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?

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!

 

Fossil Hunting in Penarth

My daughter loves dinosaurs and really any ancient creatures. Learning about things that lived millions of years ago seems to just fascinate her. She has been insisting for about the last two years that she’s going to be a palaeontologist when she grows up. She wants to go digging up dinosaur fossils around the world.

After a little research, I discovered that we didn’t need to travel that far to find fossils. Penarth beach is a great place for finding fossils. So on Tuesday we went there to see what we could find.

We had a walk along Penarth pier when we arrived. There were beautiful views of the sea, of the English coast in the far distance and of the cliffs along Penarth beach.

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We walked along the beach, careful not to stray too close to the cliffs. There were warning signs about falling rocks and we did see quite a bit actually coming down the cliff face. This is actually the whole reason that this beach is a great place for fossils. As sediment constantly falls from the cliffs, so do fossils. We kept our eyes open for anything interesting.

We found an ammonite fossil, what we think is some fossilised coral and plenty of pretty stones and shells.

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We also found lots of fossils in larger pieces of rock.

Rocks at the beach

After a long walk along the beach, we sat in Alexandra Park to eat our packed lunch, then home on the train.

It was a brilliant family day. Pip absolutely loved being a Fossil Hunter for the day.

Of course for the perfect finish to the day, we had pancakes for tea!

Half Term Plans

Next week is half term for Pip. As I am, by nature, a very chaotic sort of person with a memory like a sieve, I like to be ultra organised for any occasions or school holidays so that she doesn’t end up bored and we make the most of the time together. However, I have learnt over the last couple of years that actually scheduling activities for each day of a week simply doesn’t work. Weather forecasts can change very suddenly or turn out to be completely wrong, events can be cancelled or rearranged or illness can strike. So instead of intricately planning every moment of every day, I’ve simply made a list of activities I’d like to try and get through during the week.

  •  Library visit. We adore books and we’ve read every book at home many times. While Pip still enjoys them, it’s great to supplement our collection with some borrowing from our local library. With the recent fantastic news that Cardiff’s libraries are no longer being threatened with closure for the time being (Hurray!), I definitely want us to visit the library at least once next week. While the final decision is up to her, I try to encourage a good mix of fiction and non-fiction books, books that she can read and books that I can read to her. I think this makes the most of the huge selection on offer.  Normally I’d treat myself to something new to read too but with my literature course in full swing, I’ve already got a full reading schedule!
  • Making pancakes. Tuesday is Pancake Day and I can’t wait to make some. I’m hoping to get Pip involved in every aspect of this task, from helping me think up some tasty toppings, to helping me buy ingredients at the shop, mixing the batter and then putting toppings on the cooked pancakes. I think it’ll be lots of fun with plenty of learning going on at the same time.
  • Learning about Chinese New Year. This is next Thursday (19th February) and I’m going to use the occasion to teach Pip about China and Chinese culture. As a nice crafty activity, I think we’ll make some Chinese flags and lanterns and then have some Chinese food for lunch or dinner. Celebratory days are a great way of introducing children to different cultures and teaching them about different places around the world.
  • A day out. I always like to have one big day out during a half term. At the moment, I’m planning to take Pip to the beach at Penarth. We haven’t been to Penarth in years, since before we actually moved here and Pip was too little to remember that so it’ll be a new place to her. It’s also reputedly a great place to find fossils so I thought we’d do a little hunting as Pip recently expressed an interest in starting her own collection. It’ll also be a nice opportunity for some photography. Of course, this all depends on weather so I’ve also got a few indoor places like museums as a back up plan but at the moment, the forecast is looking ok.
  •  Visit from a friend. I’ve arranged for a school friend to come and play one day next week. It’ll be nice for Pip to get some social time outside of school. Pip’s hoping to share some of her favourite tabletop games and with such a large collection, it should keep them entertained for a long while.
  • Lots of little activities. For the times in between the big things I have planned, I’ve also got lots of little things too. Worksheets, colouring in sheets, art & craft, reading, films to watch and, of course, loads of games to play. These not only  keep Pip entertained for the entire week but also mean that if something does go wrong, we’ve got plenty to keep us busy in any case.

Obviously there’ll be lots of blog posts all about what we’ve gotten up to so watch out for those.

What are your favourite ways to spend half term? Have you got any exciting plans?