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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

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Minibugs – arm chair shopping

One of our FAVOURITE shops in Buxton is the awesome Minibugs. Not only do they stock amazing clothes and toys, but the lovely owners are ace, as today’s tale shows!

With a newborn baby, whom I feed on demand, we’re not always in synch with when the toddler wants to get out of the house. This morning, baby was snoozing (and due soon a feed) and toddler E was bouncing around the walls. We’d just tried getting E dressed and after trying to put the newly 3 year old in an age 4 dress that didn’t fit we decided shopping was required!

There’s a sale on at Minibugs at the moment so hubby and bouncy E Popped out to the shop, but I was left feeding the baby.

To ensure I was involved in the shopping decisions, the lovely Rachel at Minibugs helped hubby take photos to send to me so I could help. A small selection of the numerous photos:

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In the end we chose 4 dresses, which cost around £12 – £15 each and were a real bargain. Don’t worry, there are still tonnes available in the sale so pop in to to shop or get online!

Ah, my new favourite type of shopping – personalised armchair shopping cuddling a newborn baby.

Here’s to our next shopping adventure!

Michelle x

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Adventuring New Year’s Resolutions

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I’m chilling at the in-laws with a snoozing baby on my lap, browsing social media. The feeds are full of new year’s resolutions so I thought I’d write some for this blog. It will be interesting to look back on it on a year’s time to see what I’ve achieved.

1. Get out of Buxton more
I love Buxton, we’ve been here two and a half years, but to be honest most of that time we’ve spent in the town. As two full time working parents we’re often exhausted at the weekends so end up pottering around the Pavilion Gardens and local shops. That’s not a bad thing, but when one lives in the middle of the Peak District it seems such a shame to not be exploring it more! There are many small villages and towns which will be worth exploring.
My target? I thought this would help having one – 10 new places (villages / towns) outside of Buxton.

2. Get to know Buxton better
Ok, so this is a total contradiction of number one.. but bear with me. I’ve still yet to explore much of Buxton; I haven’t been to Pools Cavern (well I do live at least 10 minutes away…); walked up to Corbar Cross or around the Ring of Trees.
Target – 5 new places so I can be an excellent tour guide when people visit!

3. Explore using public transport
Toddler E is OBSESSED at the moment with going on a bus somewhere, though as car owners we don’t normally see the attraction. But to a young girl, going on public transport will be an exciting change to sitting in the car seat. An additional benefit is that it’s good for the environment.
My target in 2016 will be three different modes of public transport – I can think of a bus and train, there must be others?

4. Visit all the local National Trust places
We are members of the National Trust and the yearly fee is more than covered from when we stop off at places to break up long journeys to family and friends. We’ve visited the stunning Lyme Park numerous times, but from looking at the map I know there are others within an hour’s drive we have yet to visit.
My target will be to identify and visit all National Trust placed within an hour’s drive of home.

5. Seek out recommendations
In 2016 I will talk to more people, in person and online, to ask for recommendations of local places to visit. I search online and read what’s on guides, but nothing is as good as word of mouth. Through a friend I discovered the gem that is Pony Patch and I’m sure there’s tonnes of other activities or places to visit I just don’t know about. In 2016 I’ll be proactive asking for recommendations and connecting with new people online to broaden my knowledge of the local area. A target of 10 recommended places.

6. Be child led
My final resolution for 2016 (6 seems a neat way to tie this up) brings it back to the children and why I started this blog. I wanted to have some record of local adventures, at home and out and about. But, if toddler E or baby A don’t enjoy our adventures there’s not much point. I now have an energetic, enthusiastic and opinionated 3 year old daughter who is more than capable enough of deciding where we should go for the day. In 2016 I want to try and let her choose our direction of travel, every month of the year.

So, my first set of resolutions for a very long time. It’s helped me focus on getting out and about in 2016 and I can’t wait to capture our adventures. Where would you recommend we go?

Happy New Year and here’s to adventures in 2016!

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Christmas present thank you cards

Last year I made some lovely Christmas present thank you cards with toddler E, recycling wrapping paper. They are really easy to make and I was quite proud I had designed them myself!

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It’s a great activity to do on a wet and windy day, huddled inside warm – crafting :-)

We used plain cards, a snowflake stamp and recycled Christmas paper for the background and to make stars.

First E used the stamper on the red paper we were going to use for the background, but you could just use large pens and make dots. I then cut it up into rectangles, a bit smaller than the cards. She added glue and stuck the background paper onto the card.

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Next she used glue and chose triangles to make the stars. She really enjoyed choosing the paper combination and seeing how triangles could make the stars.

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I wrote the thank you message inside the card and she drew a picture on the other side.

We really enjoyed making these and will do the same this year.

Here’s to our next crafting adventure!

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Pony Patch at Christmas

Festive horse rides for toddlers

Our toddler E LOVES horses; she’s a huge My Little Pony fan, so when we discovered Pony Patch is a riding school for children 2 years upwards we were sooooo excited for her!

Pony Patch (near Glossop) is a family business, that provides children age 2 and up with a non-pressured introduction to horses and horse riding.

The first time we went was just to have a try, at the weekends you can just turn up and ride during the drop in session .for a few pounds – much more reasonable than other places we’ve looked at.

For Christmas they put on special events. We booked in advance to go on the Christmas Groom & Ride and kept our fingers crossed the weather wouldn’t be too bad as the venue is rather exposed to the elements! We were lucky, it was a cold day but when we went it wasn’t raining.

When we arrived, our pony wasn’t yet free so E had a jump around on the bouncy castle – holding on to my hands as she jumped around. We had many giggles and it still makes me smile thinking about her laughing so much! By now it was getting quite cold so daddy took baby A to the Coffee Shop, it’s just next door in the Garden Centre at Wimberry Hill. Without the cafe to shelter in, it would have been too cold for us all to go.

The session started off with E brushing the horses’ body and mane, she had to use different brushes and concentrate hard! Then festive decoration, with an Elf ‘hat’, bows in the mane and sparkly painted hooves – though I think by this point she just wanted to ride the pony! The final touch was to sprinkle magic reindeer dust over her pony, Thia.

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Then we were ready for our 15 minute rein led ride out the paddock and down the lane. E loved every minute, she didn’t look happy though because she was so focused!

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E had such a fab time and I didn’t have to hang around in the cold for too long! Children get a one on one horse experience with a pony and someone looking after them. It’s a great way to introduce toddlers to horses, at an affordable price.

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After we went and joined baby E in the coffee shop, ate homemade cake and warmed up. I found a nice comfy sofa to feed baby A whilst E and daddy pottered around the garden centre. A lovely morning out, when it’s warmer we’ll be heading to Pony Patch again.

Here’s to our next festive adventure!

Michelle x

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Buxton Opera House: panto

Our first outing to a Christmas panto

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I was so excited to take toddler E to her first panto – Aladdin – at the majestic Buxton Opera House.

After a dash through the Pavilion Gardens, we arrived at the theatre with minutes to spare. But there was still time to buy a magic wand, there were a few to choose from and E went for the really REALLY colourful one.

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This year’s panto is Aladdin, a classic tale, fun for all the family. It started off with a loud bang and lots of boooos from the audience when the baddie Jafar appeared on stage (he played the audience superbly and was my favourite!). E was scared and cuddled into me (I was glad I had bought her a ticket for £2 which let her sit on my lap, rather than her own seat). But, by midway through the first act she was starting to shout along with everyone else.

The interval was a welcome break for my lap and then on to the excitement of the second act, which (no spoilers) included a magical ride, some topical costumes at a space party and a great ‘it’s behind you’ scene. With music and songs throughout, the panto was great entertainment for all – with enough innuendoes peppered through to amuse the adults. It’s running until the 2nd of January, so if you don’t have tickets hurry up! Here’s a video with a taste of what you’re missing:

We thoroughly enjoyed the show, but as E found it a bit loud next time I’d consider taking her to the quieter show they put on for autistic children.

Here’s to our next Christmas adventure!

Michelle x

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Peak Rail: Santa Special

Steam train fun meeting Santa

Yesterday our family and friends braved the winds and rain to visit Santa, who travelled on a Peak Rail steam train specially to meet the children! Much fun was had by all…

On a wet and windy afternoon
We hurried to Peak Rail
We had special tickets to meet a man
Dressed in red, who said ho ho ho

We climbed on board and found our coach
And settled in our compartment
A cosy space for adults and bairns
With festive decor throughout

The elves came round and gave out gifts
Festive candy canes for smiling children
Mulled wine and mince pies
For slightly frazzle parents!

The train took off – choo choo it went
And entertainment began
Balloon animals, magic tricks
And festive Christmas songs

And then in the distance we heard a ho ho
And a smiley beared man appeared!
It’s Santa said the children
And they were grinning ear to ear

He asked if they’d been good
And their Christmas present wishes
Then came the gifts for all the children
Train, doggy and soft toys

We waved goodbye to Santa
He had many children to meet
And the entertainment continued
As the train steamed on and on

Much fun was had by all
A festive magic treat
We’ll come next year, we all agreed
On Peak Rail’s Santa Special

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A magical festive ride, which we finished off with a meal at the Grouse and Claret. Booking recommended as it was packed!

Here’s to our next Christmas adventure!

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Banana chocolate oat cookies

Cooking soya, dairy and sugar free cookies

After a hectic morning at Buxton’s great soft play, Little Rascals, it was time to stay indoors and keep out of the cold.

I came across a great (and easy!) recipe, on the fun blog Snotty Noses, I thought it would be fun to try with toddler E. I’m not the best cook (my husband would say that is an understatement) so simple recipes are key.

I adapted the original two ingredient recipe:

Ingredients
2 ripe bananas
130 g porridge oats
20 g soya and dairy free Plamil chocolate drops

Method
Mash the banana, mix with the porridge oats and add the chocolates. (The original recipe says to wizz the ingredients in food processor but I don’t have one so couldn’t!)

Grease a baking tray and measure out 12 heaped teaspoons, putting them on the tray and squishing then down.

Cook at 180° for 25 – 30 minutes.

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The result were some very moorish cookies. If we’d used riper bananas I think they would have tasted sweeter, so the chocolate helped. Also a rather healthy treat as low sugar!

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We will be cooking these again when we have over ripe bananas.

Yum!