There was a bit of a theme to our half term.

Rain. And lots of it.

Yes, there were nice days, but it seemed that whenever we tried to do anything outdoors, the nice lady in charge of the weather decided it would be fun to get us very wet indeed.

It started on Sunday with a jubilee street party. Huddled under tarpaulin, trying to avoid the drips, we ate soggy crisps and took turns running back to the house, pretending to need the toilet, but actually just wanting to watch the celebrations on the telly from the comfort of a dry sofa.

At points, the rain just thought ‘sod it’, and poured directly through the tarp, despite our best efforts to encourage it off the edges:

On Thursday, we set off for a much-anticipated trip to Longleat Safari Park, to review the park for Tesco Magazine. “We’ll do the drive through bit first,” I told Belle and her friend optimistically, “and then perhaps the rain will have eased off?”

"Longleat"

There are actually two monkeys sheltering in this tree – can you spot them?

You can guess the rest can’t you? No, the rain didn’t ease off, and although we did get a cracking view of a Longleat tiger prowling around the car, most of the other animals were huddled under logs. It was such a shame, as Longleat is such a brilliant place for a day out.

"Longleat tigers"

Soggy tiger through wet windscreen

Still, it clearly takes more than a spot of rain to put us Brits off an outing, and Longleat’s car park was full of people doing their best to enjoy themselves – Longleat own brand ponchos, Wellington boots and a brave smile seemed to be the outfit of choice.

"Longleat"

Belle’s Sylvanian Family baby kangaroo tries to spot a Longleat wolf, dressed very sensibly in home-made trunks.

On Monday we headed off on another Tesco assignment to Paulton Park and the delights of Peppa Pig World. It’s hard to say whether we got wetter here or at Longleat, but one thing I can say for sure – if you don’t want to queue, visit a theme park in the freezing hail. It’s amazing how quickly you get on the rides, and a rollercoaster in the hail really is a very invigorating experience, although not one I’d necessarily want to repeat anytime soon.

“Why are your messages so badly spelt?” boyfriend asked, after I’d text him my latest update – Belle tripping over her three year old cousin outside Peppa Pig’s house and them both landing face down in a puddle.

“My han£ds are num withh the cold,” I replied.

Belle on the other hand had a whale of a time. After we’d done the Peppa Pig part of Paulton Park, I took her, as promised, to the more grown-up rides. There was literally no-one else in the rollercoaster part of the park, so she got to go round and round, again and again. “That was my sixth go!” she shouted, as I huddled in the partial shelter of a vending machine, trying to ignore the fact that the rain had soaked through my skirt, my leggings and into my pants. “I did that whole ride with my eyes shut, singing the Greased Lightening song from Grease – it was awesome!”

Nine years old apparently can have fun whatever the weather…

"Peppa Pig World"

Nice weather, for ducks.

This is just a quickie, as the bishop said to the actress, to say a mahoosive THANK YOU to everyone who voted for me in the Loved By Parents awards. The winners were announced last night, and I am very excited to tell you all that I won the Blogger of the Year award!

How cool is that? You know how much I love praise and external validation*, so this really does mean a lot to me. Look, I get a shiny badge and everything:

"loved by Parents awards"Not only that, but I think I may get to fly in a balloon! That though is a whole other post…

Thank you!

*No sarcasm here, this is absolutely true.

There are so many things I’ve been meaning to mention this week, that I thought I’d do a bit of a round-up. That way you can either read everything, or just delete it all in one go. I do like to make it as easy as possible for you to ignore me.

Lunchtime…

It’s been lovely over the last few weeks to see lots of reviews being written for Lunchtime – a beautiful children’s book written by Rebecca Cobb. Rebecca is actually my step-sister, so I am extra specially proud. Buy your copy of Lunchtime now. Off you go.

"lunchtime by Rebecca Cobb"

Illustrations that are good enough to eat

Personalised wall art…

I never thought I was the kind of person to go in for all that ‘mug with your own name on it’ nonsense, but it turns out I am.

Fancy that.

*insert snobby insult to isolate and offend half of my readers here*

When Macadamia Media first offered my some personalised printed goodies, I was a little reluctant, partly just because I didn’t know where to start. “We can do absolutely anything you fancy!” they told me. Well, that’s no good is it? How am I meant to choose from ‘absolutely anything’? I’m the kind of person who panics at the length of the menu in McDonald’s and orders Fillet-O-Fish – I really cannot be trusted with a great deal of choice.

Belle was easy – give her anything with her name on and she’s happy – and so her wall stickers have gone down a treat.

"Personalised wall art"

You can choose your own name, you don’t have to have ‘Belle’ on your wall. Unless you want to.

So that just left me. What should I do?? I looked around my desk for inspiration and spotted the postcard I have of The Great Wave off Kanagawa. I quickly googled it, and sent them the link. “I quite like this picture?” I suggested, not sure exactly what they were planning to do with it.

A week or so later, and check me out working in the garden.

"Personalised laptop cover"

I’m actually taking the picture, not just really small.

Pretty cool huh? The only downside is that the only people who get to enjoy it are the people sat opposite me in cafes. You can get your own personalised goodies at Macadamia Media.

And in other news…

Betterware sent me a little something for my ‘jugs in the shape of chickens where the stuff comes out of their beaks’ collection. And yes, this is an Actual Thing.

"jugs in the shape of chickens

My new jug settles in

I think my new chicken, (front right), which is actually an egg white separator, looks very happy with his new chums.

I was talking to a friend this weekend about summer holidays. “Are you going on holiday this year?” I asked her.

“God no,” she said, looking appalled, “I just couldn’t bear to part with hundreds of pounds just to spend a week shivering in a caravan with the kids complaining and wishing they were at home watching Cbeebies in the warm.”

She has a point. I’ve never taken my whole family abroad, as I just can’t afford it, and even my supposed money-saving holidays end up costing a fortune – £950 for seven days in a caravan in Poole? It’s hard to justify as ‘fun’ isn’t it?

One alternative is to take the risk and book something cheap last-minute, but ‘spontaneity’ and ‘small children’ don’t really go hand in hand do they? It takes hours of planning and preparation just to leave the house with young kids, so how on earth could you feel confident taking the chance with a range of last-minute cottages?

I’ve always imagined that last-minute holidays were a bit hit and miss, but I’ve recently come across Late Lettings, a really well-designed site aimed at bringing you high quality last-minute holidays deals, with families in mind. See, they have a picture with children in, so it must be true:

"late lettings"

Sausage anyone?

I’ve always tended to think of last-minute holiday deals as being mainly in cheap hotels in Tenerife, but Late Lettings focuses mainly on the UK, particularly Devon and Cornwall, so it’s ideal for families looking for a bargain break. (They do have some properties in Cyprus too if you’re feeling adventurous).

"last-minute holidays"

Pasties and clotted cream. What more could you want from a holiday?

If you’re not sure where to start, click on ‘inspiration’ in the top left hand corner, and you can browse by theme rather than by location or dates. If you’re desperate to take your dog away with you, browse the dog friendly holidays. Looking for a sea view? Check out the late availability cottages to let near the coast.

"last-minute holidays"

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside…

Whatever you fancy, Late Lettings could well be just what you need to enjoy a holiday away this year that doesn’t break the bank.

Have you noticed how everywhere you go now they want to dust your drink with chocolate powder or make some elaborate pattern out of milk froth?

I have to admit that although I know the coffee shop people do it for everyone, and probably loathe the very sight of a coffee bean shaped stencil by the end of the day, it still makes me feel special. I genuinely think I enjoy my drink more when it looks pretty. Simple things etc etc.

Quite often I like to take pictures of my beautiful beverages, in a bid to capture their beauty for ever, and also to make me stop for a minute, reflect on the simple pleasure of a nicely shaped cup, and get a bit of perspective on my day.

Here then, for your amusement, is a little gallery of the delightful drinks I have enjoyed recently.

Cheers!

"hot chocolate"

I heart hot chocolate

"pretty coffee"

I want the moon on a stick. Or on a coffee at least.

"cup of tea"

The cutest milk jug you ever did see

"mint hot chocolate"

Marvelous mint hot chocolate

I’ve been feeling bad over the weekend for being such a party pooper, complaining about burger buns and putting a dampener on the whole evening Pimms vibe, so today I thought I’d balance it out a bit.

I’m not really a grumpy old woman you see. Yes I feel silly buying brollies in the rain, but there are plenty of other special occasions and clichéd activities that I positively relish.

Christmas

Christmas really is the ultimate in ‘things we are forced to celebrate’, and yet I love it. I love everything about it. I love buying presents, I love choosing wrapping paper, I love the smell of mulled wine and mince pies, and watching the girls open their stocking on Christmas morning. I start getting excited about Christmas around September, and am almost beside myself by the time the lights come on and strains of Slade start flowing from open shop doors.

Flowers

Another total cliché, but I have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t like getting flowers. Whether it be an enormous bouquet delivered to your door or a handful of daisies picked from a neighbour’s garden on the way home, there is just something special about being sent flowers. To me, being given flowers tells me that somebody is thinking about me, and that I’m worth the effort of stopping off at the garage, and that’s surely the stuff of fairy tales? And a note to all the men out there, don’t worry if you’re not near a garage forecourt – you can get UK flower delivery online from one of dozens of local florists from Interflora. There is no excuse I’m afraid.

Birthdays

‘Oh, don’t worry about getting me a present, it’s just another day really…’

This is something I will never say. I love birthdays, and expect to receive a lovely array of thoughtful gifts and cards. For the last few years I’ve celebrated with a party, which is even better, as all your guests feel obliged to bring presents and pay you lots of attention. Yes, the money you spend on juke box hire may be more than the value of all your pressies combined, but that’s hardly the point, and everyone wants a juke box in their kitchen right?

The Olympics

You’d think that of all the bandwagons, this would be one of the ones I’d be least likely to jump on, yet there we were, waving our over-priced flags and drinking our free cokes. Seriously, who gives their kids coke for breakfast? Me it seems!

"Olympic torch"

Waiting for the Olympic torch. And the sugar rush.

Do you have any celebrations or traditions that you like to throw yourself into? Any special occasions you enjoy regardless of the fact that they are probably owned by Hallmark? Do let me know…