Our Sparkly Town no.1


This morning we went to collect Little Miss’ bike from the bike repair shop in town.  This is not a bike parked outside the shop but a stunning piece of wall art.  A fantastic, personal touch which always make me smile when we pass and its not only me who enjoys it,  Little Man always pretends to ride it too!


Little Sparkles

We’re getting into the swing of the Summer holidays now and with the much improved weather, much of our time is being spent outside, especially with the sandy beach so close to home. Its been a busy week with carnival and I’ve celebrated my birthday too. With so much going on, I may try to update our bucket list in a new post, we’ve ticked more off this week and had lots of fun.


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This week I read an absolutely stunning book, Hope in a Shoe by Michaela dePrince. It is the harrowing and inspirational autobiography of the ballerina Michaela dePrince and her traumatic early life in Sierra Leone, her adoption by an American couple and her commitment and hard work to becoming a professional ballerina. It is an incredible story, both heartbreaking and inspiring and it is difficult to read in parts, Michaela witnessed unspeakable horrors and for much of the first part of the story, tears streamed down my face. This is a must read story, I finished it in less than a day and I would love to see Michaela in a ballet, a real story of triumph over adversity.


As I’m running more, I’ve updated my play lists again and added some music from my Uni days. I found some digital recordings of one of my favourite bands of the time Pele on iTunes so they have been added to my iPod, I’ve been running with a little skip as I remember happy times.

Inspired by last week’s ballet, I also downloaded some ballet scores and have been listening to them in the evening.

I also heard a beautiful song on the Radio 2 breakfast show’s golden oldie segment today, The Special Years by Val Doonican. At the time, little Miss and I were getting breakfast ready and the words were so poignant

” From little girl to wife

And in between are the special years

You remember all of your life

The special years are filled

With sweet promises and pain

But love will never taste

Quite so wonderful again

So slow up, don’t rush to grow up

You’ll be a woman before long

So stay awhile in the special years “

And no I can’t believe it either that Val Doonican is my listening of the week!


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Well with carnival there’s a lot to watch, as part of the carnival festivities I’ve watched It’s a Knockout, Titan the Robot, two nights of fireworks, a dog show, an acrobatic air display and the parade,  In carnival week, you need your programme to plan your time carefully.

Amazingly amongst all this I finally watched the film Jersey Boys which has been on my Sky + box for a while.  I love a good sound track and this film has a cracking play list.   Whilst I liked the film I imagine that I would like the musical far better, I think it would have more energy and vibe


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With a busy week, I haven’t spent much time either in the house or kitchen this week. I made some peach tarts to use up some pastry and peaches on Sunday and then my other notable make is a salad so I could try my birthday gift of a food processor to slice the ingredients.  I am delighted by my present, it was very much my choice and although Mr S did hesitate to buy me something so practical I convinced him I really did want it.



After a few weeks of warmer clothes it was back to shorts and tee shirts this week, yippee.  I’m also wearing my new Essie nail varnish, another birthday gift, this time from my Father-in-Law.  He is always exceptionally kind and generous to me but asks me to choose my own gift.  I chose some new Essie nail varnishes and Benefit make up.

My Forever Children’s books… (the early years edition!)

Given the pretty awful weather on this first week of the holiday, I decided to use our time inside productively and to tackle the play room.  I think my enthusiasm may have been greater than the children’s but as old toys were unearthed and rediscovered they did become more helpful and involved.  I’m pleased with the job we’ve done, I’ve rearranged the furniture and toys and we have a quiet area for drawing and writing, a creative corner with lots of Lego, an imagination zone with dressing up and a castle and a book corner.  The teacher in me really wants to design and laminate pretty labels for each area but I do have to remind myself its a playroom not a classroom.

Whilst we are pretty good at recycling toys, our book shelves were bulging and needed a good sort.  I love books and still have some of my favourite children’s books from my own childhood, so sorting books for donation to our local charity shop is difficult.  To me the book is a memory, the times reading out loud stories to the children, their reactions, the beautiful illustrations, rhyming language, even the touch of a book is special to me.  However I tried to be ruthless, the first to go were television and film tie ins, unless they had a strong story, as too often these books are designed as merchandise for the character and little thought is given to the story.  I also donated the very basic stories we had for babies and some given as prizes and presents which were a little dull.  To be honest, I haven’t made that much room on the shelves but I can squeeze a few new books in now!

There were some books which I just couldn’t take from the bookshelf, they mean so much to me and eventually when the children no longer let me keep them on their book shelves I’ll transfer them to mine so I always have them to read to little visitors.


1.  Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson

This is a well illustrated book with the dark colours of night making the little owls’ worries seem more scary, it has a simple message that even if Mummy Owl has to leave her little ones she will always come back.  We used to read this a lot when the children were young and it was useful to teach the children that even if I left them at pre school I would always be back for them.  At the start of the placement, we were always giving the message that we would be their forever family and always there for them so this story reinforced that theme.  Little Miss had the Owl Babies story sack from school one week in Year 1 and we had lots of fun acting out the story with the owls and sticks.  Like so many of the stories on this list, its one I know the words off by heart.

2. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd

I had never heard of this book before a very good friend sent it through as a present.  A recommendation from her is always a winner.  At first I wasn’t sure of the garish illustrations and repetitive phrases but they really grew on me, it is the perfect last book at bed time and is dreamily soporific and relaxing.  The illustrations are wonderful for getting the children to find things and comment, those garish colours have become part of the book’s appeal now.  I love this book so much now that when I took it out of the book case, I actually gave it a hug!

3.  We’re Going On a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

Is there a parent who doesn’t know the words of this book by heart? Long walks with weary legs normally include a few verses of this to keep everyone jolly and as a SEN teacher this is just the perfect book for some sensory fun.  I think I have acted out this story more times than I have read it from the book, what a marvellous way to know a story.

4.  The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler

These are not the only books by this dream team on my list, their books are just magic.  I discovered the Gruffalo as a teacher, as it was first published in 1999, well past my own childhood!  I have read these stories at work and done the most amazing activities with them, the children love them.  I was so proud when I was able to take my class to the theatre to see the Gruffalo.  We put so much work into the trip and I’m sure it was only so successful because the children loved the story and wanted to see it come alive.  Whilst I’ve not taken my little ones to see it at the theatre they adore the animated stories.  The Gruffalo is another character we often use on our walks in the forest, I may spot a purple prickle or an orange eye hiding in the trees and create a story of what he’s doing.

5.  Monkey Puzzle by Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffer

I do love to read aloud and add a few actions, silly voices and this book is perfect for my dramatics.  Its also the book that both Little Miss and Little Man have chosen to take into school to share with their friends on book events at school.  Of all the books I have kept its the most battered, which shows how much its been read and loved.

6.  How to Catch a Star and the Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers

Another brilliant recommendation from a friend, simple stories, beautiful pictures but so much extra weaved into the words and pictures that its hard to describe.  There’s a tinge of sadness and hope to each story that makes you wonder about it a little bit longer after you have finished the story.

7. The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

This book is a classic and I loved rediscovering it with the children, such a unique idea delightfully played out.  I saw a documentary about Judith Kerr and she was just amazing, still writing and drawing at 90 and with a real joie de vivre.

8.  One Night in the Zoo by Judith Kerr

I chose this simply for its pencil drawings which are so beautiful.  Its lovely for counting and identifying animals with lovely rhymes but its the colours and detail which make this book a favourite.

9. Duck and Goose : How are you Feeling? by Tad Hills

There are ten words in this book, but the illustrations tell a story so much more detailed and personal.  This book really helped the children learn about feelings and duck and goose are endearing characters.


So these are my favourite early years books, there are so many others I love too, which have now retired to the book shelf.  Our books are getting longer now and its time to revisit old favourites such as the Mr Men, Mrs Pepperpot and discover new characters like Judy Moody and Katie Morag.

Little Sparkles

Its the first Friday of the school holidays, so ideally we should be playing on the beach, having a little paddle in the sea and making sandcastles,  Sadly, the wet and windy weather has put a stop to these plans and after a busy morning swimming and swapping library books we are cuddled up under the duvets and watching Frozen (fortunately, its not on loop constantly here, just a film they like to watch occasionally)  Its been a funny old week, my school holidays and the children’s’ don’t match perfectly so I’ve had to work part of this week, although a shorter week than my normal part time hours.  Our plans have been shaped by the weather as its not been a great week but we can always make our own sparkles.



I’ve been reading Mollie Makes Guide to Social Media.  I have been toying with the idea of an Instagram account as I love to take photos but needed a way to put them together and make it easier to access.  I have created an account but am now worried about security.  At present it is private and will remain so although I have no family pictures on it yet.  Social networking is such a conundrum for me, I want to access it but am so conscious of our family’s security.

On a lighter note, I have been reading aloud Horrid Henry’s Jumbo Joke Book to Little Man, its really good and there are some funny jokes.


I heard some lovely, heart warming news this week.  My new boss has been a little secretive recently, lots of appointments, taking additional leave etc..  Now, 5 years ago, I was having to take similar time out of work and I had begun to wonder if he was going through the same process as us, however I also became a bit paranoid that Wednesday appointments and meetings at home don’t necessarily mean adoption.  On his return to work this week, my boss shared with me his happy news that he had been on adoption leave and shared the photos of his new baby.  There are certain conversations that only someone who has been through the process can have, empathise and appreciate.  It was just uplifting and heart warming to hear him talk about his new child so joyfully and emotionally.  It was a conversation that reminded me of the wonder of adoption and how wonderfully it can change lives.



Last night, Little Miss and I went to the theatre to see the ballet, Sleeping Beauty.  It was the most stunning production I have seen for a long time.  Everything was amazing, the dancing, music, scenery and costumes.  The interpretation through time was perfect and the 1920’s scenes my favourite.  It was the perfect night’s entertainment and thoroughly deserved the standing ovation from every member of the sell out audience.  It has only spiked my interest in ballet, I’m hoping to download some music later and to discover the different ballets.


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After school on Friday, our first job was to create our Holiday Bucket (and spade) list.  The children offered some suggestions but its been nice to see it evolve this week.  We have started to tick off some of our entries,  Mr S took the children to the cinema to see the Minions, they all came back with positive reviews and Little Man has been singing a song and shouting bananas a lot which I understand is something to do with the film.  When asked his opinion of the film, Little Man simply replied Colin rules the world!



The colour is not so good in this image, there are olive green and bright blue parasols on the dress.

Apart from raincoats, the only notable outfit was for the ballet where I wore my 50s inspired parasol dress with a cropped blue cardigan.  I love the vintage feel of the dress with the sweetheart neckline and full skirt.  I also like the pattern, it evokes the seaside so is a perfect choice.

Next week we’re looking forward to the best week of the year in our town, its carnival!   I really hope the weather improves as there are so many brilliant things going on and its my birthday and wedding anniversary, definitely a week to celebrate and enjoy.

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Little Sparkles

Its been an odd week, full of anticipation and expectation for the end of the school year but the miserable weather dampened a few events.  The last days of term are supposed to be long playtimes, cartwheels on the playing field and making daisy chains not wet playtimes in a stuffy classroom.  However, the end of term is finally here, I have the bags of school work, prized paintings and debris from their drawers at home and we are looking forward to our holidays.  There’s not too many sparkles this week, its been a practical week, I’ve been busy but looking back I’m not sure doing what!


I chose The Complete Poetry of Maya Angelou at the library last week and have been dipping in to read and reflect on her poems.  Her poetry has a definite style, there is a warmth, political conviction and humanity in her words.   One of my favourites is Phenomenal Woman, its a poem I discovered a few years ago and is brilliant.  Here it is being read by Maya Angelou, a truly phenomenal woman.



A rather sparse category again.  On Monday evening I watched Little Miss ‘fly’ to Brownies, it was a little ceremony which involved crossing the rainbow and being welcomed into Brownies.  Rainbows has been wonderful for Little Miss and I hope she enjoys Brownies as much as I used to.  There’s been lots of steps recently with Little Miss moving to a new chapter in her life, she’s finished Key Stage 1 and Rainbows now on to her junior life.


I’m stumped here this week, the radio is always on but there has been nothing memorable, TMS is on again this week but the Aussies are doing rather well which makes it a bit hard to listen to.  I’ve heard raindrops against the window panes?  I need to work on this next week.


We still have some of the gooseberries from the PYO in the freezer so I made a lovely gooseberry and orange drizzle cake on a wet Sunday afternoon.  It was delicious but the gooseberries did seem to sink, I remember reading a tip to coat them in flour to prevent this so may have to try next time.

Whilst I didn’t make the gifts, I have to highlight the beautiful gifts the children were given by the teachers, Little Man had a pirate loot bag and Little Miss a gardening set, it was the wonderful gift tag which delighted me, reading We have loved watching you grow this year.  Its definitely given me inspiration.

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I wore my running kit a lot this week and managed 4 runs, the best up to an hour , yippee.  I was also wearing head gear, hairbands and caps to disguise my bad hair, I’ve been to the hairdressers now so it looks fine again.  The dampness was not helping my frizz!

48 Days of Summer Sparkles

I’m not sure who was more excited by the children breaking up today, its six and half weeks with my little munchkins and I can’t wait to spend our days together.  We’re excited about our plans and to ensure we try and have a go at everything, we created a bucket list this evening.  The children’s contributions were brilliant, Little Man chose his favourites, a farm and the beach but Little Miss surprised me with her choices, she really wants to sit on the grass and sketch, have a long walk and picnic and do some horse riding which is a favourite at the moment.  We also counted how many holidays we have and put a countdown tile on my phone so we can savour each day.  Here’s to a happy, sunny and memorable Summer, 48 days of Summer sparkles.


Happy Days

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Today has been one of those ordinary days brimming with special happy moments.  Its the little things that make life special and whilst I have no photos, I was too busy in the moment to capture images on my phone, I have lots of happy memories of today ….

1.  An early morning run in warm sunshine through the fields and woods looking out to the calm sea.

2.  A potter down town with Little Miss, our hands held tightly together and happy chatter as we walked.

3. Chatting with other customers in the busy bakery as we queued for our freshly baked bread.

4.  Signing up for a reading challenge in the library and choosing new books.

5. Admiring a new window display in the Art Gallery window and falling in love with a piece which thanks to my upcoming birthday will be a much loved and valued present.

6.  A lovely piece of post, the Shaun the Sheep trails sent through by my parents in anticipation of our visit in the Summer holidays.

7.  A delicious lunch, bread, cheese, hummus and crudites with fresh juicy peaches as dessert.  Sunshine food.

8.  An afternoon on the beach, playing and paddling and trying to find the different shells from a poster.  The Jazz festival was taking place in the field behind so we got to enjoy some beautiful music.

9.  Watching Little Miss watering and pottering around the garden, she is Mr S very keen and knowledgeable garden helper.

10. An England win in the first Ashes Test match, not just for the result but for the spirit, skill and team ethic.

11.  An email with photos of my friend’s very grown up son celebrating his 12th birthday, he’s such a lovely boy and a bit of a hero to my two.

Such happy moments today mean that I am feeling very content and blessed this evening relaxing with Mr S and watching the cricket highlights.  I do believe in the quote

“Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realise they were the big things”

Signs of Summer

Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside

There are lots of different signs of Summer, those from nature, the first juicy red home grown strawberries of the year, sporting, Wimbledon, cricket and cultural, Trooping of the Colour, Glastonbury. However when you live in a small seaside town there are other signs of Summer you quickly recognise as heralding the season.

  1. Sand – despite how much I sweep, tidy and clean there is always sand on my kitchen floor, shower tray and car in the Summer months.  As you walk you hear the crunchy steps following you around. However it’s a small price to pay for living in such an amazing place and being able to go the sandy beach everyday.
  2. A Garden Full of Drying Beach Gear – After each trip to the beach, our garden is full of drying swimming costumes, t-shirts, life jackets, spades, surf boards etc.. Its not simply drying but shaking out the sand ready for the next trip.
  3. Empty supermarket shelves – we have one large supermarket, Co-op, one medium supermarket and a convenience store.  The Co-op causes me stress throughout the year but my levels rocket sky high in the Summer when the shelves are frequently empty of fresh fruit and veg, milk and bread. It’s like a game of dare when you enter, already this year I haven’t been able to get milk or bread on a number of occasions, I can’t believe ordering and stock replenishment is so difficult.  I am thankful for online grocery deliveries and that Mr S works in the big town for emergency supplies.
  4. Parking – Normally it’s quite easy and free to park in town, however once May 15th comes, all our favourite spots are under no parking regulations and parking becomes an issue and an expense.  In Summer, once parked at work I daren’t pop home at lunch or I’ll never get a parking space near work for the afternoon.
  5. Driving – Our town has an interesting one way system and the main route for most of the residents is through the town centre, there is no alternative.  In the Summer, tourists forgot it is not pedestrianised and small roads and busy pavements mean driving can be a challenge, you drive slowly and are always ready to slam on brakes as pedestrians walk in front of you.  The one way system means you are also predicting what unfamiliar drivers will do at junctions.  It drives Mr S mad, I just smile.
  6. Themed weekends – To extend the season we have lots of themed weekends before and after the main holiday season, they are musical, blues, jazz, folk, transport, steam galas and sporting, regattas, cycle races and a marathon.  These are fantastic and can make the weekend seem like a little holiday.
  7. Staying local on a Saturday.  Saturday is swap over day and in the 6 week holiday the traffic in and out of town and the surrounding areas is so heavy that a trip out of town is ill advised, there are only two routes in and out of town and both will be heavily congested for miles, best to stay local.
  8. School Trips.  Lots of school children visit our town in the summer for language schools and geography field trips.  As a teacher I am sympathetic if I get caught as they all cross the road and smile at the frazzled teachers, counting and keeping them safe.  I am also pretty good at answering all the surveys they have to do as part of their coursework although they are often disappointed that I’m not a tourist as the theme is normally tourism and what ameities the town should have.

Summer is brilliant in a seaside town and whilst some of the signs may be a little frustrating (Co-op!) I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.  It is the best time of the year and I love that so many people want to be in our town too for their holidays and to create happy memories.

Little Sparkles


We are definitely on a countdown to the holidays now. The children are enjoying the final school weeks, but there is lots going on and they are exhausted, it’s time for a break to relax and play. This week has seen lots of trips and treats for the children, whilst I have been organising plans for the holidays and starting to prepare for September. Friends have been surprised by my preparation but it means I can relax in the holidays without a long to do list. I want my holiday to be fun and carefree not fretting about school uniforms and gymnastic clubs!


I finished ‘When God was a Rabbit’ and remained unimpressed. It was so contrived and the clues so planted, the tarot card reading and Twin Towers episode was just crass and it felt like a countdown of all the major events in the past generation with a tenuous link to a story.  I feel quite sad when I read a book I don’t like; I want to appreciate an author’s work.


I bought a new magazine this week, The Simple Things. It’s a coffee table type of magazine and very aspirational but I do like its simplicity and ideas. Its inspired me to add a visit to a French flea market to my bucket list and I loved the articles on nature, lavender and beach houses. There’s a lovely visual piece on shells which I’m going to photocopy and use it to help us identify the shells on the beach.  I was surprised to some acquaintances in a feature, the seaside lifestyle is quite popular at the moment,  another friend also appeared in a recent edition of Prima.


It was the parent’s viewing class in ballet this week, so I got to watch Little Miss dance. She has got such natural rhythm and coordination and she dances so gracefully it’s beautiful.  I was able to record her perform a solo and sent it through to Grandma who was very proud and impressed.

I also watched a spectacular storm from my bed.  It was unexpected as at 7pm in the evening when we were at the school fayre the weather was hot and sunny, yet at 11pm we were experiencing a storm with so much lightning and rain, I have never seen anything like it.  It was a mix of exciting and a little scary, the sky was so lit up and I was genuinely concerned about a strike near us.    The pictures below are a map of the lightning strikes which illustrates how intense the storm was and the flooding in town, we had half a month’s rain in just one hour.

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I have been eagerly awaiting the start of the Ashes this week and was tuned in to Test Match Special for the start. I have very happy memories of the Ashes series, both in Australia and at home, cricket reminds me of happy times, good friends and sunshine and TMS is the perfect accompaniment.  We do have Sky Sports and if Mr S is home the cricket, highlights and analysis will always be on in the background but to me TMS is the spirit of cricket, I love the commentary, talk and relaxed presentation, its perfect company and keeps me entertained and makes me smile throughout the day.    It also has the best theme tune to any programme!



I made a new running plan this week as I have managed to run on three occasions this week without pain or niggles, I am so happy and looking forward to some races and achieving new goals.

I also made lots of personalised cards this week on the Funky Pigeon website, July is a very busy month, so I took an hour out to make the teachers and TAs thank you cards, and family and friends’ anniversary and birthday cards.  I have sent the cards directly to the recipients so I can relax now knowing that everyone will get a card on time.  A couple which were sent to me have arrived and I’m really pleased with them.  I do think its good value doing the cards online, I love to send beautiful, thoughtful cards and was getting a bit fed up with cards made in China, this way my cards are produced in the UK.



I have worn two pairs of new shoes this week. First are my Birkenstocks, for years I’ve fancied a pair as I have friends who swear by their comfort and design. Last time I went shopping I was very nearly tempted and then felt a bit disappointed that I hadn’t tried them on. On this trip, I was delighted that the ones I liked were in the sale and when they fitted perfectly I bought them.   They feel a little odd to begin with but I think I’m a convert.


The second pair of shoes is a new pair of trainers. After two successful runs I just happened to be driving past the running shop and as there was a space outside I parked and just popped in to see what they had!   My trainers are always my most expensive shoes and the only ones which ever wear out. These trainers feel good and were comfortable and supportive when I went for a run.

Happiness is ….. Running

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Up until about a year ago, I was a runner. I ran regularly with my club and on my own.  I ran races up to half marathons, did our club championship and loved my sport.  And then I lost my va va voom, I was busy and tired, a hard, cold Winter had ruined my confidence and then when helping Mr S in the garden I slipped and hurt myself badly.  The initial diagnosis was rest for two months but after this time I was still struggling and in pain.  For the last four months I have patiently trained on the cross trainer and cycled, my tentative steps back into running hurt me, the pain was too much and I returned to the cross trainer.  However this week my beloved gym has closed and I have been brave enough to try running again.  I was so anxious, the pain has been intense and I worried about my form, recovery etc.  However, I am so excited that I have now done two runs without pain during or after the run, they are shorter than normal, only 40 minutes each so far and I have walked a little but I am running again.   I can progress from here, I’m already planning a few park runs, a local 10 miles and a Spring half marathon and that lovely runner’s feeling is returning although I will start cautiously and listen to my body!  I feel so different when I run, admittedly I have run in pretty perfect conditions this week, early in the morning or late at night when its been warm with a breeze and I have managed beautiful routes off road but running changes me, it makes me happier, calmer, more relaxed.  I have time to reflect, think and plan.  I can listen to music and be creative and imaginative, it is my time.  I am so happy that I have running as my thing again.