Road trip for 8 …ooh and a fur baby

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Oooh it seems like forever since I sat down and wrote about our adventures, when in reality it has only been five days.

What an end to the Summer Holidays we had and I don’t seem to have stopped since. I must admit it is really nice to have the kids back in to a routine and Penny too for that matter. The two mornings a week she goes to Nursery have become routine so quick, we are used to having a little bit of free time (as yet we are to plan something with those few hours other than housework). It has been great for her as she has come on leaps and bounds. Within two days she wanted to use the potty and toilet like the other children. Bye bye nappies. We are still rocking one on a night but other than that they have gone the journey.

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I really must tell you about our holiday, it seems a million years ago, but as I haven’t shared our adventures in Scotland it seems like a good place to start……

After having Caitlin and Liam for the Bank Holiday weekend and being super busy getting ready we got up on the Monday to packed cars and all ready to go. The aim was to get up and leave for 1030 but we were far to eager. Having got up, packed the chilled and frozen food, tidied up and hoovered, we were all just sat around waiting to go. So we left at 945, with the aim of stopping a couple of times on the way up to our Haven home for five days.

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The journey up was fairly smooth, we got held up in roadworks just outside Morpeth and as we got past them we had a toilet stop. Berwick saw us stop for our lunch at McDonald’s and we let Louie stretch his legs as well as his vocal cords. We were on target for a 3pm arrival but the time we set off from Berwick and we weren’t far out when we arrived in Port Seton.

Haven, Seton Sands is a mainly flat park and is in the picture-perfect countryside close to Edinburgh (just a 30 minute drive away). Cross the road at the bottom of the park and you’ll find a sand and rock pool beach.

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Having visited another Haven site a few years ago I wasn’t expecting very much but was blown away from the moment we pulled in to the car park. The Seton Sands site is smaller than other sites I have visited and very personal. The staff were friendly from the outset and everything felt very relaxed. We stayed in the Deluxe accommodation and the caravans all had plenty of outside space, you didn’t feel like you were on top of the caravan next door and there was plenty of space to park up both of the cars outside the caravan.

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The caravan was sizeable and the kids all had plenty of space. Mark and I found our bed and with the exception of the lack of bedding for our bed we were 100% satisfied with our accommodation. We both came away saying we would always pay that little bit extra from now on to make sure that we got the bigger van with more outside space and privacy.

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A caravan holiday for me is made when you can lie down on that corner couch and just stare out at the sky. Dream away and relax…Perfection is gained if there is rain to make the caravan seem ultra cosy but in our case the sun was blazing down and it was hotter than Spain…..(who goes to Scotland for sunshine?).

We spent the night relaxed, playing cards and filling our faces as we had Zoo tickets booked for the Tuesday.

After a not so comfortable night (a double bed is not a super king size bed and it being a camp bed the mattress wasn’t the best), although we didn’t expect it to be, we got up and got ready for Edinburgh Zoo.

A few years ago we went up and did Edinburgh Castle and Edinburgh Zoo and loved it. Libby wasn’t of an age to remember it and Liam and Caitlin had never been, so I was really excited to see how they reacted to being there.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Edinburgh Zoo, it is very central and on a big hill and when booking you have to book a time slot to view the pandas. We were booked in for 1030 and made it…just.

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Last time we visited we were allowed to go in to the sleeping area for the pandas. This time however the Zoo think that the female is pregnant so the indoors section is closed. We were told that they were currently sleeping and we would be luck to see them.

We made our way round to the male enclosure. The kids were loving looking for them and just as we were about to give up hope we were told to quietly walk around to the female section as she was out. Talk about lucky, she brushed right up against the window and the kids all got a good look at her. Caitlin got an amazing photo of her (I will try and get a copy of it to share with you)

From there, the Zoo went from strength to strength. We were lucky to have such good weather and I think that played a part in how lucky we were to see so many animals. I know a few people who have been this year and said they were disappointed as quite a few of the animals had not been out.

The kids were fascinated with the animals and Penny met her “new best friends” or so she said when she saw all the monkeys. Libby fell in love with the meerkats and so did Caitlin.

Rather than boring you with what and who we saw, here are some pictures of our day…

The Penguins, could have spent all day watching them….

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The walk through Wallabe section, Horse’s in Pyjamas, Koala and Meerkat…

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Seriously, how big are these birds?

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Ants….amazing to see them carrying leaves across our heads…(the smallest thing)

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Monkeys, monkeys and more monkeys …..

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The very handsome Lion…

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One thing I would say for anyone fancying going is to make sure you take a packed lunch with you. The drinks and food on sight are very expensive and for all I had taken a packed lunch, it cost us nearly £20 for 8 bottles of pop.

When we got back we had some tea and had a walked over to the Clubhouse and again it was lovely, the amusement arcade was small and everything was clean, bright and welcoming. The entertainment staff were great with the kids. We were all very tired so decided to go back to the caravan and spend the day on site on the Wednesday.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent on site. We vowed we wouldn’t spend much time on the site but the kids wanted to explore, they wanted to go swimming, visit the beach, go to the park and spend time at the clubhouse and arcades.

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The kids had a fantastic time over the two days collecting shells, splodging in the water and playing at the park. We went over to the clubhouse on the nights, after having takeaway for tea, Mark got himself taken up on stage to take part in the shows twice. The big ones both met girls and swapped numbers with them, so that was them sorted.

Back to the takeaway for the minute we had Fish and Chips one night and on the Thursday night we were keen to try. Now for anyone of you that should happen to be visiting Seton Sands, please try Carlos….simply the best Kebab I have ever tasted.. (After a few glasses of wine on the Wednesday night Mark and I had a hankering that needed to be filled).

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All to soon Friday was upon us and it was time to come home. I won’t lie coming home wasn’t something I wanted to do at this point. I was so relaxed but needs must. We set off home and stopped along the way where we had stopped on the way up.

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By far Haven Seton Sands is the best site I have visited and we  would go back again.

Now all we have to worry about is where do we go next year?

xxxxx

The South Causey Inn

There is no secret in the fact that I can not wait to get to the point where I can start planning for a Wedding Vow renewal for us. Not that I feel the need to recommit, but because I love planning an occasion and I love to see people that I hold dear enjoying themselves. On top of this, I think it would be special to do it again so that the kids can all be present and so that they are all old enough to remember it.

With that in mind, I have been looking at various places and dreaming, like you do, of where I would hold such an occasion. So many places we could go….

So when Deb from Country Heart and Home invited me along with her to the preview of the new section at The South Causey Inn I was more than happy to be her side kick for the night.

The South Causey Inn isn’t somewhere I have ever been and up until last October I never knew existed. A friend of the family got married there last year and I was told that it was amazing.

Set just a stones throw away from Beamish and inbetween Durham and Newcastle The South Causey Inn really is a hidden gem.

When pulling in to the grounds you are hit by the beautiful old building covered in foliage. The old stables to the right that have now been converted in to themed rooms and the stables surrounding the building, that are also rooms.

We were welcomed on the door and taken to a reception room where we were welcomed with drinks and nibbles. Walking through in to the room you could feel the warmth and community feel with the owners Labrador and regulars dogs roaming free. The only way I could describe it is a real community feel.

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The current owner came in and introduced herself and very generously offered to show us around.

First up was the new themed rooms in the former stables. The rooms all come with your own private parking space, as well as a private hot tub.

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I was blown away by the size of the rooms and the amount of detail in each one. The rooms all vary in size with some accommodating for more visitors but all of them have equally sized bathrooms. Big Bathrooms at that.

There is the American Trilogy Room…….

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A Tree House room, which is my absolute favourite…..

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Captain Cooks Cabin….

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Hadrians Villa……

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French Boudoir….

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There are several other themed rooms that we couldn’t have a look in as they were occupied but if they are anything like what we did see….WOW.

They are also quite well know for the Trafalgar Square Room. This is a 1960’s renovated double decker bus. I didn’t manage to get any photos but if you fancy a look have a look at the Daily Mail article about the hotel.

As well as these rooms there are plenty of other rooms. This one is a honeymoon suite and has its own private hot tub that looks out over the amazing views. I can just imagine a glass of fizz and the fields ….total tranquillity.

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Talking about Weddings….our next stop was the stunning Function Rooms.

I have a very specific requirement for my day if Mark and I renew my vows and these rooms would be perfect. The rooms have all the authentic beam work but at the same time they have a modern feel. The rooms hold 100 people seated and on a night up to 200. However they are currently building a second Wedding Venue which will hold 150 guests seated. Its all very bright and clean but at the same time its cosy. I have fallen in love….

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There is also a plenty of outside space and a photo booth taxi for added fun ….

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There are so so many rooms and little spaces within The South Causey Inn. I fell in love and can not wait to go and sample a little bit more of what they have to offer. With Afternoon Tea and Gin Tasting (They brew their own GIn onsight, named after their very gorgeous Dog, Rip), Weekly Fairs, Sunday Carvery, Dog Walking clubs ….the list of activities is long but there is something for everyone.

We will be returning and I would encourage anyone to pay The South Causey Inn a visit, see if you can be blown away too….

xxxxxx

Ways to spend your 10th Birthday

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Last week saw Caitlin, Mark’s eldest daughter, turn 10.

I find it so hard to buy for them once they turn a certain age and love that once they get to that age, a day out shopping is something they look forward too.

We spoke about taking her out on her own when we were on holiday, we decided on Intu MetroCentre and set the balls in motion.

After I finished work on Sunday we drove up to Newcastle and collected Caitlin to take her for a shopping spree. I was really quite excited about some of the surprises I had planned, but also I knew Caitlin wanted to look in some shops that Mark would never dream of looking in. (Perfect opportunities to get some ideas from Christmas too).

The plan of attack was to start in Thaikhun for lunch, then hit the shops for some serious retail therapy on Dad. (Not sure he was aware he was there for that purpose although if he wasn’t it soon became apparent as he trailed around the shops behind us).

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We had the most amazing lunch in Thaikhun, finished off nicely with a little surprise from the Team. (For the lunch story, check out “A Thaikhun Birthday”)

Still on a high from the surprise, we went on a mission to shop. With our first visit being to CEX.

When we asked Caitlin what she would like for her birthday she had no idea, but as we were talking I picked up on a few things that we could take her for. That is how we ended up in CEX.

Minecraft got added to the basket as did a box set of DVD’s. Good job I say. You really can’t beat a bit of Minecraft. It was the only game for long enough that I would play on the Xbox with the boys.

Next up was The Village. For the life of me I could not remember where it was but somehow I managed to get us there.

Being 10, of course means that you are aloud to visit shops that are packed full with candles, bath bombs and soaps. So we paid a visit to Fizzylicious. To say she was in heaven was an understatement. After smelling lots (to the point where they all smelt the same), she settled on a lovely fruity soap slice, a small cupcake like bath bomb and an extremely glittery bath bomb (massive apologies to her Mum for the mess that will make). Happy girly with her boutique bag we wandered on….

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During the week when I contacted places to let them know I would be visiting for Caitlins birthday and I had a lovely message from Yankee Doodle Candy, located also in The Village. It said that she was more than welcome to pay them a visit. Which of course we did.

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We all love a good sweetie shop and this one is full to the rafters of not only American goodies but I saw a few Swedish ones in there too (much to my delight). Unlike the other sweet shops in Intu MetroCentre this one is very personal and the lady in the shop was lovely. Caitlin came away with a can of Fanta Berry and and all caramel MilkyWay (one of the only times I am gutted to be Calorie Counting).

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We were headed over to the Platinum Mall calling at whatever caught our eyes on the way.

Caitlin loves reading so calling in at WHSmith seemed like a good idea to see if there were any books that she may like. It is so refreshing to see Children get excited over books, well I think it is. Libby, Regan and Penny do but I have never seen Caitlin react like that. We had a good look and ended up with a Awful Auntie by David Walliams and Diary of a Wimpy Kid DIY. (I really must read the David Walliams books, keep getting told how fabulous they are by the kids)

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We promised treats and that’s what we got when we visited Fuel Juice Bar, located just outside Smiggle (our next destination).

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The bar is very colourful and eye catching and everything is there for you too see. Having never been before we took our time decidingfrom the Menu. In the end we ordered a Raspberry Crush, Passion Crush and a Gym Junkie, all with double fruit.

The Raspberry Crush contains apple juice, raspberries and fat free sorbet.

The Passion Crush contains orange juice, passion fruit, mango and fat free sorbet.

Gym Junkie is packed with bananas, strawberries, low fat milk, fat free frozen yoghurt and gym fuel (Whey Protein).

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They all tasted fabulous and it is something I will be trying again. (My sweet tooth strikes again)

Next up with our Fuel Juices, was Smiggle. Not somewhere I have ever been into. I have walked past but that is about it. Caitlin was in her element and so was I to be honest. Lots of funky stationary and bits and bobs. I will certainly be coming in for stocking fillers as Libby would love it. Caitlin settled on a fragrance key ring, a pencil with added rubber,set of mini rubbers and a light up watch. All very girly fab choices.

At this point the time was ticking on and we set about making our way to the exit, but not before visiting Claires (no girly shopping trip is complete without a visit to Claires, or so the girls would have me believe). Caitlin had mentioned that she would like some hair things and Claires didn’t disappoint, three clip in bows later and we were done…….

Well that is until we realised that we had not visited Primark. Never mind girlie shopping trips, no visit to Intu Metrocentre is complete without a visit to Primark. We had a mooch around and to finish off the trip Caitlin spied a nightie and slippers she liked. Done deal….

Feeling very full and still drinking our crushes from Fuel we headed for home.

Caitlin had a fabulous day and so did we. Its not very often we get to spend one on one time with any of the kids but it was a joy. As a result they have all asked for the same opportunity for their next birthdays. Something we are more than happy to oblige to do.

Massive thank you to Thaikhun, Yankee Doodle Candy and Fuel Juice Bars for helping to make Caitlin’s 10th birthday a roaring success.

xxxxx