#ThrowbackThursday: Auckland to Russell – #travel

As Eva’s post on Tuesday proved, everyone loves a travel post so it’s back to my 2008 New Zealand road trip for this week’s throwback. I’ve missed writing about NZ! The main thing that strikes me about this post is that I ended up bickering with my other half because we were lost. These days we’d just use satnav and the argument would – probably – have been avoided.


Hundertwasser Public Toilets

We started our journey to the Bay of Islands on Waitangi Day.  Since it was a public holiday, there was lots of traffic on the Auckland motorway.  We stopped for lunch at a place called the Honey Centre.  The clue’s in the name, they kept bees there and sold honey products in their shop and café.  There was also a duck pond, which is always a bonus!  We felt obliged to stop off at the Hundertwasser public toilets in Kawakawa, which are decorated with coloured glass bottles and bright tiles, since they are listed as one of the New Zealand highlights in the Footprint guide!

We got the ferry to Russell and drove straight to the village centre, only to discover my step-dad and his friend looking in a shop window directly in front of where we’d parked!  We couldn’t find our accommodation, and after much bickering and accidentally driving out of the village, I phoned the bed & breakfast for directions.  (I’ve since realised that there’s a map of Russell in the Footprint Guide book!)  We stayed in Beresford House, which was a lovely place with comfortable rooms and great views.  They also had a hot tub, though we never got round to using it.  It was owned by a pleasant couple called Tony and Laure and we had a glass of wine with them before dinner.  Something we noticed in most New Zealand B&Bs is that the hosts will sit down with you for a drink in the evening and / or sit down with you for a chat over breakfast, something I’ve never come across in B&Bs back home.  The restaurants had all added a surcharge to their menus because of it being a public holiday.  We ate in a place called Sally’s.  The food was quite nice, but there seemed to be rather a lot of flavours in one dish.


#Reblog: Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo

Time for a family holiday throwback again! Who’d have thought? There’s so much to do with children in Central California. Palo Alto is famous for two things: Stanford University and the being the melting pot of Silicon Valley. About 35… Continue Reading →

via Palo Alto Junior Museum And Zoo Review — Captain Bobcat

This week’s reblog is from Eva of Captain Bobcat. Travel posts always seem to go down well, and this one relates to a trip that Eva and her family made to Central California this earlier this year. The museum and zoo sound like a great place to visit. We’re considering going to California next year so will bear this in mind.

Do check out Eva’s blog. She writes about parenting, eco-friendly and ethical lifestyle, travel, vegetarian recipes and her family adventures.

Writing Update: #amhashtag

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a writing update. As they say on Twitter, #amwriting, or at least trying to, and #amsubmitting – slowly. As it’s Half Term, I’m hoping to get a bit more written this week.

I went back to Creative Writing classes in September. This term’s theme is, ‘How to Write Believable Characters’. I’ve been using it as an opportunity to resurrect some of the characters from my long-shelved science fiction novel. I had the idea for this novel around ten years ago and bits of it see the light of day every few years. I finally (almost) feel confident enough to write the thing. The idea of writing a novel has just seemed too scary. I know my main characters and how the story begins and ends but the middle is proving more of a challenge! I wrote a poem (about one of these characters) for the first time in months.

I do wonder if I should do one of these novel writing retreats next year, but I’m a little scared they’ll sit me in a chair, confiscate my smart phone, swear at me and ply me with caffeine until I either start writing or leave the course the course as a jibbering wreck.

I submitted a science fiction story to my village’s short story competition. That was a few weeks ago and I haven’t heard anything. As one of the other writers that I follow on social media says, I’m collecting rejections! I still need to re-submit Sky Man but just haven’t had time over the past few weeks since Munchkin went back to school.

The blogging continues. This post about private schools that I wrote for Worthing Mums has been re-posted on Munchkin’s school’s website. Another Worthing blog has also asked me to write for them. Meanwhile, the views on my own blog are hit and miss. Occasionally, a post will get over a hundred views but other posts are just being ignored. My Facebook and Twitter followings are slowly growing. Please check out my pages, if you haven’t already.

Photo credit: Foter.com

#Throwback Thursday: Potty Training

I know this isn’t the most exciting of subjects, and I’d much rather be doing a throwback to my travel journal, but I’ve just contributed to a crowd-sourced post on potty training, so I thought I’d dig this one out. I went on to talk about toddler tantrums in this post, so it ties in nicely with this week’s reblog, where British society’s expectations of how children should behave are discussed.

This was written in 2014 so I’d like to think that the issues I was experiencing with Flip training pants have now been resolved. Oh, and Toddler Calm did help me understand toddlers, so it wasn’t pointless.

Nursery Munchkin is almost potty trained but Home Munchkin only uses the toilet every now and then.  It’s like I have two different children.  The Peppa Pig medal for pooing on the toilet has been awarded.  This was gained yesterday – at nursery, obviously.  When we picked her up this evening, we were told she’d been dry most of the day.  We’ve been asked to send her to nursery in knickers next week.  I’ll probably put her in the Bambino Mio training pants since she prefers those to the flipping Flip pants.

The unused Flip pants went back to Lizzie’s Real Nappies.  Lizzie said they were the best on the market, but the manufacturer hasn’t got it quite right yet.  I think we’ll use the remaining pairs but I was hoping they’d be a substitute for pull-ups and they’re clearly not.

peppa pig, medal

The Peppa Pig Pooing Medal

At home, Munchkin has regressed to only using the toilet twice a day and doing everything else in her pull-ups.  As for the tantrums – where do I start?  Public screaming fits about going to the loo and/or wearing nappies, refusing to put clothes on, refusing to go to bed… The list goes on… She’s been driving me insane.  I’ve tried ignoring her, repeating myself continuously until she gives in, negotiating, and letting her do as she pleases.  Nothing really seems to help.  My husband thinks negotiation is the way forward but I’m not so sure.  I think she’s worse for me because she senses my anxiety about her behaviour.  She’s made me cry twice this week.  I’ve reserved ToddlerCalm by Sarah Ockwell-Smith from the library.  My husband isn’t happy about this.  He says that you learn to be a parent by being a parent and books are pointless.  I’m still going to read it though!

Reblog: Controlling the Uncontrollable

Control: To order, limit, or rule something, or someone’s actions or behaviour Free spirit: a person who does what they want with enjoyment and pleasure and does not feel limited by the usual rules of social behaviour. Now, which would you rather for your child? I sometimes joke about how I have no control over […]

via Controlling the Uncontrollable — The Chatty Chronicles

This week’s reblog is from Laura (aka Mrs Chatty) of The Chatty Chronicles. In this post, she talks about pressure from society to control her seemingly uncontrollable three year old. My take on this is that it’s a peculiarly British problem. There is still – more than a hundred years after the Victorian era came to an end – a  view that children should be seen and not heard. Some time ago, I read an article about the Terrible Twos being a British concept that many other nations can’t relate to. This is highlighted by the Greek waiter, who said to Laura, “It’s OK, he’s just a child”. We need to recognise that toddlers can’t process things in the way that adults or older children do.

The last time my daughter had a tantrum in public, I was pleasantly surprised that a lady who had watched the whole thing commented on how well I’d handled the situation. I can feel a crowd-sourced post about occasions when members of the public have been supportive of parents whose children have had melt-downs or wreaked havoc in public coming on. What do you think? Shall I write it? If you want to contribute, let me know in the comments.

Saying Thanks to Great Teachers

I’ve wanted to thank my favourite teacher for years. I’ve posted things about her on a range of Facebook pages just recently so I thought it was time I told a wider audience about the brilliant Miss Vain.

When parent blogger and teacher, Hayley from Mission: Mindfulness blog said that she wanted to write a crowdsourced post about teachers who have really made a difference, I responded immediately to tell her about my Year 2 teacher, Miss Vain. I then posted on a group called Lancing History to see if anyone remembered her or knew if she was still around. I had a number of responses from people who remembered her and agreed that she was a great teacher but nobody knew what happened to her after she left South Lancing First School (later renamed Freshbrook and subsequently closed).

If I’d been more organised, I would have posted this last week for World Teachers Day. I missed the boat for that one but did manage to comment on someone else’s Facebook post for World Teachers Day.

I was a summer born child and started school in the late ’70s. These days, there is a lot of concern about summer borns being too young to start school when they’ve just turned four. I went into a combined Reception/Year 1 class the September after my fifth birthday and nobody thought anything of it.

The following academic year, classes were moved around and I found myself in the same class as Autumn born children who had been at school a whole year longer than me. That’s where Miss Vain came in. She gave me the opportunity to catch up. She recognised that I was a keen reader and allowed me to read entire books in a single sitting. I quickly caught up and became one of the strongest readers in my class. I have always wanted to tell her that I went on to gain a 2:1 degree in English and am now a writer.

I can remember all sorts of things that Miss Vain taught us, including the history of our school. I lapped up information about it originally being a tiny building, with the Head Teacher’s office in the attic, and I was fascinated by the fact that there were once air raid shelters on the school field. I wonder if my interest in local history came from her.

So what else do I know about her? She was the Deputy Head. I’m not sure of her age but suspect she would now be in her eighties since she was older than my parents but younger than a grandparent. She wasn’t in the best of health – I think she was diabetic. She lived in the Brighton area – either Woodingdean or Rottingdean, I think. A lady on Lancing History said that she was still at the school in the late ’80s but didn’t know what happened to her after that.

If anybody reading this knows of Miss Vain, I’d like to know what she did after the late ’80s. Ideally, if she’s still around, I’d like to pass a message to her.

#ThrowbackThursday: Santa Special

Since it’s getting to the time of year when parents book trips to see Father Christmas, I’m sharing this post that I originally wrote about the Santa Special at the Bluebell Railway back in 2014. A version of this first appeared on my old blog. It’s still there, but all the photos have disappeared :-(.

The Bluebell is a steam railway in West Sussex. They run Santa Specials every year. We enjoyed it so much in 2014 that we went back in 2015. Further details of this year’s trains can be found on the Bluebell’s website. 2017 prices are:

Adult 3rd class £22.00
Child (3-15) 3rd class £15.00
Toddler (1 + 2yrs) £9.00 (please note no seat is reserved for toddlers)

Munchkin loved every minute of her trip to the Bluebell Railway (almost). They have a number of Christmas packages and we opted for this one because we felt we were getting more for our money. We had intended to book First Class, but the helpful man on the booking line explained that you see Santa for longer in Standard Class; he only pops his head round the door in First Class. Even standard class wasn’t cheap, but I think it was worth it. At nearly two, Munchkin is still young enough to travel as a toddler, but we paid the child rate so she could have her own seat. We got the first train of the day, which I’m pleased about since it meant it was relatively quiet when we arrived. People who got there later had to use the overflow car park, in a field down the road.

Our Santa Special went between Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes stations. There was a roundabout and a few fairground stalls at Sheffield Park. The roundabout was meant to be free for the first go, and chargeable thereafter but they weren’t very strict about it. Munchkin won a doll on the Lucky Dip but I wouldn’t call this doll lucky. So far her head and an arm have fallen off!

When the train arrived, we found our allocated seats. We weren’t sure if we’d be seeing Father Christmas on the way to Horsted Keynes or the return journey. It turned out that we saw him on the outward journey. He gave Munchkin an embroidered red bag containing a present. It was a cuddly sheep, whom we named “Bluebell”. Munchkin loves Bluebell, and she’s been everywhere with her for the past week. Children were also given Smarties, and there were mince pies for the adults.

santa, toddler, father, inside train

Munchkin meets Father Christmas

Munchkin was a bit overwhelmed at Horsted Keynes. She didn’t want to have her picture taken with Santa. The Victorian fairground games and sideshows on the station were fun and good value (6 goes for £1, I think) but mainly a little too old for her.

When we returned to Sheffield Park, we headed to the carvery restaurant for Christmas dinner. This was alright, but nothing special. Since the Santa Special is aimed at kids, I think they could have done more to promote children’s meals. There were children’s portions, despite there being no mention of them on the menu enclosed with our train tickets, and they got Munchkin some ice cream from the cafe downstairs since the desserts in the carvery were too large and rich for her.

steam engine, stepney, bluebell engine

Stepney the Bluebell Engine

We loved the Bluebell, and will be signing Munchkin up to the Stepney Club. She’ll get a newsletter about Stepney (who appears in the Thomas the Tank Engine series), a birthday card, invitations to special events, and reduced rate steam train travel.

DCby1 Campaign- Why Getting Your Baby to the Dentist is Vital

Source: DCby1 Campaign- Why Getting Your Baby to the Dentist is Vital

This week’s reblog is from Emma Reed, who is a mum, blogger, freelance writer and author of Your Teething Baby, from one parent to another. I must admit that I didn’t take Munchkin to the dentist until she was two. This wasn’t because I had no interest in dental care. I just found the idea of taking a baby to the dentist too stressful to contemplate.

However, I’m not like some of the parents that Emma describes in this post. We brushed Munchkin’s teeth twice a day and she has been visiting the dentist regularly every since that first visit. I was surprised to read that some people dip dummies in something sweet. I can remember my mum telling me that wasn’t right when I was a child. It never occurred to me that people are still doing it.

My Interview With a Working Mum Post on Digital Motherhood

You might think that when you have school aged kids, working becomes a bit easier. But you still have a lot of juggling to do and still not a lot of time to yourself! This week’s working mum is Simone from Dog Days and Delights who’s talking about fitting work around school and negotiating flexible…

via Interview With A Working Mum – Simone from Dog Days and Delights —

This is a guest post that I wrote for Sarah from DIGITAL Motherhood as part of her Interview With A Working Mum series. Sarah writes about her experiences as a working mum. I’ve been reading some of her blog and Twitter posts and a lot of the things she writes about are very familiar to me, as the working mother of a five year old.

#ThrowBackThursday: Russell to Keri Keri

I feel there’s been ever such a lot about parenting on my blog recently, so this week’s Throwback Thursday sees a return to my pre-child New Zealand travel journal.

mission house, garden

Mission House, Keri Keri

In the morning, we did a cruise from Russell to the hole in the rock.  We saw some impressive scenery, and a pod of dolphins were following the wake of the boat at one point.  The boat was fairly packed, and since Russell was the second stop, there weren’t many seats left.  We weren’t allowed to go through the hole in the rock because the sea was too rough.  It doesn’t look like the largest hole, and I’m not too sure how much clearance the boat would have had on a calm day.  When we got back, we had lunch in a courtyard café.  I can’t remember its name, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  The toilet door wouldn’t lock and an American man tried to join me!  I had a chicken toastie with all the yucky bits of meat that I’d normally give to the cat.  We visited the Anglican church; this is meant to be famous for its musket holes, but they appear to have been removed in a recent refurbishment.  Our last stop in Russell was Flagstaff Hill.  How Terence the Toyota got up that hill, I will never know, but the views were breathtaking (I’m sure Terence was out of breath too!).

waterfall, trees

Rainbow Falls, Keri Keri

We got the ferry to Pahia, then drove to Keri Keri.  Our main reason for visiting Keri Keri was to see the Basin, where the Mission House and Stone Store are located.  Both were interesting.  What I found particularly interesting about the stone store is it’s still a shop and they’ve gone to great lengths to source stock that would have been available when it was set up in the 1800s.  In some cases, the same suppliers are used as 150 years ago.  The car park at Keri Keri basin is one of a number of places we went to (mainly on North Island) where there were free range chickens.  This is something I can’t quite get my head round.  Who owns the chickens and collects their eggs?  What if a chicken decides to cross the road?  We then took the short drive to Rainbow Falls (via a detour because we missed the turning), which were pretty impressive.