A Lifestyle & Parenting Blog

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Silent Sunday / My Sunday Photo - 31/05/2015

Linda Hobbis at playground in National Trust Dyffryn Gardens
At the playground, National Trust Dyffryn Gardens


Saturday, 30 May 2015

More Family Fun At National Trust Dyffryn Gardens

Making full use of our National Trust Family Membership, we returned to one of my favourite places, Dyffryn Gardens, with my sister and her friend Anil in tow.  It was a gorgeous afternoon and the gardens are in full bloom and resplendent with blossom.

Linda & Sarah on a log at National Trust Dyffryn Gardens
My Sister Sarah and I

National Trust Dyffryn Gardens - May 2015
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Flowers at National Trust Dyffryn Gardens - May 2015

Flowers at National Trust Dyffryn Gardens - May 2015

Obviously we had Spiderman with us, fully equipped with woolly gloves suitable for a warm end of May day!

A wedding was being held in the Pompeii Garden ( a Civil Ceremony) and the sweet sounds of harp music were drifting across the gardens.  It would have been cheeky to photograph the bride but she was a vision in sweeping, sparkling lace.  We looked on rather enviously at the wedding guests enjoying a glass of bubbly in the beautiful surroundings.

We then took shelter from the sun in the house itself. You can find out more about its history here

The commissioned stained glass window features Queen Elizabeth 1, fascinating to Caitlin Elizabeth and she was given her middle name in honor of the great Queen (and her paternal grandmother).

There are some fabulous marble fireplaces, some of the detail of which I have tried to capture.

Then it was off to the coffee shop for coffee and an enormous slice of Victoria Sponge (light, fluffy and with just the right amount of jam and cream) and an intensive session of supervising the kids in the play area.

Well, sometimes you just have to, don't you?

Further information about National Trust Dyffryn Gardens can be found at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dyffryn-gardens.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


Friday, 29 May 2015

Review: Carluccio's in Cardiff Bay

Scene of the now vanished Cafe Rouge and the location for much eating of Ieuan's unique combo of chicken goujons and Bon Maman strawberry jam (listen - anything to get them to eat), we ventured to the newest addition to the Carluccio's chain in Cardiff Bay.

The restaurant is light and airy and benefits from a lovely view over the Bay.  Seating has now been laid out both outside and to the side of the restaurant, abutting the equally new Bills Restaurant.

Hobbis Family at Carluccio's, Cardiff Bay
The Hobbis Family

We were seated in a bright corner of the restaurant where we could admire the new bar area and retro artwork on the walls. Behind us was a gorgeous photographic print of a Mediterranean scene with a azure blue sea. Not quite the colour of Cardiff Bay but it was my birthday and I was prepared to pretend it was!

The kids were given a menu / colouring / puzzle sheet and some pencils to keep them quiet and starters were duly ordered.  The children's menu is £6.60 per head (in line with Prezzo and Pizza Express).  It was Grissini and a soft drink (rather oddly a mixed berry smoothie) for the kids and Mat and I had the Savoury Bread Tin (freshly baked Focaccia, Ligurian Crispbread, Grissini and sliced Tuscan Breads with olive oil - £3.95) and Sicillian Giant Green Olives (£3.75).

The breads were delicious including one rather unusual inclusion of a bread with sultanas and Rosemary. I felt this was more suited to breakfast but the kids weren't complaining.

The kids chose spaghetti with meatballs and tomato sauce for their main course.  I chose Asparagus Risotto (£10.95) from the Specials Board and Mat chose Ravioli filled with Ricotta and Spinach from the main menu (£8.95) and the Verde side salad of little Gem lettuce, Rocket and Parmesan shavings (£3.95).

The risotto was hot and tasty with the asparagus being nicely al dente.  The portion size was generous, however, I felt the dish had been over seasoned and was slightly too salty for my taste. This is just a matter of personal preference though.

Both Mat's dishes were fresh, well presented and duly enjoyed.

The kids' meatballs were made of coarse ground beef and made on the premises giving them a home-made feel.  The portion size was very generous.  The children's menu offers kids the choice between a variety of sauces, two pasta shapes (penne and spaghetti) and five sauces (one of which is meatballs).

Desserts were ice cream and a pot of fresh fruit for the kids (as part of their menu). I chose the Crostata Al Limone (Lemon Tart - £4.75) and Mat had the Crostata di Fragola (Strawberry and Mascarpone Tart and Vanilla Ice Cream - £5.50). Caitlin's ice cream was strawberry in a standard cardboard pot, obviously straight from the freezer and Ieuan's fruit pot was entirely strawberries.  A mix of fruit would have been a more exciting dessert.  I think a little creativity is needed with the desserts offered on the children's menu.

My lemon tart, which I suspect had been sitting in one of the glass display containers in the front window was tasty but slightly warmed by the sun, and I would have preferred a more solid consistency and a cooler dessert. Mat had no such issues with his strawberry tart!

Coffees followed and there was a choice of a smooth or a rich roast.  We chose the latter and the coffee had a satisfying bite, so much so that I added some sugar (rare for me).  The bill for four of us came in at around the £70 mark, including one beer and a glass of Montepulciano red wine (a pretty standard, but easy drinking restaurant red offered by quite a few restaurants near us).

Carluccio's seems to have a slightly lower price point than its main rival, Jamie's Italian, and we enjoyed our meal  Our server, Cassidy, was charming, brilliant with the kids and couldn't do enough to make sure we had a great time.

Carluccio's Cardiff Bay is at Mermaid Quay.  Tables can be booked online at www.carluccios.com or by phoning 02920460201 and is open from 8 am to 11 pm Monday to Saturdays and from 9 am to 10:30 pm on Sundays.

This is a completely independent review.

Everything Mummy


Thursday, 28 May 2015

My Best Birthday Present Today - My 'School Report' by Caitlin

This is the best present I could have wished for.  For a laugh, I asked Caitlin to write my school report, knowing that Year 2 pupils have just gone through their first official assessment.

Now I know I'm not perfect (by miles!) but this is a great reminder to mums everywhere that sometimes (in fact probably most of the time, we're not doing anywhere as badly as we think).

Here's what she typed herself.

My report about mum

The things  I like about mum is ..
she makes me and Ieuan the best meals and
daddy does as well.
she gives me the best cuddles and daddy.she's the best
in the world.

Like I do she LOVES the colour purple and pink .
And absolutely loves posh jewellery like clogau
and pandora in saint david shopping center 2.

I love mum, she is beautiful & gorgeous!


Wednesday, 27 May 2015

51 tomorrow.

I'm 51 tomorrow.  51.  I can't quite believe it.  I honestly don't know where it's gone.  Here I am shuffling towards God's waiting room when I want to push the barrier of the emergency exit and make a run for it.  Yes, my friends.  Allow me a moment of indulgence and wallowing.  

For all the talk about empowerment, about owning your age, about it being the best time of your life, sometimes you have to face something else head on.  Fear.

Oh yes.  You can create bucket lists of such architectural magnificence the Pharoahs would weep. You can admire our theatrical dames for their talent, pluck and refusal to never quite give in.  "We are such stuff as dreams are made of" said Shakespeare.  Are we?  Or rather are we the composite of the chaff and roughage of our remaining dreams?  A collection of the memories of the things we did not do.

50 was going to be a major turning point.  Despite the fact that marrying at 45 and having kids at 43 and 45 could be considered such an event, I was going to morph into a healthy eating, exercise loving, slightly less robotic version of Sadie Frost.  The leggings were going to be replaced by chi chi retro 50's dresses.  I was going to wander round the house dressed like Dita Von Teese eating chocolate ginger thins and demanding prosecco for breakfast.

Why do people write bucket lists, anyway?  Because it's not about the material things, is it?  It's about the experiences.  Material things don't have fear attached.  Swipe your card, feel the buzz of the purchase, grab a coffee and chalk it up to the safest form of adventure we humans have come up with.

But do something out of your comfort zone that would really stretch you, test you and terrify you, there, unfortunately for us cowards, is where the experience is.

Sometimes I watch Caitlin and Ieuan playing and I am consumed with a strange envy and grief that is almost too much to bear.  They have the whole world opening up before them.  Endless summers watching the sun sparkling on the sea for so long their eyes go blurry.  Sand between their toes and just that sense of utter freedom.

These feelings wash over me like a seasonal high tide.  They come and they go and then I get a grip and recognise that I may make a century.  51 is no longer old and many have not had the privilege to enjoy the years I have.  My life has been relatively unscathed by grief.  There have been no great tragedies.

I think it is the crushing weight of my own expectations which I need to, finally, put down.  I'm not ready for Jam and Jerusalem.  But on the eve of my 51st birthday, I need to put some sweetness into my daily life.


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Motherhood & The Acid Test - Junior Monopoly

So, it being half term and having been majorly guilt tripped about "playing on my PC" (or blogging), I duly got the Junior Monopoly out for a session of warm, fuzzy parenting.  You know the sort.  The kind of selfless, emotionally giving and life affirming mothering Mrs Walton managed to emit just by tidying her plait.

It started well enough.  Colours were chosen, the excitement of being given money registered and the hope that you actually get a 'chance' card which pays you was lit large in their hopeful hearts.

All was going sweeter than a Werthers' Original advert until Ieuan thought he'd missed a go (he hadn't) and retired to the sofa in tears.  Caitlin and I soldiered on.  Eventually, when it became clear I had amassed a Murdoch style property empire and Caitlin was left with a pound, Ieuan's gleeful chortle that Caitlin was going to lose meant she, too, dissolved in tears.

This is Ieuan's Monopoly Face.

I found myself reflecting, rather gloomily, that all my attempts to create a maternal nirvana seemed doomed to failure.  Some mums make it seem so effortless.  They exude patience and cheerful stamina in the face of tantrums.  I find myself occasionally having a tantrum which surpasses those of my kids when things don't go well.

One dreadful occasion, which I am still ashamed to recount, was one of our first bonfire nights as a family. We went to the local rugby club and I kid you not, as soon as the first rocket was launched, both kids had a meltdown and begged to leave.  We returned to the car in procession with me, absolutely fuming, stomping along at the front and Mat and the kids dragging their heels behind.  To my eternal shame, I believe at one stage I even refused to hold Caitlin's hand, even though she had no clue why I was so cross.

The fact is that they were probably too young for such an event, but the pressure to create 'perfect family moments' is so huge for us mums (and particularly us older mums who feel we have less time to get it right), that we put enormous pressure on our family - and on ourselves.

Yup - Another Hobbis Family Outing (digitalspy.co.uk)

So no, I should not have amassed a raft of properties on the junior monopoly board and let the kids win.  But then, what is that teaching them?  I should be sensible and not expect every family outing to be like the opening scene of "Little House on The Prairie" with the kids bounding happily through the meadow and Ma and Pa Ingles shining with love and happiness in the background.

But I can't quite let my fantasy go.  Can you?

Super Busy Mum

Monday, 25 May 2015

Playing Princesses With Caitlin

This morning, Ieuan went to his best friend's birthday party (dressed as Ironman for a change) and I stayed home with Caitlin. She announced she wanted to 'play princesses'.

It's funny isn't it, but we often forget that all our children really want to do is spend time with us; to have our undivided attention.  This is particularly important when the second child arrives and arguably more so when you have one girl and one boy.  Ieuan is lost in a world of superheroes and girls are woefully under-represented in the superhero department, save of course Bat Girl and Wonder Woman.  Playing princesses is something Caitlin rarely gets to do.

Now that I am in my 50's I have to confess that my princess days may be somewhat behind me and now that the distance between girlhood and womanhood is wide, play of this sort requires quite a bit of role play and memory retrieval on my part! This is one of those aspects of late motherhood you don't take into consideration.  But it's important. We teach our daughters to be women, don't we?

So we got out our dresses and my wedding tiara, which Caitlin has been coveting and played dress up.

This is, apparently, what Caitlin wishes I dressed like every day.  I love the world of a young girl where there are no bars to wearing tiaras whenever you feel it.  It's a bit of a shame, isn't it, that the pressure to conform makes some of us so uncreative with our dressing (and, admittedly, lazy!).

In amongst the talk about dresses and jewellery, confidences were shared and questions asked that would not have been mentioned if the topic had been raised directly - how old was I when I had children, what happens when you get old, will she have to move far away if she gets married. Questions shyly asked in a quiet space where the answers were thoughtfully received and digested. Usually,  it's a struggle to get much acknowledgement at all.

And really, how much time do we have for shared moments like these?  Our children don't grow up so much as sprint away from us it seems.  I will make sure that I spend far more one on one time with both my kids because, no matter how well you seem to know them when they play together, it's the time spent with them as individual people that I think may pay the greatest dividends.
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