Back to life, back to reality

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Firstly I must apologise for not blogging for a while. The main reason for my absence was our much-anticipated trip to Florida, the other reason being that upon our return I immediately decided to swap the Boy’s bedroom with my office in the attic which left me without a workspace or computer for a while.

Our trip was fantastic but unfortunately over all too soon. There are however a few lessons that we have learnt from our holiday that we hope to incorporate into our everyday lives.

1. We don’t need lots of stuff to have a good time.

Each of us travelled with only one small suitcase each (each one weighing less than half the 23kg allowance – how did that happen!). The contents were actually more than adequate for our trip, in fact if we had been staying longer we wouldn’t have needed anything else.

2. Play more.

Ok, so compared with home Florida is like one big playground ūüôā Seriously though sometimes we forget to have fun and forget about the carefree side of us. In an attempt to not get bogged down by life we have declared Sundays as our Fundays!

3. Go walkabout.

Walking is a great way of discovering. Even if you think you know your neighbourhood by taking a stroll you never know who you might bump into or what you might see, I aim to get out and stroll more often!

4. It’s ok to chill out.

Life is busy and its hard not to be doing so I’m going to ditch the guilt and¬†try to make time to do nothing in particular – letting¬†my thoughts wonder and pottering around aimlessly.

5. Be happy to be home.

It’s hard not to get the back from holiday blues but home is where the real stuff happens, besides if we hadn’t come home¬†then we wouldn’t be able to go back again!

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A Weekend In Wensleydale

School was closed for the day on Friday so this meant one thing Рa long weekend away in the caravan. We try to keep the journeys short on weekends away so that we can set off  as soon as the boy returns home from school and hopefully arrive at our destination in time for tea.

With this in mind we decided to stay within our home county of Yorkshire and visit one of our favourite areas  РWensleydale.

Wensleydale

This is such a lovely part of Yorkshire, most people will have heard of it because of the  famous cheese that is produced here but there is so much more to this area. The scenery is typically English, rolling hills and dry-stone walls, picture perfect market towns and centuries old farms.

Our reason for visiting this weekend was that we had booked tickets for an intriguing attraction called “The Forbidden Corner“, billed as the strangest place in the world ¬†– who could resist!

The place can only be described as part eccentric folly, part labyrinth. You enter through the gaping mouth of a stone giant and are plunged into an Alice in Wonderland world of puzzles and riddles. Around every corner you are faced with a surprise, it just gets curiouser and curiouser……..

The entrance to the underworld…..

If you go down to the woods today…….

…..be sure of a nice surprise!

I won’t go into too much detail as I don’t want to spoil any surprises for future¬†explorers¬†however in our opinion this has to be the best attraction we have visited in the UK. We all agreed that without a¬†doubt¬†it most definitely lived up to its claim of being the strangest place in the world!

Village Life – A Gala and the Olympic Torch

It has been a busy few days in the village and this has meant that not much has got done at home.

On Saturday afternoon our village hosted its annual gala.¬†This was the first year in many that I have had no direct involvement with the event as in past years I have helped with the village schools tombola stall as my son was a pupil there (he’s now moved on to High School).

So this year was enjoyable as I was able to have a good look round and I truly appreciated what our village council had arranged. As the gala is a non commercial event all the stalls support local organizations and charities. I visited our village’s allotment society stall and bought 4 asparagus plants for ¬£1 And 4 tomato plants for ¬£2! Great bargains.

The village council had arranged a bouncy castle and a climbing wall for the children which were free to use and a great success, in the main arena there was an impressive display from a bird of prey expert.

Following that a re-enactment society set up camp on the field and recreated skirmishes from the English civil war, interesting and relevant as the local area featured prominently in the English Civil War.

The event lasted well into the evening with local bands playing on the main stage creating a mini music festival. It was a great event and one I hope continues for many more years to come.

Following the weekends events the Olympic Torch relay passed through the village. It was an added bonus for us as it actually passed by the end of our street. The amount of people who had actually come out for this once in a lifetime glimpse was amazing!

We met up with the other members of our family that also live in the village, even my nephew the youngest family member was there to join us.

After a long wait there it was burning bright, a brief glimpse and then it was gone.

Our Trip to Wales (or a Tale of Two Campsites)

Before I begin let me tell you that there is an area in Wales that makes my heart sing. ¬†It’s a place of endless golden beaches, majestic mountains, slate roofed stone cottages grown from the surrounding land, castles cloaked in legend and happy childhood memories.

This is the place that I spent my school holidays staying in my Grandparents caravan with its ancient popping gas lights and the sound of the waves lulling me to sleep. This is the place that I almost moved to with my family when I was 10 years old, a place of what might of been. This is the place we chose to take our Son for his first holiday as a baby and have returned many times since. This is a place that will stay with me all my life.

This is the place that we are travelling to tomorrow……….

Why The Simple Life?

I was recently asked why were we looking to simplify our lives? I think that the person asking the question was looking for a succinct answer Рconcise and easy to understand Рunfortunately all they got was me rambling on.

Which is probably how this post will come across for which I apologise in advance. You see I don’t really think that there is an easy way to explain what we are doing mainly because we are doing it for various reasons.

So why are we doing it?

One of the reasons we are doing it is that by reducing our¬†consumption it allows us to free up our income for other things. By not subscribing to keeping up with the Jones’ we are able to spend our income on the things that matter to us and eventually we hope that this will enable us to reduce the time we spend earning money.

At the moment our short term goal is that it enables us to save for our Son’s higher education, should he wish to study further. With university course fees costing as much as ¬£9,000 per year ( I hate to think how much this will have risen by the time he goes) we want to be able to help him by not having to start his adult life with thousands of pounds worth of debt (and of course if this isn’t the path he wishes to follow we will have a nice safety net for when we finally give up the day jobs).

The long term goal is that by living simply it will allow us to reduce the time we spend earning money. Looking at it at a basic level the more money that we spend equates to the more time we have to spend earning it which means that we spend less time doing the things that we want to.

Simple living is fast become a way of life to us. It isn‚Äôt just about getting rid of stuff, decluttering and getting organized, although this certainly helps with simplifying life. ¬†It’s about focusing on our priorities in life and for me living a simple life really does help me¬†recognize¬†the important stuff.

In the past I spent money on stuff thinking that it would make me happy. It didn’t of course because most of what I bought had no real purpose, it was a want rather than a need, put into my head by some clever marketing ploy.

As we have simplified our lives alot of those wants have disappeared. Of course I still want things but those wants have altered, where as once a new handbag may have topped my list now it’s more likely to be something with a purpose such as a new spade or a packet of seeds.

So the next time someone asks us why we are doing all this the answer will be simple – I’ll just tell them to read this post.

My Top 10 Garden Plants For Children

I’ve always been keen to get the family as a whole involved in gardening, I have fond memories of gardening with my Grandma as a young child and I think that this is where my love of growing things developed. Following on from my post about garden activities for children here’s a list of my top ten plants for a child friendly garden.

1. Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantina) РThis perennial with its fuzzy leaves is a favourite in any child’s garden. Children love to feel the soft silvery leaves.

2. Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) РButterfly bushes make wonderful small trees in a child’s garden and most children are fascinated by the winged creatures attracted to the plants.

3. Sunflowers  (Helianthus annuus) РThese cheery, yellow annuals are fun and easy to grow, see who can grow the tallest!

4. Snapdragons ¬†(Antirrhinum)¬†– They can pick the flowers and make them talk. I remember doing this in my Grandma’s garden as a child.

5. Mint (Mentha) – Children enjoy the smell of different types of mint and rub the leaves between their fingers to release the scent.

6. Thyme (Thymus) – Use this plant between stepping stones. It is tough enough to handle the occasional mis-step.

7. Curry Plant (Helichrysum italicum) – The warm spicy aroma smells just like curry.

8. Carrots  РChildren like the fluffy tops and enjoy the surprise of finding veggies growing underground Рwatch out and you might catch a glimpse of  Peter Rabbit!

9. Lavender (Lavandula) – The foliage of these plants is a lovely grey green, but the best part for kids is picking the scented flowering wands.

10. Grass – It smells great when freshly cut and cushions them when they fall over!

A Weekend Away

This bank holiday weekend saw us taking a short trip with the caravan to a little site not far from the West Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge.

Hebden Bridge is a lovely place to spend a weekend, a hub of crafts and creativity it is full of independent shops and is situated on the Rochdale Canal and close to the Pennine Way.

Here are some highlights of our weekend.

Walking along the Rochdale Canal we passed some interesting communities living onboard canal boats and making the most of self sufficient living on the banks.

We passed many other families along the way who were also enjoying the canal.

And a trip on a canal boat took us to a lovely pub serving homemade food and real cider.

The next day we visited Hardcastle Crags, a beautiful wooded Pennine valley. After a quick call to the farmers market to buy handmade pasties and puddings for a picnic lunch we set off on our way. Donning our walking boots we explored rivers, rocks and waterfalls.

It was a great opportunity to see creatures in their natural enviroment.

Not only did we have a wonderful weekend it was also a chance to enjoy¬†life’s¬†simple pleasures.¬†

Gardening Ideas For Children

Ok, so he may be a little heavy handed in the garden……

We have always tried to encourage our son to get out and help in the garden. Nowadays as he’s approaching his teens things are a little different but if the activities include either a bonfire if it’s cold or a BBQ if its warm he’s happy to join in.

Children love being outdoors so here are a few ideas to encourage them into the garden:

  • Go on a hunt for flowers, berries, leaves or insects
  • Plant seeds (inside or outside)
  • Create vegetable, fruit and leaf prints
  • Make seed mosaics
  • Simple supervised tasks such as deadheading or watering plants
  • Start a wormery
  • Watch a butterfly or tadpole develop
  • Place carrot tops in water & watch them sprout roots and leaves
  • Press and dry flowers
  • Arrange fresh flowers

If you have any other ideas I’d love to hear them! Hope the sun shines where you are this weekend and that you manage to get out and have a great time!