Baby needs a new pair of shoes

6 Oct

dice  “Toys in a shoe? Don’t be ridiculous, your friends do not have toys in their shoes.” “They do, Lola’s got a little doll, she showed me,  she keeps in her shoe?”

“She doesn’t, maybe she brought a doll in and slipped it inside her shoe, but you don’t get toys in shoes.”

“They do mummy, just ask the lady at google.”

It’s a sign of the times that a parent’s final word is never final, as whatever I say my children will not believe me unless it’s been confirmed by google.

So, smugly convinced in this case at least I’d be proved right, I asked google as we waited in the lengthy queue amongst screaming infants in the Clarks outlet store, about toys in shoes… And what do I find?  Yes of course some bright spark has decided it would be a great idea to put a doll in a school shoe. Thanks for that. Does airport security know about this secret shoe compartment I wonder?

“Yes that’s them, please mummy, please, it’s the thing I most want in the whole wide world…”

For some reason she didn’t seem swayed by my economic argument that she could get two pairs of outlet shoes, for one pair of these bobby dazzlers.

Or by my suggestion that she would lose such a tiny toy in about two minutes flat and could I just not buy her a doll instead?

I’ve been quite fortunate that until this point she has never really wanted anything before, not really, really. Well apart from sweets, or anything hideously pink and sparkly from Claire’s Accessories. But nothing that was going to cost any more than a fiver. But now, a month into year 1, it appears to have begun.

And what did I do? Did I stand firm on the side of common sense and economic reasoning? Set a strong precedent for the future? Defy the Clarks marketing machine?

Nope, I caved in. For a split second I wanted to be the mum who could give her little girl everything she wanted. And found myself thinking well if you can’t have a doll in your shoe when you’re five, when else can you have one?

So we left the Clarks outlet empty handed, I managed to invent some feeble attempt at justification by getting her to promise to work super hard at school and learn all her spellings without complaining and then I found a 25% discount code at Brantano and bought them.

So she’s happy – apart from the twice that we’ve lost the doll already…

I even found myself thinking it might be quite practical for adults too – say for a night out, you could put your taxi money and a house key inside?

But I think I’m going to have to toughen up, as I suspect this is only the beginning…






Swan Lake

6 Oct

wpid-img_20141006_114255.jpgOne of my favourite spots for an Autumn walk is Bolam Lake. Despite having being dragged out in all weathers since they were tiny bundles in a Baby Bjorn, the usual response to my enthusiastic – “wow isn’t it a beautiful autumn day, let’s go for a walk,” is something like “eeuuuurrgghghhh…”

But Bolam Lake and Country Park is great : not too far to drive, a nice flat circular walk, swans to feed, trees to climb,places to hide and picnic spots a plenty.

As well as fungi spotting, leaf collecting and picking a few last remaining brambles, the girls had a great time feeding the swans and have now renamed Bolam ‘Swan Lake’ as once we reached for the bread, we soon found ourselves fending off 17 in total.

wpid-img_20141006_114240.jpgThe paths are suitable for buggies, although they can be very muddy and there are toilets and a small cafe at the visitor centre.



For more information and special events visit

A walk at Cragside

29 Jul




There always seems to be something new to discover at Cragside. After our last visit to the lake area this time me headed to the house and formal gardens.

10 places in the North East to visit #fathersday

14 Jun

2007-01-04 0181. This not the combination you hear of everyday but the Vintage Transport and Real Ale Festival @tanfieldrailway sounds a day out that is going to hard to beat  – the chance to be a driver for a fiver too?



IMG_20140523_1130202. If you weren’t at the 150th Miners’ Picnic today, head to Woodhorn Museum, near Ashington tomorrow and mix mining heritage with coming face to face with the daddy of all dinosaurs the T-Rex himself and a train ride too



IMG_20140607_1120113.  Uncivilised… like humans only different? Find out about the Wild Man of @belsayhall, have a lovely walk through the beautiful gardens and quarry and climb a castle …


druridge24. Any excuse to visit Druridge Bay….




Holy Island

Holy Island

5.  I had magical happy memories of visiting Holy Island as a child and my first return visit with my family didn’t disappoint




wpid-IMG_20130929_173555.JPG6. A cycle around The Rising Sun Country Park – who’d have thought all this was just behind the Asda?




wpid-IMG_20130918_182341.JPG7. Treat yourselves to breakfast/brunch or lunch on the beach at Tynemouth#




DSCF00238. Cycling at Kielder Water




wpid-wp-1396891671233.jpeg9. There’s something “other worldly” about Cragside, near Rothbury – visit Lord Armstrong’s famous home – the first to be lit by hydroelectricty, learn about Sir Jospeh Swan and the lightbulb, ramble through the craggy woodland and have a cheeky zip wire in the playground



wall10. Get in touch with your inner Roman geek and take a walk on Hadrian’s Wall or visit Vindolanda







Scooters, slides and fine feathered friends at Saltwell Park

9 Jun

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Echoes and rhododendrons at Belsay Hall

9 Jun

I doubt that Sir Charles Monck had in mind Frozen-mad five-year-olds when he designed the romantic Belsay Hall. But if he had, he couldn’t have come up with a much better acoustic paradise for their off-key “Let it Go” renditions than his underground wine and beer cellars.

For those of you who don’t have a school-age daughter, count yourself lucky as those of us who do are enduring the constant warbling of the central ballad: “Let it Go.”

So when a very kind, if possibly unsuspecting, member of the English Heritage staff suggested  that we make sure we visit the cellars under the hall, to try out the incredible echo, there was only one song on my daughters’ minds.  I would like to apologise to any other visitors to Belsay on the weekend for putting an end to any idea of  them having a peaceful stroll. But the lady was right, the echo was fantastic. The children were absolutely captivated by the sounds of their voices being repeated back at them again and again and we were there for ages “letting it go” along with singing nursery rhymes too.  Unfortunately, like their mum, they are pretty much tone deaf, so I won’t inflict their Frozen, the cellar version, soundtrack on you, but I’d recommend giving it a go. I  can only imagine how beautiful the underground rooms sounds when, as we were told, the choirs go there to practice.


IMG_20140607_154322We’ve made a number of family outings to Belsay over the last few years, but one of the quite handy things I find with young children, is that it’s not long before they have almost completely wiped it from their memory and every visit carries with it the excitement seeing things a new all over again.

With the weather threatening a serious downpour, we headed straight for the former hall. It may look very grand, but one of the things I find that makes it a great place to visit with children is that there is nothing in it. There’s no need to worry about them breaking any invaluable objects or knocking over a piece of prize china, there’s just great, empty rooms and towering Greek pillars that allow for plenty of imagination to picture how they would have been filled all those years ago.

You can also learn more about the Wild Man of Belsay – a loner, a family man, an enigma, an free spirit…




With the odd spot of rain beginning we had a quick picnic on the lawn outside, against a backdrop of stunning rhododendrons, before having a swift walk around the garden then heading back to the car.

On a brighter day, or if we had come more prepared, from the hall you can then walk along through an old quarry, filled with prehistoric-sized flora and fauna that reminds me of scenes from Jurassic park, before arriving at the ruins of a medieval castle. This is another great picnic spot and the children have enjoyed climbing in the ruins and up the staircase to the top of the tower.

The walk then takes you back to the hall, via a slightly different route, which makes a lovely circular walk – suitable for pushchairs.

On a practical note, there is a cafe and toilets at the Hall and more toilets by the castle, always handy with littleones.






Taste of summer: Druridge Bay and Morpeth

20 May

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The merest hint of sunshine can see me scramble for the picnic rug, bucket and spade and mandatory cheese & pickle sarnie and head off like a woman possessed in the direction of the beach.

More often than not, the end result is a progressive drop in the car’s thermometer, a gathering of cloud and a pick-up in the wind until I arrive at the coast to unload my swimming cozzie-clad youngsters shivering onto the sand, while waterproof and welly-wearing dog walkers glance at them in pity.

But not this weekend. To my relief it actually got warmer the closer we got to our sunny destination and I even began to think that it might even be “busy” and “would I get parked?” in our usual spot right above the beach.

I found myself thinking “oo it is quite busy” – but that was because there were actually one or two other families scattered sparsely across the sand, whereas usually we have almost the whole beach to ourselves and even though I never need reminding, I did think quite smugly how lucky I am to live so close to such a beautiful and peaceful coastline.

Children’s inability to feel the cold never ceases to amaze me and I was quite jealous that while I was slightly chilly in my jeans and cardie, my two girls lolloped around in the water as if we were in the Coast del Sol.

Roll on summer.

Making the most of the weather on Sunday we headed down to Carlisle Park, Morpeth, where the grassy banks were filled with picnic spreads, families took rowing boats out on the river against the backdrop of the busy bowling green, (and Dunkin Donut van) in an almost idyllic vision of Englishness, A dedicated chap was also hard at work painting the brilliant paddling pool, so I look forward to that being open soon.
We then headed along the riverside path, great for scooters and small bikes towards the “Steppy Stones”. Whilst it’s not as scenic with the current flood defence work underway, the shallow river is great for paddling, fishing and like a big kid, I love navigating the Stepping Stones. I also love having a nosy at the beautiful picture-perfect riverbank houses with their terraced gardens that lead down to the river.
If you are out without bikes/scooters/pushchairs you can cross over the stones and the path leads back up to town centre, where you can then walk back to the park.

North East With Kids

A few words and pictures of places we like to go in the North East of England

Great North Mum

Multitasking mummy on a mission

The Alpha Parent

A few words and pictures of places we like to go in the North East of England


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