Sunday, 14 April 2013

Knitting and Reading

For a while I'd meant to join in with Sustainable Mum to share my knitting and reading over at Yarn Along, just that, truth be told, there was not a lot of reading going on. Reading is definitely the big loser in my life with kids. I used to read, what can I say, an awful lot as befitted a former student of literature times three.

My taste in reading has changed, it has to be so worth it or I won't finish a book. There have been few books in the last few years where I didn't feel I wasted my time. I'm more prone to picking up non fiction than fiction (just because it's easier to dip in and out). And I'm rather suspicious of the big novel. But if I find a good novel, there's no denying it that that's what I love reading.

I came across The Time Traveller's Wife (I found it somewhere, about a year ago) and I seemed to remember it was a book that could work for me. I'm sure almost everyone who is into reading books has read this ages ago, so I won't go into detail other than that I was very tempted to not complete it. I had numerous discussions at work (with those who'd read it) whether to go on or not, because after 200 pages or so I felt it was very much the same again and again, and a drag playing around with the idea of a time traveller out ad nauseam. It took the flu to knock me out for a few days and force me to a lot of bedrest before I managed to finally complete the read. Yes, it did move me, but that's not such a hard thing to do as I'm easily moved by even half decent books. My verdict is still that it could have made its point in at least 300 pages less. This is totally hypocritical of course from the perspective of a busy working mama, I'm sure I'd have loved this book to bits as a 20 something student looking for perfect love. I also felt it was very much a book for women, which I find a bit limiting, but heyho, I am a woman so I guess it didn't matter that much. There are numerous incidents where I really felt that the logic of the whole time travelling shenanigans fell to pieces (does it matter? maybe not but it broke my willingness to suspend my disbelief which in theory is a really bad thing), and for the length of the novel I felt important parts were left out (or rather things I was interested in). So yes, a good read but for my taste it dragged out a fair bit without really making much of a point or giving me anything in the way of stretching my mind/learning something new. Good entertainment without changing my outlook on life or the world even in the slightest. That's ok though, in the same way that I enjoyed the Da Vinci Code, not every book has to be life changing.

A lot of knitting was had on our trip around Dumfries and Galloway / Manchester. I have a good few projects on my needles but can only knit something really easy when travelling in a car without getting car sick, so this project was ideal: It's a jumper knit on 4.5mm needles in the round, stockinette stitch, from bottom up and I managed to get to the point where it needs divided for back/front and need sleeves added. The yarn is Artesano Aran in ocre, which is soft and heavy. The pattern is a version of the jumper that Sarah Lund wears in the Killing (yes, I like a good thriller and I'm nerdy enough to want to knit a Sarah Lund sweater). I'm not quite sure which particular version I'll be making, and that may have to wait a bit because I've got a few more urgent projects coming up, but that's fine because it most certainly is a winter jumper so there's still plenty of time to finish it for next winter. For the trip it was ideal, just plain easy and relaxing knitting and the slight feeling of pride that I'm firmly back into knitting adult sized jumpers (having completed 2 for last winter and another 2 on the needles).

Now off to pick some lovely baby knits for the little ones currently being grown by two friends of mine. I'm not broody, no, not at all...

Friday, 12 April 2013

Dark Skies and Wee Lambs

Last year we found out that the UK's first Dark Sky Park is in Dumfries and Galloway, in Galloway Forest Park to be precise. So we've been trying to get there and see some stars for a little while. Our efforts around mid term weren't too successful as it appeared that every single B&B was booked up, so Easter it was to be. Again, we found it hard to find a B&B that would accommodate 2 children. We were also keen to find a farm to stay on.

Eventually we got lucky and found Boreland Farm. While not exactly around the corner from Galloway Forest Park, we figured that it looked remote enough to have the same dark skies, and the description just sounded perfect.

And so it was. An extremely friendly welcome, a lovely newly converted annexe of the farm for our night time quarters, countless animals, newborn lambs and even pony rides. The B&B is listed as a 3 star, which is surprising as it was really quite high quality. The room had a double and 2 single beds, so it would easily accommodate a family of 5, with en suite facilities and an amazingly hot heating system (I mention this because we don't have this at home, so it was pure luxury having a really warm and cozy room for a change). Breakfast was had in the main farmhouse, which is also the family home, prepared on an Aga in a beautiful dining kitchen. The kids loved to visit the newly born lambs (and Cubling still talks about holding one that was only 2 days old), the ponies, the rabbits and the dogs, or to try and find one of the 3 cats hiding away.

On the second morning we were even treated to proper German waffles, because surprisingly the owners had spent a few holidays in Germany, and not in the usual places where you'd expect people to visit, but actually near my own family's home.

We spent most of the day travelling to various villages nearby and further away. It was still the start of the season so lots was shut or being developed. We loved Kirkcudbright, and the main visitor centre of the Galloway Forest Park (Kirroughtree Visitor Centre) which had an adventure playground, as well as some of the beautiful villages of Dumfries and Galloway, like Moniaive and Thornhill. Moniaive has the most amazing Green Tea House and we definitely have to be back to test their wonderfully looking cakes. In the artists town of Kirkcudbright we went for a little walk and found a wee gallery with a tea shop, but had a picnic lunch outside after much driving. The kids enjoyed the green spaces dotted about the colourful, Balamory-houses, town. Gatehouse of Fleet has an old cotton/bobbin mill which really inspired the kids' imagination. They loved to explore and touch the bobbins of all kind of sizes, get dressed up in old clothes, and explore what the town looked like in the 18th century.

The weather was fully with us, with wonderful sunshine and one night of clear dark sky so we even were lucky enough to see the dark skies. Because of the continuing cold spell there was still a lot of snow around which made our short walks around the farm fields a long adventure. Just the right pace for a 2 1/2 year old who won't walk unless it involves balancing.

Sometimes badly planned trips work out just perfectly - we didn't have a plan, or any knowledge of what we were doing/seeing. All we had was a map and a car and we discovered some really wonderful places at a slow pace without racing here or there to manage this or that. There were so many little moments that the kids enjoyed that couldn't have been planned anyway, like riding a pony, climbing a tree, finding a treasure or stroking a dog (a big thing for Snowflake who has never ever touched a furry animal before), or simply enjoying their imaginary play in the rare Scottish sunshine. Oh I forgot to mention the sticks. They were very important too. I'm not sure what for, but they were. I think they may have been ponies, and given the names of Beau and Willow.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

A trip to Legoland (Discovery Centre, Manchester)

Somehow our holiday plans are always a little bit last minute. So in an attempt to get away for a few days with minimal hassle, we went on a little trip to Dumfries and Galloway and then Legoland Discovery Centre Manchester, keeping the latter as a surprise for Cubling.

Everything was booked ahead online, which was good because online tickets are cheaper. We stayed in the Trafford Centre Premier Inn, which is truly a child friendly place (pre children I never expected that it can actually be difficult finding any accommodation that will allow a family of 4 in a room) with great service and good food. So convenient too for Legoland and the price tag was very decent too.

The Trafford Shopping Centre is quite remarkable with its Greek/Roman feel to it, it's nice and spacious but this does translate to longer walks and multiple signs for Legoland so that eventually a P1 child spotted the word "Legoland". Ah well, a surprise it was nonetheless!

Although we had missed our allocated entry slot, we still got priority entry because we had prepaid tickets - just as well because the other queue was impressive. Cubling was totally in awe by the amount of lego and the lifesize things made from lego, and loved everything about it, and her sister clearly joined in.

However. Now, it needs to be said we were there during Easter holidays, so it was probably a bit busier than usual (I hope), but my experience of the day was that we went from one queue to the next. First a queue to get in (and we were lucky it was the shorter one), then a queue for the intro talk, then a queue for the first ride, and another 5 queues for other attractions. Most queues involved about half an hour standing, which is difficult with a 2 1/2 year old. What annoyed me too was that the queues were very well hidden, so you only realised the length when it was too late to turn back.

The rides were all mediocre - now I say that because I've seen much better, but for a 6 year old they were all she could wish for, and she was totally happy and loved the whole day. For a 42 year old, well, she had a splitting headache, got very grumpy and was only saved by the kindness and helpfulness of the centre staff whom she couldn't but feel very sorry for. It occurred to me that I wasn't sure how they would evacuate the masses in case of a fire.

I was disappointed by the size of the centre, it was much smaller than I expected - again, this is not something that the kids noticed, they were very happy and didn't complain once (ok, they did make the mistake of exiting the soft play not realising that you'd have to queue again to get back in but they did take it in their stride) but I would have expected a bigger and more spectacular attraction. I did wonder how it compares with Legoland Windsor, or Legoland in Denmark for that matter.

So personally, I wouldn't go again or recommend it. If you live in Scotland, it is easier to get to than Windsor (which is why we made the trip) with just a 3.5 hour car journey from Glasgow.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

A day at the beech

I'd almost forgotten how amazing it is that we live so close to the sea. There is always so much to see and do very close to us, so we hardly make it to the beach and even trips to the coast don't usually end up there. As someone who grew up a 4 hour drive from the coast (and without a car to make that journey), the sea will never lose its magic.

Yes, it was 4 degrees and the hills were still covered in snow. I may have been brought up with sea and sand equalling summer and swimming, but really, I never liked swimming anyway so personally I don't have an issue with the temperature. And the kids didn't complain either. There were treasures found, shells collected and dinosaur footprints created, apart from rather a lot of running about on the flats at low tide (our timing had been perfect).

I like the way toddlers are naturals at yoga poses. Unlike their mama.

We did have ice cream because surely, a trip to the beach without an ice cream just doesn't feel right.

We also had the most amazing late lunch at Popeye's.



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