Friday, 13 September 2019

Things not to say to your customers as a checkout assistant.

I love my job I really do. Since starting work two years ago I have made some fab work friends and also got to know some customers really well. They are friendly, chatty and always pop by your checkout to ask how you are. 

I always try and be friendly and polite to my customers, some are chatty and some would rather just do their shopping and go and that is fine. Then there are those times when you should have just kept quiet.

Here's one of those times..............

You know when you get to the checkout, you want the shortest queue but also an assistant who looks like they might want to actually chat with you while you pack the £3 million worth of shopping that seems to have jumped into your trolley. Well I am chatty checkout assistant except sometimes I should just keep my mouth shut. 

Yesterday I was unleashed from my cigarette kiosk where, quite often, you serve customers so quickly there’s no time for chatter. I don’t get out very often so the whiff of freedom must have gone to my head. 

There I am on my checkout. I have 3 customers. Lady I’m serving, regular customer behind her and one more behind him. 

Regular customer; ‘I’ve got my 2 year old granddaughter coming to stay, you need eyes in the back of your head with a toddler around’ 

Don’t we know it!

So I point at his 4 pack of beers and say ‘that’s not going to get you through the weekend, I’ve got 5 kids and that’s what I have for breakfast each morning’ 

Wtf, what did I just say?! 

Lady customer giggles nervously, she’s unsure whether I’m joking or not but looking at the state of me I’m sure she thinks it’s true. 

Regular customer is having a laughing fit. 

Third customer who didn’t want to talk to anyone but got dragged in stifles a giggle before composing himself. 

I feel like I’ve just stood up in an AA meeting and said ‘My name is Mumof5 and I’m an alcoholic’ except I’m not and now I’m backtracking. 

‘I’m joking, honestly, I don’t even drink. Plus the kids are back at school now so it’s all fine’
I shouldn’t be allowed out. I’m rethinking my checkout chat skills and heading back to my kiosk. 🤣🤣

I don’t drink, honestly 


Thursday, 12 September 2019

Our garden makeover continues, the composite decking project is complete.

The finished decking area ready for a family afternoon tea in the garden

Our decking project in the back garden finally happened over the first few weeks of the summer holidays. Dadof5 worked hard on the weekends both at work and at home to make sure this was finished so we could enjoy for a while before the autumn and winter arrive.

Dadof5 started the base framework back in July. The base had to be raised in order for the decking to be the same height as the door and the garden. We did a lot of research to make sure we used the right wood and used enough supporting pieces for the size of deck we were doing. 

The before picture shows the horrible patio and the step down from the house then up on to the garden. Another before picture is hidden down the bottom of this post! 

Realgroove bark effect composite deckboards in grey. 

We had new french doors fitted back in April which really opened up the dining room to the outdoors but the patio area had seen better days. When we extended the house six years ago we had to rip up some of the patio to put some pipework down and it never got put back properly. You also stepped down on to the patio and then up on to the garden so the new deck area meant we could level the area right across. We hadn’t sat out on the patio for ages and it wasn’t really suitable for the children to play out on.

Dadof5 and Grandadof5 worked hard to build the raised base framework in time for the decking delivery in August. It was a big project and only two of them working on it. The decking area measured 2.4 metres by 8.5 metres spanning across the back of the house.

We spent many hours discussing our decking options. I had stumbled across, and fallen in love with, the Realgroove composite decking on the edecks website while Dadof5 tried to persuade me to go for wood decking..... because it was cheaper! The composite decking was more than twice the price of wooden decking but so worth it and Dadof5 agrees. The composite deckboards were £7.99 per square metre which is approx. £20 a length and we needed 61 lengths.

We tend to do jobs and go for the cheaper option just to get the project done but we agreed that from now on we would try and get the products we would like rather than just opting for the cheapest/easier options.
I would say the decking was easy to fit but I was only observing! However it looked easy enough to fit once the workers got going. It all clipped together with fixing clips provided and once completed it looked fab. We have a few finishing bits to complete and then I need to update the rest of the garden. It’s really changed the garden and we have sat outside more in the past few weeks than we have done in years!

It’s lovely to wake up in the morning and push the doors wide open. I’ve sat outside and eaten breakfast and spent a few long summer days soaking up the sun out there too. We will be looking for new outdoor furniture before the summer next year although I do have my eye on a set already. 

I've hidden this before picture down here because quite frankly it's hideous! The patio had been lifted to lay new pipework for the extension and everything was just dumped in this space. As a result the patio area was unused and VERY unloved. 

Here’s to the hard workers for making my dream decking happen and here’s to the many other projects we have to start/finish!

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

The Halloween pumpkin patch for pumpkin picking at Crockford Bridge Farm with lots to see and do

Our pumpkin patch visit to Crockford Bridge Farm

Our family of pumpkins!

Half Term will be upon us before we know it and thoughts are already turning to Halloween. The evenings are getting darker slightly earlier already too. The kiddies have been talking about Halloween recently and want to go back to Crockford Bridge Farm and their pumpkin patch. Thing 5 also now wants a pumpkin costume and I am sure the shops are going to be extra busy over the next few weeks putting out their Halloween displays and Halloween costume stocks will be depleting fast.

Halloween always comes and goes in the blink of an eye. The children get so excited. The costumes have been in the shops for a while and inevitably we end up buying them an outfit so they can go out trick or treating. We only take them down our road and an adjacent street. They only ever knock on the door where we can see they have also done something or decorated for Halloween or they have children and we know them.

Another thing the children enjoy doing is picking and carving the pumpkins. A few years ago instead of buying them from the supermarkets I wanted to go somewhere that we could pick our own pumpkins. I found Crockford Bridge Farm in Addlestone and we set off.

At the pumpkin patch.

It looked amazing. There were so many pumpkins to choose from in size, shape and colour. There was lots of activities going on too including apple bobbing, places to sit and carve your own pumpkin, the Wonder Wood hosts an immersive theatre with a different story each year and I was so pleased we had chosen to go and pick our pumpkins. If you can and you are nearby you must go.

In 2019 Crockford Bridge Farm will open their pumpkin fields on selected dates in October with pre picked pumpkin sales from the beginning of October. This means you can pick your pumpkin directly from the field on these days. On all other days the harvested pumpkins are laid out for you to pick your own. Their annual pumpkin festival will also take place near to the end of October, during this time Crockford's Corner is transformed into a fun packed area complete with thousands of pumpkins displayed for sale, pumpkin carving and other fun activities. There is an entry fee payable at the gate.

Decisions, decisions! Which pumpkin do we choose?

Our pumpkin carving has also stepped up a gear too. Gone are the pumpkins with triangle eyes, square noses and wonky teeth. Things got serious! The OH got adventurous with a Darth Vader and Ghostbusters carving. I then had to up my game. Not that I am competitive or anything! I went for the camper van pumpkin. The children just wanted a happy pumpkin so I carved a smiley face into one of the smaller pumpkins. 

Our pumpkin carvings! 

It's also Bonfire night soon after so I am sure there will be a few displays happening over the coming Halloween season as well as the weekend after. We have our annual firework display at Nanny and Grandad's house planned. This involves tomato soup and a warm roll, followed by bratwurst then the all important firework display and sparklers before finishing off with marshmallows dipped in chocolate and sprinkles. Its fun for the kiddies, we just have a few small fireworks but enough to keep the kiddies happy that they have seen some and the food is always delicious and warming.

Have you been to a local pumpkin patch before? How does your pumpkin carving turn out? 

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Where to take the children to see Father Christmas for Christmas 2019. Legoland, Marwell Zoo, Watercress Line Santa Express details & more

As Christmas approaches there are so many things that need organising and one of those things each year is the annual visit to see Father Christmas.

In previous years we have taken the children to see Santa at Harrods and we did this for a few years in a row. It was lovely to get the pictures each year and see our children grow with each photo.

We’ve also done a lovely afternoon tea with Santa at a local garden centre and also the Santa Express on the Watercress Line which is lovely too. 

These experiences can get booked up quickly and now we are in September there are already lots of Santa grottos and experiences that you can book so here are a few that we have found.

Our photographs from Harrods Christmas Grotto. As you can see we went from three to five children over the years too! 

This year it's only the smallest two Things who are interested in going to see Santa and they have requested to go to Legoland at Christmas. We’ve not done this before so I had a look at their website. Christmas at Legoland is Sat 30th Nov/Sun 1st Dec then Friday, Saturday, Sunday for the 3 weekends before Christmas and is priced at £36 per person.

At the time of booking you have to pick a time slot to see Father Christmas and the park is open 10-4 for you to go on the rides which are open. Father Christmas can be found through the Christmas tree forest where an elf will lead you to his cabin. Each child will receive a gift.

The afternoon tea with Santa that we did a couple of years ago was lovely too. It was at our local Wyevale Garden Centre in the afternoon. You can pick a time slot and we were there for about an hour and a half. Myself and Dadof5 had an afternoon tea with festive sandwiches and scones and the children had a hot meal. There was also festive biscuit decorating and then Santa arrived to meet the children individually and give them a gift. This was a lovely visit to see Santa and wasn’t rushed at all. The food was lovely and it wasn’t really busy either. This was priced at around £11 and although I’ve not seen anything on their website yet and I’m unsure if Wyevale will have Christmas events happening again this year but if you can find a similar experience or keep an eye on their website it's worth doing. 

Meeting Santa at Wyevale Garden Centre

The afternoon tea for the adults and Thing 4 decorating his gingerbread christmas tree

The Santa Express on the Watercress Line, Alton runs from 30th November and 1st, 7th, 8th, 14th, 15th, 21st-24th December 2019 this year and is always a lovely trip to do.

Travel in a festive train carriage for a magical trip where Santa and his jolly helpers visit you in your seat with a gift. Grown-ups get treated to white wine and mince pies, whilst children enjoy a soft drink and a gingerbread man. Each child will also receive an activity pack to keep them entertained on this enchanting one hour journey. Don’t forget to bring your very best singing voice to join in with your favourite Christmas songs too!

I caught this picture of Thing 5 just as he saw Father Christmas arriving into our carriage. 

Tickets start at £18 for adults and children. We loved the Santa Express and have done it a couple of times. You travel along on the train while you wait for Santa to come along and see you. His helpers serve your drinks and nibbles and there’s even some magic and festive songs. Santa is attentive and gives out the presents and the children love it. The journey lasts for an hour and there are various time slots to book on the dates it runs. Tickets can be booked on their website now.

Christmas at Marwell Zoo is something I’ve looked at before but never booked. This year they celebrate 10 years of Christmas at Marwell with an Alice in Wonderland themed event running in daytime or evening sessions. If you book a daytime Christmas slot you can also look around the zoo. Adults cost is £25.50 and children aged 3-16 years are £29. We love our visits to Marwell Zoo and the Christmas wonderland sounds fab. You get a train ride to Marwell Hall inc. garden games, festive food and hot drinks, Mother Christmas tells a story and you get to meet Father Christmas. All details are on their website and tickets go on sale on September 23rd.

These are just a few festive events on in the Hampshire/Surrey area this Christmas season. There are so many more to choose from.

Where do you visit Father Christmas? Do you go to the same place every year? Have you booked already? 

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Choosing a family holiday for 2020. Deciding if New York with children is a good idea!

When I turned 40 this year I really wanted to go to New York but trying to plan time away from children is a logistical nightmare. Grandparents have to be very understanding and super awesome to be able to leave the children with them for 5 days and to be honest I would feel guilty going without them.

We’ve not had a proper family holiday in a long time. Whilst our few days in Cornwall here and there are great short breaks and the children love going it’s about time we had a proper holiday.

I’ve been abroad a few times but only ever short haul and without children. Thing 2 and 3 went to Spain with my parents a few years ago but apart from that we’ve never been abroad as a family.

It fills me with dread and excitement all at the same time. Travelling long haul for the first time with four children in tow seems daunting.

All of the children would love to go to New York too and we’ve talked numerous times about making the trip. 

 When do we go? 

What do we do once we are there?

How will I survive the journey and airport with them all?

How will they cope with the time difference/jet lag?

Do we book things before we go or just go with the flow when we get there? 

So many questions that I have and I don’t know where to start. I’ve been looking at flight and hotel prices and I think I’ve decided on November. Yes it will be chilly but the younger Things said they would prefer Christmas time and I think I would too. Probably fuelled by their love of the film Home Alone 2 but I would love to go at that time of year and see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, take a horse and carriage ride around Central Park and go and see the Christmas tree at Rockerfella Center. 

As well as looking at flights and hotels I need to look at costs of any excursions, eating out and shopping. Do we do transfers to and from hotel or just grab a cab, what’s the cheaper or easier way?

I have so many questions and that’s what is putting me off making the trip. The uncertainty of it all and being the one that has to have it all sorted. I definitely need to look into it and research it a lot more before we make the final decision. However if we go for November 2020 we’ve got a relatively decent amount of time to sort all of the details out.

I’ve had a some fab friends who have given me some great tips so far on travelling to New York with children, what to do and when to book things.

Can you give us any tips to help us on our travels?

The one thing I am certain of is that the Staying Sane household will be on tour in 2020. Whether it goes well is anyone’s guess but we won’t know unless we go for it!

Thank you to Saff O, Rebecca M and Hayley M for the photos of New York used in this blog post.