A trip to Surrey Docks Farm and some potty training

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Last week, I was invited by Huggies Pull-Ups to learn about potty training at Surrey Docks Farm. I have to admit to never hearing of this place until last week, but I am so glad I do. It’s a small green oasis in a very urban area and it makes for a great day out. We met some other bloggers over coffee and cake and then took a trip over to the massive converted American school bus to learn about Huggies and potty training.

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I have to admit Betsy has been nappy free for a while now – it was a pretty easy ride for us, we took it very slowly and it seemed to be a very easy thing for her to do, especially when it came to being dry during the day. Night was a bit different as after a while Betsy refused to wear nappies in bed but would still have accidents which led to many changes of bed linen in the middle of the night. She got there eventually though. Dave was the one who mostly guided Betsy as I was too pregnant and genuinely too anxious about the whole process. We didn’t use pull ups, and I kind of wish we had. The Huggies Pull-Ups are different enough to the nappies we normally use that I think Betsy would have accepted wearing them in bed and we would have prevented a good few weeks of her waking up and being very upset. We will definitely consider them for when Arthur starts his potty training.

We then got taken on a tour around the farm. Betsy got to sit inside a rabbit hutch with some enormous bunnies, stroke a donkey, be up close to a turkey and turkey chicks and see many other farm animals. She had a whale of a time.

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We were also given the most amazing lunch cooked by the onsite cafe, Piccalilli Caff, which we ate on the banks of the river Thames. The rest of the cafe’s menu looks amazing too.

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lunch

It’s well worth having a good explore of the farm as there’s so much to see. There’s a blacksmith on site, and lots of vegetable beds and flowers amongst everything making a very inspirational place for me to think about my garden. It’s quite a bt of a trip for us to get to from Enfield, but so worth it. We’ll be there again soon.

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Many thanks to HUGGIES for the most excellent day out and the goodie bag too. You can visit their Pull-Ups bus at the Manchester Baby and Toddler Show this weekend.

More info about Surrey Docks Farm HERE.

As ever, all views are my own.

The Odd Couple

Ten years ago to the day, I wondered into a pub (the Queen’s Head in Winchmore Hill if you’re asking) to celebrate a friend’s 30th birthday. During dinner I got chatting to a man and we bonded over a couple of matchboxes. We called them Abstinence and Futility. We got to know each other over creating the matchbox’s epic story, him buying me copious amounts of Guinness, and me hugging trees on the walk back to our friend’s flat. That man was Dave. I suppose we’ve always been slightly off the wall, and it’s quite nice to look back and see how much that first meeting is so typical of how we are together. We play with less matchboxes these days though. We’ve had parties, been to festivals, visited a few countries and generally had (and still do have!) a bloody good time.

Iceland

Tomorrow will be our fifth wedding anniversary. Hooray for us! I liked our wedding, it was fun. It was very ‘us’ too, I don’t think there are many weddings out there that have zombies climbing up their cake.

ZOMBIE CAKE

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Since then we have had two amazing children, a cat and two houses. Shortly, Dave starts a new brand new career and I am so very, very proud of him.

Dave, are you there? Hello, this is your wife typing. I’m not very good at writing so apologies that this is a bit crap. Anyway, 10 years, eh? Ten loooong years. I jest, but it kind of does feel like forever doesn’t it, a bit? In a good way of course. I’m not entirely sure what I’d do without you. You are very much my rock, the control rod to my nuclear reactor or something. You make me laugh more than anyone else and in return you laugh at my crappy jokes that no one else finds funny. I think you are possibly just being polite there, but I thank you for laughing anyway. I know I am not the most perfect wife (but I’m close, right? RIGHT?) but you make me strive to be a bit better every day. We have created a most brilliant little family and I couldn’t be happier. Anyway, here’s to many, many more happy years together, lover, let the adventure continue. Team Garbeer 4evs!

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Peppa Pig World

Peppa Pig World

A long, long time ago when I was pregnant with Betsy, my dad reported about the opening of Peppa Pig World on the local news. He said it looked bright and fun and wanted to take his unborn grandchild there when they were bigger (he said that to me in an email, not on the telly – that would have been weird). At the beginning of the summer with Betsy nearing three we decided that now would be the perfect time to take her. I don’t think she had heard of Peppa Pig (making her the only child under five not to have heard of her), so I prepared Boo with some episodes of the programme a few days before we left and like every other kid in the world fell instantly in love with its charm and all the characters (also I think she could identify quite a bit with Peppa. Being an older sister? Check. Having a younger brother? Check. A bespectacled dad with a beard? Check. The mum is a bit too patient though.)

Paulton’s Park is the home of Peppa Pig World. There are rides a plenty, gardens, a few animals, but it seems that the majority of visitors here all make a beeline for the piglet. Here you are immersed in Peppa’s world and surrounded by various characters and buildings from the cartoon. Music plays around the park and occasionally you’ll hear Peppa giggle over the speakers (you hear Daddy Pig too, although after five hours of listening his laugh somehow magically turns into Jabba The Hut). The attention to detail to this place is amazing. They’ve even used the narrator from the program to read out the safety announcements for each of the rides.

Peppa Pig World

Peppa Pig World

Peppa Pig World

I’m quite surprised to read on the Paulton’s Park website that there are only seven rides in PPW. There seemed to be a lot, lot more. The actual area is fairly compact but full of things to look at and it’s easy to navigate and we let Betsy decide what she wanted to do on the day – she wanted to try everything! Considering we were there on the first Saturday of the summer holidays, it didn’t seem too busy and queues for all the rides were bearable, I don’t think we had to wait for more than 10 minutes for anything, which is good when you have a very excitable toddler with you. There’s also a decent sized playground that Betsy spent a huge amount of time in and she would have been in George Pig’s soft play for an incredibly long time, but as we didn’t bring any socks with us, Boo was forbidden to explore – the staff are very hot on who’s wearing socks and who isn’t. It looked amazing though, I doubt we would have seen Betsy again had she gone in.

Peppa Pig World

Peppa Pig World

We really loved George’s Dinosaur ride. It was the longest wait for a ride, but it lasts for a while and as you move round you find yourself alone and having a bit of peace and quiet. Betsy got a bit obsessed with the helicopter ride – she was tired but still wanted to go on rides and got very focused on wanting to ride on a red helicopter. Getting a particular colour of helicopter on this ride is all down to the luck of the draw and the two times she went on this ride, she went in blue and yellow ones but not the red. She got a bit upset about that, two months later and she’s still asking to ride the red ‘copter! Next year, Boo, next year.

Peppa Pig World

Around PPW’s perimeter are a few of Paulton Park’s older rides including this big water slide. If you look closely in that picture you see that Betsy is in the boat second from the left. That slide was one of her highlights of the day. That girl has no fear.

Peppa Pig World

As with all places like this, food and drink are expensive. We brought a packed lunch, but the food we saw looked good. They also sell local New Forest ice cream rather than the big companies which is a great touch and bloody delicious too (I could be biased what with growing up with the stuff though). All the staff we met were lovely and cheerful, in particular the chap who cleaned up Betsy’s knee after she scraped a scab off falling over.

There is so much to see here and we will be back next year, hopefully to explore more of Paulton’s Park itself, especially as there are plenty more rides for small children to have a go on. You could easily do two days and not try everything. I want a go on the gorgeous Victorian carousel and I think Betsy might try and get on a red helicopter again.

Living Arrows – 37/52

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Betsy just hanging out in a cafe, again. I swear half the time, when it’s just me, her and Arthur out and about, she doesn’t want to go to the park or visit the library, but pop into a cafe instead. She likes a babychino.

There’s been a nice rhythm to this week. Even though no one here goes to school, term time brings back the regular classes and drop-ins. We started Jack and Jill’s again where Betsy danced like she never danced before and returned to a couple of classes we’ve not been to since Betsy was tiny. Neither have really changed since we last went, which made them feel warm and familiar, but it felt slightly odd I was now doing these things with Arthur rather than Boo. There was Rhyme Time at our local library, where even after all these years I still tear up singing You Are My Sunshine and Baby Massage and Yoga, which is a glorious, relaxing class for me and Art and it felt like I’d never left.

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How the garden grows – 11

Did you see Gardener’s World this week? Carol Klein visited a tiny wildlife garden in Dorset owned by Brigit Strawbridge and I found it truly inspirational. Her garden is pack full of wildlife (particularly bee) friendly plants in a space that seems hardly bigger than ours and looks like the most wonderful little haven. I’ve been trying to enjoy our garden in its final throes of glory rather than think of next year, but that film has got me pondering. I have always wanted this garden to be as productive as possible and that not only means to provide food for us but also to be a home for others. I suppose the ultimate aim would be to eventually make our little plot a cottage garden with a good dose of permaculture thrown in for good measure.

The film made me want to check the bee hotel we have hanging around, but it seems it found its way into the ground elder and turned into a spider hotel. Now placed in a sunny position so hopefully it’ll provide a home for some other insects!

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So to wish the last of the summer away, here’s some thoughts on what to add to the garden next year to encourage more wildlife into the garden:

  • Add a log pile and some stones for various insects to hide under.
  • For some reason I’ve always battled against ivy and tried to get rid of it as much as possible, but I’ve realised that it should be embraced. It’s a great habitat to all manner of insects and birds, and as we’ve seen a little wren flying about this summer, it would be nice to offer it another place for it to stay.
  • A pond. There are frogs in the area (Betsy spotted one stuck in my bucket in May. We set it free, only for Ian to pounce after it as soon as it was released. I think it got away though!). They would be amazing to have in the garden, the kids would love it and best of all would help my slugs and snail problem.
  • Stachys lanata (lambs ear). This plant is great for bees in particular the wool carder bee (the females use the fibres from the leaves to build their nest) and looks pretty too.
  • A bird box. I’m not entirely sure if it’s a good idea to encourage birds into the garden when we have a cat, but he’s not brought anything home in ages, so we’ll risk it.

 
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I have been doing a bit for the garden this week though. One of the million garden centres we have in the area are selling all their packets of seeds for 50p each, so I’ve already got all the seeds I want to grow next year now. How’s that for organisation? Of course, come the spring I will probably forget all about them, and buy a new load of seeds. It’s all too much for this small plot probably, but I think I’ll just grow one, maybe two of each plant. I’m especially excited about the kale and the squash looks amazing.

How The Garden Grows 11

I had quite a few cabbages planted earlier this year, but snails got to most of them, but a few seemed to have survived so hopefully we’ll have a couple ready for harvesting in the spring. Betsy planted some broad beans (I’ll put them in the ground once the courgettes and pumpkins have given up the ghost) and I’ve stuck a few leeks into the veg bed too. Also planted is a good-looking gooseberry plant that was going cheap in Waitrose.

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How The Garden Grows 11

How The Garden Grows 11

How The Garden Grows 11

It seems weird that we have vegetables that could potentially make it though the winter and feed us in the spring, the plans for the garden so far have always been short-term – lets just bung it in and it’ll give us some colour for the summer – type of thing. The wildflower seeds we planted are a classic example. But even the wildflowers are becoming a little more long-term as I’ve saved some of the poppy and hollyhock seeds for next year. Seed saving is something I have never done before, even when I had my allotment, but I get excited when I think about growing plants from seed I have collected, it seems more special somehow. I think I may be getting into this gardening lark.

Manneskjur

Living Arrows – 36/52

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It’s so rare for me to take any photos of Arthur with my ‘proper’ camera. I guess it’s because it’s much easier to wield a DSLR when he’s asleep or in the pram, so here’s another mobile snap of him waving his hands about which I happen to find adorable, obvs.

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Betsy had her first face painting this week, I’m not sure how it’s taken this long to do, but she loved it and kept checking in the mirror that it was there. She was rather disappointed that it had rubbed off by the next morning though.

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How The Garden Grows – 10

The Garden - Baking Betsy

It’s been a few weeks since I last wrote about the garden, so I thoughgt I’d give you a bit of an update. You can definitely tell it’s the end of summer. The jasmine leaves are turning red, the wildflowers are running their course and everything is slowing down. It’s been a short season here, but that’s because this has been the first spring and summer where we’ve worked really hard on the garden, but there’s still a bit to see. There are still a few flowers around if you look carefully.

The Garden - Baking Betsy

The Garden - Baking Betsy

These white beauties have grown from underneath the nextdoor neighbour’s garden. I feel I should know what they are as they’re all over the place in Enfield, but I don’t. Someone enlighten me, please!

The Garden - Baking Betsy

We’re still getting a few veggies. When I say veggies, I mean courgette and tomato (I know they’re fruit really!). I still can’t get over how successful the tomatoes have been, we are definitely growing those next year. I think this may be our last big harvest though, there’s not much left now.

The Garden - Baking Betsy

The Garden - Baking Betsy

I few weeks ago I was getting very excited about my pumpkin growing, but when I inspected it not long ago the squash came off the plant in my hands and looked terrible. I don’t know what happened to it.

Snuffed it

It would be useful to know what happened, because after having a look round this weekend, I discovered this:

The Garden - Baking Betsy

Two pumpkins growing! I am excited by this, although I suspect they’re fast running out of time for them to mature and ripen. It would be good to have something for Halloween though, especially as Betsy sowed those seeds.

The Garden - Baking Betsy

Manneskjur

Hello Arthur – 3 months

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Hello Arthur! You are a quarter of a year old already! Where the flip-reverse has the time gone? You are no longer a newborn, which makes me a little sad, but I am also so, so exited to see you grow. Over the past weekend, we went down to Milford to see your grandparents and your Aunty Boc, Uncle Tim and cousin Asher. Ash is sitting up and eating and it makes me look forward so much to introducing food to you (it was one of the most favourite things I did with Betsy when she was a baby). I do have to try quite hard not to keep looking forward though and just live in the now. Your babyhood is already whizzing past and I seem to wishing it away and continually thinking about the rest of the year including me going back to work and your childcare when I’m away. These thoughts make my heart ache, as I can’t bear the thought of us being apart for a whole day but we will have to. Enough of that, we need to do more of living in the now and I’ll try to not think about work as much.

You have lost your startle reflex which is a shame as it was über cute, but you have gained your hands. You have spent the last few weeks staring at them and occasionally batting at a couple of objects on your baby gym and you are even having the odd success at grabbing too. A few days back while sitting on your dad’s lap you were grabbing at your feet over and over again.

WHAT CAN A MAN DO WITH HANDS LIKE THESE?

You have rolled over! That’s another developmental milestone ticked off. Although at the time, you were lying on grass on an incline. So clever you for using gravity to help you! (You also rolled over today too, so you can definitely roll from back to front. This time you did it while I had quickly placed you on the sofa while I went to get a glass of water. So no more putting you on the sofa then…)

You got your first cold. You seemed to cope with it well, the only time it bothered you was when you had trouble breathing when feeding. Talking of feeding, you are doing well and feeding LOTS. The difficulties we had after you were born are a distant memory however you are now refusing bottles of expressed milk preferring to drink from the source as it were, rather scuppering any plans I had involving going out in the evenings. Oh well.

I like the random things you smile at. Lights in the ceiling, patterns on my dresses, me first thing in the morning. You are also noticing Betsy much more and you don’t seem to mind the bear hugs she gives you (although I think you’d prefer it if she didn’t try to carry you around everywhere). Every morning she’ll bring a pile of books over to where you are and read them aloud to you. She says your favourite at the moment is Fox’s Socks.

Fox's socks

Do cats get jealous? I’ve always suspected that as long as they get food, then no, they don’t. But Ian is an odd one. While I was pregnant with you, he’d spend most of his time sitting on top of my bump, purring loudly. I often wondered if you could hear him while in the womb, you certainly moved around a lot when he was around. After you were born he did a rather good impression of totally ignoring us, but now, whenever I am feeding you, he’s right there snuggling up to you and generally getting in our way. He’ll learn the error of his ways soon enough though, two days ago you managed to grab onto is tail and pull hard. He wasn’t pleased. I do hope you grow up to be thick as thieves though.

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Anyway, you are still awesome and amazing and all of us are still enjoying every minute with you.
Love from your mamma who loves you.
xxx

Living Arrows – 35/52

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We have been baking this week. Betsy has always enjoyed taking part, but she wants to be more and more involved in the baking process now. She can even work the Kitchenaid these days. It’s lovely and the chocolate cupcakes we made were very much a joint effort. She was very proud of her work and even tried to feed Arthur them. Honestly, you turn your back for one second, etc, etc. To be fair to Boo, the cakes were to celebrate Arthur’s three months here (monthday?), so I can understand her wanting him to eat some. Arthur on the other hand seemed slightly confused at all this frosting. I don’t think he’s quite ready for weaning yet..

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