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Hoppy The Christmas Frog

Posted on 12th December 2010 in #SilentSunday/ children/ family

I know it’s meant to be #SilentSunday so shhhhh. This, ladies & gentlemen, is Hoppy The Christmas Frog. When I found myself to be ‘suddenly single‘ with 2 young boys I occasionally found that disciplining them could be a battle. Gone was the option of ‘what will daddy think when he comes home’ so I had to be inventive.

I bought Hoppy on a whim one day because I thought he was beautiful and we didn’t have any particularly nice decorations.

My boys loved him, particularly the youngest, so I told them that he was Hoppy The Christmas Frog and that he was here to oversee Christmas. I told them that he was here to make sure they were being good so that Santa would know to bring them presents. My boys aren’t daft, they were dubious.

One day when we were out in town the boys had been playing up, squabbling, generally not behaving. I told them that Hoppy would be cross.

When we got home all the ceiling decorations had fallen down – both boys were silent as they took in the scene.

“Did Hoppy do this mummy?” Whispered my youngest…

NSPCC Christmas Wishes #festivefriday

Posted on 10th December 2010 in #festivefriday/ childline/ children/ family/ NSPCC

As Christmas draws alarmingly near, I can’t help but turn my thoughts to children who may not have all that they should. I don’t mean in terms of presents, I mean in terms of love, support, warmth, care and family.

The good people at NSPCC have launched a Christmas Wishes campaign and I’d like to help spread the word.

If you go onto their website you will see lots of ways to help other than the obvious ‘donate money’ although let’s not forget about that option too. I set up a standing order to the NSPCC years ago, not a huge amount, but every month it means that I make a small contribution to their work. It’s easy, effortless and it means I don’t forget.

You can send a letter from Santa.

You can create a personalised Christmas ecard.

You can create corporate Christmas ecards.

You can donate by shopping.

You can make a donation to the NSPCC and a friend or family member of your choice will receive a personalised card and festive bauble which they can hang on their tree as a reminder of their unique gift.

Magical #WinterWonderland

Posted on 20th November 2010 in #winterwonderland/ children/ days out/ family/ ice skating/ rides/ roland rivron/ roller coaster


Thursday night we were lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park in London. To say it was magical is one big fat understatement! It was an incredible night out that I know will have created lasting memories for my boys.

As you get close to the park the skyline is alive with brightly lit towers, rides, big wheels and all manner of exciting looking things. ¬†I’m not sure who was more eager to get in there – the kids or me!

Amazingly it is free to enter, so if you don’t fancy the rides it’s still worth going along to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the Christmas market.

As you walk in there are some lovely Christmassy stalls offering a range of different wares for unusual present ideas. Plus a tantalising aroma which is a meld of spiced pretzels, BBQ, roasted chestnuts, hot flavoured nuts, candies, steak burgers, german sausage, hot chocolate, waffles, crepes and much more.

The children were keen to get the huge (frightening looking) rides but before we ran ahead we stepped into an innocuous looking ‘Hall of Mirrors’ I’m so glad we did, it was hilarious! Before you get to the maze of mirrors, there is a room full of different moving floors, which had us all in fits.

After much persuasion, I did manage to convince DH that ice skating was a great idea and we all donned incredibly crippling skates and headed onto the open air ice rink. We did place bets that I would be the first to stack it but it was actually DS1 who went first, and second and third and….. I think I was the third member of the family to ‘go down like a sack of spuds’. Have to say I was reasonably impressed that the ice didn’t shatter ūüėČ ¬†I learnt two things, one that I am not Jane Torvill and two that it is sometimes useful to have a well padded derri√®re!

Also spotted Roland Rivron in the ice rink, I think he was with the skating display (whether as a skater or not I don’t know as the boys were keen to get onto the scary roller coaster!) DS1 says that I scream to much on roller coasters…

As you enter and leave the park you go by a German singing reindeer – highlight of night for me, he was fab! ¬†Just don’t laugh too much at the glimpses of me!

#Winterwonderland at Hyde Park. Witness the German singing reindeer – no day out is complete without one! Please excuse the glimpses of me and the nest of snakes that is my hair….

If the video doesn’t play for you, you can access it via the link below.

Winter Wonderland from MrsLJHall on Vimeo.

If You Go Down To The Woods Today

Posted on 9th October 2010 in bluebottle grove/ English Heritage/ family/ fire/ free days out/ lexden earthworks/ trees

We have an open fire in the lounge which is lovely but does use a lot of wood.

Today’s mission for the children was to collect kindling and sticks from the nearby woods. We are very fortunate to live 5 mins away from Lexden Earthworks and BlueBottle Grove which¬†are banks and ditches of ¬†late Iron Age defences protecting the western side of Camulodunum (pre-Roman Colchester). There are also many pre-Roman graves, including Lexden Tumulus, allegedly the burial place of the British chieftain Cunobelinus.

This is – apparently – an awesome climbing tree

Wood stock now nicely replenished :)

Sorry for picture quality – all from my phone.

S is for… Sleepover Anxiety

Posted on 21st September 2010 in children/ cotton wool parenting/ empty nest syndrome/ family

For me that is, the kids aren’t phased at all…

My 10 year old went for his second sleep over Saturday night. I hate it, I feel so unsettled and have that permanent feeling that I’ve forgotten something, tinged with an underlying general anxiety.

My 9 year old hates it even more, he becomes very clingy (they share a room – they don’t need to but the 9 year old wanst to) so I have his anxiety to deal with on top of my own.

Liz Jarvis wrote a post not so long ago asking if people were ‘cotton wool parents‘ – hands up that’s me that is!

What surprises me about this is that I hadn’t even realised it (or acknowledged it?) until recently, I thought I was pretty laid back and that I was leading my children towards independence gracefully. They make their own breakfast, they put themselves to bed (although I go up and say goodnight and spend about 5 mins in their room), they tidy their own room (after mucho nagging) and we have ‘proper’ conversations about real things.

I guess the reason for my over protectiveness stems from being completely responsible for them when their dad left. I didn’t realise at the time quite how much going from joint to sole parenting had affected me.

I don’t leave them with babysitters (expect for very close family).

The 10 year old has a week away with the school coming up very soon, I’m not looking forward to it.

I used to think that empty nest syndrome was just an excuse for people with boring lives, now I can hear the clock ticking and I spend time trying to work out how to get a deadbolt fitted to the nest door!

Can I Dig Up My Potatoes? #WordlessWednesday

Posted on 15th September 2010 in family/ garden/ plants/ potatoes/ strawberries/ tomatoes/ wordless wednesday

Can I dig these up yet?

Now that DS2 is a veggie I need reinforcements….

I’m referring to the potato plants if you can distinguish them in that sea of green – they’ve had flowers which got blown away in the mad wind and rain the other day.

Moving on from potatoes….should I give up on these tomatoes or will they still ripen?

In better news, at least my strawberries are doing what they are supposed to be doing!

So – the spuds – how do I know when to dig ’em up?!

Mersea Island – the forgotten beach?

Posted on 2nd September 2010 in bank holiday/ beach/ children/ coffee/ east of england/ family/ free days out/ Mersea/ parenting/ sand castles/ smitten by britain

Bank Holiday Monday in the UK and 4 boys to entertain…..

We took a quick peak at the tide times and drove to Mersea Island. You have to check the tide before setting off as to get to Mersea Island you have to cross a road that connects the Island to the main land and it floods at high tide.

According to Wikipedia: Mersea Island (formerly Mersey Island) is the most easterly inhabited island in the United Kingdom, located marginally off the coast of Essex, England, 9¬†miles (14 km) to the southeast of Colchester. It is situated in the estuary area of the Blackwater and Colne rivers and has an area of around 7¬†square miles (18 km2)[1]. The name ‘Mersea’ is derived from the Old English meresig meaning ‘island of the pool’.

We parked at one of the many free car parks near the beach and popped to the handy cafe/shop to buy 2 coffees and 2 bucket & spade sets.

The boys were split into pairs and given the buckets & spades. We hunkered down on a picnic blanket and supped our coffee to keep warm!

Although as a family we do enjoy the excitement of a more ‘touristy’ sea side, we often come to Mersea Island because the beach is so quiet. I have never been ¬†unable to park, or unable to find a nice space on the beach – far from it! We often find that we have an entire stretch of beach to ourselves.

Mersea also boasts a country park where kite flying is virtually compulsory, for some reason it always seems to be windy there! Further inland there are some unique shops and quirky cafes that are well worth exploring and the Marina is a must for boat lovers.

In case you don’t know, Mersea Island is famous for it’s Oysters. If you come along at the right time, the beach is littered with Oysters just waiting to be collected.

The beach is lined by a really cute row of beach huts. People do amazing things with their beach huts, I’ve seen some that are no more than storage sheds, some that are a beach base complete with table and chairs and even one that had a complete bar at the back and a BBQ out front!

We had to leave after a couple of hours as the great British weather got the last laugh and it poured with rain! Just before we left I managed to take a cheeky photo of an elderly couple who had gingerly picked their way across the pebbles to have a paddle in the sea. They had bare legs and feet and held hands all the way down the beach :)

For more UK travel blogs visit @smittnbybritain

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