June’s Jottings

I’ve still not had the inspiration for a new title for my monthly catch up, so its a little alliteration for his month’s instalment.  June is one of my busiest months of the year, its unbelievable that we were enjoying our family break at Butlins at the start of June as that seems so long ago now.  This month has seen the family break at Butlins, a Year 6 residential, cub camp, school trips, meeting up with all the grandparents, a family celebration, sports day, transition clubs, important school meetings and future planning.  It has been busy and whilst I had a few wobbles I do try to compartmentalise my life to try and maintain a healthy balance.  This month running has been essential to my well being too.

We are now in the countdown to the end of primary school for Little Miss and its been a month full of lasts, the last school trip, sports day etc..  I’ve also been busy like all the parents on a top secret mission for the leavers assembly, which has involved going through all our old photos of special school events over the years.  Its really brought home the passing of time and the importance of making the most of every day.  In all the photos I found I think my favourite is one from World Book day, the children are dressed up as Thing 1 and Thing 2  and then on a whim I borrowed some Cat in the Hat props from school and despite being a bit out of my comfort zone, I did the school run dressed up, which made the children so happy.  Looking back its the little things, often spur of the moment, which bring back the happiest memories, carpe diem! In my post ‘Disappointment’ I wrote of Little Miss’ shortened residential trip, however Sports day was a big success.  This year the format was different and so much improved, it had a very inclusive feel with the children working in small groups from Reception to Year 6.  As the only Year 6 in her group, Little Miss was so good at motivating and encouraging her little team, she shone.  Later, she enjoyed the running races with her friends from Year 6.  For me it was the best Sports day yet, gorgeous weather, a great new programme of events, a perfect viewing spot with friends and a lovely refreshment tent (okay slightly bias as I had baked some cakes for the stall run by the Scouts who were fund raising)  For me the two most enjoyable events in the school year are the Christmas concert and Sports day and I’ll really miss not seeing Little Miss in the primary versions next year,  I’m not sure how the secondary school organises these events but I hope we get a chance to watch too.  One of the great ideas of Sports day this year was to put siblings in the same group so they could work together on some of the activities,  I now have a beautiful photo of my two, running hand in hand  in the snake race, its my new phone screen saver.

Another special event this month was our summer solstice evening at the beach, it was a perfect evening for a barbecue on the beach, swimming and beach games and I loved the beach hut I hired.  The day after we headed to our county town to meet up with my parents for a trip to the cinema.  First we had lunch in a delightful courtyard café, it was one of those hot, sunny days where it all felt so right, we were shaded from the hot sun by greenery around a big table full of delicious, fresh, wholesome food and good company.  After lunch, we all went to see Toy Story 4, its amazing for its animation but I felt the story just lacked a little something.  I preferred the earlier films centred on family life, this is more an adventure with only a few main characters (I missed so many, and even Buzz has a much lesser role) However it is a good film with some strong themes of belonging, love etc..

This month I have discovered a couple of new Podcasts, With Me Now, a show about Park Run and Feel Better, Live More with Dr Rangan.  I’m really enjoying both and find it relaxing in the evenings to sit in the garden and listen to  a podcast.  The Feel Better, Live More ep 67 is fascinating on how our environment affects our lifestyle.

We’re now on the countdown to the summer holidays and its nearly time to write our summer bucket list and plan our summer adventures.  However we have 3 more weeks and I know I will be an emotional wreck when Little Miss finishes primary school on July 19th.  She’s be going to the same site for the past 9 years, from pre school to the primary school, its been such an important and lovely place for her to be I’m going to miss her being there.



#nourish and the summer solstice.


I am a big fan of Gretchen Rubin and her podcast Happier and often have a go at some of her ideas as they are simple and practical strategies to facilitate life.  At the start of this year I chose my #19for2019, a list which is progressing nicely and chose a one word theme for my year, nourish.  In this week’s podcast, Gretchen suggested we revisited our one word theme of the year on the summer solstice.  Before listening to the podcast I had made plans for the solstice as I wanted to celebrate the longest day of the year and my plans fitted with my theme to nourish, a long run at dawn to appreciate the early start to the day and an evening on the beach to enjoy as much of the light as I could. It was a day to nourish body, mind and spirit.

As dawn was due just before 5, I knew I couldn’t get up at 4.30am, work and then still be on sparkling form for the evening so I got up just after dawn at 5.15 for my run.  Living in a seaside town the solstice is usually marked by dawn runs, walks or swims so it was a surprisingly social run with lots of friendly greetings.  I was inspired at a local beauty spot where people were enjoying an impressive picnic breakfast watching the sun come up over the bay, another activity to add to my bucket list!

I have always wanted to hire one of the new beach huts in town as they look so beautiful and are in an ideal spot on a pedestrianised walkway in front of the beach.  The huts are difficult to hire as they are normally hired by the week and are popular.  However with a little careful research and planning, I managed to book one for just the one day, the summer solstice.  I was so excited by my hut, I decorated it on the outside with bunting and had fairy lights inside! There was a family celebration this week so we used it as an ideal opportunity for both children to invite friends to join them for beach fun and food.  I kept everything simple, so I could enjoy the evening too.  We started with mocktails in a fancy jug and glasses with a few nibbles.  For food, I had a little barbecue for sausages, and we bought a big bag of chips to share as our main and then used the barbie to make S’Mores for pudding, simple and tasty beach food.  I had popped to the market earlier in the day and the bags of summer fruits went down so well with the children.  The weather was perfect, warm sunshine and the children played on the beach, swam in the sea and danced on the sand with a boom box playing from a playlist designed by my daughter.  I looked out to the children playing and felt so warm and happy, its these little moments which make you go all warm and fuzzy.  I also fell in love with the beach hut ….

I really enjoyed celebrating the solstice this summer and I have been inspired with a few ideas for the winter solstice too. The solstice is an ideal opportunity to embrace the changing seasons and the beauty of our natural world.

Sunday Dinner

When I was a child, Sundays followed a traditional pattern, church in the morning. Sunday roast at lunchtime and maybe a drive in the afternoon. Our family life is a bit different now, we try to make the most of a full day on Sundays so mostly eat in the evenings and spend the day at the beach, walking or visiting local attractions.

However once a month Mr S works a late and we have our main meal at lunchtime. That Sunday fell today and this photo is me preparing lunch. The radio is playing Desert Island Discs, one of my favourite radio programmes and out the window you can catch sight of the peas growing around the bamboo sticks. Whilst not in the picture Mr S and Little Miss were working on our veggie beds collecting fresh lettuce, spinach and rocket. Little Man had just got back from a walk with me and was in the playroom playing armies with a new tank he bought yesterday. To me this was just one of those simple but special moments, a snapshot of family life on a Sunday morning.

Me Time.


Today I had one of those days where due to a strange alignment of events, I found myself at home alone for 24 hours! Little Man is on cub camp and Mr S has taken Little Miss to see his Dad.  As Grandad is older and frailer now, Mr S only takes one child at a time to visit to make the stay a little easier.  This left me with the glorious prospect of a day alone.  I am never alone and to have a day to myself is such a luxury.  I decided to keep Sunday morning for all the household jobs and Saturday for me.  I chose not to do something big but just simple pleasures, so my day today has included …

  1. Listening to a Podcast and not Capital radio in my car.   Its the little things..
  2. Park Run with no time constraints or pick ups etc.. to think about (and I got a PB)
  3. A shopping trip in big town.  I didn’t buy much but it was just nice to potter.
  4. A few nice nibbles from Marks and Spencers’ food hall for tea.
  5. A good coffee in a café simply thinking and daydreaming.
  6. Treating myself to and appreciating a bunch of peonies.
  7. Reading the Saturday paper in bed because its comfy and indulgent. (the front cover relates to an article on male ballet dancers, in case you’re wondering about the unusual image)
  8. Likewise watching a film in bed in the afternoon (Crazy, Rich Asians, I loved it, a perfect romcom for my mood today)
  9. Enjoying a bubble bath with a relaxing playlist, a magazine, a cup of tea and no interruptions.
  10. Writing some blog posts without the tv being on and just my music.
  11. Planning, organising and writing lists (I love doing this!)

Its been a wonderfully relaxing day and I’ve enjoyed my little pleasures, of course I’m looking forward for our family being back together whilst appreciating my time alone today.



Its been a tough week in the Sparkles household.  As much as you try to protect your children and wrap them in a hug of love and support, things happen which we can’t control and there can be disappointments in life.  This happened this week and my heart really broke for my daughter.  My daughter has experienced little disappointments before, not getting an invite to a party, missing an event because of a clash but we’ve always been able to offer a better alternative.

Unfortunately, this week wasn’t so easy as the disappointment centred around the one event that Little Miss and all of Year 6 have been eagerly anticipating all year and excitedly counting down the days, the school residential.  Little Miss is rarely ill, I can count two day’s sickness in all her years at primary school, she’s the pupil with all the 100% attendance certificates and awards yet she suddenly became very poorly on Sunday.  She was hot, clammy, dizzy and exhausted, sleeping from 3pm on Sunday afternoon to 7am on Monday.  As soon as I went in to wake her up, I knew that she wasn’t going to be able to do the residential.  She tried to get up and feigned excitement and enthusiasm in such a weak voice but she couldn’t even sit up in bed and her attempts to get dressed were slow and laboured.  She repeatedly tried to assert she was perfectly well and able to go to the residential, with tears in her voice she pleaded with us to let her go.  It was at this point that Mr S and I had to intervene and say no, it wasn’t fair on her, her friends or her teachers, she cried and I think it very nearly broke our hearts, sometimes making parental decisions is hard.

Monday became a day of cuddles and reassurance at home with the promise that if she slept and then ate some tea and breakfast that Mr S would drive her to the camp for the second day, meaning she would at least get one night with her friends and get up to the mischief they had planned.  She did manage this and as she hadn’t been sick just poorly we agreed for her to go on Tuesday.  I was worried, we didn’t think she was 100% but definitely much better than Monday. I just didn’t want her to be poorly without me there and I knew she would be devastated if she was sent home ill.  Fortunately her teachers kept us in contact and she perked up during the day and was soon back to her normal self.  She got her night of mischief with the highlights being the girls all sneaking into one of the bedrooms and only around 4 hours of sleep.  Sadly it was an extremely wet and windy camp and many activities were changed due to the weather, no barbecues or camp fires, in comparison to the adventures and stunning weather they enjoyed on the Year 5 PGL trip.  I suppose the lesson Little Miss learnt was that sometimes you have to change your expectations to meet the reality of the situation.  I wish she didn’t have to learn it as she did but hopefully its made her stronger and more resilient.


A Sunday afternoon walk



This afternoon, Little Man and I went for a walk in a neighbouring village.  Little Man has a real passion for the armed services and watched the D-day 75th anniversary commemoration with interest this week.  Only a few miles from where we live is the beach where the allied forces practised for D-day and the bunker, Fort Henry, where the commanders watched is now a listed and protected landmark.  However, you can walk into it freely and see the view across the bay.  Its moving to be in the same bunker where Churchill, Eisenhower, Montgomery and King George watched the military exercise, its very small and there is a sense of history and memories in the space.  The bunker is in a quiet spot and as you approach through a wood, there is a wildflower meadow, including poppies, just before the bunker.  Today, the view from the bunker is beautiful taking in the full panoramic view of the bay, so tranquil, with the only noise being wildlife and the distant hum of people having fun on the beach.  Such a contrast to the view that would have been seen in the D-day prep exercise.  In a week of worldwide commemoration, it was fitting to go somewhere local which had such importance to D-day and to take a little time to pause and reflect.

Splashing, whizzing and sliding at Butlins



Butlins in Bognor is our family’s special place, the place for us all to relax, have fun and make happy memories.  We’ve been coming at least annually since the children were small, it was our first family holiday and our Butlins break is always one of the highlights of our year.  This year, thanks to a conveniently placed Inset day, we went for the second part of the May half term holiday, with the big attraction being the newly opened swimming pool.  The weather was perfect, hot, sunny days (and we have done Butlins in every type of weather over the years…) just what we needed for all the outdoor activities we wanted to try.


We’re pretty organised with our visits now and plan our arrival to allow an early check in at the hotel, to book in all our activities and then to go swimming which is always our first treat.  We were all very excited for the new swimming pool and it really doesn’t disappoint.  The art deco building is stunning and the detail in the changing rooms is perfect, large lockers, changing rooms for different sized groups, a separate area for showers with space for toiletries and to hang towels, heated floors and the perfect summery soundtrack.  The music is a highlight in the pool, someone with a great sense of humour has designed the playlists for the different areas, the music by the showers includes Splish, splash, I was taking a bath, whilst in the wave pool the start of the waves is no longer started by a loud alarm but a playlist including Wipeout, Hawaii 5-0 and lots of Beach Boys, it really adds to the atmosphere.  We were all tall enough to try every slide and flume, so we of course had a go on them all.  My favourite was the family flume, where you travel down the flume in a big inflatable, it was busy but our maximum queuing time was only about 20 minutes.  However on two mornings we were in the pool for opening and managed to be first and third in the queue! There was little queuing for the other slides, we managed the ‘scariest’ ride Adrenaline with only a few minutes queuing and the Wave Riders and Sticks of Rocks have 4 slides on each so there is little waiting time. The children loved the Garden Rapids and spent most time here.  I thought this was the most dangerous ride as the rapids can knock you over and you do need to be a confident swimmer.  However you cannot fault the pool safety at Butlins as there are so many lifeguards on duty.  On our four day trip, we managed 6 trips to the pool, going twice on Saturday and Sunday, the pool is brilliant and really adds to the holiday.

As well as the pool, we were keen to try some of the more outdoor activities this year and we bought the children adrenaline passes so they could go on the zip wire, climbing wall and ropes.  I am always impressed by the staff and safety and the children had a great time.  Last year the children tried Mini Bots ( a junior Segway) and it looked so much fun, that I really wanted to join in too this year.  Its really difficult to describe the vehicle (an electrical skateboard steered by a stick between the knees?) but after a very slow and steady start I got the hang of it and was able to join in the games and whizz around the court.  The children were much more skilled and confident than me but we all had great fun together.

As the weather was so good, we spent a lot of time outside, watching only a few shows, the pantomime (oh yes we did), the silent cinema which showed Mary Poppins Returns and a Skyline Gang show for nostalgia! We had hoped to go to some of the later music shows but after really full on days we were in our room just after 9pm each night.  One evening we had a game of 10 pin bowling which has become a little tradition for us.  The late night fair is always a highlight, its quite magical when all the rides are lit up and the music is playing.  I became a bit of a hero at the fair for winning Blue Llama on the horse racing game for Little Miss, I’m dead chuffed at my ball throwing skills!

Blue llama, Little Miss’ new favourite toy! 

Our annual trip to Butlins is such a happy, family time and I get all the feels as we arrive.  As the children have got older we get to try new activities and easily fill our days, there is something for everyone.  I simply can’t imagine not having a Butlins trip pencilled in on our calendar, its just like a big family hug for us all!



The May Catch Up …

I’ve decided that I’m going to pause on Little Loves and try to do a general catch up of life each month, those little things which don’t merit a post of their own but have made the month a little special and more sparkly!

I’m on a real exercise buzz this year and I’m so pleased I’ve returned to competitive running after 7 years.  I’m not competing against anyone just myself by doing Park Run and being able to measure my progress.  I used to love running before children, but life got in the way and for the past few years I’ve been running with no real focus or purpose.   However this year, I started to follow a training plan and am running properly again.  I’ve been thinking carefully at the time I can give to my hobby and have decided to focus on 5 and 10k running.  This month I did two 5K Park Runs (improving my time!) and ran 6 miles which is my longest distance for years.  I am running three times a week and am getting up at 5.30 to fit in my runs, I love this time and I’ve been reminded how good running is for my mental health, it gives me time to think and relax.


Along a similar theme, as well as returning to running, I’ve been looking at my health generally and having lost two stone this year, I’ve enjoyed my clothes again, gone is my black, baggy wardrobe to be replaced by fitted, fun clothes.  I’m liking putting outfits together, adding a few accessories, rediscovering old favourites and buying a few new pieces.  I’ve bought two items this month which I absolutely love, a pair of bright green cropped jeans and a bright reversible skirt from White Stuff, I love to twirl in a skirt.


This month as a half term treat, I took the children to see the new Aladdin film.  I was so impressed by so many aspects of it.  Will Smith is a great genie, I worried that I would be comparing him to the wonderful Robin Williams but they both play the genie differently.  I loved the colours in the film, the costumes are spectacular and some of the dance scenes are mesmerising how they use colour, music and movement to create stunning scenes.

This year I don’t seem to be reading at my normal voracity, however in May, I read Normal People by Sally Rooney in a few days and its a 5 star read.  The storyline is simply of a boy and girl supporting each other in their formative early adult years.  Its a book I’ll be sharing around so I can talk about it with friends.


May has seen the start of the season in our town, for me summer starts with the parking restrictions put in place!  We have many themed weekends in our town and this month we had pirate weekend, when pirates descend on the town.  The children loved it, there were sword fights, pirate songs and stories etc.. and lots and lots of dressing up.

Half term this year was quiet, we were going to Butlins for the second half so the first part of the week was spent at home, going out for long walks (and a bit of den building), tennis and some spring cleaning.  It was really relaxing and good to be home.  Details of our Butlins trip will follow in a new post, but it was brilliant, Butlins is our family’s special place.