Rollercoaster Mum: June 2013

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Sunday, 30 June 2013

Silent Sunday



Saturday, 29 June 2013

How does your garden grow? - garden update

I'm quite addicted to this wonderful linky from Mammasaurus even when nothing much has happened in my garden as I do rather like taking pictures of flowers and such and having a nosy at all those other lovely gardens.

The garden still looks lush but the flowers and colour are being rather slow in showing their faces - partly due to that cold. cold spring and partly that a lot of the flowering perennials I only planted a few weeks ago. I felt I needed to redress the balance a little so I have been out purchasing some bedding plants for a the front garden and a couple of hanging baskets. I was also irresistably drawn to an Astrantia Major that I had seen on Gardener's World and a couple of Verbena Buenos Aires (I think like Bonariensis) which I just had to buy. Next week I might show you where I put them all! In the meantime here are some pictures of the few flowers that we do have and my haul from the plant nursery - oh and our first harvest (bar the Rhubarb)

There are pink daisys.Alca Milla Mollis, a beautiful Granny's bonnet, some emerging lily flowers and a Clematis on the brink.


garlic bulbs
Our (almost) first harvest this year.

What we bought - the petunias look more purple in real life and Little Miss Sunshine chose the pink geranium that doesn't really go with the others!

Linking up with Mammasaurus - do pop over and check the other gardens out - it's soo worth it...

Mammasaurus - How Does Your Garden Grow?

A Year in Pictures - Week 26

Woohoo! We are half way through this project - that means I've been doing this weekly post for 18 months now - phew!  The week has been one of sport and sporting triumphs. It was National School Sport Week and the girls both got to try out loads of different sports, they even had opening and closing ceremonies and it was declared the best week at school - ever!

This, however, was not the highlight of their sporting achievements as it was on their bikes that they did best. Little Miss Sunshine finally, finally managed to ride a proper bike on her own without stabilisers (she's never had them) and Little Miss Star completed a 7 mile bike ride with me (we even saw a fox and a deer and a woodpecker on the way.) Well done girls!

Barbie bike
Riding properly on two wheels - at last!
Longmoor Ranges
Mummy and Little Miss Star's long bike ride
There has been a 'supermoon', Little Miss Sunshine's caterpillars for her Butterfly Garden that she got for Christmas have been growing at an amazing rate and I have included pic of her posing in a party dress (complete with plaited hair courtesy of her big sister) that I love and that she has been wearing since she was two! There has even been a little sunshine

Ready for the party  - posing with plaits!
Linking up as always with the Boy and Me and all the other bloggers taking amazing photos every day - go see some more fab photos.

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

Friday, 28 June 2013

Friday Funny - sooo cute!

Who can resist a cute bunny - I know Little Miss Star can't - they are her absolute favourite animals. I think this is mainly down to her old and faithful 'Rabbie' who has been with her since she was about a week old and is still cuddled every single night eight years later.

I am sure she would love to cuddle up to these real life fluffy bunnies in this video showing just how soft and comfy the beds are in Ibis Hotels - aren't they just gorgeous? I love the one on it's back with it's legs in the air - the epitomy of relaxation!


Disclosure - sponsored video on behalf of SpreadItFast



Thursday, 27 June 2013

Family Friendly Holidays with the Kids 2 - Cruising the Norwegian Fjords with Cunard

This time last year the girls were getting very excited about our cruise on Cunard's Queen Victoria. Much shopping and planning had to be done for all those fancy frocks, sparkly shoes and jazzy jewellery - and that was just for them.

Cunard funnel
Cunard's distinctive red funnel
On the face of it this was another unlikely holiday for us. Once upon a time I had thought cruising was for a bunch of old people and anyone who really didn't want to see that much of the world - disembarking en masse at a port and being herded here and there like so many sheep. We were, however given the opportunity (not through blogging I hasten to add - this post is not sponsored in any way) to go on a cruise at a very good price. We had a choice and decided that a short cruise to somewhere like Norway would be good as then if we hated it, it was only a week and we were unlikely to explore Norway's Fjords any other way any time soon.

Olden, Norwegian Fjords
Cunard Queen Victorian in Olden - part of the beautiful Norwegian Fjords
I must admit I was quite looking forward to being waited on for a week - no washing or cooking or any form of housework for a whole week - yay! The girls were very excited about the idea of dressing for dinner every night and living on a 'big boat' (you shouldn't call them that really - they are 'ships') for a week and I think Rollercoaster Dad was simply looking forward to seeing Norway. Living not too far from Southampton getting there was a breeze and it was great to be on holiday as soon as you got on the ship - the initial checking in was a bit like being at the airport but without the queues. Our luggage was taken from us and delivered straight to our cabin and we had our pictures taken for our cards that you carry everywhere on board so that you don't have to carry money - just show your card and drinks and stuff are charged to your cabin. Not that you have to pay for much - all the food is included, you can get tea, coffee and some soft drinks from the buffet restaurant (the Lido) as well. There are of course all manner of exotic cocktails, long wine lists and extras that you can pay for if you wish. We had a bottle of wine with dinner every night and the odd wee dram but not too much extra.

Cunard Southampton
Excited about leaving Southampton.
However I digress. Once we were on board we headed straight for our cabin to check it out. I have to admit I had been a bit anxious that it would be minute as we were just in the cheapest inside cabin (no windows) but I was pleasantly surprised. It was really quite spacious even with four of us. The girls had sort of pull out bunk beds on one wall, we had a large double bed and there was loads of ingenious storage under beds and in the massive wardrobe so all suitcases could safely be stored away. The ensuite shower and loo was smallish but functional and there was also a desk/dressing table, a small fridge and a TV. It certainly didn't feel too cramped. The only thing that I would have liked is a kettle so I could make my own coffee. Cunard say that you don't need this as you can get free room service 24 hours a day and tea, coffee and most food is included in this (you'd have to pay for wine!) The room service is efficient but with 2 kids I was scared the knock might wake them so generally lived without.

After we had checked out the cabin it was time to explore the ship which is a bit like a large self-contained floating hotel - we had just about got to grips with where everything was by the time a week was over! To the girls it was an exciting maze of opportunity with decks, swimming pools, shops, restaurants and theatres round every corner.

Cunard Queen Victoria
Mickey Mouse made from a serviette!
Having two small blonde girls we were a fairly recognisable bunch and the waiters and entertainment staff soon got to know us. The staff were without exception amazing and always went the extra mile. Special mention goes to Carlito and Aurelia who were our waiters every night in the Britannia restaurant. You have a table or seat at the same table reserved every night for dinner in this restaurant (you can choose between the early sitting of 6pm or the later one of 8pm.) We were on the earlier one as 8pm would be too late for the girls and in any case I think unless they are over about 10 or 12 they don't allow kids on the later sitting so that those who aren't keen on the little darlings don't have to sit with them. You have the same waiters every night and they were brilliant - helping to keep  the kids entertained, remembering what you might like, making mice from serviettes and remembering a cushion for Little Miss Sunshine so that she could see over the table!
You can choose to eat in the Lido restaurant if you wish but we went to the Britannia every evening and just ate at the Lido for lunch and most breakfasts.
Marching round the deck after dinner
There were a lot of late nights for the girls as after dinner they never wanted to go straight to bed. There was always a myriad of things to do from shows in the theatre, dancing in the ballroom, films to watch, music to listen to in the many bars or if nothing else a bracing walk on deck to admire the scenery of the Norwegian fjords. This is where we discovered that a longer cruise might have been better as we only had two 'sea days' - basically days where the ship chugs along and you don't visit a port. I thought these would be boring but actually they were an opportunity to chill out and relax, take a late breakfast, a dip in the pool, watch a film and generally catch your breath. All the other days were a whirlwind of activity. We were up and out exploring almost as soon as the ship had docked, popping back for lunch (well it was included and Norway is expensive!) and then changing for dinner as soon as we had left port.

dressed for dinner! 
Changing for dinner was a big thing for the girls and they loved the whole dressing up bit - I'm not so sure it would be popular with boys but if you have girls they will love it. Some nights are more formal than others - so I had been shopping too and Rollercoaster Dad was forced into squeezing into his old DJ but it was all part of the fun and nearly everybody on board does dress for dinner - even if they are eating at the Lido. We could have given the girls the children's tea and put them in the kids club but it didn't seem very fair and they weren't that keen on the kids club. There was nothing wrong with it - it was free and operated whenever the ship was not in port and you can even leave them there to watch films and stuff in the evenings but the main problem was the age bands as Little Miss Star fell into the lower band (age 2-7) so their room was very much kitted out for younger kids and I think she would have been happier with the older ones. Some kids loved it but ours aren't big on kids clubs - much as we would have liked an evening to ourselves we didn't get it!

Enjoying the show in the theatre.
Norway itself is stunning - much as we had expected. You can of course take a tour excursion organised by Cunard but this is by no means compulsory and we made our own way each time. Other than the little daily newspaper and fliers about the tours delivered to your cabin these are not pushed on you so you never feel under pressure to take them.

Oil museum, Stavanger
Fab playground, Stavanger
We stopped at Stavanger which has a really pretty old town, all painted in white, to explore right by the dock and if you walk a little way to the Oil Museum (yes really) there is the most fantabulous playground which we discovered quite by accident - there were tunnels from old pipes, giant swings from oil rigs and giant orange balls (old buoys I think) to climb over - plenty to keep the children entertained.

Flam, Norway
Snow in August from the Flamsban train
The second stop was at Flam (pronounced Flom) from which there is a famous train ride up the mountain and back, which of course the entire ship wanted to go on. We, like many other passengers, wanted to go on the train but we had been forewarned so raced ahead to queue for tickets. We were lucky but I'm not sure everyone was. Our train ride wasn't until the afternoon so after checking with the very helpful tourist office we set off on a short walk which took us up to a beautiful waterfall with a wonderful view over the Fjord. The train ride was pretty spectacular and even the girls didn't really have time to get bored.

Awesome Briksdal Glacier
Port three was Olden, which was basically just a small village but the main reason for stopping there was so that passengers could go for a trip to the Briksdal Glacier. You could of course have booked a tour but we got a sort of bus/taxi thing with some other people and after about half an hour or so's spectacular drive we got to the entrance to the National Park. It was then a decent walk of about 3.5km to the glacier. You can take a 'troll car' (a bit like a large, glorified golf buggy) if you don't want to walk but the walk is not that hard - even Little Miss Susnhine managed (aged 4), although she was pretty unimpressed. Little Miss Star was rather more blown away by the awesomeness of seeing a glacier but at 4 you don't really understand these things! It was certainly spectacular scenery. There wasn't much else to do in Olden other than more walking which the girls weren't that keen on so we went back on board and relaxed.

Trolls in the forest, Bergen
The final port of call was Bergen. This was the one we had been the most excited about. The ship docked further out of town this time and in these cases Cunard lays on free coaches to take you into the centre of town. From there we headed straight for the funicular railway for a view over Bergen. We were lucky and got there before the queues (when we came down there was a massive queue for it!) Once you are at the top there are also several walks you can follow as well as great play area with giant trolls everywhere. We did a short circular walk to a pretty lake and then took the funicular back down (you can walk but once again not so easy with small children). Once down we didn't have much time for lunch in the outdoor fish market and a short walk around the colourful old town before we had to head back. The ship was disembarking quite early which was a shame as we would have liked to explore more of Bergen

It certainly was Norway in a nutshell. The girls both loved Queen Victoria and the cruising and Little Miss Star enjoyed Norway but Little Miss Sunshine declared it 'a bit boring' (she's not overly keen on walks and the scenery was a bit lost on her). The highlight for Little Miss Star was Afternoon Tea on the ship. This takes place every afternoon in the spectacular Queens Room and is complete with white gloved waiters, cucumber sandwiches and cakes. She loved this - especially the cakes!

pudding
pudding!!
Would we go cruising again - definitely given the chance. I would probably try and book one with more relaxing sea days this time but the girls enjoyed it and if you could get your kids to go to the kids club you might even get some Mum and Dad time. The food was excellent and the staff amazing and I never felt the kids were a bother to people. Quite the opposite as we often got more of a fuss made of us because of them. There was plenty of things to do and see on board. They loved the shows (which were excellent and very slick) and there was so much we didn't do - there's a sports deck, a library, jigsaws to do  - we certainly weren't bored and there is something quite appealing at seeing new places every day and it is a great way to see some of these places with kids as going to stay there for a week with kids would probably be too much. Oh and if you do go in the summer hols the prices are pretty good for an all inclusive holiday away as a cruise believe it or not doesn't seem to change in price like other holidays so it can turn out to be pretty good value.

The swimming pool - popular even when it's a bit chilly!
The real test of course is that the girls still talk about it and are still asking to go on another 'crew boat' holiday so it must have been a success. Well done Cunard but perhaps you might consider having a kettle in the cabin!

Disclosure: I was in no way compensated for this post, the holiday was paid for in full and all words and pictures are my own.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Macro Monday

I thought I would stick with the animal theme this week but this time is is minibeasts as my kids like to call them. First up is this friendly little chap we found on the way home from school one day. I think he is a Garden Chafer.

minibeasts


Secondly is this harlequin ladybird - bad ladybird really but I let him be as I really need him to eat all those greenfly.

minibeasts


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Sunday, 23 June 2013

Silent Sunday

In Memory of Grandpa P who died a year ago - his favourite rose



Friday, 21 June 2013

A Year in Pictures - Week 25 - How does our garden grow?

This week really has been back to proper normality - the drudgery of everyday life - even the weather has been dull - not terribly bad - just dull. Dull days do not inspire photographs so I am taking this opportunity to catch up with Mammasaurus's  ' How Does Your Garden Grow?' The answer to this at the moment is very very slowly. There just hasn't been enough sun and warmth and everything seems to be behind. There's quite a lot of lush green stuff but not a lot else, however I have still found a few things to take pictures of.

As for what else has happened in the Rollercoaster household - well there was Father's Day last Sunday of course but it wasn't eventful, Little Miss Star has had a slight ear infection (probably due to spending most of her holiday underwater) and there was yet another school disco. The most exciting news is that we finally seem to be getting somewhere with our campaign for allotments in the village and we are actually going to be doing some fundraising for them soon but more of that in a couple of weeks.

As I said there is a lot of greenery going on and much of this is fruit that has yet to ripen - future fruit with any luck - here we have apples, raspberries, strawberries, currants, blueberries and gooseberries.

Future Fruit!
There are a few flowers however and those which are out are definitely popular with the bees like this gorgeous blue geranium.

bumble bee

These little yellow flowers on a small tree are also loved by the bees. I have no idea what the tree is - it has silvery grey leaves and these gorgeous smelling flowers which may not look much but smell divine.


Lastly there are the reliable but pretty Aquilegia or aptly nicknamed Granny's Bonnets.

Granny's bonnets

My new flower bed has not as yet produced flowers but there are buds and as the plants are perennials I think it is next year when it will really flourish. The new herb bed however is doing well and for those that saw my post on herbs a few weeks ago here is what it looks like now:

garden herbs


Linking up with the Boy and Me for the Year in Pictures and with Mammasurus for How Does Your Garden Grow? and belatedly with The Gallery over at Sticky Fingers as I thought the 'green' theme went well with my pictures - especially the future fruit!

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky


Mammasaurus - How Does Your Garden Grow?

TheGallery

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Family Friendly Holidays with the Kids - Siblu Holiday Parcs

As you may have realised we have recently been on our family holiday and as inveterate travellers BC (before children) Rollercoaster Dad and I have had to change our expectations somewhat. No longer can we travel long haul, backpacking round exotic destinations or take the odd one (or several) cheeky long weekends to those European cities. The reality of life with kids is that we don't have the money or the energy  to do these things but we do still like our holidays and we have made it overseas every year except one since Little Miss Star was born (and even then we managed a boat to the Isle of Wight!) I have often meant to blog about our holidays and mostly never gotten around to it so I am planning to do a little series of posts on some of the holidays we have done.

First up is the most recent and the one we have done most often and that is hiring a caravan on a campsite or holiday village. We have done this five times now - once on the Isle of Wight and four times travelling with Siblu to France. This is so the sort of holiday that we would have sneered up once upon a time and now we love them! We discovered them through Tesco's on their Clubcard scheme and have gone nearly every year since. Why you may ask? A bunch of static caravans, organised entertainment and loads of kids - sounds like some people's idea of a nightmare! Well the answer is the kids love it and lets face it if the kids are happy so are we - there's nothing worse than trying to drag kids around a museum or a city or up a mountain if they don't want to do it.

on an aeroplane
Very excited to be on a 'plane!
This year we went to Siblu's Le Montourey village/parc in Frejus on the Cote d' Azur in France. This is further than we've been before as Rollercoaster Dad discovered some airmiles that needed using so we decided to fly to Nice (usually we take the car on the ferry and drive). The girls were very excited to be flying as they hadn't been on a 'plane for over two years and Little Miss Sunshine couldn't really remember it. She absolutely loved the flight. All went well although getting our hire car proved trickier than planned as we had to change terminals and queue for aaaages to get it but when we did it was very posh - a Lancia something that seemed huge to me (I was the one driving) and I didn't discover it had 6 gears until we had driven about 10 miles!

Siblu le Montourey
Chilling out at the caravan
We arrived at Le Montourey tired and a bit hot and although we were earlier than the official check-in this didn't prove too much of a problem and we only had to wait 15 minutes or so. The anticipation of what the caravan is going to be like is always quite exciting! They are all slightly different and are usually privately owned, although serviced by Siblu, so there are often some odd quirks in the decor. This one was no exception - it was a great new caravan with all mod-cons - heaters, air-con (we used both whilst we were there), fridge freezer, deck etc but it had a huge old TV in the living room (usually there is no televison) which worked but only had French TV, a standard lamp with no light fitting in it and some strange pottery vase thing on the deck. I think possibly due to it being the beginning of the season there was a fair few things missing from the inventory (like 2 duvets!) and the microwave didn't work. This however was promptly sorted by the lovely Melissa from reception. It would have been nice to have a deck with an awning, which we have had on all our other Siblu holidays, but they don't promise it and I guess we just got lucky before! Generally though the caravans are always large, comfortable and really well-equipped with plenty of space between them. We usually go for one of their top of the range ones so that we get a deck and a fridge-freezer but even the smaller ones look good.

The staff at all the Siblu parcs we have been to have all been incredibly helpful and there is always at least one on reception that speaks good English or in some cases is a native English speaker. Le Montourey, being a fairly small parc, did top them all in the friendliness stakes with all the staff recognising us and the kids after a couple of days. The bar staff in particular, who on this parc also ran the shop, as it was small, were super friendly (and rather easy on the eye!!) The kids club and entertainment staff are always great and speak in both French and English - in this case the lovely Tanya and Rick (later joined by Natasha from Newcastle) and led by Max the man (not Max the Mouse) did a great job on a  limited budget.

Siblu Le Montourey
Pirate, pirate, pirate! - What we made at Pirate Club!
The kids club is free and is on every day. If your kids are over 5 you can leave them for a couple of hours and have a break. They get to do painting, glueing, sports and treasure hunts and stuff. Little Miss Star wasn't too keen this time though as most of the kids were younger than her but that was probably due to the time of year. Little Miss Sunshine loved it and couldn't wait to get her sticker each time she went. They both loved the evening entertainment  - dancing and singing along to chocolaaatay and Max the Mouse. It is a bit cheesy but where else can you kick back with a glass of (reasonable and cheap) wine whilst someone else entertains your  kids! We all came home chanting Pirate, Pirate, Pirate.... go, go, go!

Max the Mouse
Enjoying the evening's entertainment with Max the Mouse!

mmmm yum! Fresh croissant and a sunny breakfast outside.
The parcs are really safe and great places to let the kids have a bit of freedom that they often don't get at home. Last time we went was two years ago and so Little Miss Star was only 6 but we let them go down to the little playground on their own for half an hour or so as it was only about 10 caravans away. This year as she is now 8 we let them loose to go down to the basketball pitch and the playground and even sent them off to the shop in the morning to buy the fresh croissants (well if they would insist on getting up so early!)

Splashing in the kids pool

Wheeeeeee! Love those slides!
The highlight of every Siblu holiday for the kids though is the pool and the water slides. My two would happily have spent every hour of every day there. Le Montourey has a new (heated) pool this year with a 'spa' area  with lots of bubbles which was fantastic. There is also the fun kids pool and a colder, deeper swimming pool. The pools and slides at all the Siblu parcs have been fantastic, clean and well supervised by the lifeguards and usually some fun quirk like a lazy river or waterfall or in this case the spa bubbles area. The   only thing is the water in some can be rather cold but there is usually at least one heated or covered pool.

We did manage to leave the parc a couple of times!
We did manage to tear them away from the pool a couple of times, venturing into the local town, Frejus where Little Miss Star was impressed by the Roman Amphitheatre, we admired the boats in the harbour and spent a bit of time on the beach (not much though as the pool was better!)  With the aid of ice-cream bribes we persuaded them into two longer trips too - a day in St Tropez which was actually much nicer than I though it would be and a day driving around the Gorge Du Verdon in the mountains which was stunning, so much so that even Little Miss Star appreciated it. They also got a pony ride and a trip round one of those aerial adventure/ zip-wire type things (like Go-Ape in the UK) where we discovered that Little Miss Sunshine appears to have developed a fear of heights (she wasn't a fan!) We had planned to visit Nice and Monaco but when it came down to it we just couldn't be bothered. Both Rollercoaster Dad and I have been before and the thought of dragging reluctant children around a city really didn't appeal, but they are both close enough to visit if you wanted to.

We did as usual have a fabulous holiday with Siblu and although Le Montourey doesn't have quite as many facilities as the bigger parcs, it made up for it in friendliness (and good weather!) I think as Little Miss Star will be 9 next year though that we would probably go to a bigger one as she missed the facilities, whereas Little Miss Sunshine at 5 was perfectly happy. If you do visit say Hi to Tanya, Rick and Natasha for us (and do join in with their sunshine dances by the pool) - oh and say Bonjour to the lovely barman for me too!

Max the Mouse
We miss you Max- but we will be back!
Disclosure - we got free bedlinen for our holiday (worth about £35) in return for doing a post that mentioned Siblu - all other parts of the holiday and all previous holidays with Siblu have been paid in full by ourselves. All words, comments and pictures are my own.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Macro Monday

Although we have been back a week from our holidays (feels like months unfortunately), photographically I am still with my holiday photos so here is a couple of pics of a little lizard we found one day whilst wandering around the campsite. I have no idea what he is other than some sort of French lizard.


















































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Sunday, 16 June 2013

Silent Sunday

Cote d'Azur

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