Together Time…

One of the best decisions we ever made was to join the National Trust. I love looking round the houses – I always try to imagine what i must’ve been like to actually live there and come home with intentions to dig out my old Jane Austen novels and catch up on Downton Abbey (I feel like I’m the only person in the world still on Series 2)! However, much as I like the houses, the main reason I love the National Trust is because they ensure quality family time. I find it quite funny that my children don’t think of going for a nice walk when the weather is nice so much, they equate family walks with wrapping up warm, taking a thermos of tomato soup and wellies. In the summer months, we tend to spend time outside exploring new places, on beaches, forests, and a lot more with friends. I blogged last week about how we were surprised to get a bit more nice weather, so we decided to spend last weekend at Tyntesfield – about an hour away from where we live, but somewhere we had never been.

At the moment, the children seem exhausted at the end of a week at school so it’s very tempting to have a ‘lazy’ day, but I find the children get even more cranky when they’re at home and tired so this was perfect – an hour sitting in the car, so they could have a little doze if they wanted and then a big burst of fresh air. The weather was gorgeous for October, we were wandering around without coats, and even managed a picnic! There was also a Farmer’s Market on and it would’ve been rude to walk past toffee chocolate cupcakes without buying 1 or 4!

It didn’t really matter if we were salivating looking at all the yummy food, having our picnic, walking around, talking Daddy into giving piggy backs, marvelling at how beautiful Autumn is, or just talking to each other while doing all of these things, the fact is we were together, enjoying quality time with each other, no distractions. In a household where we have very busy weekdays, our weekends are sacrosanct – they are for family time and we always try to enjoy it to the full!

I’m joining up with #CountryKids as usual this week, and looking forward to heading over to Fiona’s blog at Coombe Mill to get some inspiration for more outdoor fun!

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Inside Out

It’s been a funny one this week! Just 2 weeks ago we put all the summer clothes away and hit the shops to buy some winter clothes after realising that both of the children have clearly had a growth spurt since last year – my son has gone up 2 whole shoe sizes since last year and is now heavier and taller than his sister who is nearly 2 years older (she is very unimpressed)! That said, my daughter has also shot up and her jeans more resemble cropped jeans.

Typically, and believe me I’m not complaining, the sun decides that maybe it isn’t done for the year, and the summer clothes have come out once more! During the week we’re so busy with routines that there’s very little opportunity for going out somewhere to enjoy the weather, but there’s also this impending pressure with each day that it might actually be the last nice one, so this week has seen us trying to take advantage by doing as many of our inside activities outside!

A walk without our warm coats on…

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Coffee and cake outside at the farm shop…

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Mummy gets to play at the park…

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A picnic tea in the garden in our t-shirts…

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Ok, the cake had to cook in the oven, but there’s no harm in a bit of al fresco bowl licking is there?!

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Hopefully the weather will continue this weekend as we have a new National Trust place to explore, although that said, I think t-shirts in October is pretty good going, so I have tomato soup and thermos flasks at the ready so we can have a fab time whatever!

I’m linking up to #CountryKids again over at Coombe Mill. Can’t wait to see what you’ve all been up to!

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Catching the Travel Bug!

It’s wrong to describe it as a regret because I wouldn’t want to change a thing about what I have now, but looking back the one thing I wish I’d done was travel. I mean properly travel. My Mum is petrified of flying so I never left the country until I was 19 when I successfully auditioned for a choir who went on a number of international tours. However, my Mum’s fear of flying transferred on to me so I turned down all the longer flights – looking back I can’t believe that I could have travelled all expenses paid to Japan, America and Mexico to name but a few and I said no!

When I met my husband, he also couldn’t stand flying so we never really went on holidays just the 2 of us, something we both now regret. We never really felt the urge to go away so just didn’t! Again, we both now can’t believe we didn’t jump at the opportunity – what were we thinking?!

When we had the children, we wanted to make sure that they had experiences they would remember and vowed that we would go on holiday at least once a year. When they were small we went camping in this country, camping in France and did little mini breaks. When money was tight we had some really cheap breaks cashing in on Tesco Clubcard points to get some nice days out too.

Eventually, when the children were 5 and 3 we took them on a plane! We braved it and went to Majorca for a week and that’s where it all started – we were hooked! Aside from my son cutting his head open on a shelf in the room (yes not even whilst having fun in the pool or anything!) and being told he couldn’t swim for a week (the duration of our stay!) we had the best time ever, and thinking with the glass half full, the medical treatment my son received was the best service ever, he was stitched up within 20 minutes of his accident. We stopped at the travel agent on the drive home from the airport and booked our next holiday!

Since then we’ve been back to Majorca and this year for the first time, the 4 of us left Europe as we went to Turkey. These holidays are proper fun in the sun types of holiday, but given that my husband and I are both teachers we try to get away for a few days in almost every school holiday. It’s amazing how your perspective can change. I used to long for the holidays to have a rest – now I feel like I’ve wasted the holidays if we don’t go away somewhere!

It doesn’t always cost us a lot of money and we try to mix things up so that sometimes the holidays help the children learn something. Last year we went on a road trip to Edinburgh staying in 6 different £29 Premier Inns and completely abusing our National Trust membership as we stopped in Birmingham, the Lake District, Liverpool, Blackpool and of course, Edinburgh. The whole week was planned with military precision but only cost us £300 for the whole week – not bad for a family of 4!

We’ve already planned holidays to Normandy, Amsterdam and Egypt over the next year as well as mini breaks. Sometimes I get down about the fact that I always have an endless list of work I need to do, and even though I’m not physically in work I still have things I have to do, but somehow the thought of having somewhere to go where I will be with my special 3 people, no iPads, chores or emails to interfere spurs me on.

We’ve well and truly caught the travel bug – if only we could now win the lottery too!

The Great Outdoors

I feel a bit of a phoney calling this post ‘The Great Outdoors’ actually, given that we’ve really only ventured out a couple of times all holiday! Since we got back from our holiday in the summer we made getting out with the children a real priority realising that we hadn’t really done so until this point. Weekends would sometimes dissolve into laziness because of how tired my husband and I were after a week of working very long hours (yes, yes I know we get all those holidays etc. but that doesn’t stop you feeling absolutely shattered 5 weeks into a very long term!) and we would go back to school on Monday having barely left the house. This wasn’t always the case of course but we decided to join the National Trust and if we didn’t have other plans we would visit somewhere for a long walk every weekend – and we did right up until Christmas!

Christmas was fab, but very much an indoor thing and we were hosts to 12 people and several uninvited germs, but we did manage a couple of fresh air outings – one to a gorgeous place almost walking distance from our house, the other, our absolute favourite National Trust haunt, only about 20 mins away. I just love that if we ask the children where we should go or what we should do, we always get the same reply: “STOURHEAD!”

When the lovely Fiona from Coombe Mill tweeted me and told me to take my camera and take some snaps so I could join in with #countrykids on her blog I was really excited, especially as it would be something I could passionately write about after my 2 year blogging break!

So here’s our meagre offering for this week – I’m really looking forward to making this a regular thing (without the meagre bit)!

So although we didn’t quite make it out into the great outdoors too much over the last week or so, I can’t wait to get out there more – the children are at their absolute happiest when they’re outside and so by default are we! Next time I link up to #countrykids I’m looking forward to being able to show you more than 2 days out!

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Road Trip!

Half Term seems like such a long time ago already – we’ve had Halloween and Bonfire Night since then after all, and at work I’m now in full ‘Carol Service and Nativity’ mode! Until last year, we’d never really ‘done’ holidays, mostly because my husband and I were both petrified of flying so we were pretty limited on where we could go. However as the children started growing up, we both knew that we didn’t want them to be plagued by the same fear, so we booked a holiday to Majorca, just a couple of hours on a plane. We could do that, right?!

As soon as we saw the children’s excited faces when we took off, my husband was completely cured of his fear. I took a little more persuading, but we coped enough to do it again this year. It was a special holiday. We really pushed the boat out and opted for all inclusive luxury. It was fab and we’ll definitely do it again at some point. The luxury was fab, but the best bit was the family time togetherness, without the distraction of the internet, TV, housework, just general day to day life, so we decided that we were going to go away more.

Being teachers, we are blessed with the school holidays, but not the option of cheaper holidays in term time (actually, I’m pretty relieved that I never have to enter that debate about whether it’s right or wrong!). Anyhow, I digress…

We made the decision to go away for the October holiday, but on a limited budget. With a little research (mostly on my husband’s part it’s got to be said), we managed to go away for a week on a mini road trip taking in the Midlands, Lake District, Edinburgh, Blackpool and Liverpool – five Premier Inns over six nights, each at £29 a pop – bargainous! Armed with a bag of food to avoid extortionately priced services food, our National Trust membership cards to break up the journey with gorgeous walks and fresh air and in car DVD players for the children, off we went on our adventure!

We had plenty of treats along the way too – typical touristy things in each of the cities we stopped at, a trip to a water park, the zoo, some lovely meals out, Premier Inn breakfast, oh their breakfasts were amazing and the children got theirs free but I thought at one point it might turn into that Simpson’s episode where Homer takes advantage of the all you can eat deal!

A week away for a family of four, in the school holidays for not much over £300 in total. Every night we had a clean and comfortable place to stay, we were never hungry, we had so much fun and most of all, we had that all important, undistracted family time (although nearly a week later and I still can’t shut my wash basket)!

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