This week I was given the opportunity to visit Hatton Adventure Farm. We had already planned to meet up with friends this half term so we decided to meet them there and we all had a lovely day.

Just over nine years ago I was moderator of a forum for mums-to-be who were over thirty five. I was pregnant with Star and K was pregnant with her little boy. We would talk every day on the forum and soon after having our babies we were having another at the same time, again I had a girl and she had another boy. Once we had finished our time on the forum we moved to Facebook to keep in touch.

We first decided to meet up during the summer holidays, but with Star still being in her halo right up until August we didn’t make it, so promised to meet at half term instead.

So on Tuesday we met for the very first time in nine years, and we got on really well. I think you do underestimate just how friendships are made online, it’s not real life after all. I have now met lots of lovely friends that I first met online and it’s something I always love doing.

 I know so many people who steer away from social networking because they think they are nothing but trouble, but I love them. You just have to be grown up about it all. You can’t expect to get on with everyone and when you get a huge group of people there are always going to be those that clash and argue. So yes, there is trouble, but you don’t have to join in the arguments, it can be avoided.

Online friendships give people a platform to be something they are not, they can exaggerate their lifestyles, constantly seek attention and lie mercilessly. It’s difficult to trust people when they have the opportunity to deceive you. However, sometimes it’s ok to let someone who you don’t know in real life to become a real friend. I think when you have been talking to someone for a long time then you really do know them despite having never met.

 I don’t have many friends. This is my choice. I have a few close friends and that suits me. I’m not one for popping around friends house for a coffee and chat every other day, or talk for hours on the phone about the latest gossip. That’s just the way I am and I’m happy with it. I do have lots of friends online though, I find online friendships much easier to maintain and lots of them I have been friends with for many years.

So this week I am smiling because I met an online friend who I’ve wanted to meet for a long time and we had a lovely day together. I’m sure we will meet up again and not be waiting nine years this time.

The Reading Residence

I’m really looking forward to Halloween this year. After not bothering for many years, last year we moved house to an area which comes alive at Halloween with Trick or Treaters and parties. We’ve decided to join in this year and we are having friends over for a little party and the littlies will be dressing up and going trick or treating themselves. Boo calls it twinkle tweeting which is a little cuter.

I was excited to be invited to pick our pumpkins at Hatton Adventure World. This is something I’ve never done before. I’d not visited Hatton before either, despite it being just half an hour away from my home. I’ll definitely be going back.

Set in the Warwickshire countryside, Hatton Adventure World is a farm park with so many things to do. There are lots of animals to see, many play areas, a little fairground, bouncy castles, tractor rides, pony rides, sand pit, indoor play area, family theatre, cafes, restaurants and more! In fact, we will have to go back again because we didn’t have time to do everything. I didn’t have time to explore the shopping world so I’m planning a trip with just me and the Other Half to browse the shops.

Throughout the year Hatton has many events going on and we went there during the pumpkin event which is Halloween themed. All around the park you could see creepy figures, and listen to scary stories, or watch a spooky magic show. All the staff were dressed like they’d just come off the set of a horror movie.

I was a little concerned because my kids do get a little scared sometimes, but the spookiness was not overdone and you could partake in as much or as little as you wished. I even manged to persuade them to listen to a spooky story told by a witch.
We chose a lovely day to visit, really quite warm for October. So the kids were able to have lots of fun in the play areas and on the fair rides.
We took a picnic with us  and managed to enjoy it in the sunshine in one of the many picnic areas. Days out can be expensive and although we do like to dine out occasionally, this time we decided to take our food and save some money. There were lots of places to buy food from though, and thankfully lots of coffee available too. 
We spent a lot of time with the animals. It was lovely that the children could feed some of the animals and there were areas where they could sit and hold a snake or lizard. It’s really nice when you can get up close to the animals. There were hundreds of guinea pigs in their own little world. There were also the farmyard animals to see such as goats, pigs and a friendly donkey as well as some reindeer.
There were also lots of birds to see and they hold displays throughout the day with hawks, falcons and owls.

The highlight of the day was picking our pumpkins. During pumpkin week every child gets a free pumpkin but you have to go and fetch it from the field yourself. The kids loved running around the pumpkin patch trying to see who could find the biggest pumpkin. I think they did really well and now we can’t wait to carve them. You can carve them in a spooky marquee at Hatton, but unfortunately for us time was running out as we wanted to make our way home before it became to dark.

We found Hatton Adventure World a really lovely place to visit and would love to go back again. The staff were really nice and friendly and I was always served with a smile. The guy in the refreshments store by the goldmines was particularly friendly despite having to deal with a constant queue of coffee and ice cream customers at one end of the stall and another constant queue of children waiting for their medals for collecting their gold pieces at the other end.

Also, the young man working the fairground rides was really pleasant and helpful.

My kids found it difficult to pick their favourite moment of the day, they were torn between all the fun stuff they managed to fit in. In the end we all agreed that we loved the pumpkin picking the best, after all that’s what we went for. I would recommend Hatton Adventure World to my friends. The prices are reasonable too, starting from £3.95 a ticket but rising up to £13.95 when there are special events on. It’s easy to find too being just a short drive from the A40 (that’s if you get off at the right junction, which we managed to miss on the way there, we decided to come home avoiding the motorway seeing as we live so close.)

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Disclaimer: I was given tickets to visit Hatton, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Welcome to this weeks Kids in the Kitchen.
This week we made Rocky Road and we have a little video for you. We’ve made Rocky Road before for a competition, The Bahlsen Bake Off, and making a video was a requirement. It was the kids idea to make it again and of course they wanted to make another video too!

First I’d like to say a big thank you to those that joined in last week.
Three Princesses and 1 Dude made Scrummy Yummy Bubbly Lemonade and also made a video which is lovely.
And the lovely Grace from Verily Victoria Vocalises showed her mum how to make Sunflower Bread...we just love making bread too.
Thank you so much for joining in, we hope you will join us again soon.

Everyone who joins in will get a tweet from me and I will add your posts to my Pinterest Board. I welcome all posts old or new.

Rocky Road.

The fun thing about Rocky Road is that you can add what you want, but generally it contains chocolate, biscuits and marshmallows, and my kids like it just like that. 

300g chocolate, broken into chunks
125g unsalted butter
3 tbs golden syrup
100g mini marshmallows
200g broken biscuits (we used Rich Tea Fingers)

In a pan over a low heat melt together the chocolate, butter and golden syrup 
remove one third of the melted mixture and leave in a bowl
Add the broken biscuits and mini marshmallows to the remaining liquid and fold in
TIP: we find that it’s best to transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the biscuits first so that it’s cooled down before adding the marshmallows, otherwise it will melt them
Pour the mixture into a tin, we used 8″ by 10″ because we wanted our pieces quite chunky. The bigger the pan the smaller the pieces.
Pour the bowl of mixture over the top.
Leave to set in the fridge 
you may wish to sprinkle the Rocky Road with a little icing sugar before serving, but we forgot.
Now over to the littlies to show you how it’s done.

And the finished product

So now it’s over to you, get in the kitchen with your kids and come and share what you’ve cooked,

I’d also be mighty grateful if you included my badge in your post so others can see it and come along and join in. (although adding the badge is not compulsory to joining in)

We had only just moved into our home this time last year and had no idea what to expect at Halloween. In our old home we rarely had anyone call for Trick or Treat and as the years passed by I just let Halloween pass by too without doing anything. Then, last year we had caller after caller for nearly two hours as soon as it became dusk. I ran out of treats to give them, but the little ones were so excited answering the door to see the other children all dressed up.

So this year we are planning to join in. We are going to carve pumpkins and make some decorations and I’ve been hoarding my stack of spooky treats for a few weeks now. I’ll let you know exactly how it all goes nearer the time but for now I’d like to do a round up of all the exciting things I’ve found to make Halloween a fun time for all.

Halloween Decorations

carving your pumpkin is something most people do at Halloween. Mine always end up looking the same, amateurish. Then I get pumpkin envy at all the pumpkins posted up over my social media sites. Well, here is a neat little trick for those who are not experts at pumpkin carvery like me...use cookie cutters. How simple! 

How about some lovely Pumpkin bunting, even the littlies ones could help with this task from Life As We Know It.

I love these Tin Can Luminaries from the Purple Pumpkin Blog, You can find tons of other Halloween ideas over there too.

How spooky are these Ghosts from Jelly Rose Yate, my kids would love these.

Halloween Cooking

Halloween cupcakes are always fun and Steph from Steph’s Two Girls has some great decorating ideas here. 
Scary Zombie Fingers look great fun to make and serve from ET Speaks From Home

These Pumpkin Patch Carrot Dippers from Cat’s Yellow Days would look great on the party table.

I confess that I’m not that keen on pumpkin, but these Pumpkin Spiced Muffins from Dad Creek without a Paddle look really yummy

Spiders are definitely not on my list of favourite things, but I might make an exception for these Spooky Spider Cookies from Thinly Spread.

I am loving this monster sandwich from the Mini Mes and Me, my kids will love to make one.

These Witches Broomsticks and Spooky Slime drinks from Family Ties look really scary!

Halloween Costumes

Want something easy and fun to make with the kids? Pink Oddy shows you how to decorate a spooky t-shirt
.Here are some easy Halloween Costume ideas over on Mumsnet.

Places to visit at Halloween

Many Farms have events where you can go and pick a pumpkin for Halloween and they throw in a lot of extra activities for children to enjoy too, at the National Forest Adventure Farm in Burton they are having a Halloween Spooktacular where you can pick and carve your own pumpkin, visit a haunted hotel and learn how to fly a broomstick amongst other fun things.

Hatton Adventure Farm is having a pumpkin week where you can pick a pumpkin and corn on the cob a well as taking a spooky tractor ride and listening to the Wicked Witch tell some scary tales around her cauldron.

The girls already have their witches outfits and the Little Man has a Gruffalo costume (if he’ll wear it for more than five minutes) So my next decision is…do we have a Halloween party?

This week we learnt about the death of the lovely Lynda Bellingham from that horrid disease Cancer. She was brave and faced her untimely end with courage and a smile. She did wish for one thing though, one last Christmas with her family. Well, I’m so sorry she didn’t get her wish. Cancer doesn’t care about Christmas.

I was in two minds to write this because it’s something tucked safely away for me now. Always there, but not shared.

I wanted to spend Christmas with my mum, just like the old days. We hadn’t spoken to each other for five years, then we started talking again and rebuilding our relationship. We spent one Christmas exchanging gifts, but the next year we felt we’d progressed enough to spend some time together at Christmas. Up until the fall out I’d always spent Christmas with my mum, even when I was married and had my older children. I was really looking forward to doing it again. We made plans, we wrote lists, we’d even completed a little Christmas shopping.

Then she got sick.

Then we were told it was cancer.

Then we were told that she had weeks to live…not years, not months, weeks!

She made it until Christmas. I got to spend Christmas day with her. In the morning I held her hand while she rested. In the afternoon I held her hand while she rested in peace forever.

That was a Christmas to remember indeed.

It’s been six years now and, although it was really difficult at first, I do enjoy Christmas again. When you have small children you get consumed by the magic surrounding Christmas. The traditions, the beliefs, the fairy tales if you wish. I still think of mum but I can still enjoy Christmas with my family. It does make you realise though, sometimes wishes don’t come true, especially when Cancer rears it’s ugly head.

I’ve always found it difficult to offer help and advice when it comes to grief. I never know what to say. It’s such a personal experience and it is different for everyone. Do you offer up some kind words, do you tell them the pain won’t last forever? Do you tell them what to do to make it easier to bare? I had all of this and more offered to me when I was hurting. It was lovely to know that people cared about how I felt, that they wanted to make things easier for me. It also made me really sad. Anyone who has experienced grief knows that there is nothing you can say or do to make them feel any better. You can show you care though. If you don’t know what to say then just say you are thinking about them, that you care how they feel. Sometimes, the simplest words are the best.

Me and my mum, on holiday 30+ years ago