For a long time now I have wanted to start growing my own vegetables.  I love the idea of being a little bit more self-sufficient, and of getting to enjoy produce which we have managed to grow ourselves.

Unfortunately, I am not the most green-fingered of people; couple that with a dog who consistently decides that anything containing soil is fair game and it’s probably not surprising that we’ve only managed to successfully grow a couple of strawberries and tomatoes over the years!  


I can still remember looking helplessly at my tomato plant last year and being convinced that I had managed to kill it, yet again.  We’d used an old pallet and hung some plant pots to get the tomato plants off the ground and away from interfering small people and pets.  Somehow though it still looked like the tomatoes weren’t going to appear and the one day I was outside and I spotted this beautiful red tomato, just waiting to be picked!  We managed to get several more from the plant before the dog realised and started filching them.  Getting that first taste though, and knowing that it was something you had managed to produce…there’s nothing like it.

It’s something we’ve talked about a lot since we first moved into the new house as well; we have a really long garden but it’s just grass and fence and we’d really like to make the most of it.  Deciding where to have some planters and a vegetable patch isn’t easy when you’ve got to think about which area gets the most sun, the fact that the ground here is really marshy and when you’ve got two children and a dog to contend with.  I am feeling super inspired however and even if I just go for something simple like tomatoes then it will still be worth it.

I was also really interested to see that Premier Polytunnels have produced a fun infographic demonstrating how easy it is to have a home grown health kick and showcasing some really delicious sounding recipes for when you finally get to pick your own produce.  I don’t think I had ever considered having a polytunnel in the garden before but it might actually be the way forward.  It would certainly stop the dog from jumping into the vegetable patch and hiding her latest treasure.  You can grow all kinds in your polytunnel as which is really great; and using a polytunnel means you can sow and harvest some produce all through the year, not just in the warmer months.


They also have a yearly planner which is also really useful; we are obviously a little late to sow some fruit and veg but others such as lettuce, onions and strawberries can all be planted in the next couple of months.

Just spending a little bit of time on their website has really made me think and I’m definitely feeling like we should

give some simple vegetables a go again this year; if we’re lucky we might be able to enjoy some on our table at Christmas!  

Have you ever grown your own?  Do you have any tips?


*This is a collaborative post*

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As you might have realised if you have spent any amount of time looking at my social media or reading the blog…we are a family of bookworms.  Each of us adores reading and it’s something that I absolutely love.

You are just as likely to find Meg or Eli curled up on their beds reading than you are to find her tearing around outside; although plenty of that does happen too just for good measure!

I thought it might be interesting just to give you a little update on the books we are currently reading and where we are all at; as much for a record for myself as anything else!

Jess
I have just finished The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and I absolutely loved it.  I’ll be doing a full review over on my YouTube Channel shortly but let’s just say that it’s a book I would highly recommend.  Set in World War Two in Occupied France, it’s about two sisters and how they each get involved in their own form of resistance against the Nazis.  A wonderfully written book, I honestly couldn’t put it down.  

I’m also currently working my way through an ARC copy of The Museum of You by Carys Bray and I also hope to pick up We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver in the next few days as well.

James
James was given the Rick Riordan, Heroes of Olympus book set for his birthday and I have pretty much lost him since then.  He is a huge Rick Riordan fan and although he was halfway through Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas that was quickly abandoned when the PJ books arrived; such is their pull!

Meg
Still sitting just below Middle Grade books, Meg is currently enjoying The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl, The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton and Kittens in the Kitchen by Lucy Daniels.  She is on Stage 10 reading books at school which are still very basic chapter books and not nearly as enjoyable as the fiction books she has at home but we read what we must!

Eli
Eli, meanwhile is racing up behind Meg having just been moved onto Stage 6 books at school.  At home he is very much into reading little Star Wars stories although we are also reading Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl with him as well.  I am currently looking at other suitable books he could have at home to broaden his reading materials.


I had this great idea to showcase the books we were currently reading in a quirky way…as you can see, it didn’t quite work out.  Apparently I’m the only member of the family who likes to wear socks!  Back to the drawing board on that one I think…


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…or the ‘discovering’ centre as Eli kept referring to it!  Once we had clarified that we weren’t, unfortunately, heading to the big theme park version of Legoland.  Although a trip there might well be in the near future for us.

Thanks to the wonders of the Council and the school system, our Easter holidays this year ended up being much later than most other places and so we decided to take advantage of this with a trip to the Legoland Discovery Centre at the Trafford Centre in Manchester.  We knew that the schools in Manchester had already gone back so we were fairly certain that it would be quiet.

If only we had known just how quiet it would really be!  


The Legoland Discovery Centre is basically a rather large soft play with a few rides and attractions thrown in for good measure.  I had very little expectation when we arrived but I have to admit that it far exceeded what I had thought.  This might have been helped by the fact that we pretty much had the run of the place to ourselves but nonetheless, it was a fantastic day out.


On arrival, I was pleased to notice that there were little tables set up with Duplo and Lego bricks to keep children occupied whilst queuing to get in.  There weren’t any queues when we arrived but we were waiting for another friend and her daughter to arrive so Eli made the most of the time.  After getting our tickets scanned we headed through to a small area where we were made to sit and have our photograph taken before heading down in a nearby lift for the Factory Tour.


The Factory Tour is just a little video clip followed by a demonstration by a rather enthusiastic member of staff on how Lego bricks are made.  The guy we had was great at getting the kids involved and at the end of the process we were each handed a little Lego brick which said ‘Legoland Discovery Centre’ on it; a nice (free) souvenir to take home which was a lovely touch.

Once through you are met with the first ride in the Centre; the Kingdom Quest Laser Ride.  Unfortunately I was prevented from taking any photos whilst we were on the ride but you are basically shooting laser guns at bad guys as you go around a little track.  The kids all loved this ride and we ended up going on it two more times during the course of the day.

After that we walked through into an area which had lots of the UK’s most famous landmarks created out of Lego.  The kids were a bit less interested in this but I thought it was utterly fascinating; many of them didn’t even look like they were made of Lego until you got up close to them.


Once through this section you are into the main part of the Discovery Centre with the Fire Academy soft play area taking centre stage surrounded by an area where you could build and race your own cars, the Forest Pursuit driving school, the entrance to the 4D cinema and Merlin’s Apprentice Ride as well as a few more attractions.


As I said, we had the place almost to ourselves so we were able to grab some seats and let the kids explore.  They had great fun going into the soft play and around the driving school although the winner was definitely the Lego Racers’ section.  I think all of the 5 children who went would have happily spent hours building and destroying their cars along the tracks.


After we had exhausted the delights of the centre section (and popped outside for a picnic in the sun) we re-rode the Kingdom Quest ride before heading into the 4D show.  This was by the best attraction of the day for me, although you do probably need to have watched the Lego Movie to give the short film some context.

After all of that, we spent a brief time in the Ninjago Laser Camp; again this proved really popular with the children…who wouldn’t want to test their wits against laser beams?  And we spent around 45 minutes with them all taking turns on the different levels before we were interrupted by another family.  


It signalled a good time to head on home and we passed through the Lego Discovery Shop, picking up some reasonably priced souvenirs to take home before returning to the car.

Overall I was really impressed with this day out.  However I would say there are a few things which you could do to ensure your visit is just as enjoyable:-

* Avoid school holidays if possible.  The Discovery Centre is not that big and I can see how it would become frustrating if you had to queue for everything.  If you can’t avoid the holidays then try and arrive first thing before the majority of others do; it was definitely quieter in the morning and busier by the afternoon.

* Look out for good deals.  We got a great deal because we were visiting during term time and I know there are plenty of online deals to be found, even if it’s just booking tickets in advance (sometimes you can get up to 45% off walk up prices)

* Don’t expect it to be like Legoland Windsor.  I have since read a number of reviews slating the Discovery Centre because it wasn’t how people expected it.  This isn’t a theme park.  So don’t expect the rides to be epic; they are good for children aged 10 and under but not to the standard of a theme park by any stretch of the imagination.

And if you want a more rounded view of what we got up to then do check out the video below:-


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Each year I love to sit down and write a post reflecting on how the children are another year older around the time of their birthdays…I say love but I’m pretty sure I have a little cry after I finish each post wondering how on earth my babies are reaching such big numbers!

This year is no different and over the weekend Eli turned 5 years old.  We have had 5 whole years of this fiesty and fearless little character in our lives and oh how we have changed for it.

~

I spent some time before sitting down to write this, reading over the posts I’ve written since you were 2.  It makes me smile to think that even back then we could see the traits emerging which would dominate your personality.  You started school back in September and have come on in leaps and bounds but we still see the flashes of stubbornness, the determination to go your own way, the creativity and inquisitiveness which follows you around.


I loved going to parents evening a couple of months ago and listening to your teacher describe you as such a bright little boy who never stops asking questions and it’s nice to think that you are exactly the same way at school as you are at home (although sometimes I do wish for a break from the incessant question asking!)

Affection and cuddles are still very much a selective thing; you love to offer them up on your own terms and are currently going through a phase where you will take them away too.  ‘I hate you’ now features on a regular basis especially when you are feeling frustrated.  It’s hard sometimes not to take it too personally and to remember that it is the passion you have and the need for independence which sometimes sends you over the edge, especially when you can’t have your own way and you can’t understand why.


That passion and drive, that reach for freedom and independence…I see so much of myself in the way you are, right down to the way you react when you can’t have your own way.  Oh I know that feeling of being stifled very well!  You are so quick to change temperament though; not like your sister who can hold a grudge for weeks…one minute you are raging about an injustice and the next you are disarming and charming everyone with your cheeky smile.

You are very invested in things being ‘fair’ and life is very black and white for you.  I can’t decide yet if this is a good thing or a bad thing, I suppose only time will tell.  So far I see that it is good because you aren’t afraid to speak up if you see something isn’t right, even on behalf of someone else, but it also means there is no room for negotiation; something is either okay or it isn’t.  I hope that with maturity will come a greater comprehension that it can’t always be so simple.

Star Wars is the name of the game at the moment and you absolutely adore anything to do with it, although you tend to favour the dark side over the light which is only slightly worrying!!  You aren’t so keen on your school reading books but you will devour anything and everything related to Star Wars, reading words which often catch us off-guard when we wonder how on earth you know them.


You are also starting to get into football now and want to please your Daddy so much with your knowledge.  You often ask me questions so you can later regale Daddy with all the things you know about the players.


You have such a thirst for life and you really come alive when you are outside.  We have started to notice a real difference in the way that you behave when you are inside versus when you are outdoors.  You choose to head outside in all weathers; rain, shine, hail…


You still make us all laugh; you have a wicked sense of humour and a real grasp of sarcasm which is surprising in someone so young.  You are still Meg’s favourite person to have a giggle with and I hope that will long continue.


I shared a little status over on Facebook at the weekend about how you make us feel all the emotions on a daily basis and that really is so true.  You make us laugh with your random quips and silly expressions…you make us frustrated with your stubborness and refusal to bend unless on your own terms…you make us afraid because you are so fearless…but most of all you make us feel like the luckiest parents.  We get to do this journey with you.  And that is pretty awesome.

Happy 5th birthday gorgeous boy.


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Travelling is something which both James and myself are very passionate about and prior to having children we would often talk about the places we longed to go to.  If you had asked me to make a wishlist of city breaks I think I could have just gone on and on and probably bored you to tears.

Whilst I’m a bit more realistic now in thinking about places which would be suitable for two children, our trip to Oslo last year certainly opened my eyes in terms of what might actually be possible with an almost 5 and an almost 7 year old (eek!) and so when Clickstay got in touch and asked me to write a travel inspired piece I knew straight away what I was going to write about.

My new and updated city break travel wishlist:-


Prague, Czech Republic
This city has been at the top of my wish list for quite some time and I would love to visit one day.  We almost went to Prague instead of Oslo last year but the timings of our trip just weren’t workable.  I came so close!  From the two hundred (two hundred!) historic parks and gardens to the picturesque river, not to mention the romanesque architecture…I know there is a lot which would appeal to me about this beautiful city.  I’ve heard it’s meant to be pretty great for families too; the idea of being able to take a steamship from the centre of the city to Prague Zoo would just about sell it to Meg and Eli I think.

Reykjavik, Iceland
I don’t do so well in the cold so this is definitely more of James’ influence than mine but I think I might bring myself to manage if it meant getting to experience the wonders of the geysers and the Northern Lights.  I also think that Iceland would be a very magical place to visit for the kids, from the excitement of getting to swim in a thermal pool to the awe-inspiring Mount Esja…I can think of at least one little person in this family who would appreciate a modern wonder like that.

Copenhagen, Denmark
My love of all things Scandi was definitely given a boost when we went to Norway and I think this is what, in part, fuels my desire to also visit nearby Denmark and more specifically, Copenhagen.  The Tivoli Gardens just sound absolutely amazing, not to mention it’s the home of the Little Mermaid.


Oia, Santorini
Okay, so this can’t technically be classed as a city break but I was pretty inspired when I was browsing through Clickstay’s website and it reminded me of a book I once read which was set in the tiny Santorini village of Oia.  It is meant to have the most stunning sunsets and I can just imagine the way it would look as it lit up the whitewashed houses.  I’d probably need at least a week or two to fully appreciate it though, I’m sure.


Valletta, Malta
I figured I needed to choose somewhere hot as my list seemed to predominantly feature places which tend to be cold so I’ve gone for one of the most popular and historical cities in Malta; Valletta.  This is a purely selfish choice because I have heard that Malta is just full of historical landmarks and architecture which is right up my street.  I could easily send James and the kids off to the beach for the day too if they’d had enough of traipsing round after me!  But honestly, a city built by Knights?  Count me in.

As difficult as it was to narrow my choices down, I think these 5 would have to be my current top picks of city breaks to take as a family.  Do let me know what you think of them!


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