Rollercoaster Mum: August 2013

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Friday, 30 August 2013

A Year in Pictures - Week 35

It is the last week of the holidays and the time has slipped through our hands like the proverbial sand. It has been one glorious but busy summer.

This week we took the girls horse racing for the first time to Goodwood on unfortunately one of the least glorious days of the summer but we still had lots of fun and came away winners too. (Fantastic value for a family with racing, music, face-painting and free fairground rides on their Fifties themed weekend) Not sufficiently exhausted, the next day we set off for Carfest where there was just too many things to do and not enough time but we managed to kick back in the evening sun and enjoy the music. After a day of rest and recuperation we just about had enough energy to do a couple more of our #50things for the National Trust - making mud pies and snail racing. The mud pies were so popular they made more the next day!

The Big Ferris Wheel, fifties fairground, Goodwood
The view from the top of the Big Wheel should have been stunning but the weather was less than glorious for our trip to Goodwood. It was still declared the best ride ever by Little Miss!

CarFest, Children in Need
So many pictures taken I couldn't choose so this one it was - maybe you may see more if I ever get round to a review!

mud pies, #50things, National Trust
Pies! In this case pies were definitely the winners - I was quite impressed!

Garden Snail, snail racing winner, #50things, National Trust
Bigger Miss bravely let the winning snail crawl over her hand (in fact that is another ticked off the #50things - hold a scary beast!)
See how everyone else is coping with the summer holidays over at the Boy and Me:

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

Thursday, 29 August 2013

The Rollercoaster's (Model) Sailing Boat Adventure - Center Parcs FamilyBreaks August Challenge

It's amazing the ideas you come across on the t'internet. Now I know it saps enormous amounts of my time (and probably yours - well you're reading this for a start) but it does on occasion come up with a good idea that you'd never have thought of doing otherwise. Hence last week I found myself and the girls attempting to make model boats. Not necessarily up there with Einstein in the realm of new ideas but not an activity I would have necessarily been doing otherwise. We had been inspired by the Center Parcs August Challenge to make and sail a model boat.

Swallow and Amazon  - model boats
Very proud of our model boats 
The suggestion was to make a traditional paper boat but pah! I thought I could do better than that - not sure why I was so confident considering my usual abysmal attempts at craft. Anyways after (more) surfing of the wonderful worldwide web I decided that it either had to be an old juice carton or a plastic bottle. Based on the fact that the empty bottle looked vaguely more boat shaped than a rectangular juice carton we went with the bottle.

I set to with a stiff pair of scissors to cut it in half - not as easy as you might think - some parts are made of plastic thicker than my secondary glazed windows. In the meantime Bigger Miss was bouncing up and down eager to get on with the making. (Little Miss was fortunately out at the time) Finally after several plastic related injuries and an almost fatal stabbing with the scissors the two halves of the bottle were prised apart. Now what to do with it next? My initial thoughts had been to paint it, make pretty sails and even a little pennant flag at the top of the mast. These ideas were however swiftly thrown overboard as far too difficult for our limited crafting skills and we concentrated on making it look approximately like a sailing boat and hoping it would actually float.

Little Miss returned and battle ensued over the two bottle halves as Bigger Miss had chosen her half earlier. Eventually a truce was called with my arrival with the chopsticks, a couple of bendy straws, some old fabric scraps and some plasticine pilfered from the toy cupboard. Wooden chopsticks were stuck in lumps of plasticine. Plastic straws bent around the mast and fastened with staples made the boom and after some very rough cutting of triangles from the fabric we attached the sails to the masts with staples.

Model boat from plastic bottle
Details of the construction clearly seen on Amazon!
Naming our ships was easy - they had to be Swallow and Amazon. Names that anyone familiar with Arthur Ransome and his adventure stories set in the English Lake District and later on the Norfolk Broads will know well and the main reason that we had started this whole palaver in the first place. I was introduced to Swallows and Amazons by my uncle and I loved the books and I am now reading them to Bigger Miss and she has fallen for them hook ,line and sinker despite being written over 80 years ago - so there was no question what the names were and the reason that they had to have sails. We had already decided not to paint the boats - mainly due to the lack or waterproof paint but the Misses did write their names on them.

Now to the real test - would they actually sail? After a quick trial in the kitchen sink where at least they floated we set off to try and find a pond.

running in the woods
The almost fruitless search for a pond began
Time was not on our side - the holidays have been busy and I had other things that needed doing but a true Swallows and Amazon adventure ensued. Bigger Miss said she knew where there was a pond near where she had walked a friend's dog. Following her very bad directions we eventually found the spot to find said pond had dried up. Next up was the lake on the Ranges, the question hanging over this one was whether the red danger flags were up or not - after another wild goose chase we found that yes the red flags were up and they had even padlocked the gate. It had to be third time lucky. We set off on the short walk to the local fishing lake and hoped against hope that nobody would be fishing - it was now getting late and tea needed making. Hurrah no fisherman in site - I could taste success on the wind.

sailing model boats
We could taste success - practising sailing our model boats
Ah yes the wind - being later afternoon the wind had got up somewhat - something a good sailor should possibly have noticed (we didn't). Now, most of the points of access to the lake are small platforms raised above the water which I thought might pose some danger of drowning (or at least dunking) to two children bending down attempting to sail model boats so we set off to the other side where the bank sloped gently down to the water. This looked perfect. I envisaged a couple of possibly unsuccessful attempts of the boats swirling around gently, just about sailing near the bank. I would take a couple of photos - job done and home for tea.
Swallow launched
The launching of Swallow - little did we know of the adventures ahead!
How wrong I was. Bigger Miss launched her boat, Swallow, first and then momentarily distracted by Little Miss coming down to the water to launch Amazon we took our eyes off the tiller and yikes she was gone. No, not sunk to the bottom but sailing half way over to the other side of the bloody lake. The wind had filled her sails and off she had gone. Unfortunately not banking on the damn thing actually working we hadn't come prepared for this eventuality and of course with no actual crew on board to steer the sailing was more than a little erratic. Amazon was quickly retrieved from the water before the same fate could befall her and we watched helplessly from the bank as poor little Swallow was blown around in the middle of the lake.

Swallows maiden voyage
Swallow sailed farther and farther away from safety....
We could of course have abandoned ship but I imagined that the fisherman would have taken a very dim view of someone leaving an old plastic bottle in their precious fishing lake not to mention the other wildlife it might have harmed (although had any of the said fishermen turned up we were ready to scarper fast.) So we sat and watched (rather agitatedly) and eventually the prevailing wind blew her towards one side of the lake. She was getting closer to one of the fishing platforms - closer and closer and.... noooo - her sail got caught on a bush between two of the platforms. We tried to find a stick long enough to reach her and pull her away but to no avail. Bigger Miss had a rather good idea of throwing stones to free her which I adapted to small sticks (throwing stones in a fishing lake would have had it's own dangers) but I am a rubbish shot and the girls worse still. Eventually either due to sticks or just time she freed herself but disaster struck a second time. The wind had changed and she was blown away from shore yet again. After more time and more agitation and watching of the wind a gust blew her into the bank - closer to the fishing platform this time. I grabbed one of the long sticks and joy - just managed to reach her, pulling her in. Unfortunately the pulling altered her balance and she took on too much water and very nearly sunk but was saved from a watery grave by my own fair hand. Slightly wet, a bit shaken and very late for tea we returned home, still victorious - our boat had actually sailed. Hurrah for Swallow!!

We would love to try our hand at proper boating at Center Parcs- especially as they have one in the very Lake District where the Swallows and Amazons became so famous. Hopefully it would be a little less dramatic than our little boating adventure. Well you never know.

Linking up with Country Kids at Coombe Mill as a proper Country Kids adventure!
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Imminent return of the Packed Lunch - Walkers Mighty Lights to the Rescue!!

One of the things that I most dread about the end of the holidays is the return of the packed lunch. I may have mentioned before that I absolutely detest making packed lunches so any help in this direction is always very welcome. Last week a large mysterious package arrived in a cardboard box - what was this I wondered (had those pesky children got hold of my credit card - or worse had I been purchasing random items after too much wine?) but no, inside were three multi-packs of the new Walkers Mighty Light crisps (one of each flavour - Lightly Salted, Roast Chicken and Cheese and Onion) - mmmm!

Walkers Mighty Lights crisps
We liked the packaging with the little Crisp Man on the front
The girls fell on the box with great delight and demanded to try them 'now' - they do have a bit of a weakness for crisps. I suspect this is partly because they are rarely allowed them except as a treat as let's face it most crisps are not particularly healthy. If the truth were told they don't often get crisps in their lunch boxes. I have been known to bribe them with half a pack each on a Friday if they have been good the rest of the week but that's usually their lot. Being the summer holidays picnics have been somewhat less healthy - it is the holidays and path of least resistance and all that.

Anyway I digress, I was intrigued by the claim of 30% less fat on the Mighty Lights so I could hardly make them wait until they went back to school, however 'now' was about 6pm and nearly bedtime so they did have to wait until the next day and the next picnic. We started the tasting with the Lightly Salted which was probably our least favourite actually - they are still tasty but they have extra seasoning as well and to be honest I like my 'plain' crisps just that - plain with salt. The kids munched through them - the ridges make all the flavours good and crunchy but the next flavour out - the Roast Chicken was definitely a favourite. Bigger Miss even asked 'how much are these crisps, 'cause I want you to buy them Mummy?' (She knows I rarely buy crisps unless they're on offer or cheap!)

In fact the first two packs got munched so quickly that I didn't even manage to take any photos until we only had the Cheese and Onion left! I was pleasantly surprised at the flavour as they are not normally my favourite but I liked these- a good taste without being overpowering. The girls agreed and preferred these to other Cheese and Onion crisps.
Walkers #MightyLights
yum yum, crunch crunch - every last crumb was eaten!
Mighty Lights are undoubtedly healthier than some crisps without too much difference in the flavour and texture and I did check the sugar content as this sometimes rises as fat decreases but it wasn't too bad and in some cases was also lower than comparable crisps. However to me crisps are still a treat so I doubt the girls will get crisps any more often in their lunch boxes but at least I know it will be a healthier treat - win, win!!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post and I was sent three packs of crisps for purposes of review but all words and thoughts are my own.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Silent Sunday

magical Fairy doors at Furzey Gardens

A Year in Pictures - Week 34

This week's post was in great danger of not being done at all so hectic has been yet another week of the holidays ( I cannot believe they are almost over - I am actually sad about this - most unlike me.) Unfortunately blogging has been relegated to the bottom of the list of things to do so although  have tons of stuff that I need/want to write it ain't getting done just yet. On that note lets get on with it - we have had shopping trips, finding fairy doors at the fabulous Furzey Gardens, more climbing, bike riding, boat building, butterfly releasing and baking and I even had to work for two days!

Fairy door hunt at Furzey Gardens
Hunting for fairy doors at the fabulous Furzey Gardens ( I will tell more another time - fairy promise)

Insect Lore butterfly release
One of the five Painted Lady butterflies - all safely grown and just about to fly free

Florentine and Pig's yummy Rainbow Sprinkle Cookies
Little Miss was very very pleased with her Rainbow Sprinkle Cookies

Model Boat #CPfamilybreaks blogger challenge
We made our boats for the #CPFamilybreaks challenge - you will have to wait to here if they floated!

For more summer holiday fun head on over to the Boy and Me:

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Silent Sunday

#kiteflying #butserhill #50things

Making a Mini Pond for Wildlife for the RSPB's #homesfornature

Inspired by a piece on CBBC's 'Wild' as well as the RSPB's Giving Nature a Home campaign we decided to build a mini pond for our garden. Once upon a time we planned a bigger pond for our little patch and then we got chickens so now there is no space for the pond, but a mini pond we reckoned we could do.

We used the instructions on the 'Wild' website as a guideline. We had an old tin plant pot shaped like a bath but a bit smaller, some old clay pots, a couple of stones, sand out of the sand pit that we got rid of earlier in the year and some gravel that we had used for the herb bed. The only things we had to buy were the pond plants. We were ready for a cheap transformation from old pot to a #homefornature.

How to make a mini pond RSPB #homesfornature

This is how we did it:
1/ First gather your materials - large tub, pot (without holes), 2 or 3 clay plant pots, 2 or 3 large stones, some washed sand, a few handfuls of gravel, some water plants and some water (rainwater please - not from the tap)
2/ Spread the sand in the bottom of your large tub/pot or whatever you are using for your pond and put your clay pots in grouped together and upside down - they are for creature hidey holes!
3/ Put your stones and rocks in - some over the top of the pots (but not covering the holes so wee creatures can get in) and layer them so that the animals can climb in and out and shelter in nooks and crannies.
4/Put your water plants in - we got a native mare's tail and a bunch of weed stuff - hopefully this will help to oxygenate the water.
5/ Put your pond in place and carefully add a couple of handfuls of gravel to the top of the plant pots and over the sand.
6/ Collect your rainwater - we are lucky here in that we have a rainwater collection tank under the garden which we can pump water up from anytime (as long as it's not empty!)
7/ Very carefully pour your water in - you will find the pond is muddy looking to start with but it clears after a couple of days.
8/ Wait and watch out for the wildlife to come and visit!

We also added a sign - just to make sure that the frogs know the pond is available!

Our mini pond #homesfornature RSPB

I even took a photo of it at night that you can see here - when Bigger Miss and I slept out in the tent for the RSPB's #BigWildSleepout which was lots of fun - bats, crickets and shooting stars all in one night!

We have also put the nest box up that Bigger Miss made at her Brownies visit to B and Q so we're hoping that we get some birds setting up home in the spring.

bird nestbox #homesfornature made at B and Q

In the meantime we have spotted a couple of frogs in the garden but I think they were there before the pond. Hopefully they will use it in the spring - we may even get frogspawn! We are also going to make a frog and toad home to put near the pond that they can use. We got this idea from an RHS kids book called 'Wildlife Garden' and you just need to put a clay pot on it's side in a small hole, half bury it and then add a few damp leaves inside to make a nice bed for the frog.

Common Frog in garden

In fact we have been inspired by the whole RSPB Homes for Nature campaign and loads of other British nature things going on this summer like the National Trust #50things to do before you are 11 3/4 (making a mini pond ticks off another of these too) and the BBC Summer of Wildlife - a great British summer in more ways than one. Hopefully you might be inspired to get out there and Give Nature a Home this weekend - there's loads of ideas on the RSPB website both big and small so go on give it a go!

Disclosure : this post is in no way sponsored or recompensed I just want to help nature and love this campaign.

I am linking up to Country Kids as this seems like a perfect post for anyone to get there own little slice of the country.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Saturday, 17 August 2013

A Year in Pictures - Week 33

The holidays are whizzing by and time seems to have speeded up to about a million miles an hour. Even though this week has been less busy my good intentions to catch up on blogging stuff - reviews need doing, comments not done - have disappeared like a puff of smoke.

We visited Greenwich with the girls last weekend - (our first experience of a Premier Inn and it was pretty good for a family break). We have spent a couple of grown-up weekends here so we've got to know it a bit and the girls loved it. Meals out, trips on the River to 'proper' London, the Cutty Sark, Greenwich Park, buying souvenirs in Greenwich Market and best of all as far as they were concerned the Greenwich Foot Tunnel under the Thames (free too - it's the simple things isn't it?!) They are already clamouring to go back!

loving the Greenwich Foot Tunnel under the Thames
I took so many picture in Greenwich and London that I can't believe I'm showing you one of a tunnel - but they did love running through it - a definite highlight!

Glass domed entrance to Greenwich Foot Tunnel lit up
And here is the rather grand glass domed entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel - I will have to do a separate post on London - one day! 
On Monday night Bigger Miss and I slept out in a tent in the garden for (a slightly delayed) RSPB's Big Wild Sleepout and it was rather lovely listening to the crickets, seeing a bat or two and (for me) Perseid's Meteor shower. The rest of the week was mainly spent catching up on the cleaning and tidying - I even dusted ( I never dust - fully paid up member of the Domestic Sluttery Club me!) The school shoe shopping has been completed (TFFT) and was made bearable by a spot of kite-flying on the way home. Oh and I nearly forgot the 8 hours (yes 8) that we spent at Alice Holt Forest - owned by the Forestry Commission with friends where I even got creative and helped the kids make fairy wands from sticks.

our mini pond at night #homesfornature #beasts
My camera is not up to taking stars so here is our new mini pond for the RSPB's #homesfornature challenge taken during the #BigWildSleepout

Fairy Wands made from sticks at Alice Holt Forest
The fairy wands we made at Alice Holt (falls over at the thought I actually did craft!)

Kite Flying on Butser Hill part of National Trust #50things
Recuperative kite flying after school shoe shopping - one of our #50things for the National Trust
Did I say it hasn't been busy? I must have drunk too much gin!

For lots more busy summer holiday pictures go take a peek at the Boy and Me

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Silent Sunday

Dragonfly visiting our house

Friday, 9 August 2013

A Year in Pictures - Week 32

Children returned (and driving me mad!) Brought home with them, bags of cherries plundered from distant hedgerows and now transformed into conserves and cakes. Meeting up with much missed best-friends. High walls to be climbed, butterflies to be counted (go on do it, it only takes 15 minutes) and new watery #homesforwildlife created with hopes that we have made prime froggy real estate.

Cherry cake and other produce from the Cherry Harvest
The produce from the bonus cherry harvest

the perfect Summer Pudding
We even put some in the Summer Pudding - well done to Rollercoaster Dad for this one!

Best Friends Forever
Little Miss Sunshine's drawing for her much missed Best Friend
at the top! on the Climbing Wall
Reaching for new heights during holiday activities - well done GetActiv8d

make a mini pond RSPB #homesforwildlife
Our new mini-pond for the RSPB's #homesforwildlife (more on that next week)
Joining up with the Boy and Me - take a look for more summer holiday inspiration..

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Vyne - another hit from the National Trust

The week before last we visited the Vyne, near Basingstoke - another National Trust property that I have been wanting to visit ever since I read about their innovative new playground - the Hidden Realm, so when a friend suggested meeting up there I leapt at the chance. It was also the chance to tick off another of our 50 things to do before you're 11 3/4. Being with friends I didn't take as many photos of the garden as I would have liked - didn't want to be too antisocial! I think you'll get the picture though.

Walled Garden at the Vyne, National Trust

We arrived at lunchtime and after a quick stop for a wee (loo conveniently located at the entrance) we found ourselves a quiet spot near the lake for a picnic. What we hadn't realised is that we were very close to the gorgeous walled garden which even had an area for kids to play and chairs for grown ups - never mind. I could have spent hours exploring the walled garden - complete with glasshouse and chickens but the girls were desperate to find the playground.

Summerhouse at the Vyne, National Trust

 a tree to climg, the Vyne, National Trust

Pigeon Party at the Summerhouse, the Vyne, National Trust

Summerhouse and garden, the Vyne, National Trust

On our way we explored the Summer House which has a fabulous collection of stuffed (as in soft-toy not real) pigeons all dressed up for a party - echoing a part of it's history when it was a dovecote. We passed the amazing Hundred Guinea Oak which I am sure the kids would love to have climbed but we didn't think they would be allowed to! We even found some of the sculptures which provide great photo opportunities as well as fun for the children.

Flower garden in summer, the Vyne, National Trust

Garden sculptures, the Vyne, National Trust

The Hidden Realm play area, the Vyne, National Trust
At last at the Hidden Realm play area and there we stayed! 
Finally we found our way to the Hidden Realm - a fantabulous playground that only opened earlier this year. Being a hot day the girls were waylaid in the pond/paddling area at the entrance, not even making their way in for a good 20 minutes. The play area isn't huge but it has tunnels, slides, a house/castle, speakers between tunnels, water to fill up, dam and generally play with, a hill to climb and roll down, dens to make - totally perfect and intensely absorbing. Suffice to say it kept them occupied for hours. For grown-ups there are picnic tables at the entrance and only one entrance/exit so you can let them run free in safety and it's not too far from the tea-rooms if you want a cuppa.

bird hide, the Vyne, National Trust

Willow dragon sculpture, the Vyne, National Trust

The kids were so busy playing that we literally had to tear them away with the promise of bird-watching from the hide in the woods (and we barely had time for that). The house will have to wait for another day but it looked very beautiful from the outside. As we walked towards the woods we went though yet more beautiful gardens and a stunning view of the lake. We found some more sculptures on the way and we did just about have enough time for a little bird watching - just about enough to tick it off the 50 things list. If you manage to tick off 25 of the 50 before 1 September your child will get a free NT family visit pass and a chance to star in their own film with the Wild -Time Challenge and Project Wild Thing.

We were at the Vyne about 4 hours but could very easily have spent the whole day there and we will definitely be going back. I want to explore the gardens and the girls can't wait to run wild in the woods, not forgetting the rather beautiful house.

the house at the Vyne, National Trust

I am maximising my linky love on this post and although it is a bit short on the garden side there's certainly plenty of beautiful gardens to be seen so I am linking up with How Does Your Garden Grow as well as the ever lovely Country Kids from Coombe Mill.

Mammasaurus - How Does Your Garden Grow?

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 
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