Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tis the Season to be Jolly

I find it hard to believe that it's the last month of this year. It really seems as if it has just gone by in a whirlwind! I don't know about you, but I always think to myself "when I've got more time" or "when things calm down a bit", I will do X/Y/Z. But that time never comes. I really have to make the time for things or people that are important! 

I'd like to start out by showing you a video that makes me smile every time. This was Maia's idea, but she graciously allowed Cora to join in!

As you can see, this is after the tree went up! In our house we usually put the tree up the day after Thanksgiving. The kids enjoy it the whole month of December, with the whole build up to Christmas (and so do I - Daddy on the other hand, is not so much of a fan!). This year, Thanksgiving was very early - the 22nd November. But I didn't want to break tradition! Sadly my Dad was extremely ill and although I was back from visiting him by Thanksgiving, we left that evening to go to Dundee again where he is. So the tree had to wait.

Months ago I had booked tickets for the Enchanted Castle, at Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire. Cora and Calvin really enjoyed it! Maia was scared for some reason but still enjoyed herself in between the 'asking to go home' moments!

With their snacks before we went to the castle

Self explanatory!
Some of the beautiful animation

In the walled garden, the fairies lair!

Calvin on the biggest screen he will probably ever see in his life!

The kids could have just done this for hours I think.

Even Maia stopped asking to go home at this point!
Since the Enchanted Castle was roughly halfway from home to Dundee, we headed down from there. It was quite nice driving at night, we rarely do it, and the kids were much quieter than normal! We stayed at the Dundee East Premier Inn. We've stayed there before, and the rooms are so big for families like ours, love it. Decent rates, comfy beds, and plenty of space for us - way superior to Travelodge in my opinion! My brother and I stayed at the Dundee West one a few weeks ago when Dad initially was taken ill, and it was fab as well. Our next Dundee stay we've booked the Central one which overlooks the River Tay, but enough of the Premier Inn spam!

Every day we visited Dad, but visiting hours didn't start until 3pm so we took the kids into town to do a bit of shopping. We came across a shop that was just opening, and the kids got goody bags and got their faces painted. And on that note I will leave the rest of the story for next time, because Blogger seems to have a problem all of a sudden and won't let me add any more photos - and I had to manually go in and edit the HTML to get the text to align left! So au revoir for now!

Fantastic work by the face painter!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Power of Play

It's coming up to that time of year now, isn't it, Christmas is rearing it's head unavoidably! I personally adore Christmas. Seasonal music on the radio, beautiful lights everywhere, shiny wrapping paper and excitement (and of course celebrating our Saviour's birth!). I continue to be shocked at how commercial it can be though, I know, I know, it's the same old thing. But I think that especially now with social media it's more apparent - friends are posting about what laptop and what iPad to buy their young children for Christmas!

We didn't celebrate Christmas for many years, and when we did begin to again I went very overboard. I bought far too many gifts, and I would say overall only about 10% of what my children were bought was actually appreciated. That was back in 2008, and each year we seem to be sizing down what goes under the tree. I think my children already have enough toys, 9 times out of 10 they play with the large tub of Duplo that we have in the living room.

One of Today's Creations

Maia's House

Literally, a day does not go by that it isn't played with. They also have a large tub of trains and track that Calvin got for his 2nd birthday that is well loved and played with too. I really don't feel that they need any more toys, at this point. They each have some other toys too, musical instruments, dolls, action men... but they just don't see the same light of day. They also love to occupy themselves building tents and colouring pictures.

Artwork in the Living Room

My children really enjoy the times I let them play on the laptop, there are some fantastic educational games available online that they learn a lot from. The same goes for my phone. I know if I got them a tablet they would be absolutely thrilled! However, I know from experience that their imaginative play explodes when their screen time is limited. I see that the days when I let them watch several DVD's because I'm feeling bad, they get 'bored' more easily and can even argue and fight with each other more. So I've made a conscious decision not to buy electronics for them at this point - and that's without getting into the discussion of cost! This year for Christmas I have already organised all their gifts:

  • Cora - Fur Real Puppy and custom handbag/hairband matching set 
  • Calvin - Pogo Stick, Ant Farm, and Pillow Pet
  • Maia - Lightning McQueen Crocs, Worm Farm, and Pillow Pet.
Stockings will be hung up and filled with little craft items such as new colouring pencils, and some treats. They will of course get gifts from others, though I try and persuade people to make memories with them instead of buying things. Take them to the theatre, or on the train for a day out, take photos and write the story down - they will treasure it! 

According to Ribena, in their Plus Play Report, almost half of parents spend over £200 on children at Christmas. I find that hard to believe, because we keep hearing how 'times are tight' and we're having to cut back. And the question is, do children really need so much stuff? Will it make them happy? Will they remember it fondly when they're adults? If not, then perhaps we should reconsider the Power of Play and whether so many toys and gadgets are the answer. 

P.S. If you haven't already, check out my link to Ribena, they have some fantastic ideas about play and templates for making fun things from cardboard boxes!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Haddo House

Haddo from the bottom of the gardens
Haddo House has had some sad memories for us, so it's somewhere we hadn't been for about 2 years. However recently I decided it was time to move past that, so we visited with some friends. We really loved the grounds, they're so big, so much to see and explore! It felt almost surreal in some parts, crunching through the leaves. At one point we walked into a shaded part of the forest and a gust of wind blew. It quite literally began raining leaves then, hundreds of them, all around us as far as we could see! It made us all laugh, and we waited for a repeat, but no such luck.

On our visit with friends
Cora and Calvin sitting on the side of the chapel wall
We had to take a walk to the Pheasantry as well, since Cora and Calvin knew they would be camping there soon with Scouts (Beavers and Cubs). They were so excited to see where they would be, they were planning how it would all go in their heads I'm sure!

A massive tree in the garden with my friend, Cora, and one of her children to show scale!
An old piece of machinery they found in the forest
The house itself was beautiful too, the kids only got slightly bored - but were generally very interested. It was quite poignant really, we were the only ones on the tour until an older couple ran in to Queen Victoria's bedroom to join us. He began to tell us how he had been born there when it was made into a maternity hospital - the tour guide had literally just finished telling the children and I about that. When the tour guide told him he was standing in the very room he had been born in, he was quite overcome! It was very cool for the kids to see 'history in action' - having just heard about the Haddo Babies they then met one in real life! Amazing.

Feeding the very tame Haddo ducks
We're looking forward to going back soon. Our National Trust membership is certainly paying off.

Loaded down with all their gear!
Calvin at his tent

Cora and one of her best friends in their tent

The whole camp, Pheasantry on the left!

Teddy Hammock

Sorting out Calvin and Maia's room today I had a brainwave. Thought I'd share for those of you with bunk beds! I took an old crib sheet and tied it to the slats, voila, instant teddy hammock! Maia loves it, and it's somewhere easy and practical to keep all her soft toys.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I had many more exciting things to post,  only I can't,  because the pictures are on Aaron's computer and not my phone anymore.

So,  until I remember to post those,  here is what we did today. First,  Maia had her nursery sports day. She loved it! Then we went to the park for a picnic. We played football and all went on the zip swing. The sun shone for the first time in ages, I even got sunburnt! This is what summer should be like. :-)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Castles and Princesses Part II?

I've been neglecting my blog again. I really want to have this to look back on when the children are older, so I must remember to write on here more!

Now further to my previous post, our excitement today has been a royal visit. I heard on the grapevine yesterday that Princess Anne was coming to see Boddam light house, on an unofficial visit. The kids were so excited at the thought of meeting a princess, I thought I better prepare them though - I correctly assumed that they were expecting a stunningly beautiful princess of Disney proportions who would sweep majestically out of her beautiful carriage in an exquisite ballgown! In reality Princess Anne looked like a 'normal person', which was really rather comforting. :) Cora and Calvin were still excited to see her though. Unfortunately Calvin wasn't feeling too good so he decided to stay with Nanny for the day instead. Maia and Cora were excited about seeing a "real live Princess" and told me so all the way to Boddam!

(Am I just biased, or is my girl the prettiest thing ever?)

When we arrived Princess Anne was at the top of the light house. I didn't realise it was her at first because we had thought she was arriving a bit later. We waited about 15 minutes for her to come down, then finally she came out! Cora and Maia waved at her. Princess Anne spoke to the crowd for a minute or so, asking if all of Boddam was there and commenting on the Walk-o-dile the nursery children had on. Then she was off in her minibus to less foggy shores I assume!

We're also off to another amazing castle this weekend for the GE Family BBQ, Crathes Castle! The kids don't know about it and I can't wait to see their faces. I love the enjoyment they get from every day life, I think that would break my heart most if they had to go to school - not seeing those moments of learning and curiosity and when things fall into place for them. It's what makes home schooling so rewarding for me.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Castles and Princesses

We recently joined the National Trust for Scotland. It's a bargain at only £5.50 a month! We get free parking and entry to all their properties. The kids of course have been wanting to take full advantage of this. So on any nice days lately we've been off to castles to explore and learn.

First we went to Fyvie castle. We went there on a day that Daddy was off work, though sadly Daddy wasn't feeling too good! We took a picnic in our handy dandy American style cooler, and as we arrived it started pouring with rain. We hid out in the car for about ten minutes and it passed, then the sun came out thankfully so we resumed picnicking.

The kids in front of Fyvie Castle.

Sadly this is the only real picture I have from Fyvie, because you're not allowed to photograph inside it. We had our own personal tour guide though and the kids loved seeing all the different rooms, all the guns and armour, and hearing stories (particularly about the Lairds racing their horses up the massive stone spiral staircase!). Cora's favourite was the bedrooms and the accompanying tales of princesses sleeping in the four poster beds.

When we got home that evening, Maia promptly went and built Fyvie castle out of duplo blocks. She keeps asking to go to more castles, she loved it!

That Saturday Cora was off to Edinburgh Zoo with Brownies, so we had planned a family day out. Unfortunately Aaron wasn't well enough to come with us, so it was just Calvin, Maia and I. We went to the cinema to see the £1 showing of Cars 2 which we all loved, followed by shopping at Costco. Before we left I looked up on my phone where the nearest NTS property was, as Costco is about an hour from our house so I thought maybe there would be somewhere nearby to go that we normally wouldn't drive to. Success! I found that we were only 15 minutes from Castle Fraser, where I had been once or twice before but never inside. It was a gorgeous sunny day so off we went.

Calvin and Maia at the side of Castle Fraser.

The view of the Castle you see when you walk down from the car park.

Inside the court yard.

We went to the shop to get our tickets and headed into the Castle. There was a wedding so part of it was closed off unfortunately. But we got to just wander around by ourselves. We went up one of the towers and it was up a series of very steep spiral staircases.

In front of an exhibit at the top room of the tower.

Another exhibit at the top of the tower.

Calvin was interested to learn that the children here were home schooled. Their teacher lived off the library in her own room and every day the 14 children that last lived here had to learn lots of subjects like Latin and Greek.

After the tour we headed back to the gardens and there was a Woodland Secrets Play Area. Much fun was had here! There are all sorts of fun things for the kids to do.

Climbing on rocks in the stone circle.

Then there was the big Wigwam, which the kids decided we could camp out in if only they would let us!

I spy with my little eye, two monkies!

Inside the wigwam.

Maia reading the map to tell us where to go next.

Inside a wooden hut.

Climbing and playing!

I was amazed that she managed to get up here by herself!

A cool tunnel provided much entertainment.

Calvin really wanted to know why this was here. He thought it was very cool but just wanted to know why it was in the middle of the play area!

Inside what will be a tree playhouse I think, all the trees have been planted to grow into a dome shape, but they're young so not much coverage yet.

The magical blue tree!

We never did figure out what exactly this was for!

And last but definitely not least, their favourite thing in the garden! 

I expect our membership is going to be money very well spent.