Our Family at Halloween

Since the children were born, Halloween has always been a fun event that the children really look forward to.  Once the boy’s birthday is over mid October we start visiting local Halloween attractions.  We particularly love the National Trust trails, with one of our favourite being at Saltram House, our nearest, although others nearby that we would recommend are at Buckland Abbey and Cotehele which also offers pumpkin carving and is set by a river estuary with beautiful gardens.  All of them though are stunning on a sunny day and never let you down with the amazing plants throughout the gardens and always provide a peaceful, calm experience that is enjoyed by all the family!

The view above is of our walk around Saltram House gardens whilst doing the pumpkin trail.  I love the colour of the Autumn leaves and seeing them fallen to the ground across the lawn, the house is the perfect backdrop for this.

The trails at Saltram always keep the kids occupied whether they are inside or out.  The pumpkin trail was through the gardens and consisted of looking for letters of the alphabet in areas where there were pumpkins and then solving the anagram of letters to find a word.  The newly 8yr old Mister B exceeded in his word knowledge as usual and came up with the answer a mere 5 letters into the 8 letter word!!

One thing I love about National Trust properties is the appeal to both young and old.  Although my children don’t notice certain elements, I really appreciate things like this gorgeous Autumn wreath abundant with golden colours upon one of their doors.

As it gets closer to Halloween the children are keen to carve pumpkins so we always go pumpkin shopping together.  This year we’ve been particularly busy so ended up at our local supermarket and picked out some large pumpkins (this did require Miss M climbing over several giant boxes of them to uncover the best looking/shaped ones!).

Here are Mister B’s, Mummy’s and Miss M’s designs:

And in the dark:

Waste not want not!

As we carve our pumpkins we firstly scoop out the pulp which is filled with the seeds.  If you run this under cold water over a colander you’ll find the seeds separate really easily away from the pulp which is great if you wish to toast them.  After discarding the pulp, give the seeds a shake, allow them to dry for a while then lay them out on a baking tray.  Give them a good slug of olive oil, a generous sprinkle of salt and roast in the oven for half an hour or so until golden brown.  These make a delicious snack or a great addition to a bowl of soup.

Once the pulp and seeds are gone, we use an ice cream scoop to scrape out some of the flesh from around the edge.  We find quite a lot comes out and by making the pumpkin wall a little thinner it is easier to carve.  I then add the flesh to some fried onions, garlic and a few vegetable stock cubes and boil up in my extra large cooking pot until softened.  Then I use my hand blender to smooth into a thick, easy to eat, hearty soup. Serve with a good grinding of black pepper and a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds.

Once our tummies are filled with a warming bowl of soup it’s time to get out in the neighbourhood trick or treating.  Mister B doesn’t like the scary look so opted for the cute skeleton dress up this year whilst Miss M preferred a Dracula style image.

Despite several heavy downpours, nothing deterred these two from their Trick or Treating.  With a bag in hand to carry any treats they received, I have to say they did pretty well.  As well as a mega haul of sweets, they came back with a chocolate doughnut, a plastic spider and a freshly made spider cake (although this got devoured on the way round!).

What did your family get up to for Halloween?  Did your kids go Trick or Treating?

Easter Fun at Saltram House National Trust

For us as a family, Easter wouldn’t be the same without a visit to one of our favourite national trust properties to follow an Easter trail.  The children love them, it’s great to be out in the fresh air and there is always a pleasant atmosphere at the national trust properties.  We visited Saltram House in Plymouth last weekend for the children to follow their Easter trail.

saltram 1Once the children had their maps they were off, running along the paths looking for the clues.  It didn’t take long for Miss M to spot the explorer hat hanging from a bush and Mister B found the magnifying glass hanging from a tree on the lawn.

saltram 4On the lawn we spotted a small marquee tent and ventured inside to find a couple of sand pits arranged as an “archaeological dig”.  Each sand pit had the pieces of a puzzle which we needed to find and then complete the puzzle.  My two couldn’t wait to start digging and were soon passing me pieces of puzzle – a really fun activity!

saltram 3Back onto the Easter trail and Mister B was the first one to spot the spade stuck in the ground.  He loved looking for the objects and carefully marked them off as he found them on his trail map.

saltram 5I just love the beautiful plants and flowers that can be found in National Trust gardens and here are just a few that I saw here today.

saltram 2And this tree was simply stunning!

saltram 6We had a wonderful day wandering round and the children loved the trail, especially at the end when they collected their chocolate eggs!

saltram 7

Our Family Halloween Weekend 2014

This year the children were very excited about Halloween and couldn’t wait to celebrate.  Miss M was keen to dress up although Mister B just wanted to wear his scary hat.  Miss M wanted a new outfit so we set off to Tesco and she picked a sparkly black and silver dress and mask.  She also added some coloured hair clips with coloured strands hanging from them to spook her hair up a bit.

halloween 1We then headed home to carve our pumpkins that I’d bought a couple of weeks earlier (after previous years experience of not being able to buy within a few days of Halloween itself!).  Having left it a little late in the day to carve them, I decided to let the ever eager Miss M carve one and daddy do the other while I turned the insides into a delicious, warming soup!  Daddy carved a Spiderman face for Mister B and Miss M attempted her first pumpkin face.

halloween 2The evening was soon upon us and the children were eager to go trick or treating.  We met up with a few neighbours and followed the children up the road and around the block, only knocking on doors with a pumpkin in sight!  I have to say I was quite surprised by their haul, it’ll certainly keep them filled up with sweet treats for a few weeks, although Mister B, bless him, chose an orange from one house which he declared his favourite thing from his trick or treating haul and ate it straightaway!

halloween 8The next day we decided to continue the Halloween theme and visit our local National Trust property, Saltram House to do their pumpkin trail around the grounds.  The children love running around in the fresh air and with the added excitement of finding the pumpkins it kept them more than occupied.

halloween 3I love all the views from Saltram across the estuary, you are so close to the city centre yet feel so far away!

halloween 4Once the trail was complete and the children had handed in their clipboards we headed into the gardens of the wonderful Saltram House.  I just adore the exterior of the building and always have to stand and admire it each time I visit.

halloween 6The gardens still had a lot of the traditional garden games on the lawn which the children love and can play endlessly which is fabulous.  Such simple, classic games but so much fun, we played skittles, croquet, quoits and then they practising goal shooting in the football net.

halloween 5It was then time for some refreshments and instead of heading to the usual cafe we decided to try the new Edwardian cafe that opened this year to the side of the lawn for some tea and cake!  In vintage style with white linen table cloths, flowers and proper teapots, cups and saucers, it felt much more elegant and refined than the traditional cafe.  Miss M was loving it and so impressed that she got to pour her hot chocolate from a teapot and drink it from a proper little cup and saucer.  They also enjoyed a large shortbread biscuit each covered in chocolate toppings!

halloween 7All in all a fabulously pleasant and enjoyable Halloween weekend had by all the family!

Easter Egg Hunt at Anthony House Cornwall

Easter Egg hunts are something my children love and adore so I was determined to take them a few over the weekend.  Today we ventured out to Anthony House, a National Trust property in Cornwall to go on a trail.  I hadn’t mentioned anything to the children so after Miss M’s diving lesson this morning, instead of heading home, we drove towards the Torpoint ferry.  Miss M immediately picked up on the fact that she didn’t know where she was going and became intrigued, and then they saw the water “Where are we going, don’t drive into the water daddy”.  I loved watching their excited faces as we crossed the water on the ferry and then a couple of mile down the country lanes on the other side we arrived at Anthony House, the location where Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland film was shot.

Anthony House National Trust 4 We wandered into the grounds and Miss M soon became aware of lots of people wearing the same hats. Then we came across the Easter tent which offered Easter Egg hunts and their eyes lit up.  They couldn’t wait to build their eggsplorer hat and then we set off looking for clues.  Mister B spotted egg no. 1 and ran ahead super excited.  Each egg asked a question and then hinted where to find the next clue.  The idea was to write down all the answers in order to exchange them for a chocolate egg at the end.

Anthony House National TrustBoth Miss M and Mister B got completely into the spirit of the egg trail and eagerly ran ahead looking for the next egg.  They found one under a huge bell and one in a cone shaped hedgerow.  The gardens were stunning, I’ve not visited here before but was impressed by what I saw and keen to come again some day.

Anthony House National Trust 2They soon spotted a croquet lawn and were more than keen to have a game, but we decided to press on with the egg hunt and if we had time later we’d pop back.

Anthony House National Trust 8We found more clues by a huge tree in the middle of the lawn, by a pear tree and by the pond.  It was a gloriously sunny day and it was so nice to see the children running around freely but also a with a goal of what they were looking for.

Anthony House National Trust 3 The clues then sent us down to the bottom of the huge back lawn where behind some trees we found a huge wooden caterpillar and a giant connect four game.  We also found the “rabbit hole” slide.

Anthony House National Trust 5They both couldn’t wait to have a go at sitting in the giant story telling chair.

Anthony House National Trust 6Then having completed all our clues we headed back to the Easter tent to collect a Cadbury’s chocolate egg!  The children also went in the craft room to make a grass head by decorating a piece of paper and glueing around a cup.  They then filled it with soil and grass seed and brought it home to water.  They now await the grass to grow so they can trim and style it’s “hair”.

Anthony House National Trust 7All in all we had a lovely afternoon at Anthony House and can’t wait to visit again.  The weather was glorious, the children were happy so we had a lovely family day out.

Saltram House and Garden – a fun day with the children!!

With the husband on a ten hour shift at work today and the sun shining, I knew the children would be itching to get outside but I didn’t really fancy venturing down to the local park on a busy Saturday. So whilst having a quick peek at my twitter feed over breakfast I noticed that the National Trust were offering free entrance to most of their properties this weekend.

Saltram1

I quickly packed up a bag with a few essentials and off we went in the car to visit Saltram House, our local Georgian National Trust Property.  As the house doesn’t open until 12pm we headed through to the gardens which Miss M and Mister B absolutely loved.  They ran ahead and led me through the winding paths, climbing every tree they could.  We found little shelters to explore and even an underground cellar.  The flowers and trees were wonderful just coming into bloom giving us plenty to look at and talk about.  The children loved running around in the fresh air and the sun was shining, helping them to burn off the excess energy they woke up with.

Saltram2Saltram3

After about an hour of exploring we headed in to the house, a beautiful Georgian Mansion.  Miss M was given a clipboard to carry around, noting down the rooms she spotted hidden wooden mice in – a great activity to keep children’s eyes peeled and maintain their interest in wandering around the property.  We even found a dressing up room upstairs where we could try on replica clothes and pose for a photo.  Mister B insisted on trying on the entire range of gentleman’s hats!!

Saltram4Saltram5

Once we had finished the tour of the house, Miss M was given a sticker for her excellent effort in spotting all the hidden mice.  We then headed off to the cafe for a late lunch and even sat outside in the glorious sunshine to relax.  What a lovely day spent with just me and my two children, it was so nice to get away from a day stuck at home and has definitely inspired me to take the children to more National Trust properties when we’ve got the time, although may have to find a day daddy isn’t working for the ones more further afield!

 Saltram6