The City of York is by far my most favourite here in the UK (though I have not yet discovered them all). Every time I visit it just makes me so happy to be there and as a teen I often dreamed of living there too. I find great joy in strolling along the wall, the small cobbled streets and standing in the majesty of the minster. I love to soak up the history and appreciate all that has happened there, see the little shops and tea rooms and sit in the little parks. Being in York, especially as a family just feels lovely to me and therefore seemed the perfect place for this years family date for valentines.

For the last couple of years we have worked on our new tradition of making valentines a family thing. To me it is a great opportunity to teach our children about loving others and saying it to them. An opportunity to teach them about dates and how fun they are, and to take the focus off them feeling a need to have “A Valentine” and just making it fun. Loving people solves so many problems in life and helps us be forgiving, and I feel that by showing my kids ways to show love for others in and out of our family will be a valuable gift.

The exchanging of cards and little inexpensive gifts goes on in the background for us as a couple and then a little date when they’re in bed of food and a cheesy Rom com. But ultimately valentines is focused on the growing love in our family and “dating” the kids. We hold hands more with them, check our phones less and talk about one another.  It’s really lovely and we all look forward to it.

This year’s date saw us not just in the beautiful city of York, but at “York’s Chocolate Story“, which was quite possibly the perfect date destination.

York’s Chocolate Story – The perfect date destination

York’s Chocolate story is an entertaining and informative guided tour through the history of York’s most famous chocolate-making families and their finest creations. It is a fab morning or afternoon out with the family, but even better than that I would go so far as to say it would easily be the prefect place to take a date, go on a date together, or like us – something special and different for a family date. And here’s why:

1. It lets you walk and talk at the same time, and provides ample things to talk about

Being a museum it is rich in interesting facts and things to discover, things we found ourselves “ooooing” and “ahhhing” over as they were delivered to us. There were a lot of smiling and eyebrow raising going on in the group as it was just so fascinating to us all. I have been to chocolate museums before, but as this one is unique to the history of York, I learnt tonnes of interesting things about a city I thought I knew!

You move between rooms so every few minutes there are chances to chat to each other briefly about what you have both seen and heard, and again as you walk down to the chocolate making rooms and the cafe at the end of the tour.

The kids loved it all and gained a lot from it, some of which was the focus of conversation through the rest of our day.

2. There is an element of humour so you can laugh together

The perfect date of course must provide opportunities to laugh together, and there are many of these at York’s chocolate story. The staff are fabulous at what they do and remember, and the delivery of information is brilliant. We found ourselves laughing from the start and with surprises round every corner, accompanied with stories of the past, you and your date(s) won’t be short of a chuckle or 2!

3. It is interactive and fun

With out giving too much away there are parts that are very cleverly created to give the history in a captivating and fun way for kids and adults alike. Of course the sampling that is intertwined with these makes the whole thing come to life even more, and then towards the end you have an opportunity to make your own chocolate creation to take away. Each of these stations, especially the “make it yourself” exhibition, made it hands on and entertaining. Ethan and Megan had sprinkles flying everywhere, and it created an activity that was both different and very enjoyable.

4. It is tasty

Possibly the most obvious one here, but whats a good date without something tasty? Not only is there a gorgeous cafe and tasty shop at the end of the tour, but the whole activity throughout of “Chocolate tasting” is something that is a little bit different. It has an element of romance there and is just plain joyful!

There are opportunities throughout the tour to not only hear how chocolate was invented and created over the years, but also to sample it in its various forms (Our favourite being at the end with the confectioners). We learnt how to see if it is a well made chocolate and how to really get the most from the flavours when trying it (as oppose to just scoffing it down). The kids found this obviously to be one of the better parts, but because they new there were several promises of chocolate tasting it really kept their attention in the more educational points.

5. It is an experience that will be memorable

Each one of us thoroughly enjoyed our visit. The combination of cleverly created displays, along with interesting facts, fun activities and tasty samples is something we will remember together for a long time as a special date.

I love York and always have done, and now its plain to see why. The Tuke, Rowntree, Terry and Craven families made the city of York world-famous for its chocolate and sweets and their legacy runs through it. My favourite city, whether I realised it or not, is built on chocolate – no wonder its the best!


I would most definitely recommend you book on a tour next time you are heading to York, whoever you go with you will be sure to have a tasty time! For more details on prices and booking information click here.

Yorkshire Tots

*Thank you to York’s Chocolate Story for inviting us for a complimentary visit. All thoughts and pictures our own.

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This weekend I have been in Manchester to do my SANDS befriender training (which I will share with you more once I have digested it), and whilst it was nice to do something for myself, it felt really weird not being with Nathan and the kids over the weekend. In hindsight it couldn’t have come at a better time as it fell right at the start of half term, and with the weight of the subject for 2 solid days, I couldn’t be happier for a break from school this coming week and an opportunity to chill out with my little family. Six days (plus the weekends) of no school runs, mad dashes, clock watching and wondering where the uniforms are – blissful!

Instead I get to have them with me, I get hang out with my oldest 2 and we can look forward to lots of fun together. Mr Smith is also on annual leave and so we have loads of outings and adventures planned and I don’t know about the kids, but after spending 2 days away from them, and never quite getting back into school life after Christmas, I just feel like its going to be great fun and I actually can’t wait!

Term time is hard for me sometimes. Not always, just sometimes. For starters I am rubbish with the whole school run thing and getting there in good time, (most days its with 30 seconds to spare or as the gate is closing) but more so I have realised since both Ethan and Megan started school that Sometimes I really do miss my kids. Its seems funny sharing this, but then I guess parenting is a funny thing isn’t it? You spend your days tearing your hair out and trying to get little people to cooperate with you (or each other) and some days it reduces you to tears – Other days the brink of insanity. You look forward to bedtime like its Christmas, a shower like its a holiday, and you just hope for a day you can go to the toilet with out an audience. Most days are spent wishing for a moments peace, a dinner whilst its still hot and dressing on some level that is remotely stylish (but you would just accept snot free)! Its harder than any other “job” and a break is what you crave, yet when it comes, you realise how much you have grown to love the noisy mad life you lead.

For me, I mostly miss our outings and adventures – the busy days we enjoyed together exploring that only seem to come now in the holidays and occasional weekend. And whilst I do really like peace and quiet in my life, I do miss their chatter, their funny little characters, their outlook on life, and generally just their company. Of course I have days like every other parent where we are almost running to school (not always because we are late), so I can have a breather and a few moments of peace and quiet, but once that is over, once I have cleaned up and got the house in some order, or had an hour or 2 at the shops, I realise I miss them and the fun they bring to my life. I realise it all feels a little lonesome without my sidekicks.

I noticed this loads on our recent trip to Hamburg and discussed it at lengths with Mr Smith. Whilst I had been uber excited for a romantic city break together, and really needed it too, I found myself more anxious than normal about being away from the kids. I worried about all that could go wrong and stop us returning to them, and I generally missed sharing that experience with them. I learnt that we don’t have to go far away to have a break as a couple now (its just as lovely in a local hotel), and realised how much I truly love to have my kids travel with us and relish the adventure. I missed sharing the experience with them and seeing their faces at new sites and things. I missed the wonder, the questions and telling them stories…I just missed us being together as a family, doing something different and out of the ordinary, and missed kissing them goodnight. We both agreed that that’s okay, it wasn’t the same without them and in future we will all go!

Having kids was an easy choice for me, but not so easy in reality. I do find it a challenge, extremely tiring and some days I just want to write off. I know I could be less snappy, more attentive some days and more interactive too, but despite these things, I really do love motherhood, being a stay at home mum and being around the people that made me a mummy.

I don’t know if it is as my kids get older and become more aware that we aren’t there, or the fact one of our children died and I couldn’t stop that, and couldn’t bare that happening again. Perhaps its that missing of her so much and the pain of loss that has made me feel like I need to have all my others close. Or maybe its that we see so much horror in the news and I just can’t bear the thought of them being told mummy and daddy aren’t coming home because something happened …I just know that I miss being away from my kids for too long now and need to cuddle them tightly. I know that I feel most happy and content when we are all together, when my little chicks are close and safe in the nest and where I can show and tell them how much I adore and love them. I feel joy when they are where we can make memories together.

Life and its adventures are certainly richer when they are present.

My Petit Canard
Run Jump Scrap!
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As I write this I cannot quite believe the vast difference in weather from earlier in the week. (Well I can, we are in the UK, but still)… it’s hard to believe that we are having flurries of snow here in Yorkshire when on Monday and Tuesday Spring felt right around the corner. It was Sunny and the weather mild, I left my coat at home and the lighter evenings beckoned us back to the park after school, which we embraced. Ethan and Megan very much enjoyed climbing, sliding and swinging about, whilst Alice had her first taste of the swings! It all made me feel both excited and happy to be there with them and to have been able to offer them a spontaneous trip to the park – it really felt long overdue.

Now that we are in Winter, we are usually seen running home to get in  from the cold after school, in a hope to thaw out as soon as possible. When in the Spring and Summer months, snacks and hanging out after school at our local Park were just what we did – it was our ordinary. I forget with each changing season those things that were an ordinary and much loved activity in our lives, we kind of just bend to something new and it just becomes another memory of Summer.  I forgot with the busyness of a new baby and the icy weather of Winter how much we enjoyed heading to the park after school and how lovely those moments between School and dinner had become to us.

Megan reminded me how we would enjoy ice creams and play all evening, how we would have an adventure everyday and how much fun it was. It really was an almost daily occurrence and it enriched our lives.

What wasn’t our ordinary though was having Alice in our lives. At that stage (last Summer), we were still very much in the anticipation and very much hopeful stage that she would arrive safely into our family and thankfully she did. Now after 6 months of hibernation, and the glimmer of Spring on the horizon, she too has had the joy of seeing what the park is all about. As we headed down there to revive what once was, she was seen for the first time sat in a swing…she saw the world and life in a new light and loved it.

This Park has seen each one of my babies take their first swing. It has seen the apprehension in their little faces as we have sat them in the orange seats, and It has heard the little squeals and seen the awe as their tummy jumps to their throats. It has watched them grow to climbing in to the swings them selves and asking for a push from mummy and daddy, and it has patiently waited for them to tackle reaching the top of the “spiders web”. It has seen spontaneous meet ups with friends, games and laughter and witnessed accidents, monkey bar successes and failures and of course dropped ice creams and tears. Above all it has seen them have fun together and become to us a place we treasure. I love that ordinary moment in a child’s life where they first get into a swing, because it is the start of a wonderful journey of falling in love with the adventure of parks.

 

The Ordinary Moments
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I have loved that the majority of this week has been a sunny one, and Alice has been loads better. Whilst I haven’t done a whole lot of gallivanting, the combination has certainly made for a happy week. I had a lovely afternoon out on Tuesday with Naths Mum to Ikea and Homesense, where I helped her (unsuccessfully) look for a specific sized baskets and accompanied her in finding other additions for her home. It was great to chat and catch up, have a brief lunch and talk about some of our plans. Whilst I didn’t really need anything, I always love an opportunity to browse both Ikea and Homesense. On this occasion I actually came home with a few more flamingo glasses (50p each) and a couple of light shades that were a bargain down to £2.50 in Ikea. Homesense is usually more of a inspiring/wish list kind of visit and was just as lovely!

In other news Ethan received a rather forward Valentines card yesterday from one of the gorgeous girlies in his class…it had me both laughing and in shock, but hello, is he 6 or 16? I honestly always thought it was the girls we would have to watch, but apparently not!

Other than mild shock from that, my life has been simple (busy but simple), and my thriftiness has unintentionally all been targeted in the food department.

Fruit Bargains

Our local fruit shop is fantastic for some bargainous fruit and veg offers. I have learnt to go with no expectations, therefore being surprised by whatever they have in the moment. This visit found my leaving with 2 tubs of blueberries for £1, A bag of pink lady apples for £1 and a punnet of mixed seedless grapes for £1.25! The kids have loved having blueberry pancakes for breakfast this week, along with some healthy, tasty snacks!

Chicken Curry with leftover roast

Making a curry from the leftovers on a Sunday has become one of my new faves! I am really getting into experimenting with so many spices and flavours at this point in life, and chicken curry is easily one of the kids faves too (win win). What I love about this meal is that it is never the same, because the ingredients are dependent upon whats left on a Sunday night! Its quite an intense prospect…what will I make tomorrow from Sunday leftovers?! I especially love it when we have carrots and mash left as these thicken the sauce and add some extra goodness.

This week I went out there and did it in the slow cooker so it was a little bit different to normal, but equally as tasty! It was simply the leftover chicken pieces, stock from boiling the bones, chopped tomatoes, an onion (diced), crushed garlic and turmeric, cumin, ground corriander and ginger. I then added a couple of cups of cooked rice and left it til dinner – Yum!

Some weeks I add coconut milk, spinach and chick peas too…

Left over chilli

On Wednesday night I made a gorgeous Beef chilli. Most of the time my chilli’s are made from quorn mince and beans but this week I fancied a little beef in there, so popped that all in the slow cooker for us to enjoy after dancing.

Whenever I make anything like this, I like to throw in a few extra tins of chopped tomatoes and mixed beans to bulk it out as for the sake of an extra 70p-£1 it can turn one meal into 2. I then will heat the remainder for jacket potatoes or burritos the next day. I love it.

 Linking up with this Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky.

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