Family Day Out: The Doctor Who Experience, Cardiff Bay

Last weekend, we visited the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay. Being a geeky family of Whovians, this was not our first visit. It was our third. Plus it’s actually the second time we’ve been as part of my birthday celebrations.

We’re really lucky that it doesn’t take us very long at all to get the train to Cardiff Bay (trains from Cardiff Queen Street to the Bay run every 12 minutes and the journey is just 4 minutes!).

We were also lucky that the weather on Saturday was almost perfect: not too hot but a bit sunny and no rain at all! Even without a trip to the Doctor Who Experience, the Bay is one of my favourite places to visit in Cardiff.

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Having always booked tickets in advance, I’d advise doing the same to anyone planning to visit. It means no queuing to buy tickets and no chance of being told they’re fully booked (I don’t know if this regularly happens but wouldn’t want to risk it personally). You can book online then simply print off the tickets or have them sent to you and bring them along.

There is a short queue on the way into the experience but there’s plenty to look at in the foyer area – from character costumes to ancient Gallifreyan artefacts to a massive LEGO dalek!

The actual experience involves going on an adventure, guided by a member of staff and the Doctor himself! Even as an adult, this was really enjoyable and Penny and the other children there loved it, especially the interactive bits. I won’t say anymore as I wouldn’t want to spoil it. I would warn that the first time we went, Penny was about two and did get a bit scared so you might want to consider that when thinking about taking very small children. The experience has changed a few times, usually when there’s been a regeneration, so it’s been different each time we’ve gone.

After the adventure, you get the chance to look around a huge collection Doctor Who exhibit with costumes, props and monsters from the oldest classic episodes right up to the latest series. I really like that this allows you to see the evolution of some monsters like the daleks and cybermen.

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After the exhibit there is a gift shop. With birthday money to spend, I did treat myself to a couple of t shirts and a pin for my notice board.

 

My husband also bought a couple of framed prints which look brilliant in our living room.

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There is a good range in the gift shop, from lower priced souvenirs to some really amazing collectables.

Sadly, the Doctor Who Experience is closing this September, which was one of the reasons we wanted one last trip. If you’re a Whovian, or have any mini Whovians, I really recommend a visit if you can make it, it’s such a fun day out.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Summer Holidays 2017: Weeks 1 & 2

The last two weeks are not exactly how I pictured our summer holidays. I had visions of Penny and I spending long days outdoors, walking in parks and along seafronts and through woods. I had researched a whole catalogue of new picnic recipes to try.

So imagine my dismay when the forecast predicted clouds and rain just about every day.

Our holidays began as soon as Penny left school. We headed to Starbucks for our traditional end of term celebration. It was raining. Never mind, I thought, six weeks of school-free fun are ahead of us.

At the beginning of our first full week of holidays, Husband’s Mum and Nan arrived for a three day visit. We went to Cardiff Bay with them (a rare day of proper sunshine!) and took the Aquabus tour around the Bay, Penarth and the Barrage. Here’s a video I made of it:

We all went out for dinner together that evening. For their last day in Cardiff, we went for a shopping day in the city centre. It made for a good start to our holidays, even if the weather was mostly a bit grim.

Penny and I went to our local library in that first week too. Penny always takes part in the Summer Reading Challenge. This year the theme is Animal Agents and the reward for each book read is a set of clues to work out the mystery in the library. To complete the challenge, a child needs to read 6 books over the course of the summer holidays. As an overall reward, they’re presented with a medal at school when the new term begins. It’s a great scheme and I highly recommend it as a way to get the kids reading some new books over the holidays.

Last week, I was ill for several days. I’m rarely physically unwell, at least not more than a minor cold. This wasn’t serious but I ached all over and felt generally crap. By Thursday, Penny was clearly getting fed up with being indoors, however much I tried to occupy her with baking and crafts and DisneyLife. So we went back to the library as it’s close by. Just being out in the fresh air seemed to cheer her up and getting some new books and a set of stickers as reward for the ones she’d already read helped a great deal too.

On Friday, I was feeling quite a bit better and we had a bit of sunshine (along with the clouds and rain that never seem far away at the moment) so we went to Penarth for a walk along the beach and an ice cream on the pier. It did rain on us a bit but we both needed a proper day out. I felt just about entirely recovered by the weekend.

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Penarth Pier

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Penarth seafront, looking towards the Devon coastline

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Writing our names in the Sand

We had a bit of a lazy day at home on Saturday then I had to work on Sunday. Penny had a lovely day at home with Husband, playing board games.

I’m hoping for better weather and no more sickness for the next four weeks!

How’s your summer holiday going? Has the poor weather affected your plans?

Family Day Out: Caerphilly Castle

The first week of the Easter Holidays brought us some lovely Spring weather. Knowing that the sunshine can disappear as quickly as it arrives, we made the most of it with a trip to Caerphilly Castle.

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Sitting right in the middle of the town of Caerphilly and surrounded by an extensive moat, the castle is partly ruins with one ominously leaning tower, although in nice weather this makes for a pleasant walk.

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Pip was thrilled to find dragons in the castle grounds!

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These sculptures were amazing, such beautiful detail. The red dragon has apparently been at the castle for a long time, while the blue was added more recently.

Signs warned us not to approach the geese that waddled about, as they’re nesting at the moment.

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We walked up a winding narrow staircase to reach the top of the castle. If I’m honest, I’m not keen on spiral staircases, particularly ones with ancient slippery steps and even less so when my daughter happily bounds up them when I’d rather she take her time. There’s no stopping little adventurers! However, I’d say the view from the top is well worth the climb.

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I would say that this is not a suitable day out for pushchairs or wheelchairs. There’d be very little you could see and even navigating the grounds could be tricky.

The price of entry was perhaps a little expensive for what’s on offer. £7.95 for adults, £5.20 for students, senior citizens and under 16s or £23.70 for a family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children). I understand that maintaining an ancient structure costs money and that’s probably reflected in the price but there wasn’t a lot to interact with. I suppose I’m comparing that with Cardiff Castle, which as Cardiff residents, we only have to pay £6 every 3 years for our Castle Keys for unlimited entries and reduced event prices.

After spending a couple of hours walking around the castle and the obligatory visit to the gift shop, we ended our day out with a drink in the visitor centre cafe.

Overall, we enjoyed this trip. It was a good learning experience and an enjoyable walk outdoors in the Spring sunshine!

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My Favourite Things to Read Online

I am guilty, as I believe many of us are these days, of spending a fair amount of my spare time reading online. Blogs, articles, news sites and, the favourite of any procrastinator, Wikipedia.

I have made it a personal goal to try and restrict this a bit more. I should be spending more time doing my own writing or just doing anything that’s a bit more productive. That’s not to say I want to cut it out altogether, just a bit. Online articles can be informative, inspirational and amusing. With that in mind, here are my favourite sites to read:

I Fucking Love Science. Written in a usually lighter tone and with citations in abundance, I find it an enjoyable and trustworthy source for science news. It’s articles are often about debunking common myths, for example the lies spread by many anti-vaccination campaigners.

Seychelles Mama. I bet most of us at some time or another have thought how awesome it would be to pack up and move somewhere tropical. Well, this lady and her family did just that. This blog is all about the realities of being expats in the Seychelles, both the pros (there are some gorgeous photos) and the cons (of which there aren’t many!).

Words from the Corner. This is actually written by my own Hubby. He started a blog in the New Year (definitely not a resolution, he makes clear) and writes on various topics. I know I’m his wife so you might think my opinion is a bit biased but really it’s good stuff. I think my favourite so far was his post on the apparently not so universal appeal of music.

Rules of Play. This is actually the blog of an independent games shop located in the shopping arcades of central Cardiff. While we lived much closer to the city centre, we could probably be found in there at least once a fortnight. Sadly, moving further out means that we visit much less regularly. However, this blog not only offers updates on the new titles they’re stocking but also suggestions of new games to try. If you’re a fan of tabletop games, even if you’re not in Cardiff, I’d suggest reading this.

Cardiff Mummy Says. A brilliant parenting blog in any case but particularly handy for me as it includes regular lists of stuff to do around Cardiff. I often look at this when I’m a bit stuck for something to do or feel like I’ve already tried everything Cardiff has to offer (I never actually have!)

So those are my favourites blogs. For news, I generally favour BBC. I know every now and then they get told off for claims of being biased but most of the time, I feel like I can trust them to give the facts, though even then I’m very cautious. With fake news being so widespread these days, I like to check sources and facts for any piece of news I hear, wherever it comes from. Fake news has stopped being about celebrity gossip and moved quickly in the realms of actually affecting politics. So it’s important to be properly informed.

Just to end with a little shameless self promotion, if you often find you’re stuck for something to read, the Bubele newsletter is released every fortnight and always has a few things going on in your area, plus competitions and a suggested article to read. Go and sign up!

Thanks for reading.

Five years in Cardiff

Five years ago, we moved from London to Cardiff. It’s probably been the best five years of my entire life.

Back in 2011, we lived in an area not far from where the riots had recently happened. It’s not easy being out in a place and constantly wondering if the person you’ve just passed in the street was looting a few nights before. We’d been talking about moving away for a long while but it had always felt like fantasy, like when you plan which mansion you’ll buy when you win the lottery rollover (Everyone does that, right?). But with London (or at least the bit of London we lived in) feeling more and more like somewhere we didn’t really want to raise our child, we started looking elsewhere.

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View across Cardiff Bay, 2011

Cardiff was a pretty obvious choice. We’d been there on a day trip a year earlier and instantly loved it. It’s a capital city – a good place to find jobs with plenty of cultural stuff to enjoy – but at the same time it’s a quieter, more laid back and friendly place than where we were. Plus it’s where Doctor Who is filmed and for a family of geeks, that’s a massive tick in the pros column.

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At the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay, 2012

Husband went on a little reconnaissance mission. The poor guy spent two days looking at what were mostly pretty grim flats, attending job interviews and spending the night in hotel room with a broom closet sized bathroom and a TV smaller than his iPad. He had the pressure of actually picking where we lived without me ever laying eyes on it. When we actually moved, I arrived a few hours ahead of him (he finished packing up at the old flat, while me and Pip went ahead) and he texted me, all anxious about what I thought, given that this was the first time I’d set foot in the place. I think my reply was ‘I f*cking love you’. He’d chosen brilliantly.

I loved that flat. It was the first place that really felt like our home, rather than somewhere we’d had to settle for out of necessity. It was just near Cardiff Bay, still one of my favourite places to visit, plus near plenty of shops including a huge 24 hour supermarket. The best thing about it was it’s second bedroom. Pip finally had a room of her own, which we were all extremely happy about.

We stayed there for a year, then our landlord quite suddenly decided that they were going to sell the flat and gave us just over a month to move out. This time I chose the flat and Husband was the one that didn’t get to see it until after we moved in. I won’t go into much detail about that place but suffice to say, we’ve since made an agreement that he gets to choose all subsequent places we live in. It was bloody awful.

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Victoria Park, 2013

Since 2014, we’ve been living in my favourite place that I’ve ever lived in. Plenty of space, brilliant location and a lovely landlady. I don’t see us leaving here for quite some time yet, which is quite something for a family that’s moved five times in eight years.

I love Cardiff. I love the Bay, a beautiful place to have a walk, take some pictures and perhaps have an ice cream. I love the city centre, full of shops, two museums and a castle, plus a massive library and loads of lovely places to eat.  I love that if you say Good Morning to someone in the street, most of the time they’ll say it back rather than look at you like you’ve just casually uttered a racial slur (seriously, I wouldn’t even make eye contact with strangers in London). I love how comfortable I feel here.

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Castell Coch, 2016

Starting fresh in Cardiff has made me a such a different person. I might still be shy but I’m way more confident than I used to be. I’ve faced up to the fact that I have PTSD and depression and had treatment and now I feel so much better. I’m not cured but it’s incurable so being able to deal with it is the best I can do and I think I’m doing it (most of the time).

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Me, 2011

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Me, 2016

So thanks Cardiff. I can’t wait to see what the next five years have in store!

 

Our Summer Half Term 2016

This morning I was a little sad to send Pip back off to school but I’m also breathing a sigh of relief to have a quiet day at home to myself. We’ve had such a busy half term week!

On Monday, we went for a walk and picnic in Cefn Onn Park, to the north of Cardiff. We hadn’t been before but it came highly recommended and it’s close to Lisvane and Thornhill train station, making it easy for us to get to as we don’t drive. It is a beautiful place, filled with pretty flowers.

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Cefn Onn Park, Cardiff

There was a pond with big koi carp appearing occasionally through the murky water and a multitude of tadpoles clinging to algae covered rocks all around the edges. Pip spotted a dragonfly but I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to get a shot of it!

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Tadpoles in the pond

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By the stream

 

There are picnic tables and plenty of benches but we chose to use our picnic blanket and eat on the big picnic meadow to the north of the park. Recently I bought a really lovely picnic backpack from Mountain Warehouse. It comes with cutlery, plates and cups for four people, plus a nice big food storage section and an insulated removable bottle pouch attached to the side. There’s even a little chopping board, bottle opener and salt & pepper shaker in there! I knew it would be perfect for all of our summer outings.

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A perfect place for a picnic. I promise that’s a glass of squash! 

We’d spent Sunday afternoon preparing some yummy picnic food. Pip snipped the herbs for our pasta salad, helped to fill the tortilla wraps and she really enjoyed dipping strawberries in chocolate!

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Zesty pasta salad with tomato salsa

On Tuesday, we went to Penarth for some fossil hunting. We’d been there before (here is a post about our previous trip) and Pip, an aspiring palaeontologist has been really keen to go back for ages. We found a few ammonite fossils this time, to add to our collection at home.

We had ice creams on the pier, while looking out at the beautiful views all around.

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Ice cream and the stunning view from Penarth Pier

We picked a nice spot in Alexandra Park for another picnic. It’s a lovely green space, with plenty of shade to relax in after a long walk on the beach. There’s a also a small aviary there and Pip loved watching the little birds flit about.

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Alexandra Park, Penarth

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At home in the afternoon, once Husband had arrived home from work, we all made ice cream sundaes to cool down.

On Wednesday, the gorgeous weather turned a bit grey and dreary so we had a day indoors. We watched the new BBC adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, my favourite Shakespeare play. Pip loved the fairies and magic in it, plus we both giggled at Matt Lucas’ portrayal of Nick Bottom. I really recommend watching it – it’s a bit of a departure from traditional stagings but I really liked all of the changes and the special effects and the cast were superb.

Afterwards we got out our new fabric pens and designed t shirts inspired by the play. I was pretty impressed that Pip remembered a quote that she wanted written on hers.

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T-shirt inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream and created with fabric pens

I had to work on Thursday, Friday and Saturday but Pip got plenty of fun time with Husband. They went off to Cardiff Bay together on Thursday.

After work on Thursday, I went and bought myself some new fish. The tank now contains five neon tetras, seven platys, four otocinclus catfish and a cherry shrimp.

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Platy

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Otocinclus catfish

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The platys

On Saturday, I took Pip to her first tennis lesson before my shift started then to her friend’s birthday party after my shift. I was pretty tired by the end of the day, as I’m sure you can imagine!

We all had a well-earned chilled out Sunday at home.

It’s been an all round brilliant half term. I know it won’t be long until the summer holidays are here – I’ve already been busy planning!

 

Looking Back and Planning Ahead

Looking back at the beginning of 2015, I was unemployed but positive for the future. I found a job this year. It’s not a job I’ll want to keep forever but it’s good for now. It’s providing a little extra income and some extra experience for my CV.

We didn’t have any holidays in 2015 but we did have a few trips to interesting places.

We went Fossil Hunting at Penarth beach (something I’d love to do again this year).

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fossils & stones collage

We went to Castell Coch, a beautiful fairytale castle.

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We went to Bristol Zoo, to visit the baby Gorilla Pip has adopted.

We went to Roath Park and the conservatory there.

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This year I decided to start keeping tropical fish. The fish attempt did not go well. The fish sadly all passed away due to white spot (a common fish illness). The retailer I bought them from took responsibility and replaced them. The second attempt, so far, seems to be going well. I’m being extremely vigilant for any signs of illness or stress though. Fingers crossed they’ll still be here when 2017 begins!

Pip started her second year of school. She settled in brilliantly and is doing really well. I was so proud on hearing a glowing report from her teacher on parents’ evening and even more so when I saw her performance in the nativity play.

2016 should be one to remember. All being well, I’ll complete my degree this year. This feels like a really huge achievement for me – someone who dropped out of sixth form ten years ago. I’m hoping it can lead me on to better things.

Everyone makes New Years resolutions about losing weight. I do it every year. I normally succeed for a month or so then fall back into my bad habits. This year I feel a little differently about it. I don’t just feel a bit down about my appearance, looking distinctly chubbier than I once did. I feel unhealthy. I feel a little worried that those bad habits are going to actually start to have an impact on my future. I’m not just chubby, I’m properly overweight. If I want to live a long, healthy life, I need to change. I fear becoming a parent that can’t run around the park with my child. I’m hoping these worries and fears can finally motivate me to make a proper change to my lifestyle. This isn’t a resolution exactly. Those just don’t work for me. It’s more of a realisation.

I’m hoping we can take some trips to new places this year. I’ve already got some ideas but I’ll keep them under my hat for now!

2015 has been pretty good. Let’s see if 2016 can be even better!