Archives for March 2012

Family Days Out – Almond Valley Heritage Centre

My three-year old has a long standing obsession with farm animals (particularly cows), unhealthy which made a family day out to Almond Valley Heritage Centre and Farm in Livingston, West Lothian an obvious choice.  So much more than a Heritage Centre, Almond Valley is packed with activities and attractions for all ages – crawlers, toddlers, an inquisitive five year old and big kids alike (yes, I had a good old bounce on the trampolines, but it was one of the designated parent and toddler ones…though my toddler was exploring the wooden train with Daddy at the time!)  Animal wise there are goats, lambs, calves, some famous hogs (reared on an Island, due for slaughter, but donated to Almond Valley when the owner couldn’t quite turn them into his Sunday morning bacon butty.) There are opportunities to feed lambs and cow milking demonstrations, much to the intrigue and amusement of said five year old.

The simulated archaeological dig is quite something else, and being under cover is a bonus if the rain is threatening and you find yourself at that end of the farm with a mad dash across the bridge between you and the inviting haven that is Morag’s Milk Bar and Tearoom.  Morag is a fantastic Highland cow who lives with lots of sheep and few ponies in the field at the furthest end of the farm park. You can see her if you partake in one of the tractor and trailer rides, but be warned, whilst fun, it’s a bumpy ride round the field, and I felt seasick afterwards.  Morag is clearly a very talented cow as her home baked goods on offer in the traditional tearoom are out of this world, mint slice and fruit scones the size of bowling balls both highly recommended.  There are healthy lunchbox options for the kids, and the friendly tearoom team pride themselves for not selling chips!

The museum element could be easily missed as the lure of the outdoor play parks, mini tractors for those budding farmers, soft play, nutty bouncer and go-karts take you straight out of the main door and past it, but it is certainly worth a visit. Complete with a mocked up living room from 1900’s with washtub in front of the fireplace and grocery store manned by a very realistic grocer, as well as a mini mineshaft complete with mining sounds, it feels like two different visits in one day.

There are picnic spots aplenty, choose to sit by the duck pond, but be prepared to part with some of your packed lunch as the ducks took a very keen interest in the contents of our cool bag.  Or you could sit opposite the bouncy cow (not castle) complete with giant pink udders. There’s a soft play for the little ones, with a meadow theme and flowers which make animal noises when you jump on them, much to the horror of my youngest (and cheeky delight of my eldest). There is a working watermill and machinery shed which brings the shale oil history in Central Scotland to life.  We loved having a ‘bubble race’ with the three tubes each filled with oils of different viscosity  and seeing who’s bubbles could reach the top of the tube first.  All of the main paths are buggy friendly, and there’s a microwave and bottle warmer for heating baby food as well as baby changing stations in each of the main toilet facilities. The retro postcards in the gift shop are worth a look.  Expect the family to leave Almond Valley smiling, but exhausted and more than likely with some cow pat on their shoes.

 

This is not a sponsored post. The view expressed are entirely my own.

Domestic Blister

We’ve all done it haven’t we? We load up the smoothie maker with brightly coloured fruits just bursting with all our essential vitamins and nutrients. We’ve added in a good dollop of low-fat-can’t –get- any-lower-than- this- no- fat- zero- fat-zilch- fat- Greek yoghurt. We’ve spritzed in a sharp twist of lime for that extra morning zing and then pressed the big red button on the front to blitz the whole lot into a glass full of gorgeously good for us, no rx makes us feel all virtuous, troche homemade deliciousness, aka breakfast smoothie…

But we forgot to put the lid on, didn’t we?

And now we are in a prime position to test out another health and wellbeing theory –  the added hair conditioning properties of yogurt and lime juice.

As I stood in the kitchen that particular Monday morning, with gloopy honey dripping from my nose and a half pureed raspberry sliding slowly down my lapel, it dawned on me that like all other kitchen appliances, perhaps I’d be best placed to wash everything down, pull the box out from the cupboard and pack all the shiny bits away. Then I could happily take them all back to the good place from whence they came; my mother-in-law.

My mother-in-law keeps those gadgety shopping channels in business. You know the ones where in ten easy credit card payments you too can be the owner of a rather ordinary saucepan set that you can roast a whole chicken in? She has a particular penchant for those appliances which promise to revolutionise our domestic goddess capabilities. If that’s what you are after, then she’s your lady. Power wash steam cleaners, apple slicers, dicers and make nicer’s, circulation massagers that make coffee while you mow the lawn. You name it, she has it. Then by default, so do we. In an effort to make life easier for me, being the busy, stretched working mother that I am, apparently I need goods aplenty.  I do suspect there’s something in there about our house never been quiet as diamond bright sparkly as hers, or the kids meals we prepare being quite as packed with freshly prepared vegetables as they are at her place.

Domesticity and I, well, we’re not good bed fellows.

I managed to burn a stew in a slow cooker and it had only been on for four of the requisite seven hours.

The inside of my vacuum cleaner is a effigy to the kids sock drawers and the plastic toy rejects that come free with children’s magazines.

I tried the apple cutter on an onion (ooh, quick thinking me, that’ll work perfectly, no smelly onion hands, no tears due to overexposure of onion juice whilst I painstakingly chop, chop, chop the three onions needed for my new (stew) recipe. Instead I ended up with a cut finger and real tears on top of the noticeably present onion induced tears.

I bruised my big toe with the pressure washer when I gave the driveway a quick going over and tried to ward a persistent bee away from my open toed flip flopped feet.

Gadgets and I. We’re just not compatible.

So I duly pack up the smoothie maker, and put it with the pile of items to return to the in-laws after another unsuccessful stint of trying to make like a domestic goddess. Next time, I’ll stick to the approach I know best. Ring in a takeaway, bulk buy frozen veg and hire myself a cleaner.

It’s safer for everyone all round.

The 2012 MADS Blog Awards

One of my biggest achievements (raising children and drinking from a bottle held tight in my cleavage aside) is winning the West Lothian Young Writer of the Year competition when I was eight. My poem about pollution won me the much coveted winners shield and got me my photo in the local paper.

If you looked closely at the photo you could see I was holding the shield that should have belonged to ‘Derek Purvis Runner Up’ and he was beaming from ear to ear beside me with my shiny winners shield in his hands.

Since then, view I’ve never been as bold as to call myself a writer. I tried the word ‘writer’ out for size when I was talking to one of the mums in the school playground when we were discussing things we do outwith the 9-5 and I am quite certain a large flashing neon arrow appeared pointing at my mouth exclaiming loudly “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire”

Blogger feels safer. And I am firmly in the camp that as a blogger, I AM a writer.

So in celebration of being a writer, I’m boldly putting myself out there for a nomination in the 2012 MAD Blog Awards and hoping some people might just feel compelled to nominate me for Best MAD  Family Life Blog award and /or Best MAD Blog Writer.

The gorgeously colourful MADS AWARDS 2012 badge that you see over there on the right will take you where you need to go should you think Super Mummy merits a mention.

I’d be awfully pleased if you did.

I might even dig out the incriminating photo and post the cringe-worthy photo of my eight year old self (and Derek) here.

Five Reasons I know I’m a Working Mum

Feeding my list addiction, treat Kate does it again this week with her inspired ‘5 reasons I know I’m a …. (fill in the blank).

Here’s my contribution with my five reasons why I know I’m a working mother.

1. Colleagues who travel from London to the Edinburgh office where I’m based arrive in the office before me in the morning, salve and I’ve only had to do the school run before getting there. I’ve usually been up earlier than them too.

2. I get funny looks when I rush out of the office calling ‘have a lovely evening’ and it’s only half past two.

3. I answer our home phone with  the greeting ‘Julie-Ann Murphy speaking.’ My mother has been known to hang up and ring back when I’ve done this, thinking she has a wrong number.

4. The contents of my handbag cover a broad spectrum – baby wipes, tissues, emergency raisins (kids), emergency chocolate (me), pre-reading papers for a weeks worth of meetings, six biros, a pack of post-its, teabags, school fete flyers, permission slips for school trips, calpol sachets, loyalty cards for the local soft play. It truly is my Mary Poppins bag.

5. Colleagues recognise the voice of the nursery manager if they pick up my calls on my behalf whilst I’m in meetings. And they can usually assess by the tone of her voice whether I need to leave immediately to pick up my sick child or whether they are just calling to give me advance warning that he bopped another child on the head with a plastic dinosaur.

 

 

United Kindmums – Random Acts of Kindness

Last Sunday afternoon, viagra at the end of a packed weekend of spa-ing, magazine flicking and wine drinking enjoyed with four of my close chums in a gloriously luxurious lodge by a loch, two of us made a pact to undertake one random act of kindness each day for a week. As I read aloud a snippet about random acts of kindness being a great way of increasing personal happiness, cynical sniggers ensued from the less ‘happy clappy’ members of the brigade, who poured cold water on the idea with a view that people would just think we were plain weird.

Well of course, this inspired us further.

We’d just spent the most relaxing time together, soaking in stunning scenery, pondering and musing about the good things in life – and those good things?  The little things. Feeling massively fortunate to have been able to spend such chilled out time together in such an inspiring little corner of Bonnie Scotland, we felt that spreading a little bit of happiness to others would just be a lovely thing to do.

Debate and discussion over the acts of kindness we could perform continued over mini scones and sandwiches with the crusts cut off,  and ranged from giving out free hugs at train stations to buying a morning beverage for the person behind us in the coffee shop queue. We were in firm agreement. We would start on Monday and we would update one another every night on what random act of kindness we’d performed that day.

So came Monday, oh how easy to fall back into the work and chores routine, and whilst I looked for opportunites to perform a random act of kindness, it just never happened. Then came Tuesday, another frenetic day of rushing and busying and hurrying and not making time – not even two little minutes to perform a random act of kindness. Wednesday – same story…

So the cynical ones amongst us were right. Or were they? Tonight the lovely netmums team introduced ‘United Kindmums’ – a year long campaign about thinking of others and passing the good forward, and frankly I’M GOING TO SHOUT ABOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS because its a simple, yet fantasically wonderful thing to do. Can you imagine the impacts of all the kindmums out there in the UK, undertaking even just the occassional random act of kindness? I’m sure you’d see the warm glow spreading across the UK pretty quickly.

So tonight, Super Mummy readers, fellow United Kindmums, lovely friends who know who they are – I’m supporting Netmums and their United Kindmums campaign, and starting tomorrow I’ll be out there with my random acts of kindness.

Who’s joining me?

 

Silent Sunday

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All the small things

There’s something small working its way around the blogosphere. Small but mighty. It started with this post over at Is there a Plan B? and then Scribbling Mum who’d quite simply had a week of it, purchase joined in too with her small stuff. Her invite to me to join in couldn’t have landed at a better time.

It’s the small stuff that’s the big deal really isn’t it. Stuff like this:-

  • The glug-glug sound of wine pouring from the bottle. The smell of a summer barbecue. The sounds of laughter and chattering that come from other peoples gardens in summer.
  • The sun being up with us at six in the morning. There’s something about staring out of my kitchen window on bright early mornings that makes me feel that I’m the only one awake in the world.
  • The joy of wrapping gifts in tissue paper and ribbon and admiring their simple yet deliciously delightful prettiness.
  • Waiting for my girl at the school gates and watching her excitedly burst out of the door like a ball out of a cannon eager to tell me all about her day. Listening to her babble about the small stuff that made her day pretty big. Watching her contended little face in the rear view mirror as we drive home.
  • The anticipation of starting a new book.  The thought of the new book waiting on my bedside table in all it’s hard-backed colourful glory, tadalafil waiting to have its words spilled and consumed by an eager reader is as equally delightful as the actual reading of the book.
  • Sitting at a breakfast bar and being served warm croissants stuffed with melted smoked cheese and a mug of freshly brewed coffee.
  • Writing soppy things in the sand. Making sandcastles. Collecting sea shells in tin buckets.

  • Wakening on a weekend to hear my girl and my boy playing at ‘holidays’ or ‘cafes’ or ‘houses’ or a mixture of all three. Listening to their made up foreign language. Seeing them getting along.
  • Getting into a freshly washed and made bed and tucking the covers under my feet so nothing can grab them in the night. Sleeping on my husbands side when he’s away. Singing ‘there was four in the bed’ when the little people clamber under the duvet in the morning.
  • A nice hand-cream.
  • Hearing my girl confidently read aloud from her favourite books. Reading stories about farms to my boy. Teaching my husband new words like vociferous, reciprocal and glamping.
  • Picking at heavily laden plates of olives, houmous, pitta chips, cold cuts and pickles.
  • Crunching through the leaves on an Autumn walk.
  • Text messages that start with ‘You just popped into my mind..’
  • A good baby names discussion. What are your babies called? What would you call a girl /boy if you had another? Did you hear what so and so called their baby? What would you have named you baby if you had to name them today? Do you regret your baby names choices? When you were growing up, what names had you chosen for a girl baby and a boy baby? What do you think of Rudi / Charlie / Mason / James / Pocahontas?
  • The childrens handmade cards decorated with glitter, feathers and buttons. Smudgy handprints on the kitchen door. Snoring children.
  • Cherry blossom on the tree in our garden. Pretending we can see pictures in the clouds.
  • Scones with jam and clotted cream. Tea parties. Spotty Teapots.
  • School nativity shows with loud (out of tune) singing angels.
  • Old perfume bottles. New perfume bottles. Being transported back to a moment in time upon the whiff of a certain smell.
  • Putting the world to rights at my kitchen table. With any willing participant.

Thats my small stuff, and when you add it altogether, it makes for pretty big things.

Whats your small stuff? Please do share, or indeed join in with your own blog post. It’ll make you feel good, I promise you that.

 

The worst part of parenting.

This is the worst part of parenting. The part where despite being overwhelmed with urge and desire to make it all better, here you are left feeling helpless and frustrated.

Today we have a poorly little monster. His monstrous bounce is much less bouncy. His mischievous grin is more of a grimace. His ravenous appetite has been replaced by food apathy. Cuddles are the order of the day. Duvets on the sofa. Cartoons on the television. A plastic telescope free with an overpriced colourful magazine. And a bucketful of hot water and disinfectant to hand to mop up the sick.

We’re onto a second antibiotic to try to rid this chest infection. The one we’ve been using for the last week may actually have been making him sicker. Why didn’t I associate the sickness last Thursday with the first dose of the antibiotic? Instead I put it down to ice-cream and jelly treats and running amok at Nanna and Granddads just before bed. Where was my mothers instinct then? Was my eye on my luxury weekend away with the girls? Why didn’t I register that the crackle in his chest wasn’t improving any? Was my head too full of my busy working week?

Being a parent is as testing and guilt inducing as it is rewarding and fulfilling, capsule and today I deserve to stink of puke.

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Do as you do.

Dear Little Princess Pink, treatment

It’s not often I’m short of something to say, sovaldi sale but I am struggling to find the words that properly describe the immense pride I feel this afternoon after your second parent conference since starting at big school. This time I wasn’t fazed at all by the little green chair I sat in opposite your teacher, in fact I rather liked it. Daddy couldn’t make it this time so I had my listening ears on good and proper to ensure I could tell him every little detail of how wonderfully you have settled into school and taken to your class work like a duck to water.

Miss K can’t sing your praises highly enough, which is music to our ears. She shared with me your ‘weekly news journal’ where you get to put your emergent writing skills into practice. She was suitably impressed with the piece you wrote about the weekend we were toilet training your brother, particularly the part where you specified that he did 3 pee pees but no poos and mummy said he may get consternation. She liked that piece so much she asked you to take it to the deputy head Mrs S to let her read it too. I feel the whole school has now celebrated our family toilet training successes with us. I was a little concerned however when I read the piece you wrote about Daddy buying you the Kate Perry SeeDee, but then relieved that you didn’t mention that it has a naughty word in it which mummy says you’ve not to repeat again.

I’m delighted to hear you remain polite, well mannered and hard working and I just know from the mucky state your shoes come home in every night that you also play hard.

Your love of reading and your ability in literacy continues to knock our socks off. We’ll finish The Magic Faraway Tree in no time. The support you have both at school and from Daddy and I will ensure you grow in any which way you please my darling.

Continue to do as you do little one, you are our greatest blessing and every day is enhanced by your wit, your five year old wisdom and your enthusiasm for life.

We’re behind you every step of the way, you are doing us all proud.

Love Mummy xxx

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Family Days Out – East Links Park

Finding myself at a loose end one Monday, ask I packed the kids in the car for the 40 mile trip from where we live to get to East Links Family Park. Despite a glitch with the sat nav and a perpetual chant of ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ from the back seats, viagra it was well worth the 50 minute journey. We met friends in the morning who were well versed with East Links spending many a morning there taking full advantage of the annual membership pass, which heavily discounts the cost per visit, and we took their guidance as to where we might want to spend our time.

The train safari was a great place to start, as the train took us right round the perimeter of the park, allowing us to spot and feed a number of animals along the way, including lamas, deer, rhea, pigs and sheep.  The children found it rather entertaining to see the sheep chasing the train in order to get a mid-morning snack! Needing to release some energy after our leisurely train ride round the park, we had an adventure in the vast wooden fortress which is a fairly new addition to the park, climbing and exploring amidst its cargo nets, rat tunnels and sky rope bridges. The pinnacle being its four lane covered slide which brings its riders speedily down three levels and over the railway track, and which is super fun for kids and adults alike – many of the adults screaming louder than its younger sliders.

The small animal barn was boasting the addition of some new floppy eared bunnies, though I was glad my eldest was still too young to read the sign advertising them for sale as I fear we may have made the long trip back home with an additional passenger as they were very, very cute.  The walk round chicken run was an experience, with the chickens playing hide and seek in the long grass and jumping out to surprise the little ones, much to their dismay but fellow visitors amusement

 

After a fairly basic, but fine lunch of sandwiches and soups in the cafe, the sun came out in the afternoon and we spent a glorious few hours between the toboggan run, which although I’d liken to skeetering down a hill on plastic tray, was great fun, and the roller racers and tractors let my mini drivers put their skills to the test. Despite spending a full day at East Links, there were still spots that we didn’t manage to get to which looked worthy of investigation, including an indoor play area, trampolines and go karts and we’re planning a follow up visit with Dad in tow to tick some of these activities off our list.

Overall, the park offers a great balance between a farm experience and an outdoor activity day out and there is much to see and do, and most certainly something for all ages. The parking and loo facilities are bog standard and no better or worse than anywhere else of a similar ilk, and the gift shop though directly at the exit of the park, is helpful bypassed by a walk-round exit for those who wish to avoid picking up expensive trinkets on the way out.  The icing on the cake of a great family day out as far as I’m concerned!

 

The views expressed in this review are my own and no sponsorship or payment was made for this review.

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