Little Sparkles

We’ve had a lovely week for the last full week of the holidays, a play date on Monday and then a road trip to Grandma and Granfer’s new house in Weston Super Mare. I have happy memories of Weston from childhood, we would often go there on a Sunday evening for a walk on the pier and hot doughnuts, so it’s nice to know that the children will get similar memories now that their grandparents are living there. They have already had their first walk down the pier and nibble of hot doughnuts! Now Mum and Dad are in Weston, they are much closer to a very old friend so we met up with her and her gorgeous boys on Thursday morning for a great time at a fort playground and water play area in the SUN!! When you add in the Shaun the sheep trail to our week too, it’s been a great week.

READ

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Despite all the busyness, I did read a book this week. Early in the week it was pretty wet again so we all settled down to some reading one afternoon and then I couldn’t put the book down! It was finished in the same day and I’m not sure if I uttered more than a word to Mr S that evening. I learnt about the book #BossGirl from a review on a blog I read and I would definitely second the recommendation. It’s the autobiography of Sophia Amorusa who created a business empire in 10 years after dropping out of school. It’s brilliant and whilst I am very happy in my job and have no desire to have my own business, the themes of being creative, working hard and trusting yourself are universal to any work place. It’s a good read just before the new school year and has made me excited to be returning to work and a job I love.

HEARD

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Little Miss is getting to an age where she enjoys pop music so for our long journey I downloaded Taylor Swift’s 1989. There is nothing I love more than a journey with a brilliant soundtrack to sing along too and Taylor Swift’s album does this perfectly.

WATCHED

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This is not so much a watched but saw category this week. As well as looking for Shaun the Sheep, for which I have a separate blog entry, we also saw a stunning Whale model exhibited as part of a green campaign in Bristol. The waves in this image are made from discarded plastic drinks bottles and the campaign asks people to recycle and reuse their plastic drinks bottle. It’s a very effective strategy.

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I also saw queues of people queuing for DismalLand, a Banksy exhibition in Weston Super Mare. Whilst it may be a parody, I’m not taken by the concept, a little too dark, bitter and sinister, we all need a little sparkle in our lives. I prefer Banksy’s witty, pertinent and effective wall art. Whilst he tries to remain anonymous, a gritty urban guerrilla, there are strong rumours Banksy is a white, middle class, privately educated man which does kind of ruin the image he tries to give.

MADE

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More crafting this week as our play date took place on a very wet morning so I made hairbands with the girls. As you can see from the image, mine was customised as part of Colin the Caveman’s costume.

I’ve also made a couple of fresh soups, the weather has called for comfort food and I have red pepper and tomato soup simmering on the hob, ready for lunch. As the fridge has been playing up again, I’ve had to make a tropical rice pudding to use up the milk, it does smell rather lovely. The engineer has just finished another visit so I hope that it’s all fixed now.

WORE

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At the beginning of the week, I finally gave up on my Cagoule which has served me well for years and bought a new rain coat. It’s from Joules and is lovely, the hood fits nicely and the jersey lining is cosy, best of all it’s definitely waterproof as I have put it through its paces this week. Thankfully we’ve had a bit of sunshine now so I’m hoping I can hang it up for a few weeks, how odd to buy something you hope you don’t need to wear!

This has been the final full week of the holiday. It’s Bank Holiday Monday next week and then I’m back to school on Inset on Tuesday and the children on Thursday. Mr S is spending the final days of the holidays with the children, he does like to do things with them so I’m sure he’ll have lots of plans of fun things to do. I’m still on a high from our fab week but can’t help but think it’ll be a little sad when the holidays finish on Monday, I love being with my family. Fortunately we have a nice few things coming up in September to look forward to and half term will be here before long.

Shaun in the City

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This week, we were finally able to do the one activity on our summer bucket list that I have been really looking forward to, the Shaun the Sheep trail in Bristol. Two years ago, there was a similar Gromit trail where Gromit figures, painted in all different designs by artists, were placed all over Bristol and you tried to visit as many as possible. This trail and merchandising, app purchases and auction raised nearly £5million for the Bristol Children’s hospital, so has been repeated this summer with Shaun the Sheep. The Aardmaan Animations connection being the company started and continues to thrive in Bristol. There are 70 Shauns in Bristol this year and with just the one opportunity to do so, we were realistic that we would not be able to do the full flock, however this year it was split into different themed trails and we did the Harbourside Trail with a few extras.

It was the amazing experience I had hoped it would be, our first Shaun was Isambaaard, after Isambard Kingdom Brunel, any Bristol school child knows IKB very well and to find the statue at the Suspension Bridge was a perfect spot. Sadly, I have no single shots of this Shaun, but have lots of family photos, Shaun and the Bridge is a fitting setting. We then drove into the City centre to continue the hunt on foot. The harbour side is an area which has really developed and the atmosphere was sparkling, it was a rare, dry day and the area was brimming with families, hunting Shauns and enjoying the Aquarium, @Bristol etc.. It felt very jolly with a real holiday atmosphere. The lovely thing about the trail is the number of people doing it, you spot so many people studying the trail maps and Smartphones and lots of children running around and excitedly finding the Shauns. Little Man was brilliant at finding Shauns and even in the car on the way home he had his eyes peeled. It is also all inclusive, young and old, singles, couples and families were all shepherding the flock. Our little group was myself, my Mum, my nephew and Little Miss and Little Man and it was one of those very special times I’ll fondly remember.

The Shauns are brilliant and the designs thoughtful and innovative. There are so many fantastic designs it’s difficult to choose a favourite. I loved Isambaaard, I used to love history at school and the real IKB was a character and absolute genius and I thought the location was perfect. However, at St Nick’s market, a favourite hangout as a teenager, was Woolly Wonderland, a knitted Shaun, it took 500 hours to knit its outfit and it is amazing, Mum and I loved this and appreciated the hours of work. Little Man’s favourite Shauns were the King (King Arthur of Lambelot) and Pirate Captain whilst for Little Miss her best was Shaun bean, a shiny, silver Shaun.

I loved our day on the Shaun trail, it was very special and a wonderful way to explore Bristol, a perfect little adventure.

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Little Sparkles

So its our first week back after the holidays and I’ve been pottering around at home, unpacking, doing the holiday washing and trying to keep Little Miss and Little Man amused in the yucky weather, really what has happened to our Summer this year? I’m writing this waiting for an engineer to arrive, minutes before our big food shop was delivered on Wednesday, I realised that our newish fridge freezer was not working. Fortunately we have a spare freezer and some lovely neighbours who are storing the fresh food in their fridge, however it has made food preparation a little more awkward. Its a little inconvenience, friends’ circumstances this week have been really sad and my broken fridge freezer is laughingly pathetic in the bigger picture of life.

READ

This is a shocking confession but I really couldn’t get into Summertime despite trying hard, so I simply skim read to discover the murderer and read the last bit to find out what happened to the characters. Sadly, I remain unimpressed by the book.  I think I’m still pining for Ove and no other book will compare for a while.

I haven’t started any new books this week but have caught up on a lot of blog posts. There is a recurring theme of wellbeing and the need for simplicity in blogger’s lives, I think the holiday season has us all reflecting and trying to make positive changes.

WATCHED

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On a wet Wednesday afternoon, we went to big town to watch the Disney / Pixar film Inside Out. By going to big town it made the day last a little longer, essential in miserable weather and then we popped into the big superstore next door for a bit of school stationery.

I was looking forward to the film and it didn’t disappoint, it is extremely well done in the way in which it explains emotions and how they work. I was particularly taken by their explanation that we need to experience a range of emotions and that you need sadness to allow you joy. Little Miss and Little Man did talk about it after they finished and told me the different lands thy have in their heads, Little Miss has Family Land, Friend Land, Horse Land and Gymnastic Land. Little Man has a Star Wars Land and Minion Land!! I think this film will be a timely reminder of our emotions when we are having testing times!

HEARD

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Not much in this category this week, no additions to my IPod playlists and no stand out programmes on the radio. The best thing I have listened to this week is the children being imaginative on our walk to see Kim, the Antony Gormley sculpture, creating stories about the character and his life.

MADE

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With my cupboards (but not fridge!) replenished its been lovely to be creative in the kitchen this week and to make an effort with our meals, that’s the beauty of the school holidays, I have the time to enjoy preparing the food, sometimes on my own or sometimes with the help of Little Miss and Little Man who still find it a novelty to help. Our holiday has given me lots of inspiration and we have enjoyed some really tasty meals. I’m looking forward to tonight’s homemade curry, the spices smell lovely and I do like coconut milk in a recipe. In addition to the main meals, which included a very special family meal for our 5th anniversary we have made flapjacks and minion cakes. Baking is another useful activity on wet, miserable days.

WORE

There is a definite theme this week and after spending the last week in swimming costumes and shorts, its been a bit of a shock to have to layer my outfits with leggings and cardigans to counter the cold, wet weather. I’m hoping its temporary blip and that next week we’ll have Summer back, we’ll be doing the Shaun the Sheep trail and it would be nice to do it in dry weather.

Antony Gormley – LAND

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The wet and grim weather has exhausted my enthusiasm and resources for crafting this holiday, so following the adage that there is no such thing as bad weather just poor clothing, we ventured out today, carefully dressed to complete one of our Bucket List activities. We chose the picnic and walk and went to a local beach to see one of the five Anthony Gormley sculptures around the U.K. which make up the LAND project. The iron sculpture was erected in May 2015 and is due to stand in position for one year. I do hope to be able to visit the statue on a number of occasions to gain different perspectives of the work.

Our walk was wet, windy and muddy but quite exhilarating and fun, the children ran around and discovered the bay, we climbed rocks, walked to the tower up a very steep flight of steps and explored the local marine centre. As the weather was so bad, we were the only ones at the sculpture and we got to scramble over the rocks and really look at the work. The children were quite taken by the sculpture, we nicknamed him Kim and they became statues themselves, posing by looking out to sea near him. They were really imaginative about the things he might see or do and I did feel they appreciated the art. I was really impressed when we came home and they made up their own ‘Kim’ from Lego.

Despite our enthusiasm to walk in the rain, by the time we had finished we were muddy and wet so the picnic was taken in the car with the hot air blasting through the car to warm us up. Another bucket list activity successfully ticked off.

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Our 5th Anniversary as the Sparkles Family

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Today is a very special day for the Sparkles family, five years ago we became a family when Little Miss and Little Man came to live with us permanently. After a week of introductions with their foster family, the children came home to us, making it the most exciting and scariest day. We could scarcely believe what was happening, after all the heartbreak and waiting, we became a family of four. We celebrate this day, as it’s our special day, no one else knows the significance of the date. I always feel birthdays and special holidays are tinged with sadness. I have no memory of the days the children were born and I know their birth mother will always be thinking of them and her memories of the day, likewise with Christmas and other celebrations. I love the children’s’ birthdays and we do celebrate big time but it’s not my day, today is our day.

The last five years have been the best of my life, I have never felt happier, more fulfilled or excited about life. All I ever wanted in my life was to be a Mum and every day I am so grateful to have my little family who bring me so much love and joy.

Today we will celebrate with a family meal and special family time and I’m sure there will be cake! It’s a day to celebrate our amazing, beautiful and loving family. Mr S, Little Miss and Little Man I love you all so much xx

The cake we had on our 1st anniversary.
The cake we had on our 1st anniversary.

Lloret de Mar

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It’s taken a long time to write about her holiday in Lloret de Mar in the Costa Brava, Spain which took place in August and its now October! (I’m posting it in August to keep the blog chronological!) The reluctance is possibly due to the photos being on the digital camera and the inconvenience of downloading the photos, but also there is a little sadness on the return from holidays and writing only seems to deepen those feelings. Holidays are those magic times when the only thing on the schedule is to relax and have fun and the time spent as just our little of family of four is so precious.

We really liked the resort of Lloret de Mar, it was just the right size for us small but lively. We were in a family hotel at the family end of the resort but it was fun in the evenings to walk into the town and see all the twenty somethings partying, oh the memories of being young and carefree. It was a really convenient resort to stay at, we left our house at 9.30 am, flew from our local airport and were in the hotel pool just after 3pm, English time. The facilities at the hotel were excellent, there was a large family pool, 2 smaller outdoor pools, an indoor pool and 5 different slides. The children loved the pools and slides and Little Man was particularly made up by the huge water play pirate ship in one of the pools. We all spent a lot of time playing in the pools from the daily Aquafit sessions, splashing down the slides and the continuous water fights, a perfect way to cool down. There were lots of children and our little duo made friends quickly so had lots of children to play with, allowing Mr S and I a little time to relax.   We did go to the beach in the town one day but it is a manmade beach. This meant that the sand was tiny stones unsuitable for sand castles and the drop from beach to the sea was a little steep and dangerous, however I did go for a swim, you can’t go on holiday without a dip in the sea. For us living at the seaside, the beach isn’t as big a draw as it may be for some, our home town’s beach is so good, little else lives up to it! The pools around the hotel were so good and along with the children’s club, the best entertainment was at the hotel. We tended to be around the pool from 9am – 1pm, have lunch and a walk along the prom and around the town and then back to the pools between 3 and 6pm, before dining at the hotel and then enjoying a walk into town or the children’s disco and entertainment. I love going into town on a hot summer’s night, just pottering and enjoying the warmth and holiday atmosphere. On several evenings we stopped at an open air café for a mocktail or ice cream sundae and enjoyed watching the world go by.

It was a simple holiday but full of so much quality family time. We didn’t do any visits out of the town but spent every day playing and being with each other. These are such precious times, we create the memories which will last a lifetime.

Little Sparkles – pequeños destellos from Spain.

This week it’s the Spanish version of Little Sparkles as we have spent the week at Lloret de Mar on the Costa Brava. Its been a week full of family sparkles, holidays are the best for playing, laughing and making memories as a family. These are just a few of our sparkles and I  hope to write a post on the holiday itself soon.

READ

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I finished A Man called Ove and it is an excellent read. I think I have my own Ove in my life, Mr S who ‘dances on the inside.’   This is a really delightful book and just reminds us how much experiences and tragedies can shape us. It is a tear jerker and I did have to dive into the pool to hide a few tears as I finished the book on my sun lounger.

I have also started Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye, it’s a good, solid read but not quite in the same league as Ove and The Harry Quebert Affair books that I’ve read from the book club this year.

WATCHED

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This holiday we have shared our evenings with walks around Lloret de Mar and the entertainment at the hotel. The two stand out shows were dance shows, one showcasing flamenco dancing and the other a mix of salsa and acrobatics. I love the art of dancing, as someone as uncoordinated and clumsy as me I am just full of admiration of the dancers.

I have also been doing my favourite hobby of people watching. Holidays are remarkable experiences and it does make you realise all the good there is, our hotel really was full of happy families and everyone mixed brilliantly, regardless of nationality.

LISTENED

This is the song of the holidays, it was played in the daily Aquafit sessions, which were a sight to behold, the pool full (including the whole Sparkles family) dancing to Europop hits and it was also played at the end of the night’s entertainments. Its Euro cheesy pop at its best and I love it!

MADE

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No makes this week as were fully inclusive in the hotel so I only had to decide what to eat, not what to make, the bliss of a holiday! I did use my time to make some plans. I like to have time to sit and think what my priorities will be for the coming months. I had a health scare shortly before the holidays which did frighten me and has made me think about my health, so some of my planning has focused on my health, not just diet but physical, spiritual and emotional well being too. I am always busy, fitting in as much as I can at work, at home and I have realised that I need a little time for me. As well as making plans, we also made new friends this week, I’ve never had holiday romances but friendships we have made on previous holidays have lasted for years and still continue to do so.

WORE

Its been a week of swimming costumes and cover ups. This year I have developed my collection of swimsuits. I have always been practical and stuck to Speedo costumes, buying for sport rather than sunbathing but I have bought two new costumes this year which are a little more structured and styled. They are so comfortable and I am rather taken by them, even when swimming they have not been too revealing. They have also brought a little colour into my swimming wardrobe! Sadly, I’m not sure how much more outdoor wear they’ll get now, but its been nice to wear them.