One day in Paris…

   IMAG2219

I am writing this post in the garden of our holiday house. We had a very busy day yesterday visiting a few of the spectacular Chateaux in the Loire Valley, so today is a rest day and therefore a perfect opportunity to update my blog.

We have packed so much into our trip so far and still have a lot to do but one of the highlights for all of us was a daytrip to Paris. Before leaving for our summer holiday in France the children excitedly enquired if we were going to see the Eiffel Tower. The gite we are staying in is in the middle of the country, one hour from any major town and a three hour drive South of Paris so it hadn’t really been on the agenda.

Knowing that the boys really wanted to see the Eiffel Tower and that I love Paris, having visited several times, I was keen to find out about taking a daytrip so I contacted my French pen pal of 21 years to ask about taking the train from a town near us. He recommended taking the car and reserving a space in a secure underground car park, so that’s what we did. I booked our space online at http://www.parkingsdeparis.com close to Place d’Italie where there is a Metro line that goes into the city centre. We did have to leave our house very early in the morning (I highly recommend packing a picnic to eat on the way and bringing cushions so the children can nap on the way there and back!) to make the most of only having one day in Paris but using a sat-nav we found the car park very easily and so our one-day adventure in the city of love began…

Admittedly I was nervous about taking 3 children into the vast city of Paris. The Metro is very busy and there are always crowds at the major tourist attractions, so, before leaving Belfast I had planned an itinerary of the major sights we wanted to see… in fact I had planned, planned and planned again in great detail our Metro stops and streets we should take in a bid to pack in as much as possible. But as I said to my husband ‘all great plans are flexible’ I soon found out the reality of this when we discovered that much of the Metro was under repair! We managed to get as far as the Notre-Dame Cathedral (our first must-see sight on the list) and couldn’t get to our next stop, or the one after that.

12

So, undeterred and still determined that we would see the Eiffel Tower we decided we would walk. We left behind Notre-Dame and L’ile de la Cite to walk along the Left Bank of the River Seine.

14

Thankfully we were all wearing comfortable walking shoes because it is a fair distance between Notre-Dame and the Eiffel Tower, however, the sights in between make it all worth the effort.

We stopped at Pont Neuf (New Bridge) which is the oldest bridge in Paris. Built from 1578-1604, the houseless structure was highly controversial at the time and is well worth a stop-off these days to see all the padlocks that people have attached to it over the years with messages of love and hope written on them.IMAG2145

Continuing to walk along the River we enjoyed looking at the typical Parisian buildings with their balconies overlooking the Seine – so beautiful! We walked by the Orsay Museum, a converted train station which houses works of Art by Degas, Monet, Van Gogh and Renoir. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go in on this occasion as we only had one day and ‘Mission Eiffel Tower’ had taken hold so we enjoyed the exterior and kept on walking! A good excuse to come back to Paris on another occasion though!

17

As you pass the Orsay Museum, note the Jardin des Tuileries on the Right Bank, which are close to the Louvre if you have time to go see the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. Not having time to take in the 35,000 works on display during our visit we marched onwards towards Pont Alexandre III where we paused to take in the view of Les Invalides, where you will find the tomb of a Napoleon.

20

19

From here were continued on around the edge of the Seine, catching glimpses of the Eiffel Tower above the shops and houses.

21 (2)

By this stage the children were super excited and also super hungry after the long walk so we stopped at a little market and had lunch while admiring the view.

IMAG2176

22

Next… the moment we were all waiting for… as the sat-nav would say ‘you have reached your destination.’

Since this blog is all about finding the silver lining moments I would have to say that the Metro being closed was indeed a silver lining occasion. Of course, it took us much longer to get around than anticipated and we were so tired by the end of the day. I felt as though I had run a marathon! But had we been stuck underground in a stuffy train we wouldn’t have walked along the river enjoying all the sights and sounds on offer in Paris. I was anxious to begin with that my plans had been wasted and we wouldn’t get to see much but in fact we got to see and experience much much more than anticipated!

18

32

There is only one way to appreciate the engineering masterpiece of the Eiffel Tower and that is by taking the stairs! The lift needs to be booked months in advance anyhow and I really feel it takes away a lot of the experience of climbing the tower. Join the queues for the stairs! Ordinarily the queues can be fairly long, but on this occasion we were pleasantly surprised and had to wait no more than an hour to buy our tickets and start the ascent. It is truly a lovely experience watching Paris unfold as you climb higher and higher. With each twist around the staircase offers a different perspective of the beautiful city.

25

We climbed to level 2, the highest point you can go on foot and took in the splendour of the city below.

28

29

31

 Thankfully after our descent we found a Metro line that was open and took the short joinery from Bir-Hakeim to Charles de Gaulle-Etoile to see the Arc de Triomphe and the world famous Avenue des Champs-Elysees.

33

Back onto the Metro and  from here we journeyed on to Anvers which is the stop for a visit to Montmartre and Sacre-Coeur. We climbed the dome of Sacre-Coeur and from here enjoyed the super view over Paris.

37 (2)

40

42

IMAG2248

After descending it was well into the evening and we had covered a lot of ground. With 3 shattered children in tow we got on the blue Metro line and followed it around to Nation. If I’d had time I would have stopped at Peres Lachaise Cemetery where Jim Morrison from the Doors and Oscar Wilde are buried.

Instead we took the Metro back to Place d’Italie and said farewell to beautiful Paris. Exhausted but happy, we had done it. Paris in a day with 3 small children is not easy but it is certainly doable and an experience I would highly recommend. Even without a closed Metro silver-lined visit, a trip to Paris is a treasure beyond compare.

IMAG2610

**A note about Metro tickets: buying ‘un carnet’ (a set of 10 tickets) works out much cheaper than buying tickets individually. There is also a reduced fare for children. You can now buy tickets at machines at each stop, great if you aren’t too confident in speaking French!**

Travel Survival Kits

We are going on quite a long journey this summer, having decided to holiday in France and take our own car with us.

I thought I would share with you the ‘Travelling Survival Kits’ that I’ve put together to keep the kids occupied during our travels. Now, I don’t for one minute think that it is a parent’s job to provide constant entertainment for their offspring. I think the notion that children need to be kept busy at all times is a fairly new concept.

I could be wrong, but when I was little (and it wasn’t that long ago!) we were sent off to play and we made our own fun. Being a little bored, I believe was the spark that lit our imaginations and I have great memories of my childhood summers spent climbing trees, inventing games and organizing sports days for the entire street – complete with cardboard medals which we’d made for the winners!

However, on a very long journey, I believe a few well-chosen items can help to keep everyone happy and that’s important, especially when you’ve been counting down the days until your holiday since January – everyone deserves a few weeks off and a well-earned rest now and then.

Grumpy children=stressed parents=not much fun or relaxation!

Kids look at the trip to a holiday destination as part of the overall adventure of going away. Going on a plane or ferry is very exciting when you are little so making the most of that enthusiasm and endeavouring to ensure that the trip is as enjoyable as possible for all is a must in my book.

IMAG1924

With that in mind I purchased 3 cheap rucksacks – one for each child, attached a ‘Travelling Survival Kit’ luggage tag, and suddenly a plain, boring rucksack becomes a treasure chest full of things to explore and enable adventure – when  I showed them to my boys their eyes lit up. Anyone would think I was sending them off alone on an expedition to the North Pole!

Another plus side of giving each child their own carry-on bag means that they can use it for any little day trips during the holiday. They can carry their own bottles of water, caps and sunglasses instead of Mum and Dad carrying everything for everyone! Plus, in my own experience kids love being in charge of their own belongings, the sense of responsibility makes them feel so grown up.

So, what did I pack?

I asked my husband to print off some simple maps that the children could use to follow our journey. I bought some coloured dots for them to stick on the maps each time we pass through a village or town – they can guess where on the map we are. Looking out for town names on road signs will keep them busy plus they will also like the feeling of being involved in the navigation process.

IMAG1926

We are travelling from Ireland to France, so we have a 5 hour car drive, followed by an 18.5 hour ferry journey, then another 5 hour drive once we arrive in France, so we printed maps of Ireland and France and the kids can even use their coloured dots to chart our route across the sea! It’s not an activity that will last for hours, but surely they will benefit from learning some map skills?

IMAG1932

Puzzle books, complete with stickers are a great way to keep children busy while travelling. We always seem to have lots of these books in the house as they are often received as birthday or Christmas gifts.

I also picked up a few lined notebooks to write and doodle in. My children have never really enjoyed colouring books (I don’t know why, I could happily colour-in for hours) preferring to draw their own pictures, making up little stories or comic strips.

IMAG1933

I filled in the first page of each notebook with a little activity – different for each child and catering to their age. Bearing in mind the end of June school reports and the suggestions made by teachers for practicing work over the summer – I incorporated this into the challenges and they won’t even know they are doing work because it’s all part of the big holiday adventure!

IMAG1937For my oldest child I picked up a cheap French-English dictionary. He is very keen to try out some French vocabulary while we are away, having already learnt some basics in school. So he can practice his dictionary skills while looking up some new words. Knowing his personality, I have no doubt he will add to this starter list not just as we travel but also throughout our stay!

IMAG1935For my second child I have listed a few challenges for him to tick off during our holiday. Most of the suggestions are for things while we are away but the 5th one listed is ‘Keep a diary’ and I know that he will want to begin this as soon as we leave the house. He loves to write things down in detail and draw pictures so this suits his personality – he will have a great journal of our French holiday plus he will have worked on his spelling and writing skills too – win, win!

IMAG1936For my youngest child I have made a list of things for him to look out for and tick off as he sees them. He could even use his coloured dots and stick them in the little boxes. The list incorporates things for both the journey and for our time away. He loves playing games in the car, whether it be counting yellow cars or playing i-spy, but with this little list he can have fun playing and practice his reading skills too!

IMAG1940

Don’t forget to add some pencils and colouring pencils! I’ve done them in individual zip-lock bags because inevitably everyone will ‘NEEEEED’ the orange pencil at the same time! Put their names on the bags to avoid any arguments.

Next to go in the bags were some travel games. I opted for simple, easy to play puzzles and games with not too many little pieces that can get lost. We have played these games at home as a family so we know they work well for us and everyone can join in. After all, we have saved all year for a family holiday so that we can enjoy some quality time together. Why not start on the journey with some good old-fashioned fun?

IMAG1941

I’ve also included lots and lots of books…I’m not against ‘screen-time’. My children enjoy watching television and playing games consoles just as much as any other child. We will be bringing portable DVD players for the first time ever on a family journey. I have allowed them to pick 5 DVDs each and I don’t mind them watching a movie if they are tired. We will be travelling for 28 hours or more so I have no issue with them enjoying a bit of quiet time along the way – and I will feel no guilt about it whatsoever, because parenting is tough enough at times without adding guilt into the mix! I think as long as there are plenty of options for children to choose from the world will keep on spinning whether they decide to read a book, draw a picture or watch a DVD.

IMAG1954

We picked up this collection from the library so the boys can continue with their summer reading challenge while we are away, plus when better to enjoy some cuddles and story time together than when on a long ferry journey? We have a mixture of stories, fact books and poems to delve into.

IMAG1957

My middle son also found a few great books about France while we were at the library. Apparently he is going to ‘do some research’ while we are on the ferry. What a great idea! He can share his information with us and that way he can have a sense of pride that he has contributed to our understanding of the place we are visiting. One of the books is also jam-packed with French words and phrases, complete with pictures so he can learn lots of new words too.

IMAG1961

And what would a ‘Travel Survival Kit’ be without a few treats?

IMAG1946

I’ve tried to keep the treats relatively healthy, with only a few sweets thrown in, and I will also be packing plenty of fruit to snack on and lots of water. Let’s face it, who wants to travel with children buzzing on sugar? That’s not going to be fun for anyone. Zip-lock bags are so handy for bringing along snacks on any journey and can also be used for collecting any wrappers, they even double up as sick bags in case of over-indulgence!

I hope that if you are travelling, either at home or abroad, with children this summer (or anytime come to think of it) that you will be inspired to make your own ‘Travel Survival Kits’. I would love to know what you pack!

I will post an update, post-journey, to let you know how our kits fared – what worked, what didn’t and what else I would include next time.

Wherever you are going this summer I hope you have a great time, because, really that’s what it’s all about – exploring new places and enjoying time together.

***UPDATE ON THE TRAVEL SURVIVAL KITS***

It is safe to say that the ‘Travel Survival Kits’ were a definite success during our extremely long journey from Ireland to France.

The maps were a real winner during the car journeys as the kids could mark our progress as we travelled and my youngest child in particular enjoyed looking for road signs and sticking dots on his map.

The notebooks were used loads, each child doing their little pre-prepared challenges with enthusiasm and we also played lots of noughts and crosses and join the dots on the ferry.

The travel games proved a real success too, especially when the boys made a few friends on board the ferry and were able to spend a few hours playing snakes and ladders, draughts and battleships.

The puzzle books were great in the car and we now have one car window covered in stickers of Captain America, the X-Men and Spiderman – it looks awesome apparently! The story books were great in the cabin in the evening as well as in the car.

…and of course the treat bags were a real hit with the kids and I’m glad I packed low sugar, fruit-based snacks as the boys behaviour was top notch throughout the entire journey. The ferry was very hot so the 5-litre bottle of water I took on board was all used up. We would have spent a fortune on board otherwise buying drinks.

Overall….the ‘Travel Survival Kits’ were very useful and definitely made a lengthy, tiring journey that little bit easier more enjoyable for all!

 

The Great Family Bake Off

bo20There’s no doubt about it that life in the 21st Century is busy and finding time to spend with loved ones can be tricky. I come from a fairly large family and getting everyone together in the same room at the same time takes a fair amount of planning.

So, a few years ago we decided that we would schedule in seasonal family get-togethers that we could all pencil into our calendars so that we had special events to look forward to. One of my brothers hosts a New Year’s Eve party, another brother has us all round for a Halloween bash complete with fireworks display, my sister arranges an Easter Egg Hunt at Tollymore Forest, I hold a post-pantomime Christmas party and my parents host a garden party in the summer.

This summer, Mum decided that her annual garden party was going to be slightly different and she sent out the invite way back in April for us all to attend ‘The Great Family Bake Off’ on 11 July.

Everyone was asked to bring a sweet and savoury dish and to keep what they had made secret (boxes were provided so that everyone’s looked the same on arrival – Mum really thinks of everything. I think it comes from years of raising 5 children!)

bo3

On the day Mum and Dad decorated their garden with colourful streamers and bunting so that it looked really inviting. I was so impressed with the amount of effort they had put in to make the day special for everyone that I just had to take pictures to share on my blog.

bo21bo10bo13

bo11

Mum and Dad love the fact that they have 7 grandsons and will tell anyone who will listen about just how great their grandchildren are. So, ensuring the kids weren’t left out of the Great Family Bake Off Event they had prepared a Sweet Shop especially for them – complete with little handmade ration books just for the children to enjoy. The boys were all in awe and loved watching the clock for the shop opening times and then queuing up for their treats and ration book stamps.

bo2

bo5

bo4

 

bo6

bo7

bo16

bo15

The grown ups all participated in the competition by bringing two dishes each – one sweet and one savoury for everyone to sample. The amount of time and work that had gone into the bakes was evident (we are a competitive bunch!)

Here are a few snaps of the savoury dishes…

bo23

Filo pastry filled with asparagus and feta cheese

bo24

Filo pastry tart filled with sundried tomatoes and roasted vegetables

bo25

Lemon, dill and feta bread

bo26

Potato and sundried tomato swirls

bo27

Vegetable curry pie

bo28

Vegetable samosas with tomato salsa

Everything tasted delicious and everyone agreed that it was extremely difficult to score them. We had to give our favourite 3 points, our second choice 2 points and our third selection 1 point.

After eating so much it was time to enjoy a glass of wine and some chit-chat before the tasting of the sweet dishes began…

bo29

Plum cake with fresh cream

bo31

Big Hero 6 cupcakes

bo30

Raspberry and blueberry tartlets

bo32

Chocolate cheesecake

bo33

Raspberry and dark chocolate blondies

bo34

Upside down pineapple cake

Again, it was a real challenge to pick a favourite, and we all scored our top 3 with great difficulty.

While the clean up operation took place the grown ups moved to the ‘Beer Garden’ while the children played on the bouncy castle we had hired for the day. They just love playing with their cousins!

bo18

bo19

As the evening light faded the children cosied up in sleeping bags inside a huge tent one of my brother’s had pitched and hooked up a television and DVD player to so that the children could enjoy some quiet time.

We all sat around chatting and laughing for hours, wrapped in blankets and snacking on the bake-off leftovers and talking about our ideas for next year’s Great Family Bake Off.

bo22

I have to say that I am so grateful for these planned family events. I look forward to them so much, counting down the days on my calendar as they get closer. In a busy world the time together feels so precious.

bo12

Mum and Dad created some wonderful memories for us all at this year’s summer party so it was only fitting that Mum actually won The Great Family Bake Off with her Plum Cake – which was delicious! She was delighted with her trophy and bouquet of flowers and we were all so pleased for her. We might even enter her for the actual Great British Bake Off!

bo17

One windy day in July…

Let’s face it… the summer weather has been far from spectacular so far here in Northern Ireland . Usually by this stage the paddling pool has been filled and wet, muddy footprints have been walked from one end of my house to the other! Not this summer however. At the weekend, the storms set in and parts of Northern Ireland experienced flash flooding. All a bit dramatic and unexpected for the time of year!

So, when I pulled open the blinds this morning and saw it was another windy day, I resigned myself to the fact that the buckets and spades still in my car boot from last summer would not be getting an outing just yet.

I posed the question over breakfast: “What to do on a windy day?” The answer: “Make kites!”

What a great idea…

IMAG1746

So, after a quick rummage around the house for things we could use to make ‘mini-kites’ we found tissue paper, thread, sellotape, coloured pens, tiny straws, cake pop sticks and colouring pencils.

Everyone was given two pieces of tissue paper – a long piece that would make the kite ‘tails’ and a square piece that would make the ‘body’ of the kite.

And the colouring in commenced…

IMAG1751          IMAG1755

…We marked out the shape of our kites.

Did some more colouring…

IMAG1758

Then, we cut out our kite shapes and the long tails…IMAG1767

We attached the tails using some glue… always the best part of crafting with kids! They just love making a sticky mess don’t they?

And, our ‘mini-kites’ looked like this… so far so good.

IMAG1769                                            IMAG1771

Now for the tricky part… attach the little straws using some tape (easy enough). Then feed two separate lengths of thread through the straws, tying at the ‘crossroads’.

It should look a little like this…

IMAG1777

1…2…3…4…5……….100……….200……….300……….400……….500

That’s how high you’ll need to count for the next part as you wind thread around a cake pop stick to make the kite handle…the kids actually really enjoyed this much more than I had anticipated! Attach the end of the thread to the two lengths of knotted thread you put through the straws earlier.

IMAG1783_BURST002_COVER

Et voilà!

IMAG1784

Next, find your favourite hill or open space to fly your kite – just make sure there is a good breeze. We chose Shaw’s Bridge, Belfast because it’s just so pretty.

IMAG1789

And watch your mini-kites soar…!

IMAG1793

OOOPS!

IMAG1790

My 3 boys spent hours running up and down hills with their little homemade mini-kites. They were delighted that they actually worked and were so proud that they had made them all by themselves with stuff we had lying around the house.

The morning was spent crafting our kites and the afternoon was spent flying them – a whole day of fun for free!

After enjoying a small picnic we decided to use the lush wild meadows at Shaw’s Bridge to do our part for the Big Butterfly Count – a nationwide survey which assesses the health of our environment.

You can find out more about the Big Butterfly Count at http://www.bigbutterflycount.org where you can also download your free printable survey chart and spend 15 minutes doing your part for nature. Don’t forget to log your results online!

IMAG1786

The boys loved this task. Running through the wild meadows in search of different species of butterfly was so much fun and it was a pleasure for me to watch them getting so involved in the process.

IMAG1798We spotted loads of butterflies in the wild meadows at Shaw’s Bridge and got a good workout while we were there! We had the whole place to ourselves and despite being 10 minutes from the city centre it just felt so free and peaceful.

Most definitely a windy day in July well spent! The verdict on the way home: “That was awesome!”

IMAG1801

HIKING WITH KIDS – THE MOURNE MOUNTAINS – SLIEVE DONARD

When I started this blog earlier in the week, I mentioned that the name Every Treasure was inspired by the saying ‘Every cloud has a silver lining’. Little did I know that by the end of the same week I would actually be walking in the clouds!

A few members of my family suggested a hike up Northern Ireland’s tallest peak, Slieve Donard, and of course I was keen to go, loving everything to do with the great outdoors.

So, with my 3 kids lacquered in sun screen, walking boots on and rucksack full of sandwiches we departed Belfast early in the morning to meet up with Granda, uncles and cousins in the Slieve Donard car park at the base of the 850-metre mountain.

mournes 1

On arrival in Newcastle, County Down, I was so excited about the big walk ahead that I let out a few ‘whoops’ that had my boys looking at me like I had confirmed their suspicions about me being crazy. But there’s something quite exhilarating about rounding the bend into Newcastle and seeing the Mourne Mountains reaching up into the clouds. Their scale puts life into perspective and the sight of them always makes my heart sing!

The sun was shining as we set off  and we agreed what a perfect day it was for a hike. The 5 kids in tow were enthusiastically on the lookout for the perfect rock pool to swim in, but we had to tell them to wait until our way back down before any swimming could take place – mountain climbing in soggy socks and shoes is never pleasant!

As we ascended up past the Ice House we could barely see the path ahead as the clouds quickly descended but we kept heading upwards, hoping in earnest that the sun would break through and the clouds would clear by the time we reached the summit and we would be able the enjoy the spectacular view over Newcastle and the Irish Sea. By lunch time we had reached the 22-mile long Mourne Wall which runs through 15 of the Mourne Mountains. The clouds were thick by this stage and a cool breeze meant we couldn’t stand around for too long. After a quick fuel stop we agreed that we had come too far to be deterred by a few clouds and so determined not to turn back we headed off again, this time up a steep, rocky track towards the summit.

I should probably mention that the children in our party were aged 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Their little legs had already endured a good hike to reach the wall but they were all super keen to get to the top of the mountain. I was already impressed by their stamina, but their enthusiasm impressed me even more. They were tired and cold. The wind had picked up and we could barely see 20 metres ahead. Part of me envisaged the rescue helicopters swooping in to pick us up and the mountain rescue squad lecturing us for taking kids so far up the mountains. We got talking to a few other hikers who were on their way back down and they said it was definitely windy at the top but certainly reachable. So, with that to encourage us and the kids eager to continue, we put our heads down against the wind and faced the steepest part of the climb.

After about half an hour we reached the top. What a feeling! It was my first time on the top of Slieve Donard too, despite having walked in the Mournes on many occasions and even having completed my Duke of Edinburgh there. The wind nearly lifted the kids off their feet, but they were not put off from climbing the pile of boulders that marks the summit point.

We sat atop the rocks, heads in the clouds, hair dripping wet with no view to be viewed, just the sense of achievement at having climbed the tallest mountain in Northern Ireland. It was uplifting to watch everyone beaming proudly, especially the little faces that looked as though they had reached the top of the world – I suppose they had reached the top of their world!

mournes 2 mournes 3

This is our party on the descent. As we continued back down the rocky path, the sun was trying desperately to break through and we did catch the odd glimpse of Newcastle in the distance.

 

mournes 6               mournes 5               mournes 4

By the time we neared the bottom the clouds had finally cleared and we were able to enjoy that long awaited swim. After a 5-hour walk it was so refreshing and well deserved. Watching the children sliding down the rocks into the clear pools was just the perfect ending to a great day.

We didn’t spend a single penny today, and as we neared the car the kids were raving about how much fun they had had and “when can we come to the mountains again” was asked repeatedly.

I knew my kids were fit and healthy, as are their little cousins, but if I had been asked could they climb Slieve Donald in a day and not moan about it I would have been sceptical. It just goes to show that we should never underestimate our kids’ abilities, or our own for that matter. I wouldn’t have believed I could get 3 kids up the mountain and back down in one piece without pulling my hair out! No rescue helicopters needed thank you very much!

mournes 7The Mourne Mountains truly are stunning and there are so many walks to explore. Visit http://www.walkni.com to find out about some of the routes you can take – just remember to pack a light jacket, because the weather can change so quickly as we discovered today! I’ll guarantee you won’t be disappointed after a day spent walking through the beautiful mountains of Mourne. It is definitely time well spent.

When we reached the Slieve Donard car park and looked back we could just see the top of the mountain we had spent the day conquering – it was finally cloud free! We didn’t get to enjoy the picturesque scenery from the top but in looking back up to where we had been it was actually more astonishing to see our accomplishment from ground level. We did it!

mournes 8

The children were all exhausted so we loaded them into the cars, said our goodbyes, agreed to meet up again soon and went our separate ways. As I drove through Newcastle, homeward bound, I was pleased we hadn’t spent our day in the noisy arcades, wasting our money in slot machines. Other than money for fuel and a basic picnic, I hadn’t spent anything and yet the boys were all happy and looking forward to meeting up with their cousins again soon to further develop their explorer skills. Watch out Bear Grylls – there are new kids in town… or rather new kids in the mountains!

Before I left Newcastle, I glanced in my rearview mirror and the boys were all fast asleep. The quiet drive home gave me time to reflect on how much I had enjoyed the walk, how proud I was of all the kids but mostly how much I had really loved spending time with my Dad, brothers, nephews and sons. The chat had been easy, though the climb was tough. There was laughter and encouragement and I look forward to another hiking day soon. I guess even the clouds in the Mournes have their silver linings!

Kelly

Summer Record Breakers

IMAG1610_1

Few things make my heart skip a beat more than a good book. I get very excited when people recommend books to me that I’ve never heard of and I’m a self-confessed author stalker on twitter, always keeping an eye out for the latest releases from my favourite writers.

Every summer, when my kids are let loose from the safe structure of the school environment for 2 whole months it can feel quite daunting. I mean, what if everything they’ve learned falls straight out of their awesome little heads while they are trampoline-boinging or rolling down hills? It’s a genuine fear. What if all the teachers’ hard work during term time is going to waste as I focus on having FUN with my 3 boys and forget about keeping their spongy little brains full of similes and adjectives and partitioning (?) and the Ancient Egyptians. It’s a big responsibility, so to alleviate my concerns one of the first things we do at the start of summer break is head to the library and register for the Summer Reading Challenge.

Today, after a lazy, first-day-of-summer morning spent in the garden we went to our local library and were delighted to discover that the Summer Reading Challenge, organised by the Reading Agency in conjunction with local libraries, has joined forces with Guinness World Records and that by taking part kids, and grown ups too, can attempt to break a world record by pledging to read as many books as possible over the summer months.

The awesome librarian at Cregagh Library, Belfast, enthusiastically registered my boys for the Summer Reading Challenge, and each of them pledged to read 20 books over the summer. They were each given a poster to chart the number of books they read as well as stickers and a wristband. The entire scheme not only promotes reading and keeps young minds healthy and interested in the world around them but also encourages them to explore some of the amazing real-life achievements that have already made it into the legendary Guinness Book of Records and to attempt their own challenges. As Guinness World Records celebrates its 60th anniversary this year what a lovely way for kids to join in and to possibly even feature in the next edition of the annual.

Every Christmas my Dad is given a Guinness Book of Records. It would be so cool if the Summer Reading Challenge 2015 was a record breaker and my boys could tell him that they were a major part in making it happen- because let’s face it, that’s how they will see it! And rightly so, it will be an achievement for them to complete the 20 books they’ve set as their goal.

Check out the rainbow of books they have picked so far.

IMAG1605 (2)

It’s going to be a colourful summer of reading for my 3 and I can rest assured that while they are loving the challenge of world record-breaking their minds are being stimulated and returning to school in September won’t be too much of a shock to the system!

IMAG1606 (2)

Here are the little posters for charting books read and it is filled with record breaking facts and comes with stickers (what is it with kids and stickers?)

I’m also taking part in the challenge and am currently reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (review to follow) so why not have a go yourself and see if we can get into the Guinness Book of Records together.

IMAG1607 (2)

Just visit your local library to register and start borrowing books right away. The kids will love it and if the sun is shining why not make an afternoon of it and take your new books and a picnic to the park for a relaxing bit of story-telling – reading outdoors is such fun!

To find out more about the Summer Reading Challenge you can visit http://www.recordbreakers.org.uk or http://www.summerreadingchallenge.org.uk.

Happy Reading!