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New Mills & District Railway Modellers Annual Exhibition

As a family we are fans of trains, big and small. Hubby’s parents recommended the New Mills & District Railway Modellers’ Annual Exhibition which is held every year towards the end of February. It was an ideal event to pop along to on a cold February weekend – indoors with plenty to see.

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The event has been going for 42 years and so we were expecting great (or small) things. We were not disappointed. The exhibition was held at Chapel-en-le-Frith’s High School and we were surprised at the wide range of displays, laid out across the hall and numerous classrooms.

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There were stalls selling items, as well as many groups and individuals showing off their train sets. Some were hands on, you could try and move carriages / trucks into sidings and E particularly enjoyed driving Thomas around the Island of Sodor. Many exhibits were at her height, though next time I must remember to take her a little step for some of them.

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We spent about an hour and a half there and I was able to sit in the school canteen to have a cup of tea and feed baby E.

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It was a lovely trip out for the afternoon and we’ll keep an eye out for next year’s event.

TTFN!

Michelle x

 

 

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High Peak artist: Andy Phillips

The Peak District with its fine scenery, wild weather and great expanse of space is a huge influence on local artists. When we first moved here we were entranced by artists’ wares, but assumed they were out of our price reach and not practical for a young family. We’ve been delighted to find the opposite and enjoy sourcing pieces from artists and using them around our home.

The other day we bought a gorgeous little dish by potter Andy Phillips:

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Andy Phillips is based in New Mills and makes a range of decorated items; pots, platters, jugs, dishes, mugs … you get the idea! We love the smoke fired ceramics, which come in deep rich colours with a lovely glaze on them. A while ago we made the decision to have plain white plates, bowls etc. and compliment them with distinct serving dishes. We already have three serving dishes and a few mugs of Andy’s and hubby couldn’t resist this small dish for sweets or nuts.

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All of the items we use on a daily basis, they are very hard wearing and can be used in an oven.

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We picked up this piece from the High Peak Artists gallery in the Pavilion Gardens, Buxton, where there are a large number of dishes on display. Dishes range from £5 (such as this piece) up to larger ones around £40 – £70.

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I love that art is affordable in the High Peak and will be sharing more of our favourite artists in the coming months.

Happy shopping!

Michelle x

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Buxton Veg & Fruit Co-op

From talking with other families, it’s easy to get stuck in a meals rut having the same food, week on week. You end up cooking the same ‘go to’ meals – ours are tomato pasta; sausages and veg; and Thai chicken curry. They’re yummy – but we were looking to mix it up a bit! I was looking around for inspiration when I heard of a local service that has helped us try new recipes (meals listed below), increased our veg and fruit intake, saved us money AND it supports a not-for-profit community group.

Bright Opportunities is a group for adults with learning difficulties living in the High Peak, located in Buxton. They offer a day service, with educational, leisure and development activities. A few years ago, Buxton Vegetable and Fruit Co-operative was set up to provide an affordable way for the local community to have fruit and veg. They involved Bright Opportunities to organise buying the seasonal produce in bulk from a local wholesaler, sorting it into bags and collecting the money – helping develop the adults’ life skills.

You can buy a bag at a time, here’s what we had the last two weeks (the money saving is impressive):

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Two weeks of veg and fruit

And the cooking? Well, we’ve used this fruit and veg in:

* slow cooker beef stroganoff
* cabbage with onion and bacon
* leek and potato soup
* slow cooker stuffed apples
* roasted veg with humous and couscous

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Yummmm roasted veg

And of course, as veg on the side with our favourite meal – sausages!

Each bag costs just £3 – bargain! As a quick calculation, the bags we’ve had so far were worth about £7 – £9 so it’s a huge saving. All the fruit and veg lasted well, the potatoes just took more cleaning than we’re used to.

I loved that having the bag of fruit and veg encouraged us to try new food and it’s good to know it also supports a local community group.

The bags are available every Thursday from around Buxton (United Reformed Church Hardwick Square, Residents of Fairfield Association, SureStart Fairfield and Buxton Volunteer Centre), to reserve your bag get in touch with one of the collection centres or contact them via their Facebook page.

I’m off to make some healthy vegetable soup!

TTFN

Michelle x

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Bogs: brilliant snow boots!

Living in the Peaks you need a coat for all weathers, but what to put on children’s feet? We found ourselves always taking wellies AND sturdy boots with us when we went out for the day. Boots are always better for running in and wellies better for splashing in puddles! Was there one brand of footwear out there that could be great for running and give welly protection? The good news, there is!

Nichola at One Small Step asked us (well, E really) to test a new brand she is thinking of stocking – Bogs. E was really excited when we picked them up and loved the cute animal design.

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E getting her Bogs from One Small Step

Apparently they are all the rage in America, but not that well known in the UK. At first glance, I have to admit, I was a bit sceptical as they look just like wellies. But after two weeks of testing them (we like to be thorough), we’re completely sold on them. Here are the reasons why:

Easy to put on
The smart inbuilt handle design mean they are easy for little hands to use to pull on, or for big hands to give a help! Other wellies often have handles but they can break – it won’t happen with these ones.

Waterproof and warm
Bogs are waterproof with soft outer layer and a fleece warm lining inside. E wore them out in minus 0° weather and her feet were kept toasty.
She tested them in snow, sleet and rain and her feet were kept lovely and dry – as this video demonstrates:

The only downside is that they’re shorter than traditional wellies (6 inch) so wouldn’t be able to cope with today’s 10 inches of snow! But we’d probably remedy that by putting her waterproof trousers over her boots, like we normally do.

Great for running around and climbing
Compared to wearing wellies, E found Bogs great for running around in, climbing and generally mucking about. When we visited her cousins in Brussels we planned to go to the local play park. When we heard it has a sand floor we picked the Bogs so she wouldn’t get sand in her shoes and she had no problems climbing all over the climbing frames. They have a rough tread on the sole so grip well. It saved us taking wellies and boots on holiday.

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Climbing in Bogs
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Running in Bogs

Machine washable
I couldn’t quite believe it when I read the box, but they’re machine washable! The mud doesn’t seem to stick on the pretty patterned boots, so we haven’t needed to wash them yet but it’s good to know we have that option.

Price
They are more expensive than you’d normally pay for wellies, but they replace two pairs of boots – walking boots and wellies. Also, we put thick socks on E so she had half a size bigger than normal so they will last her a long time and with another little one we’ll be able to pass them on to A.

Overall, we are really impressed with Bogs and hope One Small Step do stock them so we can get some for baby A when she’s old enough. E loved the pretty animal design, they’re easy for her to put on and great for running around in. They get the thumbs up from us:-)

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Enjoy the snow today, whatever you’re wearing!

Michelle x

One Small Step generously provided us these boots in order to facilitate this review.  However, as always, the opinions expressed here are completely and honestly our own.

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Hurrah for Hatley – coats perfect for the Peaks

Living in the High Peak means extremes of weather; sunshine, rain, sleet and snow sometimes all in the same day! When buying coats for children it can be a challenge – how many coats do they need for every weather eventuality? Through the local Buxton shop One Small Step I found a solution – Hatley coats.

We first bought a Hatley coat for E when she was a young toddler, to be honest because we couldn’t resist the gorgeous dinosaur pattern. And she wore it, and wore it and wore it and we were hooked!

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Hatley coats have gorgeous new designs each season (dinosaurs feature each time!) – take a look at the new ones that have come into One Small Step last week:

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Hatley coats at One Small Step

You can also buy matching wellies:-)

The bright colours are great for picking your child out in a crowd. Here are other designs E has worn over the years:

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Hatley coats on E

The hooded coats have a very flexible waterproof outer layer which keeps out the wind and a snuggly inside layer to keep them warm. They have poppers to fasten them and she is now at an age where she can do this herself. They’re not too thick, so E can wear a jumper underneath and they also pack up well into a bag when you’re out and about. E has worn her jackets all year round, they are great value for money (we buy large and roll up the sleeves) and most importantly they wash well.

If you’re looking for the perfect coat for children they can wear in all weathers I’d always recommend Hatley – especially when in Buxton today we have had rain, sleet, snow and sunshine!

Would love to know if anyone else has a Hatley coat, what have been your favourite designs over the years?

TTFN

Michelle x

Five reasons to love Whitebox Photography

With a young family I’m keen to capture photos of the girls as they seem to grow so quickly. Baby E was in neonatal after she was born so we didn’t have any cute newborn photos. When we moved to Buxton I wanted to record her as an older, but still cute, 5 month old to make up for lost time. This is how I came across the wonderful Whitebox Photography, I blogged about our first photoshoot.

Since then we have had many shoots and I’m always spreading the word about the wonderful Liam who runs the local franchise. Here are my top five reasons for loving a Whitebox photoshoot:

Unbelievable value
A Whitebox photoshoot is LESS THAN £50. I’ve written that in capitals to emphasis the point – people never believe me! To reserve a photo slot is only £15, so if on the day your children are sick and you can’t go, not too much money has been wasted. When researching online, most other shoots seemed to cost a couple of hundred, this is much more affordable. And at such an affordable price, you can have regular shoots!

Digital copies
At the end of the shoot you are given a CD with ALL the photos. So there’s no need to um and ah over 5 pictures and it means can print them, or share online, whatever you want. We have family all around the UK and abroad so it’s great to easily share photos.

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Sample of digital photos

Relaxed atmosphere
Liam and his assistant make you and the family feel at ease. There are props for photos, toys to amuse the children and if you’re quick you can have an outfit change! Liam is there to get the most out of you so you’re happy with the photos.

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Liam taking a photo

It’s quick
Each shoot is about 15 minutes. That doesn’t sound long, but try grinning for 15 minutes or keeping children happy to pose for that length of time! It’s surprising the number of photos you get in 15 minutes – on average we have had about 100 each time. Also it’s just the right length of time for children to stay engaged.

There are so many ways you can enjoy the photos afterwards
We have always been really pleased with the photos and have used them in many different ways:

Large print family photo
Framed by Aperture Picture Framing in Buxton (a GREAT framers, he matched this frame to another we had)

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Framed family photo

Printed onto canvas
And displayed on our dresser – we use Photobox

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Photos printed on canvas

Framed for us to have in our offices at work

Printed copies to pass to nursery
So E could show off her family

Thank you cards
After A was born

Digital magnets made by Sticky9
So E can play with them on our fridge

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Fridge magnets

Turned into a beautiful illustration
By the local artist Elizabeth Furness to go next to the pencil drawing of her daddy

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Illustration from photo

Whitebox Photography is coming to Buxton again at the end of February 2016, you can book a slot online.

I will share our photos after the shoot!

Happy posing😉

Michelle x

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Local purchase: Little Green Rascals jumper

We are great believers in shopping local so I thought I’d start sharing our great buys from local shops.

We’re about to go away and are planning to take just a baby carrier, rather than hauling a pushchair on the plane.

We needed a jumper to keep baby A warm when being carried so popped to the fabulous children’s shop Minibugs in Buxton and picked up this gorgeous starry cloud jumper by Little Green Rascals:


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Starry cloud jumper

Available up to age 4-5 years – why not adult sizes!!! Sulk😦

Now we’re ready for the holiday!

Michelle x

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Great Central Railway: Winter Gala – review

Our little family loves steam trains, my grandfather was a fireman on them and hubby’s parents have always enjoyed them too. It was a big tick when husband (to be) confessed his love of steam!

The in-laws has said they were planning to visit Great Central Railway’s Winter Gala and as we hadn’t been before, and handily it was halfway between where we lived and their house (only 90 mins from Buxton), we arranged for us to all go together. It was running over three days (Frid – Mon) and we picked the Friday as we thought it would be a bit quieter.

The Great Central Railway is the UK’s only double track mainline heritage railway where you can be on one steam train and another flies past! There are four stations, with each themed around a different era of steam; a museum; cafes; shops stocked with train memorabilia; a large restoration (locomotive) shed and of course lots and lots of steam trains.

We arrived around 1140 (apologies to the lovely in-laws, we had said we’d probably be there for 10 – but two broken nights in a row had left us exhausted so the day started late) and were immediately greeted with the great view of not one but two steam trains at Quorn & Woodhouse station. We decided to start our journey there as there was plentiful parking. As it was a Gala there were plenty of trains running throughout the day, passenger and goods, toddler E was really excited! As we’d had 90 minute drive to get there, baby A wanted a feed again so I settled down in the cozy ladies waiting room on the platform. Complete with an open fire (toasty) and a leather covered baby changing table! The room with comfortable wooden benches was a perfect spot to eat our packed lunch. The station has been themed around World War II and has been lovingly restored to reflect the era, with interesting posters about how to support the war effort and the radio in the waiting room was playing some fun old tunes E danced to!

Useful Jobs That Girls Can Do - To Help Win the War
Useful Jobs That Girls Can Do – To Help Win the War© IWM (Art.IWM PST 6079)

After a feed we hopped on a train to Loughborough so that we could have a walk around the shed – a proper man’s shed with huge trains in various stages of being restored, so we could use the exposed parts to explain how steam engines work. Most of the renovations seemed to be individual projects, and there were people we could talk with to find out what they were doing.

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Locomotive Shed

Back on the train we went the length of the track, from Loughborough to Leicester North and back again. By now baby A wanted feeding again so we relaxed in a private compartment whilst I feed A and we watched the world go by – bliss! We had fun spotting animals from the train, interesting buildings – one which had a Lego man painted on the side and more trains. At Leicester E and daddy got out to watch the train turn around, I stayed on the train. The relaxing journey took just over an hour.

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Feeding A and watching the world go by

At Loughborough we got off the train and looked at some of the stalls which were selling train memorabilia, toys and other nicknacks. As we’re in the middle of a HUGE clear out at the moment we were very restrained and didn’t buy anything, though to be honest we already have quite a few train sets…

Back on the train we hopped off at our original station and I decided to top A up again so retreated to the warm ladies’ waiting room. Daddy and E stood on the platform and watched more trains.

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Just before 4 pm it was time to leave and a wonderfully helpful volunteer ran to the station’s cafe for us so we could buy the grandparents some local beer to say thank you for the day.

Though we arrived late, we had a splendid day. It cost £20 per adult and under 5s were free, normally it costs £16 but the Gala was a special event.

We’ll definitely go again, we had a superb time – it was easy to find comfortable spots to feed A – and none of us can resist majestic steam trains.

Finally, a thank you to grandpa for his wonderful photos from the day.

Here’s to our next adventure!

Michelle x

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The Deep (Hull) – Review

The other weekend we took a road trip to Hull to see some family and it was also an opportunity to visit The Deep.

My hometown is Plymouth, home of the National Marine Aquarium. We had planned to visit when we were there at Christmas time but didn’t get a chance, so needed a fish fix! I’ve grown up in seaside towns and miss sea air (nothing quite like it), waves and the sound of the sea. A trip to Hull and The Deep seemed the perfect antidote.

Having two young ones, even though it’s only a two hour drive away, we decided to stay at a Premier Inn in Hull. It’s quite a new one and were impressed (as ever) with the warm welcome, friendly staff and nice clean room. The bonus was parking on site and the location meant a short walk to The Deep or into Hull city centre.

On the Sunday, after a filling breakfast at Wetherspoons (where I booked the tickets online to save a few pounds), we managed to get to The Deep about 1030. The queue was quite long to get in, but only took about 5 minutes to wait. Whilst waiting we were given a form to fill in to sign up for gift aid and that meant we could return, for free, for a whole year. Not bad.

You have to travel to the top of the building to start the journey, the beginning bit toddler E wasn’t that bothered about, it talks about the creation of the earth, dinosaurs and oceans. She was more interested in getting to see some live fish!

Next we walked through to the Lagoon of Light where children could crouch down and watch the fish swimming about underwater or look over the tank, teeming with hundreds of fish. The shallow tank meant E could compare the view looking under water or from above – quite intriguing. We arrived just as there was a Touchpool session where you can get up close with creatures from the British isles shores. It was incredibly popular, but the guide organised us so every child (and interested adult) got to touch the animals. I carried toddler E and after showing her that mummy could touch a creature without losing a limb, she stroked a starfish and some crabs – rather cool!

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The Lagoon

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We continued to walk around, toddler E loved the large tanks of fish as she (sometimes) could get right up to the tanks to have a look. She was so excited, with her face beaming and shouting mummy or daddy if we didn’t walk quickly enough to see the latest animal she had found. In comparison, Baby A was non-plussed, she snoozed throughout the whole outing.

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There were lots of other exhibits to see; ants crawling along a long rope overhead; an ice wall (easy to miss in the Kingdom of Ice corridor), super fast penguins (spot the blurry penguin in the picture) and some bright, colourful, deadly small frogs. A great range of interesting animals to see, but also lots of ‘informative’ exhibits which E just ran straight past. We would have preferred more animals!

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Near the end there was also a soft play area, it was supposed to be limited to ten children but was heaving, so we walked on.

At the end there are two ways out going up past a huge 10 metre high tank; via a glass fronted lift or walking up stairs. There was a big queue for the glass elevator so we chose the stairs. Though the elevator is rather cool, if you go up the stairs you stop after each flight and can look into the tank – much more time to admire the fish! E was fascinated as you started looking at fish above you, then on the same level, then looked down and then the top of the water. Our favourites were the rays and the tanks biggest inhabitant, the sawfish.

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We had considered going to The Deep’s cafe, but it was packed, so we walked back to the Premier Inn and had a quiet coffee in their lounge.

Looking at the brochure afterwards, we managed to see everything – in only 1 and a half hours. I’d have expected to be there for much longer, but with an excited toddler it didn’t take that long. I was glad we hadn’t made a special trip just to go there for the day.

It was good The Deep, we’ll visit again when we’re next in Hull – great for a morning or afternoon – just don’t expect to spend the whole day.

Here’s to our next watery adventure!

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Nail painting for toddlers

Since Christmas, when E had her nails painted by her cool cousin, she has been OBSESSED with getting her nails done. Her nails had looked awesome (she had a spider painted on one – of course), but I was a little worried about what the paint was doing to her nails when a splash of varnish took off the top layer of my mum’s tablecloth…

Back in the day when I started my new job, after having Elizabeth, I had visions of painting my nails and looking like a ‘proper grown up’ in the office. I think I managed this twice (sleep always won as a priority)… But because I was breastfeeding and sticking my fingers in her mouth a lot to break her latch I wanted to wear some non (or low) toxic nail varnish. There’s lots of guidance out there about the gunky stuff in nail varnish and how it’s bad for you, so after some wider reading I decided to try the Zoya brand. Most of these brands are US based and they are hard to track down in the UK, in the end I bought some off Amazon.

When E wanted her nails done again (good to save this for a rainy afternoon) I dug out the three varnishes I have:

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She was thrilled to have three to choose from, but disappointed no black to draw spiders.

I very carefully painted her nails, which was much easier once I put her hand on a surface (especially after I nearly dropped some on the carpet). Then it was my turn, she chose pink.

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You’ll see the coverage on the matt colours is much better than the shiny pink. I think I’ll go for a matt when we do this again.

With nursery the next day I thought it best to clean her nails, but hadn’t quite thought things through about nail varnish remover that’s gentle. For next time, I’m going to get some gentle nail varnish remover, Boots stock an acetone free one.

An added bonus to this is she has to sit still for 15 minutes for the varnish to dry!

If she really gets into nail varnish, I’ll order some more – which I’ll just have to try out too.

It was fun painting nails with little E, but gosh she’s growing up fast.

Here’s to our next indoor adventure!

Mx