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September 2016

Starting Alice’s memory quilt

Starting Alice’s memory quilt

by Clare Mansell

At this time of year I always find myself turning back to quilting after the summer and a couple of weeks ago I started work on Alice’s first quilt and my first quilting project since the spring. I’ve done the odd bit of sewing over the last few months, but its obvious I’ve not been around in the cabin much as both my pairs of fabric scissors had gone walkabout when I went looking for them!

This project is a little different from any I’ve done before because I’m making the blocks out of old baby clothes. There’s a couple of reasons why I decided to take this route, firstly because (obviously) it’s nice to be able to look back on, but secondly because it has proved to be surprisingly tricky to find a home for Alice’s old clothes.

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Choosing a trampoline – real life owners experiences

Buying a trampoline is likely to be one of the more expensive purchases that most parents make, but how do you decide how big to go both with size and budget and what are the factors you should take into consideration when you choose which one to buy.

I talked to four families in different parts of the world with very different budgets and found out about their experiences.

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Inset day fun at an empty Chessington!

Inset day fun at an empty Chessington!

by Clare Mansell

As anyone with a school age child knows, inset days are a bit of a gift when it comes to visiting tourist spots in term time. When Theo had one today we decided to use our annual Merlin passes to visit Chessington World Of Adventures. It should have been a great opportunity a family outing for all four of us, but Alice started teething over the weekend, so in the end I had to stay at home with her, whilst Jim and Theo had a boys outing.


It’s several decades since either Jim or I have visited Chessington so we did some research beforehand about whether Thorpe Park or Chessington woud be better for a day out with a 5 year-old. Thorpe Park seems to be targeted more towards teenagers, with Chessington having more rides suitable for younger kids with less height restrictions and of course the added bonus of the safari park too.

The boys had a pretty clear run up from the south coast and arrived at Chessington at 11am. The site was very quiet and went straight through and jumped on the Scorpion Express because it looked quiet and they didn’t know what the rest of the park would be like… they needn’t have worried! Despite arriving late, the whole attraction stayed quiet all day and there were no queues for any of the rides. They said the most they had in front of them were three people and on most rides they were asked if they wanted to stay on for a second go – perfect!

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Having a boys day out also meant that Jim was able to take Theo on ‘Vampire’ his first proper rollercoaster ride. He apparently enjoyed it more than me, Jim famously took me on one 9 years ago on our honeymoon and I still haven’t forgiven him! Having seen the video of the ride on youtube, I was amazed that Vampire isn’t one of the rides with height restrictions.

One thing that has changed since Jim and I were kids (or at least in our memory) is that the safari park part isn’t separate to the rides. In fact the first thing they saw when they walked in was otters…followed by penguins…and then a ride! Talking of animals the Zufari ride (were you sit on the back of a truck and get driven through the animals habitat) was also a big hit. They saw giraffes, white rhinos and ostriches. They also tried out Tomb Blaster where you shoot targets with infra-red guns on a ride, Tuk Tuk Turmoil (bumper cars) and Hocus Pocus Hall which is a haunted house.

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They also enjoyed the Pandamonium theatre experience, although I did have to check when I saw the pictures whether the panda was a real one (it’s not!)

It was interesting looking on Facebook today and seeing that several of Theo’s school friends had similar ideas about how to spend their inset day with one of his classmates heading for Legoland. Having last used our passes for a couple of London attractions in the summer holidays, we will definitely target inset days in future for our visits.

And if you’re thinking of visiting a Merlin attraction over the next couple of months, there is loads going on…

  • At Legoland Manchester between now and Thursday 20th October, the attraction will be transformed into the world of Ninjago as visitors embark on an epic Day of the Departed adventure. There’s Master Model Building classes to create your own LEGO® Ninjago Eye Mask, a LEGO® Ninjago Laser Maze and a load of other attractions.
  • The otters are the National Sea Life Centre in Birmingham are being kept busy with a cool activity mat which keeps their little minds active and has them entertained for days on end. The BUSTER ActivityMat presents the user with a range of problem solving tasks which massively helps their development. With any group of tasks, some they find easy, and some they find more difficult, but that’s the whole fun of it.


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Our Plum climbing frame upgrade and storm repair

by Clare Mansell

Two years ago we bought Theo a climbing frame for his third birthday, before we bought it I did a lot of research including looking (unsuccessfully!) for a video review on youtube. After it arrived I recorded my own review and discovered that I wasn’t the only one looking for more information as 24 months down the line more than 2000 people have watched it.


So when we needed to do a repair and add a couple of upgrades it seemed like a good idea to film another video! Living in quite an exposed location our climbing frame took a bit of a battering in Storm Katie (as did our house) so we have replaced the slide, added reinforcement where the slide joins the wood and found a way of achoring the frame to the ground (in case it happens again!)

We also used the opportunity to add a swing arm to the frame, which is an upgrade you can buy from Plum. If you’d like to see what the finished climbing frame looks like or to find out more about how we secured it, please do watch the video below.

Thank you to Plum who gave us a discount on our purchases in exchange for recording this video.

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The Archers, a Radley bag & The Compound Effect #LittleLoves

To round off this week I’m linking up with Morgana for LittleLoves, a collection of small highlights from my week…


I’ve just finished reading The Darkest Secret which I blogged about here and I’m now reading two very different books which are both (sort of) recommended by the same person, Kirsty from My Two Mums. The first is The Compound Effect a book which really makes you think about the small changes you can make in your life to make you wealthier, thinner, happier or more successful, whatever it is you desire! The second is I Let You Go a novel which seems to have rave reviews but which I was a little scared to start reading as I thought the subject matter might be uncomfortably poignant



We had a movie night on Saturday and watched Charlie & The Chocolate Factory with Theo. He was spellbound by it and it was such a pleasure to sit down with him and share the experience of watching a film that we both enjoyed. I confess the story (in book or film form) always makes me cry. It’s something to do with how stoic Charlie is when faced with the overwhelming odds of him ever finding a golden ticket.


Please tell me I’m not the only one who was glued to the radio on Sunday night at 7pm? I’ve been an “active” Archers listener for about 20 years and a passive one for many more years before that. For those of us who enjoy listening to the Radio 4 drama, Sunday night was the culmination of a long slow burning and gripping story of domestic abuse which finally saw Helen Archer acquited of the attempted murder of her horrible husband Rob. My own family did a pretty good job of leaving me in peace to listen to the hour long episode and even waited to serve up supper till after it was finished at 8pm!



Just in case you missed it I made my first video using Premier Pro this week and when I say “this week” it basically took me about six days to get to grips with the software. I’d love it if you would watch it so that the six days of keyboard thumping and frustration doesn’t translate into a few dozen views. It’s less than two minutes long…


I’m not a great handbag person and tend to steer away from traditional leather bags, so this Radley canvas tote which I’ve been using loads over the summer suits me down to the ground. The graphic triagonal print pays tribute to artist Sonia Delaunay, but I personally see an 80s influence in the design and there’s definitely a nautical style in there too. My exposure to Radley has been pretty limited and so I tend to associate them exclusively with leather and the Scottie dog icon. I was pleasantly surprised to see them doing something quite different with their ranges.


And lastly..

When we did our recent ferry crossing with Brittany Ferries I was amazed to open up their inboard magazine and spot Alice inside (she’s second left, second row down). The photo is one I shared on Instagram on our last crossing to France in May and I had no idea it had been picked up for publication! Weirdly one of my tweets also got featured in the Daily Mail this week… what’s the third thing going to be?




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