This Easter weekend we took the plunge and did something we have thought about for a while but never quite got around to – we joined the National Trust.

Our membership began at a visit to the very lovely Quarry Bank Mill – if you’ve not been there before I very much recommend that you do go, it was a fascinating old mill with the most gorgeous gardens.


So, how much is it for a family to join the National Trust? When we went to pay it was either pay £33.75 to look around two of the three options (Mill, Gardens or Apprentice House), or sign up to an £8-odd per month Direct Debit and get unlimited access to all the National Trust’s attractions right across the country. No brainer! Even better, we signed up and they gave us back the £5 we’d spent on car parking that day, so we actually felt like we we’re in profit for that day🙂

The Mill itself was brilliant, to be honest I’ve always thought mills were a bit on the dull side, and I’ve never really understood what the machinery you see in them does or did. But on our way around Quarry Bank Mill we were lucky enough to join in with a talk by a lady in authentic costume, showing us how they made cotton from the days of the spinning wheel right through to the bigger looms such as the Spinning Jenny.



We’ve always been a bit put off by tours and talks – when you’ve got three young children it just adds to the complication of having to keep them quiet and stop them running off etc. But actually our three girls (now 7, 4, and 3) were really captivated by the lady giving the talk and were happy to sit and watch her whole demonstration. We all came away from it with a much better understanding of the process of making cotton and the kind of work and machinery that was commonplace in those mills. It really wasn’t boring or dull! As we live in an area that was once dominated by cotton mills it felt good to have a better understanding of what it was. And Lilly (7) was particularly interested in the fact that girls were usually expected to start working in the mills at the age of 9… she didn’t much fancy that I don’t think!

Another particularly good part about Quarry Bank Mill was seeing the watermill itself. But before you actually see it, there are lots of interactive things to try out which really explain to children (and adults) about how waterwheels work in a way that is interesting and easy to understand. The one I was most impressed with was a recreation of how the water feeds into that particular mill and what happens when you open and shut the locks to either feed water through the wheel or not. The girls found that really interesting and when we went outside and saw the weir and the channels the water takes it all made sense because we had seen it inside the mill.

After a lovely picnic by the river, we were able to take part in a Cadbury’s Easter Egg Hunt round the lower gardens (also included for free now that we were members). The gardens are breathtakingly beautiful and because they are on a steep hill they are pretty unusual too.



All in all we had a really great day and we are now all very excited about making the most of our National Trust membership with lots more lovely family days out like this one. We are often trying to think of ideas for family days out, and especially now with spring here and summer on the way it’s good to have lots of places to go all lined up inside the pages of our National Trust handbook!

So, is it worth joining the National Trust? If you are looking for cheap family days out in the UK, for £8 a month I think the National Trust is a pretty good bargain!


A couple of weekends ago, we discovered a little gem not too far from where we live, that we’ve always known about but never visited before.

The Catalyst Museum in Widnes describes itself as “an interactive science centre and museum devoted to chemistry and how the products of chemistry are used in every day life.” If I’m honest, I’ve always thought it sounded a) a bit boring and b) the kind of place much older children might go on a school trip.

We went because we were short on inspiration for a day out, and hubby had heard somebody on the radio talking about how it was really good, and it was “always empty” (a huge winner in hubby’s book as he hates crowded places!)

So off we went. And we were very pleasantly surprised. It was very empty. There were probably another six visitors there the whole duration of our visit. And with six members of staff standing around the reception desk, we did wonder how on earth the place is still open… but that’s another thing…

The ground floor of the museum is full of hands-on fun science experiments that the kids can do – and they have something for all ages, from crawling upwards. Me and Tony enjoyed having a go at lots of them! Favourites were shining lights onto planes with solar panels to make them fly, creating big bubbles in a tube of liquid, and putting Lilly’s cuddly cat under a microscope!

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It reminded me of somewhere like Underwater Street in Liverpool – which is like soft play without the soft – imaginative play but this time with science thrown in for good measure.

You then go upstairs in a glass lift to an observatory which gives you fantastic views out across the Runcorn Bridge and the River Mersey. Since we’ve recently been reading Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator with Lilly that was an extra thrill!


Outside there is a great playground which the girls all really enjoyed (the experience only slightly spoiled by some pretty rough big kids hanging about with some choice language being exchanged at times).


But overall a great little find, I’m sure we’ll be back again – and highly recommended to other people with younger kids in the area.


Four weeks in and Isla seems to be settling into her new life as a schoolgirl.

We were worried about how she’d settle, because of her track record at Pre-School of getting upset when we left her, and there has been a certain amount of tears at the classroom door, but maybe not as many as we feared.

It is clear that she is enjoying school, and that she loves her teacher (so funny but when she was playing with Eve the other day, she was telling her that her shoes were very “phonics-y” and I noticed she’d really picked up her teacher’s accent!).

It hasn’t been without drama though! On her first full day after the two week settling in period, and her first time in the playground with all the ‘big’ children, a little boy ran straight into her, sending her flying and leaving her with a very nasty looking black eye!


It meant I got the dreaded call from school that lunchtime: “Nothing to worry about…but… technically it’s a head injury, so if you want to take her home, you can…”

I decided not to, because she’d been doing so well settling into school, and I was worried that, if we came and took her home, it would plant the seed that mummy & daddy coming to pick you up if you aren’t having a good time is a possibility. Plus I really didn’t want to make her feel that the accident was something more significant than it was and turn it into a big issue in her mind.

So I asked school to let me know how she was in an hour. It was a dreadful hour and I couldn’t concentrate on a thing at work, worrying if I’d done the right thing. And how much would all this set her back – would she be frightened of other children in the playground, would she not want to go ? And what about Lilly? Did she see what happened? Was she worried about Isla?

Luckily, when they called back they said she’d had a nice afternoon in the nature garden, and wasn’t bothered by her injury now at all. Phew.

In fact, when I picked her up, although her face certainly looked ‘interesting’, she was positive overall about her day, even excited about getting to play in the playground with Lilly, and didn’t really seem to think that the incident was that important a part of the day anyway – as you can see she was more than willing to pose with big smiles while I took a picture of her poor face! Turned out Lilly had been with her when it happened, and afterwards had sat with Isla in the playground and looked after her. By the end of playtime, Isla had been fine.

The other slight concern we’ve had is about whether she’s making friends. She’s told us she isn’t going to make friends with any boys, because she doesn’t like boys. So that’s one half of the class ruled out! And then as soon as she was able to play in the playground she only wanted to play with Lilly, not her own class friends.

And then, one night, Lilly said: “There’s been a bit of a problem at school. Isla’s been crying at the end of playtime.”

We had a chat with her about it and from what I can get from Lilly, she has been better lately. Lilly told me: “When it’s the end of playtime, I tell her that it’s nearly home time – even though it isn’t – and she believes me, so she just waves to me and says ‘see you soon'”

As always, Lilly has been a superstar big sister!!!

In the last week Isla has been talking more about some of the friends she’s made in school, and I think on occasion she has been playing with them, rather than just Lilly, in the playground. Yesterday (Saturday) she was talking about one schoolfriend and saying: “I miss her soooo much”, so that at least indicates she has made some friends, despite telling us a few weeks ago she didn’t want to make any friends, only Lilly!

So that’s the first month done, and in fairness I think it’s gone as well as we would have hoped. It really helps that her teacher is fantastic, and Isla is very enthusiastic to learn from her.

Only another 14 years to go…!!!

A trip to New Brighton

This weekend we had an afternoon trip to New Brighton, on the Wirral.

It’s somewhere Tony and I had been waaaaay back before the kids (and once, when I was a student, I got on the wrong train and ended up in New Brighton – I thought I was in actual Brighton and panicked), but for no particular reason we’ve never taken the girls there before.

We had a pretty pleasant afternoon. First of all, the girls loved going through the Mersey Tunnel as they’ve never done that before. And loads has changed in New Brighton from what we can remember, there’s a huge new retail and leisure complex and other bits and bobs. By the time we arrived, everyone was starrrrrvvving, so we called into Subway for our lunch. This was a novel experience and the girls loved their Subs (even though they were just plain ham!) and the fact that they got actual drawstring bags with their Kids Meals.

After that we walked along the prom a little way and saw an Actual Real Lighthouse, which the girls were quite pleased with.

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After that we called into an Arcade and then outside to the little fairground.

Unfortunately, for some reason, when Eve went to ride on the merry-go-round she wouldn’t sit still or sit down in the car, so after several warnings we had to take her off so that the ride could go. Not sure why she was so uncooperative because she was very good on all the rides when we went to Gullivers the other week.

Anyway, this resulted in a meltdown, which worsened when Isla and Lilly wanted to go on the swing ride, because Eve wanted to go on too, but we just couldn’t trust her to sit still, so we didn’t let her go on. This provoked the Biggest Tantrum Eve Has Ever Had… which believe me, means it was a pretty big one.

I dragged her off, kicking and screaming, to the far end of the fair, where she lay on the floor for a good ten minutes loudly demonstrating her displeasure and I did a lot of: “Oh dear Eve, don’t you look silly, everyone is wondering who is making all this noise” etc etc.

The big girls had fun, anyway…

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It’s funny because Eve has been so much better behaved lately – much less terrible twos. But I guess it’s often one step forward, two steps back…

Anyway we made our excuses and left shortly after this, Eve had totally exhausted herself with her epic tantrum and wanted to be carried all the way back to the car. And everyone enjoyed their second ever trip through the Mersey Tunnel too.

All in all, a fairly pleasant afternoon and I’m sure we won’t leave it so long before going back again next time.


Summer holiday fun begins

We’re not going on holiday this summer – but I have booked plenty of days off work so that we can have some lovely days out.

We started last week with three great days in the scorching weather that we’ve enjoyed for the last few weeks.

On Saturday, Tony had to work, so it was just me and the girls. After carefully considering how ambitious I could be while flying solo in charge of all three, I decided to take them to Walton Hall Gardens in Warrington.

It’s great there – they have a huge playground with equipment suitable for all ages, lovely gardens with plenty of spots for picnics, a pond full of huge fish, a free children’s zoo with rabbits, birds, donkeys, pigs, goats etc. There’s a land train, and, in the holidays, there are trampolines, bouncy slides, and a pottery painting workshop, all at an extra cost of course (though it’s free to get in, apart from parking).

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It took us forever to get out of the house – getting three children properly suncreamed takes a good 20 minutes! But once we were out we had a great time. They all loved the playground – Eve went straight for the huge Helter Skelter Slide; Lilly’s favourite thing was climbing to the top of one of those spider web net climbing frame things. A slightly hair-raising moment when Lilly was right at the top of the frame – and Eve was as far away as she could possibly be on the other side of the playground – a time when I really needed to be in two places at once! But we survived!


After that we had a nice picnic under a shady tree, followed by a wander over to see the fish, a game of hide & seek (modified after it caused war to be more of a hunt-for-an-interesting-object-game) and playing house under a weeping willow for quite a while.

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Then the girls all went on the trampolines and had great fun bouncing together!

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Walton Hall Gdns ice creamsAfter all that fun, we relaxed with ice creams and a look around the farm. Eve was particularly interested in all the animals – she especially loved the pig which had its snout pressed right up against the fence oinking at her!

Last time we took the girls to the farm Isla hadn’t liked the noise of the peacocks and had cried wanting to go home. This time she was much better, telling me: “I’m being very brave, aren’t I?”

We had a great day and spent about four hours there in all. But that night I was absolutely shattered!


On Monday we met my mum in Liverpool and took the girls to The Beach at Liverpool One.

We’ve taken them there for a few years now – it’s basically an artificial beach in the centre of a shopping centre. A bit disappointing this year as they’ve taken the ‘sea’ away from the beach for “health and safety” reasons, which basically means it’s just sand. But it’s still lovely and the girls had a fantastic time making sandcastles and playing.

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It was a great reminder though of what a pain sand is! And getting three kids to eat sandwiches at the beach without getting sand in them is basically impossible!

It was really interesting to see the three personalities at work. Lilly went into creative artist mode and got very serious about making a dog sand sculpture. When they had beach games for the children, she didn’t want to join in because she was too busy with her creation! She didn’t even want to stop for lunch (but she did!). Isla really enjoyed playing with Eve and making sandcastles with me, but kept herself to herself and didn’t try to make friends with the other children. Eve had the time of her life exploring a tunnel through the giant sandcastle on the beach with the other children, and was happy to go up to other groups of children and start joining in with their games! At one stage I saw her go up to a girl of about 10 who was holding the hand of a little baby (probably her baby brother). Eve walked up to the other side of her and put out her hand, telling the girl: “hold my hand too”! And when they started the beach games, Eve was first up!

And on the last day before I went back to work, I took the girls swimming with Nanna. They’ve been asking to go for ages, and they loved it. Amazingly, Eve wasn’t so sure at first and just wanted to sit on the edge splashing her feet. But by the time we left she was quite happy to be in the water playing games and pretending to swim! Lilly was happy just doing her own thing – she really believes she can swim now and insisted in trying without her arms bands – which was when she found out what arm bands are actually for! And Isla was happy ‘learning to swim’ and playing silly games with me up and down the pool.

All in all a great three days, now I’m looking forward to my next two days off work next week… just need to come up with exciting plans to keep up the momentum!






Isla’s 4th birthday

That’s it, our middle baby finally turned four, and now there’s no escaping it… she’ll soon be a schoolgirl and completely all grown up!

Our cheeky, mischievous, fun loving yet shy and sensitive little girl turned four last week and the sun shone while we enjoyed a family party in the garden to celebrate.

Like any four year old to be, Isla had been looking forward to her birthday for quite some time. At the begining of the year, she asked me, is it nearly my birthday yet? I told her it was still quite a while to wait. Was it before Easter, she asked. No, it’s after Easter, I said. So, the day after Easter Monday she woke up and announced: It’s My Birthday! Oops, not quite Isla…

On her real birthday, she woke up feeling a little bit off colour and complaining of a sore tummy. She can be a bit of a drama queen at times, and we’ve heard the sore tummy thing lots of times when we suspect it might not be 100% true, so we hoped for the best.

Isla enjoyed coming down and opening her presents and seeing all the birthday banners we’d put up – her main present was a Leap Pad2 after nursery tipped us off that she absolutely loves the one they have.

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After breakfast we went upstairs to get ready for her party and she went a bit downhill again, complaining about a sore tummy and generally wanting to lay on the bed and rest. I had downloaded some music for her birthday party – quite into her pop music is Isla – so we stuck a bit of One Direction on to coax her out of her lethargic mood… she climbed out of bed and jumped about a bit to Live While We’re Young, but then I could tell in her face that the jumping had made her tummy feel worse so she crawled back into bed again… poor thing… the sore tummy was real after all, how typical!

We carried on preparing for the party, which was a Paw Patrol theme (for the uninitiated, Paw Patrol is a Nick Jr tv programme about superhero puppies!). You can’t seem to buy much Paw Patrol stuff in this country, although I think you can in America, BUT the nick Jr website had loads of brilliant printable Paw Patrol party stuff, so I’d printed and made Paw Patrol hats, banners, party bag labels (doggy bags!), a Pin the Badge on Marshall game and various other bits… so I was quite chuffed really, it looked great!

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Family came over about 11am and Isla had perked up quite a bit so we tried not to worry.

Isla opened lots of lovely presents from everyone – mainly lots of garden toys (the bonus of summer birthdays!), and the main showstopper being an enormous new slide, which had been hiding in the garage since daddy / granddad spent hours assembling it a few days before, and which was too big to come down the side of the house. So, it had to take a detour, down the street, round the end of the estate, and into the doctor’s surgery car park (luckily closed on that day) which backs onto our garden, so that it arrived, rather dramatically, over the fence!

Well it went down very well with all the girls the second it hit the ground!

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After that we had our party food, played party games and brought out the Paw Patrol cake i’d made for Isla.

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Unfortunately, Isla couldn’t eat any cake, despite looking at it longingly… she asked me to save it for later, and ten minutes later the inevitable happened and she was sick😦

On the bright side, she bounced back very quickly and was soon feeling much better… so much so that she later scoffed a Curly Wurly with no ill effects!

So, despite unfortunately being a bit poorly on her big day, I think all in all she had a lovely birthday. And now she’s a Big Girl 4 Year Old. And what an exciting 12 months are in store for our second little angel.

Happy birthday darling xxx

I’m a huge Coronation Street fan. Luckily, hubby is too. We used to watch all the soaps, before we had kids, but we came to find Eastenders ridiculously depressing and unrealistic, and Emmerdale just a bit dull.

But Coronation Street is just great. We especially like the humour, even in the darkest moments. Because I think that’s what life is really like – even at your worst moments, there’ll be something funny, something that happens or that somebody says, which lightens the mood somehow.

Anyway, you can imagine our excitement at the prospect of going on the tour of the former Corrie set, at Granada Studios in Manchester. Filming has now switched to Media City, and for the next few months, you can take a tour of the old set and see inside the studios at some of the internal sets, peek around the dressing rooms and find out some of the filming secrets.

Better still, the inlaws minded the girls while we went on our Coronation Street tour alone – JUST THE TWO OF US! Which was exciting enough in itself!

Both of us have separate memories of going on the Granada Studios Tour when we were kids – they don’t do it anymore but we both remember it has being the BEST DAY OUT EVER, and it included a stroll along the street and the opportunity (for Grown Ups Only) to go into the Rovers for a pint… us kids had to wait outside (not fair!)

It was exciting from the moment we arrived and had a sneak preview of the famous street through a gap in the fence. Then we enjoyed some Coronation Street branded coffees (that pleased me a lot!) before it was our turn for the tour.

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We started out in the Green Room, having a good nose in the pigeon holes of the cast members (noting that some of them had earned brass plates with their names on, Like Bill Roach, and others were just stuck on pieces of paper!), then a tour through the dressing rooms and into wardrobe. I was busy admiring Carla Connor’s wedding dress – Hayley didn’t really make it (shock!) – and they told us they usually have four of every wedding dress (to allow for the inevitable tearing / staining which takes place when the wedding day maybe doesn’t go as planned!)

Then after watching a fantastic video of comedy highlights from down the years (which, as a bit of a geeky fan, I would LOVE to watch again), we went through and looked at some of the sets, including Carla Connor’s flat, The Platt’s, Underworld, and of course The Rovers Return. Finally, we were in! Unfortunately, there were no real pints on sale this time. But we did get our photo taken behind the bar!

After the tour it was out onto the street, and you could explore as long as you liked. Highlights for us were going down the ginnel and into the smoking shed outside the Rovers, sitting on Maxine’s bench, and the famous cladding on the Duckworth’s house. Oh, and of course, outside the Rover’s Return.

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All in all we had a great day – and I believe the tours run until October, so if you get the chance, and you’re remotely interested in Coronation Street, you really, really should go!