Monday 23 August 2021

Evening Adventures with Dole Fruit in Jelly

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Summer evenings are my favourite, without school in the morning we can be more relaxed about bedtimes and it doesn’t get dark until late, which means we can enjoy being outside even longer.  Dole mandarins in orange jelly are a favourite dessert sweet treat to pack up and take with us on our evening adventures and are loved by all the family.

We are lucky enough to live within walking distance of the beach and the children think it is the best thing ever when we have an early dinner, change into our jammies or onesies and go for an evening stroll.  The beach is our usual destination and they love hunting for sea glass, searching for crabs in the rock pools or just watching the sunset if we make it to the right part of the coast.  There is something special about sneaking in that extra time to the day, just as we would usually be thinking about winding down and when we get those super hot days, it is our favourite time to be out.

Having an alfresco pudding only adds to the excitement and dole fruit in jelly is convenient as it combines real fruit pieces with tasty fruit jelly.  We have started having our sweet treat when we arrive, rinsing the pots out (the children have usually licked them clean by now! And then using them to collect little treasures like pretty shells and flat rocks for skimming.  Cora is always trying to find space in someone else’s as she wants to collect everything she finds and Archie is so specific about what makes the cut, that he is the last to be pulled from the sand as it is time to head home.

These are the nights they always settle down to bed quickest, having had that opportunity to get out the last of the day’s energy, with tummies full of fruit in jelly, sandy toes and pots of treasure.

You can try Dole Mandarin in Jelly for only £1 at the moment if you click here! 

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Sunday 15 August 2021

A Week in South Wales

We have been wanting to visit Wales for a long time, but there always seemed to be somewhere a bit further away that got prioritised so it has taken until 2021 for us to get here.  Covid has made international travel more expensive and more difficult and there has never been a better time to explore the United Kingdom.  I found the dates I wanted to travel and we knew we wanted to go to Wales but that was about as far as we got, so I went on Airbnb and looked up the prices and availabilities of different areas.  Merthyr Tydfil came out the cheapest by far, and whilst I could see that it wasn't the most pretty or interesting part of the country, it also looked like a well positioned base for exploring and so I booked a three bedroom house near the high street and started looking at what we could fit into a week there.

South Wales with Kids, exploring Wales, Cardiff castle

It turns out, a week isn't nearly long enough for exploring South Wales and choosing what to miss out on became harder than picking what to include.  There was so much we wanted to do and I wanted to get a feel for how much the country had to show us.  I booked a couple of attractions and came up with plans for the rest of the week knowing the weather (specifically the rain) can mean flexible plans are the best.  We actually ended up sticking to our plans pretty closely and were so lucky with the rain, that our raincoats were used mostly to protect us from waterfall spray than anything else.

South Wales with Kids, exploring Wales, Henrhyd falls

I have always associated Wales with rolling green hills and so spending time in the Brecon Beacons was something we couldn't miss.  We ended up doing two full days there spread across four different areas.  We booked the Brecon Mountain Train for our first day thinking it would give us great views and a bit more awareness of the size and beauty of the area and the views were pretty spectacular.  Due to covid restrictions, we couldn't actually go out and explore at the destinations though, so we drove over to Garwnant Visitor Centre afterwards for lunch and to explore the area on foot.  The children loved being able to roam freely and as much as they enjoyed the animal sculpture trail, it was the wildness and getting off the paths that really excited them.  I saw the energy that they had for this beautiful part of the country and knew we had to spend more time here.

South Wales with Kids, exploring Wales, Brecon Beacons, Brecon Mountain Train

South Wales with Kids, exploring Wales, Brecon Beacons, Garwnant

Our second day in the Brecon Beacons came later in the week and we headed up to Waterfall Country.  Last year they climbed up to see Canonteign Falls in Devon and I remembered the amazement so I wanted to fit in some of Wales' offerings.  First up we visited Henrhyd Falls where the Batcave was filmed in the Batman movies.  They couldn't have had bigger smiles as they scrambled over rocks and got the chance to walk behind the falls, getting soaked as they did.  After a quick picnic we drove over to the Four Falls Walk which takes in four waterfalls and is a much longer walk.  I was impressed at their stamina and energy and they loved being compared to mountain goats as they took in the more challenging climbs with ease.  It was about 7.30pm before we got back to the car and everyone had tangled hair, rosy cheeks and muddy legs but big smiles.  

South Wales with Kids, exploring Wales, Brecon Beacons, four falls walk

South Wales with Kids, exploring Wales, Brecon Beacons, four falls walk

We couldn't visit this part of the country without checking out the capital city.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Cardiff but we had booked Techniquest the Science Museum to start the day and it was a fantastic hands on museum that was perfect for my little whirlwinds who don't cope so well in a traditional museum.  Walking round the Mermaid Quay was pretty and then we walked up to the city centre, not realising it was actually quite a stroll! (We got the bus back down the other way).  The city is vibrant and colourful and full of lovely places to eat.  We visited the castle right at the top of the High Street but stuck to the grounds rather than going inside.  Back down at the Bay, we admired the brilliant Millenium Centre from the outside and spent money in the funfair just in front of it.  I would love to revisit Cardiff without the children and explore the shopping arcades and bars more.

South Wales with Kids, exploring Wales, The Mumbles, Mumbles Pier

South Wales with Kids, exploring Wales, The Mumbles, Mumbles Pier

With my maiden name being Gower, it was important that we made it to the Gower Peninsula at some point during the week, but we decided to stop at The Mumbles on the way and almost didn't make it any further.  We walked down to The Mumbles Pier for some lunch and to play on the arcades and got stuck enjoying the crocheted wonders all around, playing on the rocky beach and searching for Joes Ice Cream which we had heard so much about (and didn't disappoint).  The Mumbles was such a lovely town and we could have spent all day there.  It was later than I was hoping for when we left and headed to the Gower Heritage Centre so we could park up and find one of the famous beaches.  It was around a 20 minute trek to Pennard Castle ruins at the top of the hill and then we clambered down the cliff to find the most stunning and completely deserted beach.  It was a little windy and cloudy but still warm enough to run around (and for the kids to get fully in the water).  Our beaches at home are full of man made structures, piers and shops so it was different to find the beauty so raw and untouched.  There was so much space to run and explore and we had to drag them away at the end of the day, using the light on our phones to safely get back to the car.  I had hoped to get to Rhosilli but that will be something for another trip, for now, I can't imagine much better than Three Cliffs Bay.

South Wales with Kids, exploring Wales, Gower Peninsula, Three Cliffs Bay

South Wales with Kids, exploring Wales, Gower Peninsula, Three Cliffs Bay

Our week was adventurous, outdoors and focused mostly on the natural beauty of the country.  Our final full day saw everyone a bit more tired so we decided to stay closer to home and spend some money in Merthyr.  We did crazy golf, the arcades and the cinema and the kids loved it all.  They were so used to late nights because we couldn't stop exploring though, so we drove to Dare Valley Country Park because we heard the park there was great and it gave them some space to run out the last of the day's energy.  To keep up the pattern, we were dragging them away as the sun was going down.  I don't think I have ever had such easy bedtimes with them as they were asleep within seconds each night!

South Wales with Kids, exploring Wales, The Mumbles

Our week in South Wales gave us a taste for what this part of the country has to offer and my list of places that we didn't make it to is at least another week, so I imagine we will be back before long!  The people are friendly and welcoming, the scenery is beautiful and all the adventuring tires out the children.  There were lots of adventurous activities that the children were either too young for, or I wasn't able to do pregnant that I would love to come back for too.

South Wales with Kids, exploring Wales, Merthyr Tydfil, Heart of Merthyr
The 'Heart of Merthyr' was a few metres from our Airbnb

Merthyr Tydfil may not be a classic holiday spot but it proved to be a great location as everything we wanted to see was an easy drive and our airbnb was perfect for accomodating us.  If you are looking for family accomodation in Merthyr then this was our location 
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Sunday 1 August 2021

Nun Night Nine Year Old

A whole decade of you sounds crazy, I was discussing the night before your birth, how completely unaware we were that it was the last time we would go out without a second thought, and it seems like no time has passed in a way, but also like looking back at two strangers, because ten years of parenting you has changed us beyond recognition.

Nine has been full of growth, mental and physical.  I see more and more of the tween you are becoming and less of the child that you were, but you can still surprise me and I know that you are still young compared to many of your peers.  You want to reach the next stage, but you are not yet ready to give up on the last one, and I don't want you to rush.

Nine has been a whole year spent in a global pandemic, a year of not being able to see your friends as much, of missing large chunks of school, of being understanding when we can't always do the things we are used to, but you have gone through it looking for the good and enjoying what you can.  Your end of year school report is a testament to your intelligence and resilience and I couldn't be prouder of the nine year old that you were.  

This was the year we started experimenting with independence and you are the one who has to push for more, because we know your younger siblings will have an easier journey.  You started walking home from school at the end of the year with friends and you have asked to walk there and back in September for year 6.  You asked for a phone for your birthday and I have been so apprehensive as it seems so young, but I know it will give me peace of mind when you are out without me, knowing you can contact me easily.  It is hard watching you grow up and need me less, but it gives me confidence that I have done something right too, if I can trust you to take the next steps without me.  There will be lots of rules, parental controls and limits on the technology, much like the past ten years, it will be a learning curve for both of us, but I am hopeful that we can navigate this together.

As you turn 10, you measure just over five feet tall, with size 5 feet and I know it won't be long until you are bigger than me.  you have always been tall for your age, ever since you arrived two weeks early and weighing nearly 9lb and I think you are going to be a very tall man! You are still naturally cautious though, choosing to avoid the rollercoasters or bigger rides when we were out for your birthday party day at Legoland today, preferring the more gentle experiences instead.

This next year will see you sit the 11+ at school and choose a secondary school.  I am sure you will ask for more freedoms, and with a new baby coming this year, I think you will be encouraged to learn some independent skills too. Nine was full of fun but I think ten is going to be an exciting new adventure for you, I can't wait to be part of it.

Sleep tight my gorgeous nine year old, for tomorrow is a big day.

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