Are you a fan of cats?

We had a lovely day out at the Cats’ Protection headquarters in Sussex at the weekend. Everyone enjoyed visiting the cats and learning more about cat care, rehoming and sponsorship.

The thing I noticed about the centre was that it was so attractive and clean. Parking was plentiful and there was clear signage to the various parts including the toilets, the shop and the café. As readers know, these little things can make all the difference.

I fell in love with so many of the cats and a white playful one in particular. I was reminded by staff that everyone finds cats like that attractive but that other cats were equally deserving of a loving home. They also told me how tough they find it to rehome black cats.

My son fell in love with Maypole and you could sponsor Maypole’s pen for just £6 per month.

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We learned how the centre has its own vets and how cats and kittens often arrive in quite a bad state so need to go into an isolation wing to prevent the spread of disease.

My daughter got very excited at meeting the real cats and also the rather large one in the well-equipped play area adjacent to the shop.

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We had a lovely lunch in the café which had some gorgeous cakes, sandwiches and hot meals.

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I was really impressed by how much more affordable the pet products in the Cats Protection shop were in comparison with other outlets. I also liked that there were tiny prices and bigger ones so something for every budget.

There was everything you need for cats there including amazing play equipment, litter and toys.

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There was also a very wide range of giftware – scarves, clothing, jewellery, bags and toys.

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You can even have a fun children’s party and as we left a group of excited girls were arriving for a birthday. My son was rather keen to return too.

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Admission to Cats Protection is free.

If you are interested in rehoming or sponsoring a cat, this is the place for you.

My son will point you in the right direction.

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Visit the Cats Protection website today to search for your purrfect cat, to check out some pawsome content for kids and to learn more about cat welfare.

We headed to London on Saturday for a fun space-themed food workshop to highlight Actimel for Kids held at L’atelier des Chefs cookery school.

There were a number of bloggers there with their children ranging from toddlers to my 10 year old in age. The children all gathered around a table with a space buffet with crackers in the shapes of stars and moons and the most luscious dips. There was also fruit including melon moons.

The exciting bit was when we went through to the kitchen and took our places to learn how to present healthy food in a fun way. Him Indoors and my 8 year old made a team and I stuck with my daughter who was not in the best of moods. All that changed as soon as she started using her knife skills and getting creative.

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Our first challenge was to make a spaceship. We had to improvise as we don’t like olives so cut out circles of cheese instead.

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We got confused when it came to making cucumber legs for our spaceship but did our best and added a cheese ramp for good measure.

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This is what the spaceships were supposed to look like created by another blogger family.

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Next we got a plate of healthy food options and were tasked with creating an alien face.

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Our creative juices were flowing now.

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Cucumber hair, grape ears and carrot horns!

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Of course, there is always the fun of eating your creations.

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My children loved the taste of Actimel for Kids. They liked the spacemen themed bottles with my son saying he thought they would make good toys.

I love how you can get essential nutrients into your child’s daily routine as part of a balanced diet. The flavours are yummy – Strawberry, Raspberry and Vanilla.

They work well for breakfast, in a packed lunch or as an after-school treat. They are free from artificial flavours, colours and preservatives.

For more information on nutritional information and pricing, check out the Actimel website. and like them on Facebook.

We have escaped to the country and have a much longer and prettier walk to school. This made it very easy for us to join in Walk to School Week, the national campaign to help encourage UK children to go to school on foot.

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We had a fun treasure hunt too as M&S in partnership with charity Living Streets have created one to make the school run entertaining and educational too for both parent and child.

The game offers an A-Z of fun things to spot from amber lights to zig zags.

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We did really well although struggled for a long time to find a red door or a yellow car. We were delighted to finally tick them off our list and declare ourselves Kings and Queens of the school walk.

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With some of the clues, we did get a little creative and that was all part of the fun. There’s our pelican crossing!

As a parent, it was good to have a tool to instill those reminders about how to keep safe on roads.

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Walking to school:

– Is Healthy – Children need at least 60 minutes (1 hour) of physical activity every day. The journey to and from school is an ideal time for children to be active. Going one way for us takes 30 minutes and it means I am getting healthy exercise too.

– Is Educational – Walking to school helps children build independence, road safety and social skills. In a study by Living Streets, 84 per cent of the children who walk to school regularly meet up with classmates on the way to school. As newcomers to the area, it is great to see the children chatting with friends on the way home from school.

– Saves money – Walking to school instead of driving saves, on average, £400 per year. Saving cash is always a bonus.

– Is better for the environment. One person switching five journeys of fewer than 2 km a week from the car to walking would reduce their carbon footprint by 86 kg a year.

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M&S sent my children shoes to review. I was delighted with the quality and look of the shoes. The children found them comfortable to wear. I was pleasantly surprised by just how affordable the shoes were too.

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ALS

Are youth hostels a good choice for family holidays?

Last Wednesday, we set off for a short break at Hartington Youth Hostel in Derbyshire.

This was our first time in a youth hostel so we were unsure whether it would suit our family or not.

I am delighted to report that we had the most marvellous time and will be becoming members of the Youth Hostel Association because we want more of the same please.

When we arrived in the beautiful countryside of the Peak District, we were  already in great moods.  It felt lovely to be escaping various stresses for a few days and we were blessed with an unexpected heatwave.

Hartington Hall is an old and impressive building set on a hillside.  It has lovely grounds and the playpark and large outdoors chess set immediately grabbed our children’s attention.

We walked through a lovely wood-panelled room to reception where we were dealt with courteously, efficiently and with humour.  Absolutely the best customer service I have had in accommodation for a long time.  You got a real sense that nothing was too much trouble and that your pleasure mattered to the staff.

Our room had 5 beds in it and we enjoyed the novelty of making our own beds.  There was a shower room and a loo down the corridor but I understand ensuites are available if that is your preference.

The children spent the evening making new friends in the play areas.  We felt able to chill and there was plenty of seating in terms of benches and picnic tables.

We all slept really well.  The room was a little hot but that was understandable as it was at the top of the building and temperatures outside were high.

Breakfast was wonderful with a choice of full English or Continental style.  Very affordable at well under £20 for all 5 of us and as much as you could eat.

In the morning,we explored a town nearby but the children kept nagging us to go back to Hartington Hall so we did.  We spent a pleasant afternoon there amazed at how easy it was to relax.  There was a culture where all the families were friendly but not in your face,  just the right balance for myself.

Dinner was equally gorgeous and served in a lovely dining room with panelling and a Victorian fireplace.  There was a basic menu (sausages and mash etc)  or you could choose some rather glorious food from the specials board (lamb and herby dumplings etc).  Children had their own menu (pizza, spaghetti bolongnese etc) and ate free if aged under 10 years.  Desserts went down very well indeed.

We were delighted to find that there was an in-house bar and we may have indulged a little too freely on our second night there partly due to the reasonable wine prices.

On our last day we again had a little trip out to a local town and then spent the afternoon picnic-ing in the grounds of the Hall and checking our pets’ corner. By now, there was a real sense of camaraderie with the other guests so Hartington Hall was a very pleasant place to be.

One of the things we loved about Hartington Hall was how much space there was available for the use of guests.  As well as the grounds, there was a games room complete with jenga,  large Connect 4, football table and pool table.  Sweet machines were available here too at 20 pence a time.

There was a quiet room where we played cards.  This was comfortably furnished and had books and a computer available for the use of guests.  There was also a library at the other end of the building, a very cosy space ideal for reading but also with a television in it should you wish to check up on the Olympics.

There was also a laundry room and a well-equipped self-catering kitchen.

On the day we left, we checked out and were allowed to continue enjoying the outside space until we decided what time we wished to leave.  The truth was we did not want to leave at all but we are already looking forward to our return some time later this year we hope.

The final highlight was the Treasure Trail you could do to find out the history of Hartington Hall.  We all enjoyed this and I got a little surprise along the way.  But that is a story for another day …

So if you are looking for an affordable family holiday full of fun with good accommodation and tasty food, we highly recommend you get yourselves signed up for the Youth Hostel Association.  It was so lovely to stay somewhere that really could claim to be family-friendly indeed, too often a rarity in the United Kingdom.

http://www.yha.org.uk

My Random Musings
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