Category Archives: Seattle

Things I Love About My New House That I Wish We’d Had in the UK

My new house in the US isn’t huge, it’s a fairly typical family home but over the past week I have felt myself walking around the house saying time and again ‘I love this house’. Why? Perhaps in part because none of my stuff has arrived yet so there is no clutter and some of the rooms are empty, it looks so clean and minimalistic which is very soothing. However, there is more to it than that, so much thought goes into the practicalities of a house here.  Here are my favourites:-

  1. Coffee Machines

coffeeThe last few years have been a blur of late nights (unfortunately not partying) and muddling through days in a coffee fuelled haze.  Since my pregnancy with my 3rd daughter I have become a big coffee fan. Coffee is big here in Starbucks land. Not all households have kettles but you can be sure they will have a coffee maker.  The coffee makers are mess free as the coffee is contained in filter papers so no more trying to dispose of coffee grounds. Even better the coffee stays on a heated plate so you always have a hot coffee.  No more microwaved coffee for me then, simple but genius.

 

2.  Storage

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cupboards,cupboards and more cupboards

There are fitted cupboards in every room of this house. By the front door is a coat and shoe cupboard, each bedroom has fitted double wardrobes and the large bedrooms have 2, there is a linen cupboard in the utility room, a double cupboard outside our bedroom, a huge cupboard outside our kids bedroom plus another double wardrobe in the adjoining room attached.  When all our stuff arrives there should be loads of space to put the kids toys and general ‘stuff’ that I could never find a place for in the old house.  Here’s to a new me with a tidy and organised house.

 

 

3.  Bathrooms

double sinksMy 8 year old is delighted to have her own en suite (this also doubles up as a utility room with a huge top loading washing machine and tumble dryer)  my youngest 2  have their own bathroom and we have an en suite.  Multiple bathrooms are common here – it would be considered odd to have only 2.  Double sinks are in all the master bathrooms so no more fighting over sink space (the kids not me) and best of all are the multiple drawers and cupboards underneath the sinks.  No more piles of toiletries or bath toys on view, they will all fit inside the cupboards beneath the sinks.  My 3 year old removed all the toothbrushes, toothpaste etc. from her sinks a few days ago and put them in a drawer. It looks so tidy – I like what she is becoming (if we forget that she hid the soap). As an added bonus the bath in the children’s bathroom comes with a lever instead of a plug so there will be no more arguments about accidentally pulling the plug out.

The other thing I love about the bathrooms is that they have power sockets in them so my hairdryer and straighteners can live in the bathroom and the bedroom can be purely for relaxation.

4. Shower Curtains with Magnetic Bottoms

Okay, this one may be a little sad, but I love that our shower curtains have magnets in the corner that stick to the bath so you don’t have to worry about them flapping out of place and the bathroom floor getting soaked.

 

 

5. Huge Fridges

American fridges are popular in the UK but the door space is the biggest difference here.  The gallon cartons of milk fit comfortably into the door space, I could easily fit 4 of them in.  I have fresh produce and meat drawers leaving the rest of the space for important stuff like beer.

The recycling bins are huge wheelie bins here to cater for the giant cartons that go for recycling.

 

 

6. Fly Screens

doorwayWe don’t need to worry about mosquitoes in the UK but in a house backing onto woodland we did have midges, daddy long legs and maybugs not to mention houseflies. Here every door and window has a fly screen so you can have the benefit of keeping the door open without the annoyance of flies.  They wouldn’t have been very useful in the UK this Summer but they would have been great in the past.

I love this house and I didn’t even see it before we moved in.

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I’m Going to Live Here! … First Impressions of Seattle.

In a months time my family and I are moving, lock stock and barrel to Seattle. We have all been very excited but we are sad to say goodbye to good friends and family. It is a wonderful new chapter for us but also a little scary. This week I have had the chance to visit Seattle to plan for our move. I have been here for 6 days and apart from missing the kids, I don’t want to come home.

The biggest surprise is how beautiful it is, it is green, full of trees, mountains in the distance and tranquil lakes. It is a little like having your cake and eating it. You have all that a cool city has to offer, with the countryside right on your doorstep. You can be gazing at the lake front within 15 minutes of finishing work or travelling to the mountains within 40 minutes for skiing and beautiful scenery. Couple that with a family friendly culture with loads for the kids to do and lots of options for childcare, excellent schools, big houses, laid back people who love fitness and the outdoors; remind me why I would want to stay in the UK?

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It may be the excitement of something new but everyone I have talked to from here loves it too so it can’t be just that. Yes there are downsides – it rains a lot but as a Welsh girl I’m used to that. Other downsides are that I have to learn a whole new way of driving ( I’m sure that journey will lead to a few entertaining blogposts) and people here carry guns.

I get a similar feeling here to one I had when I visited Canada for the first time when I was 16 years old. I felt so at home there that I was moved to tears when my plane took off to go home. Here I am a few hours drive from Canada too, an added bonus.

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Turning 40 – Aging Well? Comparing Photoshoots 10 years on.

When I turned 30 a friend bought me a photo shoot as a gift.  The photos were stunning and  I’ve always kept one on my wall as inspiration for how I would like to look when I had finally finished my childbearing days.

When I was 30 I felt pretty good about the way I looked, I had just got engaged, was going to the gym regularly, eating healthily and was happy.  More recently however I have come to the conclusion that I have always been too self critical and never really accepted how amazing I looked.

This year I turned 40.  As clichéd as it is, I see this as a turning point.  I don’t want to have anymore children so I now have the opportunity to get my body back in shape, to build a career and to become me again.  I have just returned from a photo shoot for my 40th birthday. In the past 10 years I’ve had 3 kids and 2 miscarriages, I’ve got more wrinkles and spend a lot less time on looking good.  I rarely get a haircut and lots of my clothes are past their sell by date.  However, I have finally stopped beating myself up for not being as slim as I was in my 20’s. For the first time in a very long time I feel good about the way I look.  I think for a 40 year old with 3 kids, the youngest of whom is only 9 months , I look pretty damn good.

I kept the cat suit from the first photo shoot – I never really believed I would ever be able to wear it again, but today I proved myself wrong.  Ok, I’m not quite as slim as 10 years ago and I did need a bit of help from some Bridget Jones pants but I did it and I think I look pretty good .

So here are some of the photos from my 30th

           

And the one’s I had taken today proving we can still look fabulous at 40

For anyone who wants a special gift for a special birthday I can highly recommend New ID Studios for a makeover photo shoot.  The shoot includes a hair wash, cut and style, makeup and the photoshoot. A lovely day out and a great way to boost your self esteem.

If You Go Down to the Woods Today – 10 Woodland Activities for Children

We had a lovely time today at Glenny Woods organised by our local Children’s Centre. Glenny Woods is a wonderful woodland centre owned by the Scouts Movement.  They have an indoor room with a veranda for when it is wet, an area for lighting fires with bench seating, adventure playground equipment and facilities for making dens.

However, even if your nearest wood doesn’t have these added facilities there are lots of simple fun things that you can do with children.  Try not to rush children on to looking at the next thing.  They may want to spend half an hour looking at a clump of moss or sliding down a muddy bank.  If you really want your children to appreciate and explore nature then allow lots of time and move at their pace (however frustrating this might be).

1. Give children a piece of cardboard with double sided sticky tape on and get them to make a hat collecting natural things.  This could be free choice or maybe have a colour theme.  You could ask children to create a pattern eg. large and small things or find specific items to make their hat.

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2. Put double sided sticky tape around the top of your child’s wellies and ask them to collect items of interest and stick them to their wellies.

3. Take magnifiers or bug jars and look for creatures. Take photographs so that you can identify them when you get home.

Look Mummy I found a snail

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4. Young children will enjoy exploring the textures of things, moss, long grass, tree trunks, mud.  Give children a textural treasure hunt – find things that are soft, smooth, hard, spiky, slimy, cold, warm, rough etc. Make a feely box containing some of the textured things or use a blindfold and ask children to describe what they are touching.

hands on a tree.

5. Give children a piece of string and ask them to find and attach the following items: something natural, something manmade, something colourful, something heavy  and something with an interesting shape.  Hang a line of string between 2 trees and hang the completed pieces from it to make a natural work of art.

6. Build a fire, toast marshmallows on whittled sticks or bake potatoes in the bottom of the fire.

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7. Go on a treasure hunt

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8. Play in the mud.  Take tools and  to see what you might find or stamp and feel the texture of wet gooey mud. Find a stick and draw or write in the wet mud, or take large sheets of paper and use mud to paint with – use fingers or sticks to apply the mud.

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9. Collect natural materials to make a picture or sculpture .  Make a frame from sticks or stones and ask the children to make a picture inside it using what they have collected. For the youngest children let them arrange leaves into a nest or sticks or stones into a pattern.

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10. Build a den.  Use sticks and build a den in the style of Eeyore’s house.

You might also want to check out some of these ideas

 

Finding the alphabet in nature

Fairy houses in the woods

A natural playground

Children Connecting with nature

Mud faces

 

 

Free or Low Cost Summer Activities for Children

I was recently asked by Netmums to suggest some of my favourite free or low-cost ideas for keeping children entertained in the summer holidays.  Below are a small selection.

Things for Keeping  Active

  •   We particularly like woodland walks where the kids like to disappear into the woods to explore and find things, play hide and seek , build dens or run away from monsters. Blaise castle woods are a big favourite because we can hide in the caves or follow the trail to the castle. My eldest called our local woods  the hundred acre wood and spent hours role playing various Winnie the Pooh scenarios. The Woodland Trust have some great free downloadable resources with ideas for playing in the woods, Summer  activities and free things to do with kids.

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 Creative Fun
  • Give children a large piece of clay, for the younger children the bigger the better. Make it wet and squidgy and enjoy feeling the texture. Give them things to put in it, we use cocktail sticks, bottle tops, seeds, feathers, pebbles and shells. Older children can be taught to model clay around wire or make a flat tile with a picture on it.

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  • The best summer activity I had as a child was with an empty large cardboard box, we slid on it and built things with it and spent the whole 6 weeks playing with nothing else.
  • The best creative play comes from being outdoors with natural materials,  in the woods, park, beach or even in the street. If your kids aren’t old enough or you’re not happy about them playing outside without adult supervision, take a group of children to an open space and sit at a distance from them so that they can develop their own play but you can still see them. My kids love digging, building dens, pretending to fish, making pretend dinner and many other scenarios.

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  • Our local town has a flower show and the children love to enter the competitions, it gives them a sense of achievement and pride.
  • Give your kids pieces of material, old sheets, netting or even bin bags and get them to make clothes and have a fashion show – this was my favourite summer holiday game.
  • When its sunny it great to get a big roll of paper, spread it across the garden and let the kids paint , they can use hands, feet or whole bodies – great for babies too.

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Inspiring children
  • Children’s Festivals often give a number of inspirational ideas many are free or low cost.
  • We have been to some brilliant museum exhibitions and as museum entry is usually free it is a great day out. Our local museum has lots of activities for children of all ages to accompany the exhibits.
  • Go blackberry picking , picking your own fruit always leaves us inspired to come back and cook lots of yummy treats. In the US we pick huckleberries at the local park – they make delicious muffins.
 Keep them Laughing
  • Local councils often provide fun/play days in local parks, ours involve entertainment, games, activities and crafts – the children have lots of laughs.
  • Get Wet – be it in a  water park, paddling pool, swimming, with a hose pipe, playing with water bombs or splashing in puddles in the rain – have a water fight and you can’t help but laugh. Weston Super Mare has a fantastic water park opposite the sea front and splash parks are really common in the US. Check out these Seattle Splash Parks.

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I think sometimes we plan too much for kids, give them some freedom to make their own play, give them the chance to be with their friends and they will come up with some great ideas of their own.

Toddler Takeover @At-Bristol

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I’ve had a really fabulous day out with my 2 year old and her friend at the bi-monthly Toddler Takeover at At-Bristol.  At-Bristol is an interactive science centre with over 300 hands on exhibits.   The Toddler Takeover is a themed day targeted at the under 5’s.   The theme for today was ‘Come Rain or Come Shine ‘.  I’ve been impressed by the amount of exhibits that my 2 year old can enjoy when visiting with her older sister in the past.  There are 2 under 8’s areas that are always available .  A role play airport including a cockpit where the children can fly a plane, passport control, luggage and an x-ray machine and a hostess trolley.  When my eldest was 4 we spent most of the session playing here.playing airports  The other has an animal theme and includes a tunnel, dressing up, storytelling and a sticky spider’s web game where the aim is to throw bugs at it to try to make them stick in the web.

throwing

I once saw a superb storyteller in this area so was disappointed to have missed the storytelling session today.

As our children were under 3 we only had to pay for the adults therefore the day was good value for money.  In addition to the usual exhibits, there were a number of theme based activities  designed with the under 5’s in mind.  These activities were on the whole well thought out and there was a mixture of child directed hands on activities and more structured adult directed activities.  Some of the activities involved making an end product – a windmill or weather wheel and some were more exploratory such as musical instruments that made weather sounds, pretend snow and water play.  These were suitable for even the youngest children and each of the exhibits included a list of  suggested questions and discussion points .

There were a lot of staff helping the children to make the most of the exhibits including a number of volunteers.  Some staff were better at engaging the children that others but in all I felt that the level of supervision was excellent.

For an extra 50p the children could watch a show in the planetarium.  This was very interactive and visual and at about 15 minutes short enough to keep the children’s attention.  It may have been better presented by someone with experience of working with large groups of under 5’s but he managed to keep the interest of most children.

My little one enjoyed running through the lights best of all and is looking forward to returning with her sister so that they can do it together.

playing with light

We had a lost child incident whilst we were there and would just like to commend the staff for the efficient way that this was dealt with.  The child had wandered from the cafe to the main exhibit area.  When  staff  observed that he was without an adult, 4 members of staff  kept in close contact  without approaching him directly, so as not to alarm him. When reporting the lost child the reception staff immediately alerted all the other staff and the child was found .

On a practical level there are a number of baby change areas and buggy parks throughout and a picnic area where you can sit and eat your own food.  The cafe has its own small play area so the children can play whilst you have a coffee break. Parking is on the expensive side but park and ride or public transport are an option.

As an added bonus to the day out, outside At-Bristol there are a number of water features that on sunny days become a great place for children to splash about in.

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My only real suggestion for improvement is that there could have been better signage from outside that the event was going on . I’ll definitely be recommending this to my friends and am looking forward to the next one.

At-Bristol is also a great place to visit with older children too, my 7 year old wants to go tomorrow and is disappointed that she couldn’t come with us today. ‘I want to play with the fake snow’ she said when she found that it was only available for the toddler session.

http://www.at-bristol.org.uk/