Surprising (and not so surprising!) Ways That Couples Spend Valentines Day

Do you spend Valentines Day on a romantic date with your partner, or are you a Valentines ‘grinch’ who would rather forget it even exists? Do you plan months in advance, or go with the flow? And parents, do you reach for the phone to call the babysitter or do you include the entire family in the occasion? Read on to find out what these couples do…

Date Night At Home

A date night at home is a popular choice. Some couples, such as Angela from The Inspiration Edit, and Kate from Modern Mum, love to chill at home with a bottle and a movie with their partner. Katie from REOLife agrees, she also opts for a simple night in, doing some gaming together and watching a movie. As Angela says

“Chilling out is lovely, and just spending time together on an evening when we are usually so busy is a special thing to do.”

 

The Family Occasion

Devon Mama jokes that she just wants hubby to take the baby so she can sleep! But in reality they tend to cook a meal together and buy each other a card. This year that will extend to their little one too, to start his Valentines Day card collection early! Tracey from Witts in the Wild also likes to involve their daughter too…

“My husband usually buys flowers for both me and my daughter, and buys her a soft toy with a love heart, we decorate the table and the walls and have a themed dinner together making it special for the three of us.”

 

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The Couples- Only Night

Nomipalony on the other hand explains why Valentines Day is important couple-only time for them and they prefer to go out; they grab a babysitter and splash out on a fancy restaurant…

“We always celebrate valentines as both of our birthdays and anniversary are all in the same week, so we never end up celebrating our anniversary; so Valentines makes up for that in our house. It’s not about the kids at all for us, it’s mammy and daddy time so usually we will arrange for a babysitter and head to a really nice restaurant for a lovely meal and drinks. The past two years we have been to a Michelin starred restaurant for their tasting menu. We normally wouldn’t be able to justify the expense of that so its a real treat for us and we are both foodies so we love it.”

 

The Sentimentals

Many couples like to return to a spot that means somewhere to them as a couple personally; for example the place where they met, or proposed, or maybe even shared their first kiss! Laura from Oh So Mummy and her fiance, who go to the pub where they first met to reminisce. How cute!

 

The Mutual Interest/ Hobby Date

Some couples choose to spend the day or evening doing something that may not be typically romantic, but is a hobby or activity that they both enjoy doing together so is the perfect way to celebrate for them personally. For example, Kirsty from Life With Boys intends to spend Valentines Day at the Bingo, which is somewhere she enjoys going with her partner.

We’re 23 going on 80, plus who will ever turn down the chance to win the valentines jackpot….

 

The Surprise Date

Whether it is the same person who organises the date each time, or the pair take it in turns to arrange, some couples opt not to decide together and instead one person surprises the other. Such as Ed, who surprises Emma- Louise from Even Angels Fall each year with something different. He has made it tradition to choose something that is not considered typically romantic, but ironically this idea in itself has a rather unusual but romantic ring to it. She tells me:

We’ve been horse riding and to a shooting range so far. No idea what this year will be but looking forward to the surprise. It’s nice to do something not typically romantic on Valentine’s Day and it’s become our tradition.

 

Something Different

A day out is another nice way to enjoy Valentines Day. There are lots of possibilities, such as the zoo, or even a theme park for example. Beth from Twinderelmo agrees this is a great idea, this year they are going to the Harry Potter studios. Very romantic!

 

The Grinches

Jen and her fella are being somewhat more unromantic about Valentines Day this year; rather than their usual meal, he is going to football and she will be at at home watching TV with a cuppa! Trying to rivel them in the grinch stakes is Emma from Me and B Make Tea who will spend the evening blogging whilst her partner plays xbox! Now that is romance 😉 They are not alone though; many people view Valentines Day as an over-commercialised money-making exercise and choose to ignore the whole thing! Duvet day until it’s all over anyone?

 

So what type of Valentines Day couple are you?! I would love to know in the comments below!

Christmas: Ayletts Garden Centre, St Albans, Herts

We love visiting Ayletts garden centre at Christmas, they always make a wonderful effort with their displays and often add extra activities or competitions for children too. This year is no exception!

As you walk into the entrance, there is a very modest display with Christmas tree. But keep walking beyond that and the garden centre opens out into a lovely walk-through Christmas scene. Each year there is a different theme, usually featuring cute woodland characters.

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Walk-through Christmas scene.

Next to the entrance to the walk-through scene is a large snowman with a twist; turn the handle to make him come alive! It’s quite sweet and I like the retro style way it works, rather than it randomly going off when people walk past, which often gets annoying!

Grab yourself a pencil and paper to take part in their free competition. Find the ten letters hidden around the Christmas sections to make up a word, and have a go at naming the snowman too, then post it in the box before you leave.

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Squiggle doing the free festive competition.

There is also a collection for Age Concern as part of this display, so don’t forget to take a few coins to throw into the little ‘pond’ there!

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Squiggle throwing coins into the ‘pond’.

There is a large Christmas section in a separate building in the middle of the garden centre. They sell everything from confectionary to lights, to singing santas!

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Squiggle dancing with singing santa.
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Miniature Christmas scenes.
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Squiggle loves these statues!

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Ayletts is a family run business situated on a dual carriageway on the outskirts of St Albans. It has a large cafe, good disabled access and a good size car park. Next door to the garden centre is Partners Pet Supermarket, an independent pet store, and Maidenhead Aquatics, which has a small soft play area in the cafe and fish you can feed. It is well worth a visit if you are local and have up to a couple of hours to spare. Especially during the festive fun!

Christmas at Van Hage, Great Amwell, Hertfordshire 

Van Hage is a large garden centre in Hertfordshire. It has a massive free car park and the garden centre itself covers a very generous sized area, both indoors and outside. In addition to the huge selection of brands and items for sale, there is also a restaurant, miniature railway (small additional charge), free animal gardens and various events.

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Van Hage animal gardens
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We love these DIY wildlife ideas!

During the festive season, they also have a very popular ice rink. Sessions can be booked online in advance, which is essential during busier periods. There are dedicated parent and toddler slots and a very limited number of SEND sessions too. Prices vary, but most sessions cost £10 per adult or £8 per adults, with certain concessions available, plus there is an additional charge for supports from £5 each. Further details are on the website.
Van Hage has a great Christmas selection, with cute displays and a Santa’s Grotto. I don’t know what the actual grotto experience is like as we haven’t visited, but the rest of the garden centre certainly helps us to get into the Christmas spirit!

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Giant reindeer at the entrance
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Van Hage at Christmas

More photos from a previous visit can be found here.

Stay Wild: Bug Hunt

Last week, we went on a family bug hunt organised by Highfield Park Trust.

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It was a lovely morning; the hunt was well organised, fun, engaging and informative. We both learned lots of new things!

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There were 17 questions, which could be answered by finding the different information cards hidden around the park.

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For example, did you know ants use their head to block the entrance to their nest to keep intruders out?

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Squiggle found out that a male wasp is called a drone.

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I had no idea that a praying mantis only has one ear and Squiggle was very surprised that woodlice has 14 legs.

There were sweet prizes for everyone who completed the quiz, which Squiggle was very happy about! But not as excited as she was when she spotted that they had some of their delicious apple juice for sale, made locally from apples collected from the park orchard.

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She polished the bottle off very quickly!

The bug hunt also inspired her to create one of her own back at home, in the garden for her toys.

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Even a cat came to join in the fun and followed her around finding them all!
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Great family fun, big thumbs up from us.

Stay Wild everyone!

#Blogtober 2016 – Day 20: 5 Things About Hertfordshire (Visitor Attractions, Days Out, Things To Do)

Hertfordshire has a wealth of parks, nature reserves, conservation areas and other beautiful outdoor spaces, important historical sites, major attractions, and other lovely places to go and things to do. It is just outside of London, with easy routes into the capital city, so that is also an added draw to the area.

I could easily pick far more than five things to mention but rules are rules, so here goes…

1. Roman Verulamium

St Albans is home to the ancient site of Verulamium, a large Roman town, features of which are still present today. There is a hypocaust with beautiful mosaics, Roman theatre (considered one of the best examples in the country), an award-winning museum, and even remains of the Roman wall within Verulamium park itself. There are also Roman baths in Welwyn. Great for history enthusiasts!

Other historical places in Hertfordshire include Berkhamsted Castle, Hatfield House, Celtic Harmony Camp  and Knebworth House.

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2. Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour 

Much of this world famous movie series was filmed at Leavesden, which is now home to the hugely popular WB studio tour. A must do for any Harry Potter fan. Film fans might be interested to know that Elstree studios and Pinewood studios are also nearby.

3. St Albans Abbey

This stunning cathedral is voted top by Tripadvisor for things to do in Hertfordshire. It has the longest Nave in England, bell tower, extensive medieval wall paintings and gorgeous glass painting, The Rose Window, unveiled by the late Princess Diana in 1989. People have been visiting the shrine of St Albans for over 1700 years and it is a national pilgrim site.

St Albans Clock Tower is also nearby.

4. Parks and Nature Reserves

There are plenty of beautiful outdoor spaces to visit in Hertfordshire. Some of the most notable places include Cassiobury parkVerulamium parkAldenham Country ParkAshridge estate and Fairlands Valley Park to name just a few.

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Cassiobury Park, Watford

5. Family Days Out

Paradise Wildlife ParkWillows Activity FarmNatural History Museum at Tring and Hatfield Aviation Museum are all popular days out within Hertfordshire, with many more nearby in neighbouring counties and London boroughs.

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Willows Activity Farm, St Albans

#Blogtober16

Sylvanian Families Trail, Hatchlands Park (Guildford, Surrey)

Recently we visited Hatchlands Park, which is a beautiful National Trust site in Guildford, Surrey. Being a huge fan of Sylvanian families, Squiggle was keen to do the Sylvanian Families nature trail, open until the end of this year.

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There is a small charge to enter the park, including the Sylvanian Families Trail, of £6 per adult and £3 per child, or £15 for a family ticket (these prices are for park only, cost to enter whole site including house is extra. Prices are on the website here). National Trust members get in free.

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The trail has a series of signs as you walk through the wood, each with nature questions and clues from members of woodland Sylvanian families. There is a more difficult question at each stop, making it fun and informative for all ages.

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We did get abit confused when we reached the end because there was no obvious finishing point. We probably should have realised from the number of clues but even so, a clear indication, such as a finish sign or message from one of the Sylvanian families, would have been a nice additional touch.

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Regardless, we really enjoyed the trail and the wooden sculptures were lovely. Squiggle got so excited each time she spotted one and loved cuddling them!

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For more information see their website www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hatchlands-park/features/sylvanian-families-trail-at-hatchlands-park

Whilst we were there, we also went to Hatchlands Park playground. It has lovely natural play features, including a wonderful treehouse. Squiggle really enjoyed playing here and it fitted in beautifully with the surrounding natural environment.

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Treehouse
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Balancing
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Den seating
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Climbing

All in all, it was a fun day out!

Days Out: A Trip to the Seaside (Southend On Sea, Essex) 

Southend On Sea in Essex is a popular seaside choice for many. It boasts stretches of both pebble and sand beaches, play water fountains, play areas on the sand, plus a brand new lagoon for paddling and swimming. 

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Water play fountains

For those looking for a little more action, there is a Sealife Centre on the seafront, an award winning funfair, indoor play centre, pier, traditional style amusement arcades and a large selection of shops, restaurants and cafes. 

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Beach, overlooking pier and funfair

For us, it is a relatively short drive away from Hertfordshire that offers us a fun and relaxed day out by the sea, so is definitely a winner! 

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Investigating the beach

For more information about Southend, including special events, things to do and places to stay, see Visit Southend

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Collecting shells

Sylvanian Families: Make Your Own Mole House (Art and Craft Activity)

Squiggle had alot of fun making a Sylvanian Families cardboard mole house using instructions from her Sylvanian Storekeepers catalogue. She loves Sylvanian Families (as I’m sure you may have noticed!) and was very excited to spot this art and craft activity.

First she made the front porch. One of the members from the mole family popped by to check out how their new home was coming along, and brought some Sylvanian friends along too!

Next she built the chimney stack and the other parts of the Sylvanian families house. (Ignore the stray tub of gooseberries photobombing my picture, this is not a poor attempt at product placement, she was just snacking whilst she worked! ;))

Next was the bit Squiggle was most looking forward to… paper mache time! We used wallpaper paste because it tends to do the job more effectively but you can also use glue and water (which also works well, as long as you get the consistency just right) or even just flour and water (but in my experience this method is sometimes abit rubbish, which can be frustrating!) Paper mache is a fun sensory activity for those sensory seekers too, Squiggle loved feeling around in it.

Next came a slight test in patience as Squiggle had to wait for the paper mache to dry before she could get painting it. At this point she decided to let her creative license run loose and chose to make the Sylvanian mole family a beautifully colourful home…

The next part was putting it all together. Somehow I managed to miss getting photos of this stage (I can only assume my camera phone was buried under a pile of cardboard by this point!)

However, here is the finished product…

A wonderful bright new home for her Sylvanian families! 

This was such a fun art and craft project, and it kept Squiggle busy over the course of several days in total. The full guide was in the Sylvanian Storekeepers catalogue but the templates can also be downloaded here.

Failed Science Experiment

We tried another experiment from the Eco Science kit yesterday. The idea was to discuss pressure and demonstrate how a submarine works. The instructions stated to fill the dropper 2/3 full then drop it in the bottle full of water. With the right amount in, the dropper should sink and float and the bottle is squeezed and released.

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Preparing the experiment

However it didn’t quite go according to plan unfortunately as the dropper seemed to go from too much water to too little in just one drop. After a frustrating half hour or so of emptying and refilling the bottle in order to get the dropper out and try again it got rather tedious so we finally gave up.

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Trying to successfully complete the experiment

She then enjoyed designing her own experiment and exploring the resources her own way instead.

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Exploring the resources using her own ideas

She was very disappointed it did not work out and we were both rather frustrated by the end. Think we would rather have given this one a miss!

Eco Science Toys- Gravity Robot

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Squiggle really enjoyed this science activity and it was of educational value in various ways. I think possibly on average it may be more beneficial for younger children than it states on the box (it says ages 8 plus, my daughter is 5), although this is for safety reasons rather than the age it is aimed at for educational purposes. In other words supervision may be required.

My main gripe was the possible promotion of fizzy drinks to children but it might have worked with a substitute item such as a cardboard roll, we didn’t try this because Squiggle wanted hers to be similar to the picture on this occasion. Other than that it was a simple but fun activity that she got alot out of doing.