I always look forward to the summer holidays with a mix of emotions. I’m excited about not having to get up early every morning, (and by early I mean at about ten to eight, in time to make a quick sandwich for Belle and try to look involved), but also anxious about juggling work, and keeping everyone entertained.

As it turned out, this summer fairly whizzed by. Belle went off to stay at my sister’s for a week, (flying to Ireland on her own!), and then we all went over a couple of weeks later for her wedding.  (My sister’s not Belle’s.) Belle and I went to Newquay, we threw some axes, it was all going on. On the final weekend of the summer holidays, we had one final hoorah and went of to Valleyfest for the weekend. 

Valleyfest is a diddy little festival, with a foodie twist, held on the edge of Chew Valley Lake. This sets it apart from all of the other festivals I’ve been to, as you have a stunning view of the water from everywhere in the site. Now admittedly, the weather was pretty shocking, but even so, it was  beautiful.

Valleyfest

We were there for the whole weekend, but were very lucky as we were put up by Tinkerbell Tent Hire, who were providing the glamping for Valleyfest. (I.e. the tents for people like me who are too lazy to knock a couple of pegs into the ground.) We were really grateful for it, as the winds did get up on Saturday night, and if we’d had been in a tent that I’d put up, we’d probably have blown away. Tinkerbell Tent Hire also hire out tents for things like weddings, so they are definitely worth a look.  View Post

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I have a bit of a thing for unusual museums. 

Whenever we’re away anywhere, I always look for the oddest sounding places to visit, or if I can’t find any, I’ll just drive around until I see a sign and follow it. A week or so ago I drove past a sign saying ‘stationery factory’ and got very excited, because I thought I might get to see how pencils were made, but it turned out it was just a regular factory and members of the passing general public weren’t allowed to just wander in. I had to turn around in the driveway by the barriers and try to look casual, like I had just gone the wrong way.

Over the years, visiting unusual museums has become one of those family traditions that you don’t start intentionally, but that you’re glad has happened, because it makes you feel like more of a team. Like an in joke, except the joke is on my children every time I take them to a weird museum about bees that’s actually just a creepy old man with an old beehive in his attic.

It’s nice though. It’s quality family time. A war time spirit almost – us against the crazy bee man. 

I’ve been meaning for ages to get around to writing a post about my unusual museums fetish, and so when Smart Insurance got in touch to say they were launching a campaign about the importance of families spending time together, having good old fashioned family fun, well, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. The Smart Insurance campaign has been inspired by the National Trust‘s mission to get children more connected with nature, and it doesn’t get much more ‘nature’ than bees does it? View Post

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Today I’m feeling mixed emotions.

Sure, it may only be officially less than four months now until Christmas, (hoorah!), but it’s also almost the end of our mini-break season. I wanted this year to try and get away for as many weekends as possible, and we accomplished it spectacularly – we’ve visited all sorts of lovely places, and had some lovely times, but the end of the summer holidays marks the end of the peak season. We have a couple of trips planned still, but mainly we’ll be hanging out at home. I’m kind of looking forward to this, but sad too, as I do like a hotel breakfast.

One of the last destinations on our mini-break calendar of fun was the Woodbury Park Hotel in Devon. It’s less than an hour away from us, but I actually kind of like to holiday nearer home, especially if you’re only going for a night or two. No one wants to spend half their allotted mini-break time driving there do they? Also, when you go somewhere relatively close by, you’ll often discover places you never even knew about, that you can then visit again.

That was the certainly the case with Dart’s Farm, where we headed after checking in, to hire bikes. Dart’s Farm is a massive farm shop, with a cafe, loads of food, drink, interiors stuff, an outside area, local fish and chips – I can’t believe that in the all the time I’ve lived in Somerset and been on family days out, we’ve never come across it. If you’re anywhere nearby, it’s definitely worth a visit, if only to go in the kitchen and bathroom showroom and gawp at the small glass bathroom shelf that’s on sale for £350. Seriously, it was about 10 inches long and maybe three deep? Bonkers. We started pricing things in shelves from then on – ‘Mummy, can I get this book? It’s not expensive – I could get 48 of them instead of a glass shelf.’ View Post

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As a blogger, I get to do lots of interesting things, but I can’t say I ever expected anyone to ask me if I wanted to learn how to throw an axe. To be honest, I’m not even sure why you throw an axe, unless you’re a Viking or something. I imagine them chucking axes about and roaring ferociously. 

I have been challenged by the National Trust though, to do something outdoorsy – something that I might not normally think to do, and you get to choose what that is. 

NT SWOF Jo Middleton Adventures 1

It’s to celebrate the South West Outdoor Festival, a totally new kind of festival, being held in Devon from September 23 – 25. It’s being hosted by The National Trust, together with Cotswold Outdoor, Panasonic, Exmoor National Park and lots of local outdoor experts. It’s a festival for people who prefer rafting to raving, and who’d rather been foraging for wild food than queuing for a burger. View Post

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I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise. I particularly like the idea of a cruise around the Norwegian fjords. They just look so beautiful, don’t they? But then, what do you pack for a cruise?

pack for a cruise

Weirdly, I feel a little ashamed to admit it, because when I picture a stereotypical cruise goer, I tend to picture a woman in her late sixties, who is widowed but who has found, now that she doesn’t have a husband to look after, that actually she loves to go salsa dancing and cruising and to wear animal prints. Not that there is anything wrong with that, I just don’t quite see myself in that category while deciding what to pack for a cruise. Yet. (Give it a while. I already like animal prints.)

I know it’s not like that of course, and cruising actually has a lot going for it. Some of the benefits as far as I can see:

  • You get to see a lot of different scenery, within having to move off your sun lounger.
  • All you can eat buffets.
  • Falling asleep to the soothing swoosh of the sea.
  • Did I mention the buffets?
  • Knowing that you won’t get roped into a trek up a mountain or anything like that.
  • The chance that a murder might happen on board, which you will be called upon to solve, Agatha Christie style (this also applies to long distance train journeys).

This is the sort of train journey I’m picturing:

pack for a cruise

To prove that your cruise wardrobe doesn’t have to be totally animal print based, and to help you pack for a cruise, JD Williams have put together an infographic to help you decide what to wear while cruising. Obviously for the murder mystery scenario you’d need something a little more 1920s-inspired, ideally involving a matching hat and gloves, but this infographic is a great place to start should you happen to be planning a cruise wardrobe anytime soon.

You’re welcome!

pack for a cruise

Cruise Packing Guide by http://www.jdwilliams.co.uk. Collaborative post. Images – Zbynek Burival and Serjio74, both from shutterstock.

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