Camping on a goat farm – Wookey Farm, Somerset

A year ago, Laurence and Talitha did an early Spring camping trip to Wookey Farm in Somerset – their first camping trip. Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t keen to take along two-month-old Ophelia so we stayed behind, an hour away in Bristol. We did join them a couple of months later, camping near Penzance, mind.

Anyway, I was so envious looking at photographs of the amazing time they had, that we decided we’d go the next Spring. So, this weekend we did just that. Talitha suggested we invite friends to come along. Camping with another family was such fun.

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Wookey Farm is a small family-run dairy goat farm with an eco campsite.

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I’ll admit I wasn’t thrilled to learn that we’d be using compost loos for the weekend. I wasn’t a fan of them last time we went camping – it involved walking through the woods in the dark and a spider in the loo (I know! I know! I’m a grown woman…).

That could be why Laurence only told me when we practically on our way! These were decent, though. OK for a weekend. I’ll be eating all these words someday if we ever end up living somewhere with a compost loo, which is not totally unimaginable.

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Of course, the children loved seeing the animals. And, being Spring, there were lots of babies to be seen. We got to see kids and lambs fed a couple of times as well as a milking.

Talitha even got to feed Tiny Tim, the runt of his litter. She and her friend spent the rest of the day pretending to be Tiny Tim and feeding each other. Well, they tried to get Ophelia to be Tiny Tim at first but I think she lost interest in her water bottle too quickly for their liking.

It was so different camping with Ophelia this time around. I don’t think she was mobile when we camped at Cirencester in the Autumn. She absolutely would not be held the whole time, insisting on getting down to explore. She’s not quite walking yet, so it meant she just scrabbled around getting gloriously muddy!

She is into everything at the moment, so there was quite few unpackings and we had to keep a close watch on knives and the campfire. One thing hasn’t changed. Talitha sleeps like a log in a tent. Ophelia wakes up again and again and again. At one point, Talitha muttered in her sleep: “Ophelia!” She may have been getting tired of her little sister’s midnight squeals.

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There’s a bit of space to walk around Wookey Farm, complete with a stream and a swing. Laurence organised a treasure hunt for the children. The loos had information on the local pub, sights and walks but, actually, there seemed enough to do just hanging around the campsite.

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The farm has an “honesty shop” which sells its own produce so we enjoyed eating pork and goat meat, goat’s brie and soft cheese while there. I bought a few bits to bring home too. It was actually pretty lucky that there was a shop onsite because we needed to throw together an emergency picnic for lunch, since we’d planned to leave after breakfast on Sunday.

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I did a really silly thing and charged my phone in the car a few times without turning it on. Long story short, I ran down the battery and that triggered some problem with the immobiliser. Even though we got the battery charged, the car wouldn’t start and we wound up getting towed back to Bristol. So, um, yeah, next time I’ll just embrace nature.

Luckily, we were in the perfect place to be stranded for a couple of hours. We got a brew on, made goat’s cheese sandwiches and watched our daughters play together in the open field. I think Talitha thought getting towed by the recovery truck made for a cracking adventure.

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So, that’s the first camping trip of the year done. I naively underestimated the changeability of British weather. It was practically summer all of last week but it got so cold over the weekend that we were back in winter coats and the water in Ophelia’s sippy cup froze overnight! Never mind, it didn’t spoil our time but we might just wait until it’s warmed up a bit more before camping again.


How to involve a preschooler in travel planning

Family holidays have changed so much since we made our first trek over to Cornwall when Talitha was three months old. For one thing, we somehow manage to take less stuff as a family of four than we did back then as a family of three.

But when we got ready for our most recent trip, Talitha’s desire and ability to be involved is what really stood out for me.

Aged almost four, we really want to foster her independence and give her opportunities to develop responsibility. Planning for a trip is a perfect scenario to practise the life skills that make those things happen.

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It started with designing her own Trunki suitcase, which Trunki offered us to review. Their Made for Me range allows children to choose from a wide range of colours to decide what every part of their ride-on suitcase will look like.

Talitha thoroughly enjoyed the process, changing her mind about a few of the colours a couple of time but surprising me with the finality of her decision-making when the time came to checkout.

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When her Trunki arrived a couple of weeks later, she was delighted to take it out of its box, reliving the process of designing it, remembering that these were all the colours she’d chosen. She wanted to pack for our holiday pretty much right away!

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We talked about what she’d need to take, how many sleeps we’d be away for, what kinds of things we’d be up to. I showed her pictures and videos of Bluestone in Pembrokeshire, where we were going so she could get an idea of what she might like to do while there.

With a little guidance, she chose what clothes, books and toys she wanted to take. She counted how many pairs of pants she’d need and volunteered that she’d need her toothpaste and toothbrush.

We talked about other things we might need to do before leaving for our trip, like making up our beds and feeding the cats.

When the time came to pack the car, she insisted that she be the one to take her Trunki out to the car. It was the first thing she looked for when we arrived at our destination where she unpacked it into the drawers with her grandmother’s help.

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When it was time to leave, she mostly repacked it herself. She then spent some time scooting about on it while waiting for us to finish the big job and getting everything back into the cars.

I’m looking forward to giving her more responsibility on our trips as she gets older. It would be great to encourage her to save money beforehand for any little things she wants to buy when we’re away and to present her own ticket in the airport. I remember loving when allowed to do the latter as a child.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? What I look at as a “learning opportunity” is, for her, just fun.


Mexican sausage and bean chilli

I’ve mentioned before that Talitha can be rather, um, selective in her eating. I’m not sure that really conveys the level of frustration I feel about a lot of our meals but I’ve had to let it go. Bit by bit, she is branching out on her own. She recently decided to add sausages and, off and on, beans to the list of things she will eat so I’ve been keen to try recipes that incorporate these.

Thinking about it, I hadn’t made Mexican sausage and bean chilli in yonks so I thought I’d give that a go. At first, she eyed it and was like, “What is this? It’s not sausage.” But I shrugged and, out of the corner of my eye, watched her try it…and eat all of it. So, a success.

We have it in our heads that we will go traveling and when we do, the hope is that the kids will be able to eat whatever we come across. This may not be totally realistic but at least I can give them the chance of not finding different cuisine totally alien by offering a range of flavours now.

While I’m not sure my chilli is that authentic, Mexico is definitely on the list of places we’d love to visit some day. White sand beaches, the floating gardens at Xochimilco, Mayan ruins, the pyramids at Teotihuacán, the burritos, the handwoven textiles – there is just so much that draws us to think about holidays in Mexico.

On to the chilli. This is a super quick recipe that serves two adults and two children.

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What you need:
300g cooked or tinned mixed beans (I used black, kidney and pinto beans)
300g sausages, veggie or meat (take care with meat sausages to look at the ingredients)
2 peppers
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 tin tomatoes
a little oil or butter (I used coconut)
salt and pepper to taste (I left this out for the kids)
avocados and brown rice to serve your chilli with

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What you do:
Brown your sausages in the pan. I cut mine up beforehand so they would fall apart a little as I wanted the meat to go a little further. Cut up after they’re brown and return to the pan if you want them to retain their shape more.
Add the onions. Once they’re soft, add the garlic and cook for a minute or so. Add the tomatoes and break them up in the pan unless they’re already chopped. Add the cumin and salt and pepper to taste (I left the latter two out).
Reduce heat to slow simmer. Cook for 30 mins. Enjoy with brown rice and avocados.

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Thanks to First Choice for working with me


Speed Dating Neanderthals – At Bristol After Hours

“Oh, I love Mammoth. I killed one just earlier today,” said my sister-in-law to the Neanderthal pair.
“This one – she will make a good wife for you,” said the female Neanderthal to the male.

I sat on the floor with them, without a witty prehistoric comment to make. Full of cold, admittedly low on facts and theories and a bit heady from the glass of wine I’d just had, I was more than a little taken off guard by my SIL’s enthusiasm for this game.

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We were “Speed Dating Neanderthals” at the After Hours event at At Bristol Science Centre. The kids and I have membership so I take them there a fair bit, during the day. Lights low, food and drinks on sale and no small person to rush me on, saying, “I want to do something else” – or, worse yet, disappear without telling me anything – this was a proper night out.

Laurence and I took my brother and my sister-in-law since they hadn’t yet been to At Bristol and we knew they’d love it. They moved to Bristol last year and it’s been amazing having them in the same city as us (honestly not just because of all the babysitting, you guys – though that is pretty great). We just love seeing them a whole lot more.

Because they are young and free, they had a romantic dinner beforehand. Because we are not, we just about settled the kids with Laurence’s cousin before dashing out. She then spent a lot of the evening rocking Ophelia in a pushchair while watching a documentary about penguins. So, science all round.

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The theme was “Love and Luck” since it was the night before Valentine’s Day. Hence activities like the speed dating. Actually, the most popular attraction seemed to be the heart dissection. Groups of friends looked like they were having a blast getting right in there, school lab style.

We didn’t fancy waiting so we wandered around looking at all the stuff I don’t normally get to properly take in. I watched a documentary short about a man who’d committed to donating his body to science and got to milk the cow model myself instead of watching Talitha do it. Laurence and I also spent ages playing in the bubble section and making silly (slightly violent) stop motion animations.

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I should’ve booked ahead for the planetarium as I hardly ever get to go since they only do shows suitable for preschoolers during Toddler Takeovers. That’s my only regret. Next time.

Laurence and I were both unwell so we didn’t want to stay massively long but we could easily have done hours there. My brother and his wife say they had a blast and that they envy me being able to go, oh, any time I like. We enjoyed it so much I’m seriously going to the next After Hours. At £7 entry, it’s value for money.

At Bristol sent me complimentary tickets for the purpose of this review.


Our “someday” Spanish holiday bucket list

Up until now, I haven’t been able to think that much about travel around Europe. Needing to apply for a visa to go anywhere has been rather effective at keeping my wanderlust at bay. But now that I’m applying for UK citizenship, well, it feels like the world has opened right up. We’re starting to daydream together about where we might go and what we might do.

I think Spain would be such a great place to visit as a family, especially Sevilla. I keep hearing how child-inclusive everything is over there. It’s not odd to take your kids into bars and it’s expected that your children would be up having dinner with you at 9pm. Pictures reveal a city that is friendly and bright. Walking through Sevilla seems a walk through history. There are just so many cultural attractions (I’ve a few on my little list I’ll mention in a minute).

I’d love to visit in the winter and spring months to get some respite from the cold British weather! With flights around a couple of hours from London Gatwick, it’s a relatively easy destination to get to with kids. And I can speak a very little bit of Spanish too so it would be interesting to go get laughed at practise.

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Anyway, I’ve put together a little bucket list for a dream family holiday in Sevilla and I’m hoping that in the not too distant future I can blog about actually doing some of this stuff.

1. Take a river cruise or rent a paddleboat down the Guadalquivir river
2. See an authentic flamenco show at Casa de la Memoria
3. Visit the gothic cathedral
4. Taste the local ice-cream at Rayas
5. Take a day trip to Ronda (maybe even get a tour of the prehistoric Pileta caves)
6. Catch the sun and take a dip in the sea at La Barrosa
7. Eat at Sevilla’s oldest bar, El Rinconcillo
8. Visit the Real Alcázar and gardens
9. Check out a local food market (this is becoming a favourite thing of ours to do anywhere!)
10. Rent bikes and cycle around the city
11. Visit the city cemetery (the statues look stunning and the grounds peaceful in photographs)
12. Try a glass of sweet orange wine
13. Go olive oil tasting
14. Buy sweets at a closed convent
15. Experience an Arab bath
16. Keep our girls up late in a restaurant
17. Smell the oranges as we walk about
18. Go shopping (or window shopping) in Santa Cruz
19. Have breakfast or lunch at a bar in La Alameda de Hércules (apparently it’s got great atmosphere)
20. Take in the art at the Museo de Bellas Artes

Who knows? Maybe we’ll celebrate me finally getting citizenship with a weekend in Spain? Also, if you’ve been, share your tips!

This post was brought to you by Thomson Flights


Park Resorts, Carmarthen Bay

A couple of weekends ago, we were invited to review a Park Resorts holiday site. We chose Carmarthen Bay in Wales because it’s only a two-hour drive from where we live in Bristol.

We drove there on the Friday night with a quick stop at the big Morrisons in Llanelli because, despite Park Resorts reminding us a million times that we needed to bring towels, we still somehow forgot.

When we got there, we were truly impressed with the caravan. It was massive; certainly big enough for six people as it claimed. My brother and my sister-in-law joined us for the weekend away, so we were four adults, a three-year-old and a baby.

We could have pulled the sofa bed out in the living room space but we decided to keep the kids in with us in the master bedroom – Talitha slept on a long cushion on the floor – and the other couple took the second bedroom.

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Taking more of a look around during our lazy morning the next day, we were pleased with how clean the caravan was. All the basics were covered. I was pleased to have remembered to bring our cafetiere, though I meant to bring a sharp knife for chopping vegetables and forgot. Anyway, nothing like curling up with a coffee and the paper by a window on an Autumn’s day.

There was central heating and a fire so the caravan was very warm despite it being blustery outside. Talitha just found it so exciting staying in a caravan!

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After breakfast, we all went for a dip in the swimming pool, something Talitha was especially looking forward to. The pool was cold and the changing rooms were in need of refurbishment, to be honest.

Talitha was still keen and spent quite a bit of time “swimming” but we opted not to take Ophelia in. Comically, the hot tub was cold too. At least we’d ticked “swimming” off the weekend’s plans so the three-year-old was happy enough.

We’d booked with Laurence going surfing in mind but it was so windy he decided against it. Another time. Instead, we layered up and went for a wander around Carmarthen. It’s said to be the oldest town in Wales. Much of its history has been maintained as we discovered, having an enjoyable poke around.

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We had lunch at Diablo’s gastro pub in Carmarthen (the banoffee pudding was one of the tastiest things I’ve eaten in a long time) and picked up some bits from an amazing delicatessen in town for lunch the next day.

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On the way back, we stopped to see Kidwelly Castle. It’s a wonderfully preserved Norman castle and a heart-stopping sight to behold. I only wish we hadn’t arrived when it was closing as I would have loved to walk around and properly explore. We’ll have to go back.

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That whole area is rather exciting. We’d parked outside the old slaughterhouse and walked by stocks just outside someone’s house!

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We got back to the site in time for the kids’ evening entertainment, Sparky’s Fun Time, so we thought we’d check it out. While we waited for it to start, we took a moment in the restaurant to watch the sun setting on the coast.

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I got a bit concerned about whether the show would be appropriate for our kids when I saw all the overtly gruesome Halloween decor. I mean, there was blood splattered over walls and skeletons with flashing eyes.

Yet my three-year-old, who gets nervous watching Cinderella, was unfazed. I guess she’s not at the stage where she registers stuff like that. They played a few harmless games and she won a sticker.

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It was all a little surreal, as you can imagine, complete with a giant blue mouse called Narky. The girls both seemed to have great fun despite the adults all finding it fairly insane.

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For us, the highlight of the evening was playing Bingo while the kids went to the back of the room to do some colouring. My brother and my sister-in-law bought tickets to try it out but, hilariously, we all got into it. It was such a thrill!

Having not won (surprise, surprise), we went back to the caravan to cook a stir fry and get our girls to bed.

It was little annoying that the staff, though friendly, didn’t seem to be as informed as they could have been. For instance, the brochure said to ask for the password for park-wide WiFi but no one seemed to know anything about this and a hub wasn’t even coming up on our phones back at the caravan.

Not that this was really a problem while on our holiday. We just spent the evening chatting, watching a bit of television and playing a rather intense game of Monopoly.

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The next morning, we opted for a visit to the “adventure playground” (it really is just a small park), crazy golf and a walk along the beach. I must admit, Talitha and I weren’t impressed with the park. It needs updating and some bits of it are actually broken. There were some older children there having a jolly time, though, so to each their own.

The beach was a lovely little walk. The site actually opens on to it and a few dog walkers were having a stroll when we went. Talitha busied herself collecting shells.

I didn’t get to go play crazy golf as Ophelia seemed a bit unhappy with how windy it was outside but the others tell me it was a good bit of fun. Talitha still hasn’t got what she needs to do with a club though.

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We were meant to stay until Monday but checked out a night early because three of our party had work on, which was a pity. It’s a lovely area and, though we drove around a bit, I’d have like to explore more. I especially wish we’d got to go inside that castle. If we’re ever in the area again, that’s got to be done.

We finished up our delicatessen lunch back at the caravan and checked out.

Taking the big picture of the place, I think the gold plus caravan we stayed in at Park Resorts, Carmarthen Bay, was everything we could have asked for and it made a great base for the weekend. At £395 sleeping six for three nights over a weekend, it’s a decent price. However, the public facilities are pretty much all run down and in need of refurbishment. The area, though, is well worth looking around and a fine choice for a weekend away.

Park Resorts gave us this holiday in exchange for an honest review.


Hauser & Wirth Somerset

A few weeks ago, Laurence’s parents treated the family to lunch at Hauser & Wirth Somerset, in Bruton, to celebrate a birthday. It’s a modern art gallery and restaurant with a truly exciting garden. I’d love to visit again for the garden alone. I don’t feel like I fully took it in and so much thought has gone into what to plant where.

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Laurence and his brothers went to school in Bruton and it amuses the family no end that what they’ve known as a somewhat sleepy little Somerset town is becoming a hotspot for art and culture, and really quite fashionable.

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We started off with the Roth Bar & Grill. The food was all beautifully presented and so tasty. It seemed a shame to choose a burger and chips when so much else was on offer but it’s what I fancied and I didn’t get a touch of food envy, for once. We smiled to see Charles Dowding’s salad leaves on the menu as Laurence recently did an organic gardening class with him.

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After lunch, we took a look around the art gallery. It struck me that the installations were just the type to capture a three-year-old’s imagination. They were big, dramatic and open-ended. Talitha especially loved a room full of big, colourful pom poms. She and her grandmum spent a long time there and she’s been talking about it ever since.

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We also walked around the garden for quite some time. It was in that transitional bit when the seasons had not quite yet changed. I thought I’d mention the dress that I’m wearing as it is the biggest bargain I’ve found when it comes to maternity/nursing clothes.

It’s the Money Penny breastfeeding dress from Mama Feels Good which comes in purple and black. I love the fit (it kind of drapes), the material is comfy, access to nurse your baby is easy and it can be dressed up or down. And get this, I got it for £9.99 though it’s currently selling for a few quid more.

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Also, a few people have asked about the ring sling. It’s a size 2 Girasol wrap I got converted to a ring sling by Geeky Sweetheart. Definitely one of my favourite slings. I love ring slings made from wrap material. They just have a longer life to them.