A Wonderful Summer ♥

Before the summer is a long distant memory, I just want to record what an incredible six weeks I had with Lil’ L.  He’s growing up fast and I’m sure he’ll soon want to spend the holidays with his mates rather than good ole’ mum, so I really did savour every moment I had with him.

As I didn’t have an income for these six weeks, we thought of lots of fun, free (or low cost) activities to do.  Here’s a quick run down of our top five favourite summer holiday activities (in no particular order; they were all great 🙂 )

1. Cycling
We devised our own version of the ‘Tour de France’, which included stages both here in the South West of England and in France. Each stage normally finished with a sprint to a cafe. 😉  In total, we cycled 150 miles. One of Lil’ L’s favourite rides was the Verderer’s Trail in the Forest of Dean. It’s graded Blue but has a Red downhill section at the end. Lil’ L loved it so much that, as soon as he’d finished it, he wanted another go! I need to brush up my mountain bike skills because I fell off 3 TIMES (I’ve got an issue about sharp right hand turns 🙁 ).  Here’s a clip of someone else riding the trail. I’m glad I’m not the only one that keeps falling off. 😉

Here’s a short clip of Lil’ L and M riding the Intermediate Skills loop.

Lil’ L loves the technical rides much more than road cycling. You should hear him woop while he’s hurtling down those dirt tracks!

2. Hiking / Walking
We did some amazing hikes and walks around our locality, such as the one up Little Solsbury Hill. We even found different ways to walk into Bath. One in particular, which we termed the ‘Wild Walk’, was really fun. We took our cameras and photographed the creatures and wild flowers we spotted along the way. It certainly made walking into Bath more fun (and saved us a small fortune in bus fares!)

Here’s Lil’ L at the start of our wild walk into Bath.

And here’s some of the beautiful wild flowers we spotted on our walk.

40 minutes later, we arrived in the centre of Bath. 🙂

3. Visiting friends and family
We had some wonderful trips on the train to visit friends and family, including 2 trips to Brockenhurst and Dorset, and 1 trip to Bracknell. I managed to trade in my Tesco vouchers for a Family & Friends Railcard (which lasts a year) and gift vouchers for Redspottedhanky.com, which meant that all our train trips were FREE! What a bargain! 🙂

4. Photography
We had lots of fun taking photos of beautiful flowers and views, as well as attempting to photograph food for this blog.  Needless to say, Lil’ L took the best shots every time. 😉

Here’s his shot of a poppy in the garden. Isn’t it beautiful?

And here’s a shot he took of my favourite house on the canal.

5. Cooking
We had lots of fun baking cakes and making chocolates (all healthy of course 😉 ). Our favourite cake creation this summer was a super healthy, super delicious upside pineapple cake (I’ll post the recipe tomorrow).

All in all, it was a wonderful summer; one I certainly won’t forget.

I’d love to hear what your favourite activity was this summer.

A bike adventure to Bath followed by ‘scrumdiddlyumptious’ pulao rice!

We decided to spend today in Bath and, to make the journey fun, we chose to go on our bikes along the canal. 

This is the beautiful stretch of Kennet and Avon Canal between Bathampton and Bath

Not only is it a fun way to get to the city, but it’s free, healthy and very picturesque.  It also stops me spending too much money as I can only fit a couple of small items in my backpack. 😉

I love the bridges pictured below.  They were erected in 1800 and, for me, signal that we’ve arrived in Bath.  Just got to nip through Sidney Gardens, along Pultney Street and we’re there!

As I’m not going to be doing any paid work for the next 6 weeks, my aim is to try and find lots of fun FREE activities to do.  Our first stop was to Bath Library to sign up for the summer 2011 reading challenge.  It’s a real sign that we’re in recession when you find that the libraries in Bath have actually run out of the reading challenge packs on day 2 of the school holidays… and have no money to buy any more!!! 🙁    

Next stop was the Victoria Art Gallery.  This gallery is free to enter and it’s one of my favourite places in Bath.

The gallery currently has two incredible exhibitions.  The first is ‘Flying Figures’ by Mark Angus, who is one of Europe’s best stained glass artists.  His exhibition features glowingly coloured diving and backlit figures that explore the theme of ‘eternal youth’.

Mark Angus Flying Figures

The second exhibition is Jilly Sutton’s ‘Across the Grain’.  Jilly carves her large wooden heads and figures from felled trees and driftwood.  Looking at her figures left me with an incredible sense of peace 🙂

Jilly Sutton 'Across the Grain'

For lunch, we headed to Pultney Gardens (free for residents) and munched our way through the goodies I’d brought in my backpack.  From where we sat, we had a great view of The Empire Building with its strange roof.


We loved this sculpture, which was made out of plants.


We had a wonderful day out and Lil’ L couldn’t wait to get started on his new library books when we arrived back home.  While he read, I prepared one of our favourite rice dishes… vegetable and nut pulao, which we normally serve with a side dish of chapatis.  As I was short for time tonight, we served it with toasted flour tortilla segments, which made a nice change.  Lil’ L described the dinner as ‘scrumdiddlyumptious’ and gave it 5 stars. 🙂  The recipe can be found here.

Lil' L took this photo with our point and shoot camera. I think I'll get him to take all my photos as he does a much better job than me 😉

Banana Pancakes and Bike Adventures!

Sunday’s special weekend breakfast was one of our all-time favourites … banana oat pancakes.  I’ve been wanting to post this recipe for a while now, but Lil’ L has always managed to eat the pancakes before I’ve got round to taking the photo!  This time, I made a huge batch so he could be happily munching his way through three pancakes while I took a photo of the others. 😉 

We like to serve these pancakes with pecan nuts, blueberries and a light drizzle of agave syrup.

Wanted to get another photo in of the cute plate Sandra bought me 😉

Not only are these pancakes delicious, they’re also super healthy and highly nutritious.  Lil’ L describes these pancakes as ‘glorious!’ and gives them 5 stars. 🙂  The recipe can be found here.

We’ve finally got round to buying a roof rack for the new car, which means we can start going on bike adventures further afield again.  Hurray!  This Sunday, after our fill of pancakes, we loaded the bikes onto the car and decided to go to Longleat in Wiltshire.

We parked the car at Nockatt Coppice car park (love that name!)  The trail starts up high, with a beautiful view of Longleat House and grounds.

 There was an interesting sculpture that was just begging to be laid on. 😉

Let the adventure begin!

There are many trails round Longleat.  The one we chose today took us through an amazing woodland.  Lil’ L’s reading Enid Blyton’s ‘Folk of the Faraway Tree’ at the moment, and he said that this tree was exactly how he imagined the Faraway Tree to look. 😉

Apparently the next section of the wood looks just like the Ewok’s forest in Star Wars. 

After following the trail through the woods, we popped out by the lake at Shear Water.  There was a very cute cygnet with its mum and dad. 

After consulting the map, we were pleased to find that there was a cafe less than a mile away.  Bike rides are always more fun when they involve stops at cafes. 😉 

The cafe turned out to be a very cute tearoom in a thatched house.

My beloved Marin took a well-earned rest on the grass.

We had our fill of beans on toast and coffee, then we headed back to Nockatt Coppice.  It was a great day out!  I’m already looking forward to our next bike adventure. 😉