Monday, 26 June 2017

Summer by the sea

I've been living by the sea for about 15 years now, at one point within a ten minute walk and currently about two miles away - close enough that I can walk or run to the coast easily enough. The children go to school in our nearest seaside town and I often park up early so that I can go for a quick walk to the seafront and breathe in the sea air. I also try to fit in a seaside walk most weeks, either alone or with a friend.

Goring Beach near Worthing

Although Worthing isn't perhaps top of the list when it comes to a UK beach holiday destination, there are still plenty of tourists here over the summer. The first summer that I was living here I was temping in the town centre, and I loved taking my sandwiches down to the beach at lunchtime and sitting on the pebbles in the sun with the holidaymakers and locals. It was a bit like being on holiday myself! Worthing can get very busy in the summer, both in the town centre and on the outskirts as you head out towards Goring and Ferring, the cafes are full and although there is plenty of free parking along the front and down surrounding roads they do get very congested.

I love going down to the seafront for a run in the evening when it's still warm and light but a lot quieter. I like to run along the front past the private estates with the big houses that have gardens that stretch down to the beach, imagining what it would be like to live so close to the sea. It's beautiful at sunset, especially when the tide is partly out so you can see the sand underneath the pebbles.

The photo below was taken on one of our first summers in Worthing. We lived in a lovely flat very close to the sea front, and every evening after work we would go for a walk along the front, often all the way into town. We didn't have a garden, and so we used to take a disposable barbecue down to the beach. I loved living so close but when it came to buying a house we just couldn't afford one in that area.

Worthing beach at sunset

Last summer I felt like I rediscovered the beach again, after a few years with young children that to be honest weren't that thrilled with a trip to a cold and windy local beach that didn't have any sand. I did try to take them there a few times when they were little, but after one screamy trip too many I gave up for a while and we kept the beach for holidays. But last summer we had a few trips both alone and with friends, and a couple of times I even indulged them with an ice cream!

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Now that the children can ride their own bikes, and I have a bike of my own, I'm hoping that we might enjoy a few family cycle rides along the prom, which has a lovely wide cycle path. I'm certainly intending to get down there by myself whenr I can.

Perhaps one day we'll be able to afford a house right on the seafront. I dream of a house with a large window that looks out over the sea so that I can watch the sunrise and sunset and listen to the sound of the waves.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Our Summer 2017 To Do List

The calendar is getting full now as we count down to the end of term, with Sports Day, special assemblies, second hand uniform sales and so on, it's very exciting! The children moved schools last September, and this year for the first time our summer holiday will be an impressive eight weeks long. We've booked a mid-week break to Center Parcs for the very first week, leaving me with seven long weeks of child entertainment.

So I'm busy planning, like I always do, and getting the children to help me come up with a list of activities that they want do do during the holidays. Some of them are one off things - like a day trip out - and others are things that we'll hopefully manage to do lots of times - like baking or bike rides. You can see my previous lists here - Summer 2014, Summer 2015 and Summer 2016 - and as in previous years I've made a nice big poster that we can refer to if we encounter a dull moment.

Summer activity list

Many of the suggestions are mine but the children have added a few. Harry asked for a themed day or two, so I need to play Minecraft Day (which won't involve playing Minecraft all day!) and an Egyptian Day. Playing Minecraft over the holidays will feature though I'm sure, Mia made sure to add it to the poster. One of my suggestions, that the children should plan and cook a meal for us all, didn't go down too well but I've left it there in hope. We have lots of craft kits to get on with that I save from birthdays and Christmas, and plenty of activity books to do. I'll also be making sure that we all do lots of reading.

I'm also hoping that we'll be able to organise some play dates and days out with friends, so the next step is to get hold of a calendar and start to schedule some things in!

What are you hoping to do this summer?

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The garden in June

We've been enjoying some lovely sunny days lately, and I've been trying to make the most of the garden, both by myself during the day and with the children after school. I'm not much of a gardener so we don't really have any flower beds, it's usually as much as we can do to keep the grass cut and stop the weeds from completely taking over!

Last year we bought some new garden furniture which I really like and has had a lot of use. It wasn't too expensive but it's quite sturdy and easy to clean. We do enjoy lots of barbecues and it's nice to have somewhere to sit during the day that is comfortable. It's also very light so it's easy to move around the garden depending on whether you want sun or shade.

Patio furniture in the garden

Mia brought this plant home from school before half term, having been told it was a sunflower, and was under strict instructions to look after it so they could see whose had grown the tallest. After a couple of days it became apparent that it was in fact a nasturtium, so I've planted it out in a pot for her in the garden which she has decorated with my painted pebbles - she's very proud of it!

Nasturtium in a pot

This is our vegetable patch which is just off to the side at the bottom of our garden. My parents were visiting last week and I took advantage of my Dad having weeded it to take a photo. I had planted lots of things and was reluctant to weed it in case I pulled something up by mistake (that's my excuse anyway!). Unfortunately many of the things that I had planted didn't actually grow so he's planted me some more, I'm not very green fingered!

Vegetable patch in the garden

Finally, keeping an eye on our garden is Beowulf. I found him in our old house when I was sorting out the garden after we'd been living there a year or so. It had become a bit of a jungle and was quite overgrown, and I found him tucked away among the vegetation. I named him Beowulf, I'm not sure why but I think that we'd just watched the film. I wonder if his previous owners ever wonder where he got to!

Garden ornament

Monday, 19 June 2017

Our first camping trip of the year to the New Forest

Over the hot weekend we enjoyed our first family camping trip of the year to the New Forest. Since our first trips a couple of years ago we've spent a few nights at a time in the forest, staying at either Ashurst or Hollands Wood. Ashurst is slightly closer to us and feels a bit more open, to us Hollands Wood feels more foresty. Either site is lovely though, and for this trip we chose Hollands Wood Campsite, staying for one night.

We arrived on the Saturday in the early afternoon, a little later than usual as the children were taking part in a parade at home. It was very hot, but under the trees it was lovely and cool. After we had put up the tent, something that gets easier every time, the children busied themselves close by, looking for bugs in the tree trunks and undergrowth and building pretend fires with the sticks.

Looking for bugs in the forest

The children also sat still for ages reading their books which was lovely, I even had a little snooze! Then we headed out for a short walk for some tree climbing. We had a barbecue by the tent, then went over to the large open area for some football and frisbee. At this time of year it stays light so late that you can really make the most of the day. Mia was tired first and headed to bed but Harry stayed up reading as late as we did - way past his bedtime but he was so contented that we didn't have the heart to put him to bed!

Reading in pajamas by the tent

The next morning fortunately the children slept until a reasonable time - all that fresh air worked wonders! While we were packing up Mia built herself a little shop on the tree trunk, I loved seeing how her imagination was sparked with the natural bits and pieces that she found around her.

Setting up a forest shop with natural materials

I made a little video of some of the fun that we had in the forest, enjoy! We hope to be returning very soon.

If you want to try camping with the family you might like my post with some tips for trying out family camping!

Friday, 16 June 2017

Those Sainsbury's Lego cards

For the last couple of weeks I've found myself immersed in a new obsession - desperately trying to complete two Sainsbury's Lego trading cards albums. I'm sure that most people reading this post will be familiar with them! Our first encounter with the cards was when my parents sent some packets to the children in the post. They were thrilled with them, they divided them up fairly and only had one duplicate between them, and played all sorts of games. They are really fun cards, each one depicts a different mini figure and they can also be used for games like snap, dominoes and scissors, paper, stone.

But the main reason for collecting them is to trade them with others and slot them into the special album. A couple of weeks later we went to visit the other set of grandparents, who had another stack of cards for them and also the albums. The children now had plenty of cards, but of course once we'd sorted through them, taken out duplicates, and made sure that both albums were as full as they could be, they still had lots missing.

Sainsbury's Lego trading cards

I started to notice that parenting forums like Mumsnet were full of threads with parents busily swapping cards for their children, and Facebook was full of posts from people looking for the last elusive cards. I had promised myself that I wouldn't get swept up in it, but I couldn't stop myself as my perfectionist tendencies kicked in, and I knew that I'd have to try my very best to complete their albums.

I contacted a couple of friends that I knew were regular Sainsbury's shoppers and would be collecting the cards. Thanks to their generosity I was able to fill lots of gaps in the albums, but there were still a few left that I just couldn't find.

As the obsession with completing the albums grew, I started to wonder who was most bothered about the cards, me or the children. They did take their pile of swaps into school along with a list of the numbers that they needed, but they weren't very successful and seemed to come home with fewer cards than they started with. Then as the number of cards required finally began to dwindle to a manageable amount it began to seem even more important. I sent out messages to family and e-mailed around the school mums. Fortunately I wasn't the only Mum out there working hard on behalf of their children! Thanks to a friend of my sisters, we finally slotted in the remaining four cards at the weekend. We still have a small pile of swaps left, and so I've been keeping an eye on our local Facebook group to offer out any that people desperately need to complete the collection, as a way of paying back the generosity that we've had from others.

The children are thrilled with their completed albums and they both love looking through them, so I think that they are appreciative. The albums really are very good, with lots of interesting facts and reading on different topics. It must have been a really successful promotion for Sainsbury's, as it's definitely been a hot topic of conversation both online and offline - but I must admit that I am hoping they don't run it again!

Children with completed Lego card albums

Have your children been collecting the cards? Have they completed their albums yet, or has it been you doing all the work?

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Collecting things

When I was young, I remember that all my friends collected something which they could bring back as a souvenir from holidays and days out and keep on display in their rooms. Some collected erasers, some pens, and my collection was keyrings. As a child, my Dad built me special display racks to hold them, using planks of wood and cup hooks, and I took great pride in arranging them my colour and type.

I've thinned down my collection over the years and I now keep them in a pretty tin, but I love going back through them and reliving the memories of where I bought them. Some of them are now attached to bunches of keys that I use regularly. Even though I don't officially collect them any more, from time to time I still pick one up if I've visited somewhere particularly special.

Keyring collection in a tin

I still remember the excitement of visiting the gift shop after a day out and choosing my keyring. Sometimes there was a limited choice, and sometimes there was a huge range. Where possible at first I would try and buy an embossed blue leather keyring with the name of the attraction. In later years I tended towards plastic ones. I liked to buy matching sets if I could, and I was thrilled when I was able to find matching plastic keyrings from three of the Disney parks.

Plastic Disney keyrings from the 90s

I've been trying to interest the children in a collection. Mia isn't particularly fussed (although she has plenty of plastic nick nacks and stuffed animals building up in her room), but Harry showed an interest and he decided that he would like to collect magnets. So the last few times we've been on holiday we've treated him to a magnet from one of the tourist tat shops (Mia generally comes out with another stuffed toy). He chooses ones that are interesting to him, the bigger and more colourful the better, and he proudly displays them on his radiator.

Child's magnet collection on radiator

These days I still like to collect things. I wrote a little bit about the things that I bring back from my travels, and I have a huge collection of leaflets and postcards from places that we've visited all around the world, neatly sorted in boxes by country. I also like postcards, especially the free advertising ones that you can sometimes find at the cinema or in hotels, and I have lots left from my student days when I used to stick them up all over the walls. I keep ticket stubs, programmes and nice paper bags, and selected printed ephemera relating to current events like the Royal Wedding, or the release of a popular film or book. The main thing about my collection now is that it is mostly free, and easy to dispose of if I feel the need to cut it down! I also have a collection of craft things, in particular buttons, pens and felt, but I do use it regularly so it's not too bad.

Did you have a collection as a child? What do you collect now?

Monday, 12 June 2017

Painted stones

Living near a pebbly beach, there is never a shortage of pebbles for crafting. Our garden has several gravel borders, and this is where I put the pebbles that make their way back from the beach in buckets and handbags. They are large and small, smooth and rough, and in a variety of different colours and shades.

I've been wanting to paint pebbles for a little while now, and I decided that now was the time. I collected together a selection of different pebbles. They aren't too large, they measure around 2-3 cm in diameter, and I chose smooth ones with a nice shape to them that were fairly flat on each side.

I painted the pebbles using gouache paints, as I had a nice selection of colours. They leave a flat, smooth surface. You could also use acrylic paints, which would give a shinier and more textured finish. When the paint had dried I finished with a layer of thin varnish.

The design on the pebbles is very simple - a yellow centre, coloured petals and green background. I left some space around the pebbles, so you can still see the original colour of the stone underneath, although it is made a little darker with the varnish. The white dots are made using a Posca Pen - a really useful crafting product which I've used before to decorate wooden Christmas decorations. The white showed up really well ever on the darkest backgrounds.

Painted pebbles with flowers

Some of the dots around the edges of the petals were painted before the paint had completely dried. This meant that some of the paint colour seeped into the white, making it look as though a paler version of the colour had been used. I waited until the paint had dried completely before making the dots on green, so they showed up as a brighter white.

Brightly coloured painted pebbles

They probably aren't sturdy enough to last very long outdoors, but I'm thinking of displaying them in a flowerpot which is sheltered in the veranda of our summer house. They were so quick and easy to make that I don't mind if they only last the summer - I can make more next year!
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