Category Archives: Picture taking

photography, things that we’ve seen which have been of interest or things that we’re proud of.

Family Day – The Deep

We’d been wanting to go to The Deep for ages, so on my 30th birthday we took a little trip to Hull. The Deep is a very large aquarium, and is home to over 3,500 fish. As Hula is fanatical about “Finding Nemo” at the moment (or as she calls it “Memo”) we hoped that she’d get a lot from the visit.

Mark got a 10% discount for booking the tickets online. Full price adult tickets are £9.95 and under 3’s get in for free. We also found out that once you have purchased your tickets, you can return again for free for the next year if you sign a Day Plus Pass form (check terms and conditions).

The exhibit itself is mesmerizing. Holly really loved it. There was a very cute moment when we showed her the Clown fish and she said “Memo”. We easily spent a couple of hours in there and we didn’t see everything. There’s good wheelchair/push-chair access. However, Holly spends very little time in her pram these days. She really did enjoy exploring the aquarium on foot. This was made easy as most of the large tanks start from floor level.

I’d recommend that you take a packed lunch. The food in the cafe wasn’t fantastic but they do have an indoor picnic area. Apart from the dining facilities, we’d highly recommend a visit and we’ll definitely be returning within the year.

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Some of the photos are a little fuzzy as no flash photography is allowed inside the exhibition.


Balkissock Lodge

This post is quite overdue, but I wanted to tell you about a fantastic place that Mark and I stayed at for our 4th wedding anniversary. It’s called Balkissock Lodge and it’s a 4 star bed and breakfast situated on the South West coast of Scotland. I’ve been following Cordelia for quite a while on Twitter and love Howard’s photographs of the local wildlife and breathtaking sunsets on Facebook.

We were given a very warm welcome.  Afternoon tea was served in the lounge with freshly baked cupcakes  (whilst watching Murray lose to Nadal at Wimbledon!). Howard gave us a tour of the beautiful gardens surrounded by woodland and we drank champagne on the lawn as we waited for our evening meal (Balkissock lodge does not have a licence for alcohol but they welcome you to take your own).

If you give Cordelia and Howard a minimum of 24 hrs notice you can have an evening meal at the lodge (it’s a fair trip to the supermarket – it is also preferable if you choose the same items from the menu as a couple). The food was absolutely fantastic! I especially loved Cordelia’s lemon meringue pie made with her homemade lemon curd.

Our room was incredibly comfortable and peaceful, all rooms have en-suite facilities. We felt very relaxed during our stay, the usual hum of suburban living was replaced by silence, occasionally interrupted by the moo of a cow.  For us, the relative isolation was blissful.

It was wonderful to see that Cordelia and Howard both have a cottage industry from their talents. Cordelia sells her beautiful hand knitted baby clothes called “Balkissock Baby” I think that she should have her own Folksy page. Howard sells prints of stunning photographs of sunsets along the South West coast of Scotland.

During our stay, Howard recommended visiting the Logan Botanic Garden. We were not disappointed. The garden was the best we’d ever seen, beautifully maintained with a huge variety of plants – in my opinion it is far superior to RHS Harlow Carr in the quality of presentation of both the plants and space in general. From there we went up the coast and watched the seals on the rocks. Our only regret about our stay was that we should’ve booked another night. There is so much to see and do, Cordelia and Howard’s home provide a wonderful and cosy base to explore the beautiful coastline. We would highly recommend them and hope to visit again.

One other thing, Cordelia has a wonderful blog called Scottish Country House that is well worth a read and is now on my “blogs I like to read” list.

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Family Day – Cannon Hall Farm

We wanted to share our most recent family day. Because of the cold weather, we’ve struggled to get outdoors with Holly for more than an hour or so. When we awoke one Sunday morning in January and found the weather was a tropical 10 degrees celsius, we took the opportunity to go out and about.

Holly hadn’t been to a farm before and on our first ever outing with her, we’d  visited Cannon Hall. I was aware that there was an open farm nearby. I’d had a good look at the website for Cannon Hall farm which was packed full of information and is well presented.  Being in South Yorkshire, this was within a reasonable distance to us and a 10 minute journey from Junction 37 of the M1.

There is much to see and do if you have a young family. There’s the farm, farm shop,  Tea room, Deli, Toy/gift shop, adventure playground and also a good base for local walks. We went for the main attraction, the animals. I’d seen advertised on the website that there had been, lots of new arrivals at the farm. We weren’t disappointed there was a lovely selection of baby animals.

As soon as Holly saw the pigs, she looked at both Mark and I and said “Peppa” and made snorting piggy noises. It was wonderful to watch her experience seeing these animals in real life. We bought her a tractor toy with trailer of farm animals for Christmas. She’s often walking around our home with one of her toy animals in her tiny hands. It was a proud parenting moment to see her comprehend what the animal was. This was helped by the fact that she had a fantastic view.

The biggest challenge of this family day was that Holly is now walking confidently and running. She has become reluctant to spend long periods of time in her pram and wants to explore the world.  It was reassuring that the farm was exceptionally clean and there’s hand cleansing facilities throughout. There is clear advice around the farm about touching the animals and maintaining hygiene. The animals are also beautifully cared for. It had kept the charm of a farm-yard with the convenience of a visitor attraction. We also had our hands stamped so that we could go in and out of the farm freely to visit other areas without having to pay again.

On the day we visited, the farm was very busy. We headed to the Tea Room at the peak of lunch hour. We managed to get a spacious table and a high chair for Holly. We’d packed a lunch for her as we always do in the fear that she becomes overwhelmingly hungry and too upset to eat. However, it was lovely that our meals were brought to us within 20 minutes of ordering. The portions were very big (we managed about half each) and good value for money. We all enjoyed our food, I would definitely recommend the Pork baguette.

Following lunch, Holly toddled around the toy shop and chose a fluffy hamster (which she snuggled into her neck on the car journey home) a lovely selection of gifts, only for well-behaved girls and boys mind you! ;0)

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit the deli or farm shop. Having said that, we plan to return for “Rabbit week” this February to celebrate the Chinese New Year. It’s a lovely day out, fantastic value for money, we definitely recommend a visit.

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One year with Holly

This post is inspired by Mick Inkpen’s children’s book “One year with Kipper”. Even before Holly was born, Mark would read the Kipper books to “bump”. If you’re unfamiliar with this story, Kipper documents the year by taking photographs.

Last week, we celebrated our daughter’s first birthday. Being first time parents, this year has been what I can only describe as a magical mystery tour. Holly was born at 17.06 hrs on December the 9th 2009 following a very short and incredibly painful labour.

I will never forget the midwife smiling at me as she put Holly on me and asked “what do you have?” I looked at Mark who was crying and said “we have a baby girl.” It was one of the most amazing and precious experiences of my life – at that point our new daughter kicked me in the throat! We named her Holly because of the Christmas season and chose the middle name Elizabeth to continue a family tradition. Her Aunty Becky (my twin sister and best friend) has the middle name Elizabeth which comes from our great Grandmother (Charlotte Elizabeth) an incredibly warm and special lady who would’ve been 112 yrs old the following day had she still been alive.

So what can I say about Holly. Well,  to us and to those who know her she has a number of names; our favourite is Holly Hula (she danced the Hula if you put her on her feet as she tried to balance). She has reached all of her milestones so far within a normal range and some  early. However, I truly feel as long as children get there in the end, that’s all that matters.

But this post isn’t about her milestones, it’s about our milestones as a family. It wasn’t easy to begin with. Our classes with the National Childbirth Trust were brilliant at practicing breathing techniques during labour but nothing prepared me for the rude awakening I had when I took Holly home.

I truly felt I’d been kicked by a horse, so it was with great difficulty that I learnt to sit down. To top it  off, Holly had a tongue tie so I struggled to feed her for 10 days. I felt that I was failing before I had begun. I thank the Lord for my husband! He would bring me a drink, put something very silly on the TV (often the Mighty Boosh) and tell me that I was doing an amazing job. My new year’s resolution was that I was going to enjoy Holly and stop stressing about everything – something that I have stuck to as much as I can ever since.

People have often said to me, “Enjoy her, she won’t be little for long”, I can honestly say we have embraced every moment that we’ve shared with Holly. I think that we’ve been extremely lucky to have her.

Mark and I feel that we have blagged our way through this first year. We were aware of a number of different parenting styles, but we’re glad we did it our way (as Mark said to me, there is no one right way of raising a child but there are lots of wrong ways to do it, it has to be what you feel is right for you and your family). Holly eats a fantastic diet, sleeps throughout the night, in spite of having a 2-3 hour nap during the day and is a social butterfly. Perhaps I’m biased but she is one of the happiest and most content little girls I have ever met. My mother-in-law says “you know this isn’t usual, she has such a sweet good-tempered nature”. What else could we ask for? Our baby is healthy and happy and makes us laugh every single day. I can imagine that a child can put an enormous strain on a marriage but Holly has made Mark and I even stronger as a couple. Every time she reaches a new goal, we glance at each other with enormous pride.

Each night we go into her room to check on her before we go to bed. We look at her and then look at each other in awe of our greatest achievement in life. Our little girl brings so much joy to us and our wider family. We feel truly blessed to have her in our lives.  I hope you enjoy the photographs of Holly’s first year.

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Happy Birthday Keara! xx

Well, this evening we celebrated our sister’s birthday. It would’ve been her 12th, and with every birthday we’ve celebrated with her, we did it with “Tink” style. We drank Champagne (there were a few tears which is understandable) we ate delicious food, had chocolate cake which Mum and Bex made and decorated and we watched Disney films. We also got a bit silly, giggly and her 4 godparents (me, Mark, my sister Bex and her husband Matt) all dressed up in adult bumble bee baby gros! Keara would’ve loved it. Bex also showed Holly photos of her Auntie Keara. I was particularly moved as Holly gently touched her photographs. Josh my nephew (Bex’s little boy) is totally fixated with photographs of his Auntie Keara and will proudly show you them when you visit him. I think it’s a testimony to her that although her niece and nephew are so tiny, she made such a huge and lasting impression on them… but the funny thing about Keara is that she branded you with her love, care and cheekiness xxx

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Breakwater, Bamburgh and Bubbly

Northumbria has always been a very special place for our family. Our first visit was the summer that my sister Becky and I awaited our A level results and we instantly fell in love with the area. I’ve been to much of the coastline of England, and I must say the North East is my favourite. I always feel at peace up there and I have so many wonderful memories as we used to holiday there with our younger sister Keara. It just seems untouched in comparison to the kitsch and over commercialised coastlines at Blackpool, Scarborough and Newquay.

I’ve recently been following prop365 on Twitter, he owns a cottage in Seahouses called Breakwater and we recently visited. It was beautiful. A fisherman’s cottage over 100 years old, the dwelling has recently been refurbished to a very high standard making a very comfortable accommodation which sleeps 6.

This long weekend was a bit of a last-minute break. We all felt that we needed a little bit of time as a family to reconnect in a place that was happy and familiar to us all. (We stayed with my sister Becky, her husband Matt and their son Josh and our wonderful Mum)

We went to Holy Island, a place that we’ve been to so many times before and again, we weren’t disappointed. Steeped in history of early Christianity of Britain, this quaint and quiet community is very welcoming. It was so self-indulgent to call into the Lindisfarne Winery where they stocked their famous Lindisfarne Mead in addition to many other wonderful local wines, beers and spirits. Our visit to Lindisfarne was brief due to tired hungry children but was still special.

The main attraction to our break was a trip to Bamburgh beach. This is approx 4 miles from Seahouses. Mark, Holly and I visited the Copper Kettle Tea rooms while Mum, Bex, Matt and Josh went to the beach. I would recommend the Tea room, it was very cosy and the freshly baked scones were perfection!

When we arrived at the beach, it was almost like going home. I love Bamburgh beach. It’s absolutely stunning with its immaculate castle which literally looks like a giant sand castle and views to the Farne Islands to the right and Holy Island to the left. It is such a magical place to me, where I have spent many a happy evening with my family sharing such special times.

We waited until the sun went down and went back to the beach. Mum spoke to the coastguard and got permission that we could light a pink chinese lantern as this month Keara would have been 12 years old and we wanted to celebrate this wonderful occasion in a place and in a style that she would have loved. We lit the lantern and drank Champagne on the beach, with lots of giggling and laughing as we struggled to light the lantern with the wind battering us from the sea, and we could barely even see what we were doing as we fumbled with torches and matches. It was a fabulous evening.

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Family Day – Tropical World

Life can become incredibly busy sometimes and it’s quite easy to forget to take time out for you and the ones closest to you. Therefore, Mark and I have made an oath to have a “family day” at least once a month. This means that we keep the day free and plan to do something that is “Holly” centred.  This can sometimes take a little researching due to the weather.

However, Mark suggested that we take Holly to Tropical World. This worked out really well as it was very chilly when we woke up and I didn’t fancy staying outside all day.

Tropical World is situated in Roundhay which is North East Leeds. Growing up in North Leeds, our family used to go there all the time. It was weird taking Holly. Never did I think that I would be taking my own daughter one day.

The exhibit is separated by zones these are dry/arid, nocturnal and tropical it reminds me a bit of that television programme “Crystal maze” that was presented by Richard O’Brian. You can see a variety of different animals, reptiles, birds and insects (thankfully most of them behind glass). The butterfly house is the main attraction. There is quite an impressive collection of different species of butterfly which freely fly amongst the visitors. It’s quite amusing to watch people nervously ducking and diving to avoid the butterflies. Having said that, I had a small panic as one landed on my face (this amused Mark). Holly was very comfortable in the company of the butterflies and watched intently as they fluttered by her.

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There is plenty to see and it only takes approximately 30 minutes to go around all of the exhibits. This is quite a relief when you have a small child, mind you we didn’t read every piece of information presented to us. For a longer day out, you can visit the gardens that surround Tropical world and Roundhay Park is only a stones throw away.

Whilst this is a  lovely attraction, we have visited a similar place on the Isle of Anglesey. We found that the staff on Anglesey were more involved with visitors, teaching about the exhibits and bringing some of the animals out of their enclosures and handling them. You’re kind of left to just get on with it at Tropical World and are cattle prodded through a series of walkways and corridors which aren’t particularly wide in some places for prams and wheelchairs.

Although there could be some improvements, it’s a good day out for children of any age and there’s a fantastic gift shop for a wide price range. At the moment, they have a large selection of Eric Carle “Very Hungry Caterpillar” merchandise which we bought a couple of things from for Holly’s birthday.

We met up with some friends and went to The Roundhay Fox for lunch.The food was really good and reasonably priced. However, although we were told that our food would take 30 minutes after ordering, it felt like much longer than that. The high chairs were also filthy and I struggled to clean off the dried on food. There was also no fastenings on Holly’s to secure her in. Despite this, I’d like to visit again perhaps at a less busy time and enjoy some of their cask ales in front of the coal fire.