Our first festival


This weekend, Little Miss and I went on our first visit to a music festival, her at the age of 11, me at the grand old age of 45 and 363 days! I can’t believe its taken me so long as I was a huge music fan in my teens but never quite had the confidence to join friends at our local festival, Glastonbury when it was a little more authentic than the event it has become now.  Our main motive for this festival was to see Jess Glynne who is one of my daughter’s favourite singers.  I had tried to get tickets for her tour earlier in the year but there was a no under 16s restriction, so when the opportunity to see her at the music festival arose, we quickly signed up.  Whilst it is a camping festival, we bought day tickets, I was worried about the traffic but we drove straight through as we entered and left the site and there were no problems on the road.

Whilst I knew a little about the festival, I was blown away by its attractions and events, it sells itself as a family event and there really was so much to do.  In the afternoon, we wandered around the lower garden where we ended up painting a mega cardboard castle and writing a story in a creative writing workshop. I think these quieter activities helped us have more energy later on in the day, but they were so good and engrossing. I thought the creative writing workshop was excellent and to have a real life author leading the session and enthusing the participants inspired us all.  I would have loved to have explored this creative area more, we did pop in to the literary tent to see the skinny jean gardener and this was such a welcoming hub too, the talks for the coming days looked brilliant.

The time just zoomed at the festival and I had a few acts I really wanted to see, starting with Vic Reeves dj-ing.  There is lots for the children at the festival but also the adults and there was a whole generation of us keen to see one of the cult comedians of the 90s, he did make me smile and dance.  My bemused daughter at this point went over to have a go on the world’s largest bouncy castle but I stayed and had a dance on my own, I didn’t care,  it felt fun and liberating!  I really  felt that at this festival you could be you.  Before we went to the main music stage, we had festival eyes made up with lots of glitter and sparkle and walked back to the car for a quick change.  On the walk back, we stopped off at the Caravanserai , a real curiosity of indescribable French culture and kitsch, it was fascinating and so surreal, well worth a visit.

The first act we saw at the main stage was the Human League.  Now I saw them 25 years ago on an 80s tour and I don’t know if its their act or real, but again they seemed distant.  I like to see my artists excited and happy by their music.  My favourite song of their set was Electric Dreams and everyone was singing and dancing to the party favourites.  After their set, there was a 45 minute break, so Little Miss and I did more exploring this time to the Dangly Dell, this was a hidden gem, beautiful lights lots of rainbow colours, a play area, retreat etc.. I loved that at the festival you just followed a path and ended up somewhere so different.

Jess Glynne was the headline act and she came on stage just after 10pm.  Amazingly we had managed to get really near the front and had a stunning view.  Jess was everything we had hoped for, a brilliant singer, making honest, witty and empowering comments to her young audience between songs and simply loving her time on stage.  I’m so pleased that my daughter’s first live music experience was with such a strong and talented female artist. My daughter was transfixed and I have to admit as I saw her watching Jess I did blink back happy tears (before quickly returning to singing and dancing myself)


Our day at the festival was the best mum and daughter time.  We were both so excited and happy to be there and embraced everything we could do, whether it was the creative writing session to having our glittery eye make up done! It was one of those magical days where the weather is perfect, the atmosphere so warm and welcoming and the venue and all the little details so well thought out that you wander around in a little bubble of happiness.


Being 46


Today is my 46th birthday and I have been enjoying a weekend of celebrations.  One of the advantages of a summer birthday is that there’s always lots going on, especially in a holiday seaside town, so it was a festival on Friday and carnival today.  Carnival week is the highlight of our town’s year and its fun to have a birthday in it each year.  On my 40th birthday not only did we have the big carnival parade but a display from the Red Arrows too, who else gets that on their 40th?

This weekend has been one where I’ve felt truly blessed of my life.  Friday was so special as I got to take Little Miss to her (and my) first big music festival.  She’s a big Jess Glynne fan and when I saw she was headlining Friday night at the festival,  we made the plans.  I will write another piece about the festival, but it was a very special day with so many amazing memories. Jess Glynne was brilliant, not only as a singer but in her words of empowerment and encouragement to her young fans but the day was so much more than the music, creative writing, painting, nostalgia (Vic Reeves), curiosity,  relaxation and of course festival, glittery eyes! I felt so happy and me at the festival, my voice hoarse from the singing and achy feet from all the walking and dancing.

The festival was the unusual catalyst which made me realise how happy and content I am with my life.  There are always issues to be addressed, a biggie next year is finding a school place for our son which meets his SEN and helping our daughter settle into secondary etc.. but generally we’re in a good place at the moment.  For the first time in many years, I feel that so many areas of life, family, well being, finances and work are healthy and positive.  We have those extra pennies for treats like the festival, we’re saving hard for the children’s future and its only a few years until we are mortgage free.  After a few years where I neglected my own health, I’ve taken control again and feel so different, I’ve lost the extra weight I was carrying and returned to running seriously.  My birthday today started with a 5 mile run and I felt great for doing it.  Professsionally things are pretty stable, however without wishing to tempt fate, there is a very exciting project in the pipeline and one that I feel I am able to embrace as the children are older and I can devote more time and energy to it, fingers crossed all works out.

At 46, I’m finally confident and comfortable being me, I no longer feel I have to try to be someone I’m not.  I’m not a party animal but still like to meet up with friends for a quiet drink, I love to read, write and bake, not the most rock’n’roll of hobbies but in doing them I feel the ‘flow’ and relax.  My values are strong, I’m political and will stand up for injustice.  I’m becoming more and more concerned about our impact on our planet and am trying to take positive action.  I think my presents today really reflected who I am, an essential oil diffuser as I like to use the oils for wellbeing, funky pumps to add a splash of colour to outfits, book tokens, fresh flowers and some eco friendly gifts which will be used regularly.  With such lovely gifts, I did feel loved and understood  by my closest friends and family.

I have no issue with my age I’m not trying to be younger but to age gracefully and healthily, to have fun and embrace life.  Life is what we make it and I’m excited for the future.

Birthday bakes


img_6059One of my delights in being mum is in planning, baking and decorating celebration cakes throughout the year.  The children are both summer babies so its been a busy time in the kitchen getting ready for birthdays.  My cakes are not the picture perfect images of those on Pinterest but real cakes made by an amateur baker who stirs in love, happy memories and positive thoughts into every cake.

This year, the children were both very decisive in what they wanted for their cake, Little Man wanted a Minecraft cake and Little Miss a watermelon cake.  I took my inspiration from Pinterest whilst being realistic about what I could manage.   My cakes are not simply about decoration, as I choose their flavour very carefully too.

For Little Man’s Minecraft cake, I chose to make a citrus cake, choosing an orange cake with a lime cream cheese filling.  It was a very refreshing cake and helped to counter the sweetness of the icing and decoration.  Although I had several ideas on how to decorate the cake, I ended up with a very simple ‘Creeper’ picture surrounded by random Minecraft tiles.  His name and age were made from black icing and created by using alphabet cutters.

For Little Miss with a brief of watermelon I wanted to do all I could to make her cake look and taste like the fruit.  I was able to find watermelon essence online and it was a quality product.  I added it to a simple sponge mix, with some red food dye to make it look like the watermelon fruit and also added some chocolate chips to the mix as ‘seeds’ This was definitely a cake with an impressive wow factor when you cut it open (although I managed to forget to take a photo of the inside of the cake!) The sponge was filled with a water melon cream cheese filling.  Again I was considering different ways to decorate the cake with icing but chose simplicity; a bright pink icing base with more choc chips as seeds.  I really liked the unusual flavour of this cake, it felt like a taste of summer.   I’ve since tried cupcake variations of this cake for a cake sale which were well received.


It is one of my simple pleasures to bake my children a birthday cake, its just one of those little things I do, along with the birthday breakfast table (think balloons, lights, banners etc..) to make them feel very special on their big days.

The hottest day of the year…

So despite living at the seaside, we decided today we needed to try and go somewhere a little cooler. It’s been a hot, hot week and we’ve enjoyed the beach and the sea but chose to do something different today.

I have an annual membership to a local nature attraction, it’s mainly forest with a spectacular lake so we headed off here to explore and play and of course enjoy a picnic lunch. Although they both argued they were too old, my children humoured me in looking for the fairy doors on the trail. Their preferred activities were making dens and skimming stones. This kept them busy and I was able to sit under a tree and read my book, such a luxury and joy. We were lucky in that trees did provide us with shade and it was slightly cooler.

After our visit we went to a nearby town and certainly felt the difference in temperature. We stopped for an ice cream and may have sat with our feet in the river to cool off. There was a lovely atmosphere at the quay as everyone sat and relaxed in the sunshine. It felt that everyone was simply enjoying the moment, the best thing to do on a bright, sunny day.

Park Run


Although I run regularly, this year I have finally joined up and started to ‘Park Run.’  I love the idea and ethos of Park Run, a 5k, free, weekly timed run for all and have always been interested in the community.  However living in a rural area, our nearest event is a 40 minute drive, meaning it takes longer to get there, than run it!  Given I’m a busy mum, I’ve been hesitant to manage my time like this but on my #19for 2019 I decided I wanted to be competitive in a sport and Park Run can provide this competition, me against a stopwatch.  I can’t run every week, we have other family commitments and Mr S works alternate Saturdays but I have been trying to do at least one Park Run a month.

My daughter who occasionally runs with me has started to get curious about Park Run so we agreed when she could run 5k she could join me too, she embraced the challenge and quickly proved she could do the distance.  Today was her first Park Run and we ran the course together.  She is at an age where I would be allowed to leave her on own and run on but this doesn’t quite fit in with my view of Park Run, its a supportive and inclusive activity.  I want my daughter to fall in love with Park Run and use it to feel emotionally and physically fit as she approaches her teenage years.  I’m accepting that at the moment, I’m not going to challenge my PB but my new mission is more important.  I also think that with a little more training and practice she’ll be easily pushing my PB in a few months.  I would be really pleased if Little Man started to run too, but at present it would clash with his swimming lessons which he really enjoys.  A Park Run family would enable us to do it more regularly.

Whilst I maintain a degree of anonymity on this blog, the first letter of my home Park Run is quite rare so those doing the alphabet challenge often run it for this purpose. It is a lovely route, 2 laps, one small, one longer with a long winding hill on both laps (not so keen on this aspect!) Its in a beautiful setting, a trail run through woods and then open fields with some stunning views. Its a nice size event, ranging from 320 – 550 runners in the weeks I’ve done it, whilst this seems a big difference a neighbouring run was cancelled on the 550 attendance date.   Fortunately there’s a big car park and even on the busiest run, it was easy to get a space in the car park for the very reasonable Park Run special rate of £1.

At present, I have done all my Park Runs at the same venue, typically the week I was going to try a different one it was cancelled and I went back to my home run.  There are another two fairly close by, ie less than an hour’s drive which are on my list to try soon.  I’ve also looked up Park Runs near my parents house and our holiday destination for a little Park Run tourism later this year.   I like the idea of running a Park Run whilst away from home, I know I’m always interested when the visitors are introduced in the briefing to find out where they are from and their local Park Run, it does feel like a community.  Not only do I run Park Run,  I listen to the brilliant weekly podcast, With Me Now and am slowly picking up the lingo and challenges! Realistically I can’t do more than I am now but perhaps as the years go on, I’ll be clocking up the milestones.  I’ve also followed the blog Maria Runs (mariaruns.com) for years and she’s a big Park Run fan so its interesting to read her posts.

Park Run is such an inspirational and innovative idea and one that I really enjoy being part of.  I hope I can keep running for many years to come and enjoy being part of the special community.

The last days of primary school

Little Miss’ self portrait from this week’s school report. 

Its been ‘totes emosh’ in the Sparkles household for the last few weeks as we approached the end of primary school for Little Miss and she began to wobble.  Little Miss came to live with us when she was two and shortly after started the pre school which is on the primary school site, so for the last nine years we’ve been walking the familiar route and been a part of a very special community.  It has been the most wonderful school, whom have understood, nurtured and encouraged both our daughter and our family.  I think this is why the last few weeks have been so difficult, as Little Miss tried to accept that something that has been such an integral part of her life was no longer going to be. Its been weeks of high anxiety at school and home and its been tough, the meltdown at the secondary school uniform fitting made me realise that talk about secondary school needed to stop and to take every day as it came. Consequently I was really worried about this week, especially the leaving party on Wednesday night and today’s assembly.  Amazingly given the previous weeks these two events have gone so much better than I could have expected and Little Miss has relaxed and enjoyed these events.  Sometimes I think its the anticipation of an event which causes her anxiety rather than the actual event.

The leavers party was on Wednesday evening and Little Miss looked so grown up in her new outfit. We had lots of fun in New Look on Sunday trying on different clothes and texting Grandma some photos for her opinion! I like her choice of the bright yellow playsuit, it still had the innocence of childhood with a bit of teenage style.


In their final half term, the class have been doing the Virgin £5 challenge and after a very successful apprentice fair had made enough money to pay for all aspects of their party,  fish and chips from the local chippie, a disco and bouncy castles.  There was another £100 profit after the party and the children chose to donate it to Great Ormond Street Hospital in thanks for their care and skill in looking after one of the class, such a lovely and genuine gesture.  The party was a wonderful success and Little Miss was so happy and tired when I picked her up from the party, it was one of those special conversations as we walked home when I began to think that things might be alright.

It has been a celebration of lasts although I’ve not tried to draw attention in fear of causing more anxiety.  The one I was dreading was the last school run together, the school run is precious and one of my favourite parts of the day, even though Little Miss has been allowed to walk to and from school alone in Year 6, she normally tags along with me and her brother and other friends we pass on our way.  One of the teachers posted this thought this week and I really got it, so many memories from that daily journey.

img_5899Last night when it was just me, Little Miss and Little Man, we took a detour from the school run for drinks and cakes in our favourite café, I wanted to eek out every moment.  This morning all four of us walked to school for the final ‘full’ school run as this afternoon the children finished at different times.  Today is the last day that our children will attend the same school as its likely Little Man will go to a special school for secondary, so it felt even more poignant, it was one of those moments I just wanted to appreciate.

Top, the last time for Year 6 in the hall!, postcard in lunch box, tissues with a quote and the survival kit explanations. 

The Leavers assembly was first thing in the morning and thanks to some peak parenting skills, we had front row seats, a tactic learnt from many class and star assemblies.  We arrived to find tissues on our seats with the Dr Seuss quote printed on ‘Don’t cry because its over, smile because it happened’ It was a superb production, showing the talents of all the students.  Little Miss sang Lost Boy by Rachel B, such a beautiful and haunting song.

I kept it together for Little Miss but the closest I came to sad crying was when ‘When I grow up’ from Matilda was sung.  However there were very many cheerful parts, they played nursery rhyme karaoke with the Head and Deputy and some Year 6 boys led Baby Shark which had all the school singing and joining in.   It was a full production with an interval and in the second half they had created a Who Dunnit over missing coffee in the staffroom.  It was amazing, the children were all staff members and as they arrived into the hall all dressed  up, they  went to their staff member and took their lanyards.  The script, mannerisms and acting were superb, at this point I was crying with laughter.  The finale was the parents top secret mission for which we had provided photos from their first day at school and other photos during the years for a special presentation.  The children knew nothing about this and this was when the tears started, I was really surprised Little Miss kept it together and because she did I did too (I’m sure I saw Mr S wiping away a tear at this part) The teachers then exploded some confetti cannons at the end to finish with a colourful and uplifting effect.

As I wasn’t sure how Little Miss was going to be and we were leaving at the end of the assembly, I popped a postcard in her lunch box with a positive quote and some special words on the other side to keep her going through the day.  Fortunately, she had a wonderful afternoon signing shirts (and socks?!) , receiving certificates , most improved Maths student (yay!) and a gift, a Year 7 survival kit and when she left school for the last time she had a big smile on her face, I was so relieved.  Sadly the weather was rotten and the original plans for after school had to be changed, however the beach bar (with shelter) was the perfect spot for Year 6 parents and children to meet up for a drink and was a relaxed way to say good byes.

This evening, we had planned Little Miss’ favourite meal for tea so we had an Indian with all the trimmings and then cake.  We really wanted today to be a very special day of celebrations.  We’re all shattered now, its been a day of high emotion but has created some very special and happy memories.  I am sad for Little Miss to be leaving primary  school as its been such a wonderful experience but I also recognise that its time for her to move on and flourish in her secondary school.




Life lately …


I feel that life recently has been quite focused on Little Miss, its her final year of primary school and there’s been SATS,a residential trip, secondary school transition visits and lots of other school events leading up to the leavers party and final assembly next week.  It is overwhelming and she’s pretty tired and definitely needing the summer holidays.

However Little Man has also been busy in the background too and has done lots of things which I’m really proud of.  This morning was his class assembly and it really was one of the best I’ve seen.  The class put such a show on, an assembly themed on Invaders and Settlers complete with time travelling machine, stunning props made in class, a funny script and some brilliant songs.  ‘Viking Rock, take me to Valhalla’ may be my favourite assembly song ever! By a strange quirk of the birth rate in our town, Little Man is in a very small class of 15, so unlike other class assemblies where everyone struggles to get a role, these children have to take on several roles each and Little Man was a Roman and Viking (clever on stage costume changes)   The change in Little Man’s demeanour on stage has been amazing, in Reception he struggled to even be on stage and looked scared, today he said lines out loud, acted brilliantly (he likes a mock fight scene) and sang his little heart out.  The teacher really had put so much into the assembly and she produced a stunning performance from them all.

His assembly came after a brilliant session at cubs the night before.  My children have grown up at the seaside and know nothing else, the beach is their playground.  Last night’s cubs was down at the sailing club where they were taught the basics of sailing and went out in the bay.  This wasn’t a special session, they have been outside every session this term and it was included in our subs.  The parents were asked to stay and help to push the boats out and bring them in again, so it was a nice session for us too as we chatted and watched in the evening sunshine.  I watched Little Man listening to the instructor and to be honest I wasn’t sure how much he was taking in, however he’s very much a doer than a listener when it comes to learning and this again showed last night.  I was impressed how well his little boat did and his enthusiasm for the activity.  I cannot put into words, how much cubs has helped Little Man’s confidence and skills. He finds school difficult because of such an academic focus, yet at cubs he can do, explore, make, participate etc.. and feels an equal. He’s already been on two camps this year and is already looking forward to camp 3 at the end of the summer holidays.

Little Man is very much looking forward to the summer holidays now, it’s days on the beach, visiting favourite places and playing with friends, no academic pressure just fun. The new school year will bring new pressures but for now summer is here.