Groombridge3Next to the swing was the Carp Lake, where for 20p you can feed the hungry fish. Well, of course we had to do this! The kids loved watching the large Carp come up and open their huge mouths to gulp the food down!

A little further up the path and we found The Mystic Pool and The Double Spiral. The kids really started to get in to the magic of the forest here and we started talking about fairies and magic. They needed some reassurance that the magic was pretend but I am pretty sure they believe that the fairies are real. Up along the path from The Double Spiral we found the home of the ancient and very rare Clockwork spider. We spent a while walking around this area – although not right under his web as this did spook the kids a bit! Jasmine kept finding traps the spider had laid, or things he had left lying around after he’d finished playing with them. We found a hole in the ground and it became the spiders footprint. Thomas took a bit of convincing but eventually even he joined in the fun.

Groombridge4From the spiders home we walked down to the Serpents Lair, again needing to reassure the kids it was make-believe. Jasmine caught sight of the serpent in the pool so we didn’t hang around for long and soon we were at the much happier Mossy Bottom, where the fairies live. We spent a long time looking at the fairy houses trying to work out which fairy lived in which house. Ben identified the Christmas Fairy’s house and Thomas thinks he found the Tooth Fairy’s house. They weren’t sure which house belonged to the Dummy Fairy though!

Groombridge5Once out of Mossy Bottom we walked through Tree Fern Valley and up to the Blue Pool and the Teepee village. The Teepees were all full of people enjoying a rest so we walked on and up, through Fort Brant to the Totem Pole. We stopped by the Totem Pole for a while, to catch our breath and explain to the kids what it stood for, before setting off on the Swing Walk. This is a beautiful walk back down the hill with three or four huge tree swings along the way. The hill is very steep in places and these swings are thoughtfully positioned to start of at ground level but as you swing, it appears that you are high above the trees below! They looked wonderful and terrifying all at the same time and I was actually quite thankful that my three were too young to have a go!

Groombridge6At the end of the Swing Walk we reached the Boardwalk, a challenging half mile long walk with aerial walkways, tunnels, rope slides, bridges, obstacles and giant swings suspended from the tallest trees. I wasn’t sure I would manage it but luckily, alongside the adventurous route is a more simple path. I chose this one and Jasmine and Ben came with me, while Thomas loved the tunnels and bridges on his chosen path. 

By now we were all getting tired – Gordon and I especially! We’d been on the go continually for over 3 hours. The Enchanted Forest had been amazing, the Boardwalk was fantastic, but we were ready to sit down. We began the walk back to Crusoe’s World to catch the boat for one last adventure but as we did we caught the end of the Birds of Prey display. The final bird was just being brought out and we gasped when we saw it.. a Bald Eagle! We had to stay and watch!

Groombridge7We watched this beautiful bird fly high up into the trees, dive down to the perches for food and capture this picnic blanket left on the ground by another group!

Finally it was time to get the boat back to the main entrance. We debated having one final look round the formal gardens but we were just too tired!

We had a wonderful, magical day at Groombridge Place. Having heard such positive recommendations from friends it had a lot to live up to, but it did it. We can’t wait to go back again!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Playing in the garden

We have spent a lot of time just playing in the garden recently. The new climbing frame is ready to be used (I can’t quite say finished as the sandpit isn’t done at the bottom yet), the old climbing frame has gone to a new home and the kids have been rediscovering their garden toys as they do every spring. We have done some messy play, some mud play, bug hunts, blown bubbles, the kids have had their bikes out and bounced on space hoppers, we’ve had the play tent out, played hide and seek and over the last two days have done two Easter Egg hunts!

Garden 3 Garden 2 Garden 1 Gsrden 5 Garden 4It has been lovely being able to enjoy so much time outside. Jasmine has been trying to learn to climb the tree (resulting in many scraped legs), Thomas has been getting higher and higher up and seems to spend half his time up there and Ben has just been enjoying the freedom to run, shout and explore.

I know I say we go out whatever the weather but if the wet winter we just had proved one thing, it was that rain stops play.. at least in the garden. Long may the dry sunny weather continue!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Meal Planning Monday 14th April 2014

Well, last week was a week of two halves. It started well with some good days both at home and out and about, but ended badly when Thomas and I were both very sick. I still don’t know if it was a bug we’d caught or something we’d eaten, but it wasn’t nice and meant that Gordon had to telephone work on Saturday morning and request the day off to look after us all. It also meant the meal plan for the end of the week went out of the window so rather than the delicious, fresh meals we had planned for the weekend, Gordon cooked sausage and chips on Saturday and, feeling better but not up to eating much, I dished up plain pasta, grated cheese and veg on Sunday! Luckily the kids prefer their pasta plain and Ben especially was over the moon when he saw it wasn’t in sauce, but I do feel like all my hard work of the last few months has taken a step backwards and I know I will have a battle on my hands next time they get sauce on their spaghetti!

While I am feeling much, much better now than I was on Saturday, I am still not 100% and still have not really got my appetite back so writing this weeks meal plan has been difficult to say the least! Right now I quite fancy a week of plain pasta and dry crackers, so I apologise for possibly the most uninspiring meal pan I have ever written! I tried to get the kids to help by asking them all to suggest one dish they would like to eat this week but they all shouted the same thing.. Pizza! When I asked if they could suggest a different thing each only Jasmine came up with another meal and predictably it was macaroni cheese.. not something I could stomach at all at the moment! I appreciated their effort though and these meals have been added to the plan, albeit a little later in the week when hopefully I will be more interested in food!

This weeks plan looks like this:

Monday – Pie, potato waffles, sweetcorn, beans

Tuesday – Gnocchi, tomato & mascapone cheese sauce, crusty bread

Wednesday – Pizza

Thursday – Spaghetti, tomato & mascapone cheese sauce, salad

Friday – Meadow Pie

Saturday – BBQ/Macaroni cheese

Sunday – Toad in the Hole

*The bank holiday meals are weather dependent and the BBQ will be on the best day!

 

Meal Planning Monday

Project 365 (2014) Week 15

week 15#96.. Big news today. Thomas lost his first tooth! My babies are growing up!

#97.. We made Easter Nest Cakes today (chocolate cornflake cakes with mini eggs on top!) The kids loved making them and enjoyed playing the “2 spoon game” – we made them just after watching “I Can Cook” for any CBeebies watching parents who know what I am talking about!

#98.. We spent the day with friends today. They came round to our house in the morning and spent the day with us, including a trip to the local playground. I only managed to get one photo all day – this one of a dinosaur Ben drew all by himself!

#99.. Pond dipping. Our favourite spring/summer time activity. We went to a local park to river dip this time and spent a couple of hours enjoying the sunshine and the river. We had a good catch and the kids loved it.

#100.. The tadpoles in our pond are doing very well!

#101.. An afternoon in the garden. I set up a messy play/food activity for the kids just after lunch and when they had finished that they started their normal garden activity of bug catching. Today seemed to be mostly about collecting worms to move from one place to another.

#102.. Sickness. And the reason my 365 post is late. Both Thomas and I were up in the night with terrible sickness. By the morning we were over the worst but still felt very poorly so I spent almost the whole day in bed and Thomas joined me for a while in the afternoon. Within five minutes of lying down he had fallen asleep. Thankfully, while we still felt rough neither of us was sick again during the day so it looks like it was just a 24 hour thing (I hope anyway!)

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“I caught a fish!”

Yesterday afternoon we went pond dipping – again! My kids do like pond dipping – and to be honest so do Gordon and I! We went to a local park this time, to discover what lives in the river that runs through. We had a great time and there were several shouts of “I caught a fish”!

Dipping1 Dipping2 Dipping3 Dipping4 Dipping5 Dipping6 Dipping7

We caught sticklebacks, freshwater shrimp, tadpoles, pond snails, caddisfly larvae, a leech, and a water scorpion skin, so all in all a good catch!

Have you ever been pond dipping? What is your best catch?

Choosing a new mattress

We need new mattresses. Two of them in fact. I wake up every morning with a bad back and as I don’t suffer during the day I can only assume it is due to our old unsupportive mattress. And then Ben is rapidly outgrowing his toddler bed and, while we have a single bed for him to move to, we don’t have a mattress for it yet.

Buying a mattress is not a simple task though. There are so many options to choose from, and so much choice within those options! There is the open sprung mattress – suitable for occasional use or children’s bedrooms according to House to Home’s essential guide, the pocket sprung mattress – more luxurious and ideal for two people of different weights, or memory foam – supportive and helpful for people with joint pain as long as you can get used to it’s unique feel.

So where do I start? Well, a good retailer is probably the best place and John Lewis have a great range of mattresses to suit all bodies and budgets.

For Ben, I think something like this Response 720 Firm Mattress would be perfect. From the Essentials range, it is an open sprung mattress at an affordable price, and with a medium to firm mattress tension I would be happy in the knowledge that he was getting the support he needed to get a good nights sleep.

For me and Gordon I think I would go for one of the mid range Ortho Support mattresses.  Specially designed for a firmer feel without compromising on comfort, I was pleased to read reviews from people saying these mattresses had helped stop their back ache! Just what I wanted to hear!

JL mattress

All I need to do now is go and have a look at the mattresses to make the final decision. Fortunately we have a John Lewis at Home not too far from us so I can pop over any time. But even if they don’t have the mattress I want in store to try it’s not the end of the world because John Lewis offer free UK mainland delivery and free returns if you are not happy with your purchase.

I’m getting excited now about the prospect of a good nights sleep!

green dot

Meal Planning Monday 7th April 2014

So it is the Easter holidays. Obviously my kids don’t go to school, but they do attend several clubs and groups and most of these have stopped for the holidays. Monday would usually be Forest School and so without it I am feeling a bit lost today. It doesn’t help that it is raining outside and the kids seem to want to do nothing but fight at the moment. I have a plan though, and we are going to make Easter Nest Cakes this afternoon.. that should cheer everyone up!

Now to our meals.. I am trying to find more summery/lighter meals for us all so have included gnocchi on the menu this week. I love gnocchi and all the kids have tried it before, but not for a long time. It is a great simple meal and I am going to be cooking it with a cheese sauce and Quorn bacon. I am also giving risotto another go this week so we’ll see what success we have this time!

This weeks plan looks like this:

Monday - Pasta Crumble, garlic bread

Tuesday – Gnocchi, cheese sauce, Quorn bacon, salad

Wednesday – Satay and noodles

Thursday – Quorn, pea and pepper risotto, garlic bread

Friday – Pizza – home made

Saturday – Spaghetti, tomato and mascapone sauce, salad

Sunday – Sausage casserole pie
Meal Planning Monday