31 July 2017

How did July 2017 go for our family?

As ever, at the end of the month I share a quick summary of what has been happening in our lives in the past month. July has been a rather active one, and we have been outdoors a lot. It has been lovely to go to a pick your own, and to lavender fields, and the beach, and it feels like nearly every weekend we have been out there somewhere. And I hope August will be as outdoorsy for us too!

We went to the lavender fields because it was one of those things I have wanted to do for ages, ever since seeing other bloggers share their stunning lavender field family shoots... With a fournado in tow I didn't manage to capture those visually amazing family shots many do, but they were quite funny nonetheless!  

family at a lavender field smelling flowers

This July I have loved:
  • Lavender fields! We took a trip down to Hitchin Lavender because well, my social media feeds have been purple whole of July and blogger see, blogger do. 
  • The beach! We went on a beach near to London at the beginning of July. I've probably said it so many times here but I just love the seaside and if there is anywhere I could live, it would be by a beach. 
  • Photography - the new locations have got me excited about photography again and I've taken a ridiculous amount of pictures I need to go through and edit. 
  • Sweet and savoury summer salads. When the heat wave was at its worst, I didn't feel like eating anything other than salads, so I made my old favourite - a strawberry-feta salad. It is amazing, seriously, and you should try it. I also tried a new version with raspberry and goat cheese, and am planning to test melon salads too.  
  • The end of nursery. It really is an end of an era and it feels like such a big step, and I loved to look back on the year and see how far my little girl has grown. 

Wave to Mummy family at lavender fields

My daughter Aili has loved:
  • Having a headteachers award for her good learning in phonics!
  • Drawing lots and lots and lots.
  • Going to the lavender fields and playing with lavender twigs.
  • Pretending to get married to daddy. 
  • Her new sand and water table, and burying her toys in the sand. 
  • Galloping with hew hobby horse and pretending to be a cow girl. She also likes to dress the hobby horse in a nice dress. 
  • Starting a swimming course and a theatre summer school!

Parents kissing and a child face-palming

My husband has loved:
  • Rugby. He has joined a rugby club so a night or two a week he is getting his mud on. There have been many many shopping trips to get appropriate gear now! 
  • Painting finishing touches in our house - it is nice to see the final bits and bobs being tidied up here!
  • Cooking with our daughter, and trying to get her to try new things. So far, she has had a half an orange and a small bite of a corn cob!
  • Completing a couple of bigger design projects, like building websites for his clients. 
  • And also going to the lavender fields, and pick your own farm!

What have you loved this month?

29 July 2017

The end of an era: the nursery year

I cannot believe my child is old enough to go to school now. Just a moment ago she was a little baby, learning to walk, learning to talk, babbling... And now she has been through nursery, and going to school. Gosh, it makes me feel really old. 

The first day she just skipped through the nursery doors without a backwards glance, leaving me feeling a bit distraught. In fact, the whole journey to school she was pulling us along saying she wanted to go there quicker, she wanted to get there already. She was so excited about starting at the nursery and finally making and playing with friends, rather than boring old mummy and daddy. 

The second day she banged her head and we had to fill an incident report. The school photos were taken on the third or the fourth day, with a little dent and a bruise in her forehead. We have a permanent reminder of the incident now, as it left a small scar in her hairline.  

School picture of a girl

After the first week I asked her what did they do at the nursery. She responded: "Playing and playing and painting and cooking". 

And so the weeks went by, playing, and painting, and cooking. We were told that she especially enjoyed dress-up and outdoors play. She also loved playing with the water and sand tables, but never have the nursery teachers seen a child that disliked getting her clothes mucky or wet as much as she did. She loved doing crafts as well, and we have a huge haul of paintings and drawings that have been given to us. 

This past year has been a a whirlwind of growth for her, both physical and emotional. She started as a little girl, excited to go to nursery. She went to the school nursery Monday to Friday mornings, and then to a Montessori nursery on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. She made many many new friends, and loved her time in both nurseries. At the end of the year, she was a big girl, as she likes to remind us constantly. "Do-a by myself! I'm a big girl" is a regular phrase we hear now.  

girl with a medal at school sports day

girl smiling to the camera

She has done so well this past year. She made many many friends, and was apparently quite the popular girl. She was particularly kind and gentle with younger children, and many times would try and comfort her friends if they were upset over something. 

She learned to write her name early on, and could identify all the letters. She learned her phonics so well she could sound out and write three-letter words, like dog or bag. This earned her a headteacher's award at the end of the year. We parents got a special invitation to attend the assembly, and at the assembly she got a golden certificate from the head. 

Her Montessori teachers were also very impressed with her learning and told us that there were things she had learned that wouldn't be learning goals until she would be in her first year in school. Her teacher told us she had learned about geometry too, understanding what cones, cylinders and rectangles were, something also quite advanced. 

The year went past so fast, and our little girl thankfully loved nursery and grew so much during the year. And now our intelligent big little girl, girl who loves learning, is waiting to start her big school. 

And she cannot wait to get there. 

How did the nursery years go for you?

22 July 2017

A day out at our new favourite beach

We went to the beach. 

It has taken us quite a while to go to the beach as a family... I've been speaking of wanting to visit one of these beaches near to London ever since our daughter was born, probably even longer than that. The same summer our daughter was born, we were just about to go to one of these beaches, I think the plan was to go to South-end-on-sea, but as the aircon in our car failed and we were not happy to risk being stuck in a hot car in traffic with a new baby, we just dropped it. And every year we were meant to go, but it was always too far, we were too busy, too this, too that. 

But quite recently a friend tipped us off a nice beach near(ish) to London. A non-commercial, lacking in any of the traditionally tacky seaside attractions, not even an overpriced ice cream cone in sight, just sand and the sea (and of course the locals). 

So off we packed our car to go to Frinton-on-sea, clammed right between Clacton-on-sea and Walton-on-sea.

toddler girl at beach with Trunki swim bag

building sandcastles at frinton-on-sea

girl on a beach and a bee

frinton-on-sea seaside

toddler girl running into the sea

dad and daughter splashing in the sea

dad and daughter in the sea with giraffe float

toddler girl by the seaside

Frinton-on-sea - one of best sandy beaches near to London. Taking a family selfie by the seaside and sharing lots of pictures of Frinton beach.

toddler girl in pink flower towel poncho from boots

man throwing a rugby ball

fit flops on sandy beach

A beautiful family friendly beach near London - Frinton-on-Sea. This is our new favourite beach near London - a sandy beach and lack of commercialisation. Have a look at the pictures of Frinton-on-sea beach front and get some tips on what to expect at Frinton seaside.

So off we packed our car full of all the necessary items for the beach and set on our journey. Alongside the normal items like a picnic, plenty of water , towels and sunscreen, I also always pack plastic flipflops and talcum powder. The flipflops because I can't stand sand in my shoes, with the flipflops you can walk towards the waves and let the sea wash the sand off for you. And talcum powder is perfect to get the sand off rest of your limbs - especially handy with kids. 

It was lovely this beach, Frinton-on-sea. The sea was clear, well, as clear as you can get on the English canal, and the air was fresh. It was just a pure traditional beach, with nothing commercial in sight, just beach huts, sand and sea. There were toilets a short walk away, a tap to get water from, and the town where you could go and get some snacks if you needed to. And the best thing of it all... Free parking. All you really need of a beach. 

So we went swimming, and we went splashing and we went wading. At some point our daughter was trying to egg us on to swim to France. She was planning on floating on her giraffe all the way there and daddy could apparently swim next to her. I said I wouldn't mind as long as they brought back a redblochon for me.

frinton on sea bach huts

dad and daughter at beach

frinton on sea beach huts

dad and daughter on beach

mum and daughter on beach

mum and daughter smiling on beach

seashells in hand

seagull flying

mum collecting seashells with daughter

mum showing seashells to daughter

As the day was nearing it's end and after collecting all those seashells, we were salivating at the thought of fish and chips. Well, OK, it was mostly me salivating. If I am at the beach I must have something seasidey to eat.

For some reason we could not find a fish and chips shop open anywhere in Frinton-on-sea in the evening, so we drove up to Walton-on-sea to Yate's Fish and Chips, another tip-off from the friend. And it was oh so good. I had skate, which is quite meaty and chunky in it's texture (would definitely recommend it!) and hubby had his usual favourite, cod. And of course we had mushy peas, and he had a pickled egg, which is pretty much as weird as you could imagine it to be. I tasted it once and it's alright I suppose with fish and chips, but I'm definitely more of a mushy peas type of a girl. 

dad and daughter by the seaside

fish and chips bag

After a long long long day at the beach it felt so good to come back home... Feeling all seasidey and salty, and fresh, and dreaming of another trip to the seaside...

Where is your favourite beach?

Looking for a good beach near London? Here is our favourite, non-commercial beach - in Frinton. See why here!

18 July 2017

Arsenal Stadium Tour - what is it really like?

Visiting Arsenal Stadium was one of those experiences my husband had longed for, probably since his childhood. Last year, as a late birthday treat I took him and our three year old to visit the stadium on a self-guided audio-tour. Our family visit to the Arsenal Stadium went well, and who knows, maybe we will visit again! That might happen when you are married to a die hard Arsenal fan... Until then, here are loads of pictures, a video and some top tips on visiting Arsenal Stadium with kids.

What the Arsenal Stadium Tour is like? At the Arsenal entrance

Arsenal Stadium box office

Arsenal Stadium audience tunnel

Arsenal Stadium Ken Friar bridge

Arsenal Stadium statue outside

Family picture outside Arsenal Stadium

mum and daughter sitting on Arsenal Stadium steps

Arsenal Stadium Emirates stadium outside

girl running outside Arsenal Stadium

Reviewing the Arsenal Stadium tour in London, UK - lots of pictures and top tips on how to get there and what to do. The post also explains what the tour is like with kids, and how Arsenal Stadium Tour is suitable for families. This is a great place for a Gunners fan to visit, and would be great for any football lovers.

I have been to Arsenal Stadium events a few times before (as a first aider) - twice a match and once a concert. While nothing can beat the feeling you get from thousands and thousands of Arsenal fans chanting when their team is playing against Manchester United in the semi-finals, or the amazing atmosphere at a Bruce Springsteen concert, seeing the absolutely massive stadium and getting an inside look into many of the private areas was incredible.

We spent a while just chilling in the spectator seats, watching the pitch. At the time (summer 2016) they were doing the pitch work, meaning grass had been stripped out and new was being planted. While seeing the lush green grass first had would have been pretty amazing, one the other hand, we did get to see something that is only done ever five to ten years due to it being so expensive and time-consuming (it takes several months!). Watching the grass planting machines, which look a bit like ice resurfaces your see in ice skating rings, was mesmerising.

Arsenal Stadium pitch work

mum and daughter at Arsenal Stadium pitch side

dad and daughter looking at Arsenal Stadium  pitch

pitch works at Arsenal Stadium

dad and daughter looking at the pitch at Arsenal Stadium

Arsenal Stadium clock

dad and daughter at Arsenal Stadium audience seats

I was surprised at how many places we could visit. Alongside the spectator seats, we got to see the players dressing rooms, managers room, the fancy restaurants, the trophies, press rooms and so on. Sadly due to the pitch work we couldn't go into the players tunnel or the pitch side, but usually you would get to do that too. We didn't have a chance to the Arsenal Museum at the time either, and might make another visit there just for my husband's benefit.

Is this a fun attraction to take your kids to? I think yes, although it is of course much more suitable to older kids, school age upwards. Our three year old naturally could not have cared less of Arsenal, but enjoyed running around the spectator seats and the players dressing room. Because this attraction is primarily for adults, kids under five get free access.

trophy room at Arsenal Stadium

directors box at Arsenal Stadium

directors box bar at Arsenal Stadium

mum and daughter at Arsenal Stadium Tour players changing room

sitting in Arsenal Stadium changing room

managers room at Arsenal Stadium  Tour

sitting at press briefing room at Arsenal Stadium Tour

Gunners cannon outside Arsenal Stadium

Arsenal Stadium Tour certificate for Wave to Mummy

For families the only feasible tour is the self-guided tour (on non-match days) which we had, or a guided match day tour. If you are seeing the stadium with just adults, you could also book a Legends tour in which a former Arsenal player will show you around, which to be honest, sounds amazing. Maybe for another birthday...

We had the self-guided audio tour but due to minding our little madam couldn't really concentrate too much on the guide. Thankfully if you have a super-fan like my husband with you, they pretty much already know what is what and can tell you. So all in all, we enjoyed visiting Arsenal Stadium, and I would love to know if you are planning to visit or have visited it already!

Top tips on visiting Arsenal Stadium with kids:

  • You can get tickets from the stadium doors or buy them online - they are £22 per adult when bought from Arsenal, or you can also buy them from buyagift.com, where two adult tickets are £40, a bit cheaper. Match day tours are more expensive.  
  • Under fives go free! So that saves a pretty penny if you have younger kids. That said, small children won't find it particularly interesting so you will have to factor that in and probably have a quick whizz-around tour and plenty of snacks. 
  • Walk up to the stadium from Arsenal tube station. You get awesome views of the stadium as you circle it round from the back like you would when you come for a match. You'll get the giddy mood that comes with it all. The closest tube station is actually Holloway Road station (non-match days only!), so if you are running short of time do consider that. 
  • The gift shop has some great kids sports clothing, branded Arsenal of course. The football shirts cost a pretty penny though - a cheaper alternative is one of those cotton t-shirts. We paid about £10 for a basic grey Arsenal T-shirt.  
  • Pose for a shot with the cannons outside!
  • There is a nice, albeit basic, traditional English greasy spoon (cafe) right outside the exit on the other side of the road. I found them to be very child-friendly. 

Arsenal Stadium in London UK. Family review of the Arsenal Stadium tour. What the Arsenal Stadium Tour is like, and some top tips if you take your kids with you!

Have you ever visited Arsenal Stadium? How was it?

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