Halloween at Hendrewennol

Halloween is something that can catch me unawares as a parent. I’ve usually got the costumes and goodies for trick or treaters, but I’ve been caught on the back foot in previous years with planning a Halloween day out.

This year, I was determined to be organised and bought us tickets for pumpkin carving at Hendrewennol Fruit Farm near Bonvilston. We’d never been before, but it was a fabulous few hours out as a family. Working out at less than £18 for two pumpkin carving sessions and adult grounds  passes, it was pretty good value.

The children enjoyed picking their pumpkins and helping to carve them (although the toddler did try to grab hold of the carving knife). You get given spoons, carving scoops and knives to make your pumpkin creation.


After carving our pumpkins, we used Hendrewennol’s raffle ticket system to leave them and pick them up later and went exploring.

As well as yummy food, there was face painting, balloons, spooky trails and fairground rides available for additional costs. Our children enjoyed the carousel and swing rides. Hendrewennol also has outdoor sandpits filled with toys.

All in all, it was a great day out which well and truly helped us to get into the Halloween spirit (pun intended).

How did you celebrate Halloween this weekend? Hope you had a spook fest!

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Reasons I made my toddler cry this morning

Being two is tough. I get it. There’s a whole raft of emotions and frustrations to deal with without having the ability to communicate them.

But in the spirit of the excellent posts I have seen about this topic  on social media over the years, here are a few of the reasons why I made my darling girl wail, cry and roll around on the floor in anger this morning.

1 . Because she couldn’t watch Frozen. Again.

2. Because I tried to peel her orange.

3. Because I wouldn’t let her blow bubbles inside the house.

4. Because she couldn’t have chocolate at 7.22am.

5. Because I took her hair bobbles off her ankles.

6. Because I wanted to change her nappy.

7. Because I asked her to brush her teeth.

All of this happened in the space of time between getting up and dropping her to nursery (approximately two hours).

But I’m pleased to say she did forgive me for all of this eventually with a hug that lasted longer than the ones she tends to give us these days. Thank goodness.

What have you done to upset your children over the years? I’d love to hear from you.

Thank you autumn

Today I was told some really shitty news. The kind of news that reminds me that life can be unexplainably sad and unfair sometimes.

That news has been on my mind all day, niggling in the background as I negotiated a 7.30am fight between my children over green apples, went to work and came home to do the bedtime routine and to kiss their two little heads goodnight.

At lunchtime, I did my usual walk although I really did not feel like walking. It gave me time to think about that news and to listen to my music in a world of my own.

But on the way back, I stopped. I took notice of the leaves falling from the trees and carpeting the ground in stacked shades of yellow and brown. I have always loved crisp autumn days and the crunching leaves underfoot but, until that moment, I had been too distracted to notice them today.

Sometimes it’s easy to keep rushing and not notice the world around us. But the news I had today reminded me how important it is to take time to stop and enjoy it.

When life gives you chickens

Last year was my son’s first school nativity play and I had been excited at the prospect of his casting. Would he be a shepherd, a wise man, a donkey? Or would he even reach the dizzy heights of Joseph?

So, late last November, I opened the slip of paper telling me he was going to be a chicken. A chicken. Costumes were to be sent in a few days later.

Now, my son isn’t overly enamoured with dressing up so the chicken was a hard sell. Luckily, several of his friends were also set to be chickens (or an array of other farm animals) so after a few days of refusing to try said costume on, he relented. 

On the day of the play, I was worried he would change his mind and refuse to wear it. But he came out smiling among a group of fellow chickens, dogs and cats who serenaded us with songs about Christ’s birth.

Since that day, he has been a rabbit, Fantastic Mr Fox and a mini beast. I now have a burgeoning collection of fancy dress outfits for children but you can guarantee the unusual requests will just keep coming. I would love to say that I lovingly made them all, but I have neither the time or the skills.

So, as this year’s nativity play becomes closer on the horizon, I am intrigued to see what he will be cast as this time. Whatever it is, surely it can’t beat being a chicken.

What is the strangest fancy dress outfit your child had been asked to wear? Did you fake it or make it?

10 family days out in or near South Wales

Bryngarw Country Park

 

I can hardly believe it but October half term is already here. For parents, that often means a frenzy of planning for days out and racking our brains for ways to keep the children entertained.  

It is times like this that I feel very grateful to live in South Wales where you are never too far from a beach, countryside or family-friendly farms.

So if you’re starting to wonder how to fill your half term week, here are 15 of our favourite places to go.

1. Green Meadow Community Farm Based in Cwmbran, and pretty close to the M4, Green Meadow is a fantastic working farm where children and adults alike can learn about how farms work, watch milking demonstrations and go on tractor rides. It’s affordable and you can even exchange your Clubcard vouchers to get in. My little ones always enjoy cwtch corner, where they can cuddle rabbits and guinea pigs.

2. Amelia Trust Farm Near Barry, Amelia Trust Farm is a free day out with a nice park, good walks and lots of animals. Entry and parking is free, but donations are welcome.

3. Folly Farm Regularly voted as one of Wales’s best family days out, Folly Farm is one of out children’s favourite places. With lions, rhinos, penguins and giraffes, you can see animals you wouldn’t expect to see in Pembrokeshire. Children can play in a range of sand parks and visit an indoor barn to see farm animals. It’s another venue at which you can exchange your Clubcard vouchers to get in. 

Folly Farm

4. Techniquest Based in Cardiff Bay, Techniquest is a great day out where youngsters get to see science in action. From the photography wall to the water play  section, it has two floors of science  exhibitions and is perfect for rainy days. It’s another attraction at which you can exchange your Clubcard vouchers in advance to get in.

5. Ogmore by Sea This is one of our favourite days out on a dry day. We love putting on our wellies, wrapping up warm and taking in the gorgeous views here including views across to Porthcawl. Walk down to the beach to explore rock pools and take a paddle in the sea during warmer weather.

6. Margam Park Growing up in Port Talbot, this was one of my top places to go as a child and it makes me so happy to see my children enjoying visits there too. From Fairytale Land to a land train to Margam Castle, its Orangery and the ruins of the abbey, it is a day out we never tire of. 

7. Bryngarw Country Park Nestled in the Garw Valley in Bridgend county, Bryngarw features a park, an oriental garden including a lily pond, walking routes, a duck pond and Bryngarw House. Just pay to park and start to explore. 

8. Mountain View Ranch One of my go to places to while away the hours with acres of land to explore. It features a brilliant sand park, animals and a truly lovely Gruffalo trail. Enjoy Gruffalo stories and other activities such as toasting marshallows. Perfect on a sunny day.

Mountain View Ranch

9. Roath Park I discovered Roath Park when studying at Cardiff University and it remains as one of my most-loved places to visit. From the lake to the play equipment to the gorgeous setting, you can spend hours exploring the park and what it has to offer.

10. Wiggleys Fun Farm Based  near Cefn Cribwr, Wiggleys offers excellent outdoor play equipment and indoor play too. My children love feeding the pigs, the goats and the sheep outside before tearing around the indoor play section, including a diddy car track.

Where are your favourite places to visit and why? And where will you be going this #halfterm?

Thank goodness for yoga

London on Tuesday night

 
This week has been hectic. Life often is between working full time and being a mum of two children under 5, but this one has been busier than normal. 

Between travelling for work, battling The Cold That Will Quite Possibly Never End (which the toddler also has) and playing UN peacekeeper to my two, it has been  a busy working week.

And at times like these, my bouts of insomnia start creeping in. Awake at 4.30am on Tuesday and Wednesday, today saw me wide awake at 3.30am.

But in weeks like these I am very grateful for yoga. It helps my mind, which is usually a never-ending internal monologue of things to do, to pause and recharge. And it helps my body to relax.

Tonight, it would have been very easy not to go to yoga. The cold has made my daughter more sensitive than usual and she decided she absolutely did not need a nappy, pyjamas or to brush her teeth before bedtime. It was a tense stand off which looked as though it would never end.

Thankfully, it did after some intense mum to toddler negotiations (and a little bit of wrestling into pyjamas).

Leaving the house later than planned, I felt tense and as though zen-like calm couldn’t be further from my mind.

But I did go, squeezing myself in the last yoga mat spot in the nick of time. Within minutes, the relaxed feeling started.

I left that class feeling refreshed and happy after a week that had tired me out. 

So thank you yoga for being my pick me up. You never fail to work.

What helps you when you are having a busy week? How do you unwind?

Aberfan: 50 years

Tomorrow will mark 50 years since 144 people – most of whom were children – lost their lives in the Aberfan disaster. 

50 years on, I still find it difficult to comprehend what happened. How it would have felt to send your son or daughter to school and for them to never come home. How one close-knit community could lose so many in a single day.

My late grandfather – my Gramps – was one of the miners drafted in to help in the aftermath. It was something he never really spoke about. At the time, he had four daughters at home and another on her way. I cannot imagine what he and everyone else involved must have seen and felt after that awful day in Aberfan. 

Today I have listened to the people who survived talking about their experiences on the news in the midst of a series of memorial events. Their stories should never be forgotten.

So tomorrow, my thoughts will be with every person who is still living with the legacy of that terrible day.