Cornwall – Why We Chose To Take Our Pandemic Holiday

Everyone has been affected by the worldwide pandemic this year, whether its directly by Covid-19 or indirectly. It hasn’t been an easy year, lots of people died, survivors lives changed forever, other people had to work from home, shops closed, kids told not to go to school and people panic bought toilet roll. Nobody would have predicted the events that were to unfold in 2020 this time last year.

At the beginning of the year we lost our beloved Grandad, he was one of the most important people in my life, housebound disabled we visited regularly to help him and my Nan who was his full time carer. We took her shopping every week and our eldest would sit with his Great-Grandad – Grandad-sitting. He never once complained. It hit us terribly, I’m in my late 30s and it’s the first death I’ve experienced of somebody close to me, and they didn’t come much closer. We weren’t even a week in to 2020 and I wondered how this year could possibly get any worse (I definitely tempted fate there!).

Me (in my mid teens) and my Grandad

Things spiralled again in February, our beautiful Siberian Husky – Spirit, who had been diagnosed just before christmas with Masticatory Muscle Myositis (MMM) was going downhill. Either his diagnosis was wrong, or the steroid medication he was on had allowed a pre-existing tumour behind his eye to grow uncontrollably. It put so much pressure on the back of his eye that it began protruding from the socket, I was terrified it would pop or come out (probably wouldn’t happen but you just never know). He eventually became blind in that eye. By the mid-end of February the tumour was starting to push past the eye ball and grow onto his face. He was obviously in discomfort and unhappy, it broke our hearts to have him put to sleep. To try give ourselves something to look forward to we booked a holiday to Newquay, Cornwall for the summer. We definitely deserved it.

Spirit before he got sick.

Unfortunately 2020 wasn’t finished with us just yet. We went into March still recovering from the loss of my Grandad and Spirit when my Dad was admitted into hospital, he was like a super-fighter. He’d been in hospital so many times and we’d had ‘the conversation’ about his chances, and every time he’d pull through. I believed this would be the same. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and I’d missed out on the last possible time I could’ve visited as I had a sore throat and had lost my voice. This was at the time we were being told that if you had a sore throat you should isolate for 14 days as we were learning how serious Covid-19 could be. I couldn’t risk passing it on if thats what I had so I stayed away, planning on going the following day if the ward allowed. Unfortunately he passed away the next morning. A week later we went into lockdown, the measures put in place meant we were robbed of giving our Dad a proper funeral. He was cremated alone, with a late service in August when it was safer. My anxiety was through the roof, I couldn’t imagine every leaving the house again, I ordered garden furniture ready for the summer, we planted fruit and veg and sorted the garden, we bought numerous pools, a swing set, and goodness knows what else. Everything that came through the door was washed to within an inch of its life. Luckily, working in school meant I was home most of the time now. I wasn’t timetabled to return until June, I believe a very nice thought from my senior management who knew I’d need time to recover. The time I spent at home gave me much needed family time, it was a difficult time but seeing my children whenever I needed to helped me to heal, they kept me busy. I would have nightmares, I was sure I was going to lose somebody else, especially going into April. So far we’d had a death a month.

An old pic of myself (aged around 1) and my Dad

Thankfully we’ve had no more deaths, I’m still terribly sad but I’m learning to deal with my losses. I returned to work, leading my own bubble in school, in June. I was terrified on my first day but once I’d done that day I was raring to go. That also helped me, it gave me other things to think about. We began to talk about our upcoming holiday. There’d been articles that some Cornish folk hadn’t wanted holidaymakers descending on them as they were rightly concerned about Covid. I get it, I really do, I live in a coastal town myself which quickly found itself in the same boat. We were fed up, we needed to get away and we’d done the right things up to that point, for everyone’s sanity we needed to take our holiday, Dad should’ve joined us on holiday which made things a little sad but he’d have wanted us to go, afterall he was looking forward to it himself. We social distanced as much as possible, we wore masks, we booked our slots in the pool, but most of all we relaxed and took in the beautiful sights of the Newquay coastline. It was good for the soul and my only regret was only booking for a week.

Some of my favourite pictures from Cornwall. There are more on my Instagram if you want to look.

This post was mostly for my own benefit but if you manage to read it all and don’t turn into a depressive mess I salute you. I hope it gives you a little insight into why it was important for us to take our holiday, everybody has an opinion on the right and wrong thing to do but we had to do what was best for us and we have no regrets. I’d be interested to hear from anyone else who took a holiday during the pandemic, or if you didn’t why not? Keep it nice. Wishing everyone a wonderful end to 2020

Our Santa Special Experience With North Yorkshire Moors Railway

This year our littlest is 4. It’s his first year understanding the whole Santa/Christmas thing and so we wanted to make it a special one. We wanted an amazing experience that he/we would remember. He’s a typical boy – he loves all your stereotypical boy stuff including trains, so we just knew this would be perfect. We booked it at a price of £23pp. The eldest didn’t want to come, and he’s 17 so we didn’t force him.

The elves delivered this letter on the morning of our trip!

We started the day with a delivery from the elves telling Toby he was going on a train ride to meet Santa. This caused so much excitement, he was bouncing happy. We knew straight away this was going to be a good day. We got ready and left. Very early. We’re usually late for everything and we absolutely did not want to miss this.

We arrived an hour before our train was due to leave, we managed to watch the steam engines moving around the platforms getting into position and we saw another ride return that had been out for afternoon tea.

There were lots of staff (volunteers I believe) to help out at the station. We were greeted by several friendly faces who directed us to the refreshments area where we could have a complimentary hot drink, juice, fruit, mince pie and a shot of Irish cream (for the hot chocolate of course).

By the time we’d finished eating/drinking the other guests were starting to arrive, we decided to free up a table and made our way onto the platform to have a look around whilst we awaited our time to get on the train.

We found Santa!
We made orange lollipops – no idea why? When you’re 4 anything goes!

Eventually it was time to take our seats. I’m not going to lie, I was a little disappointed that we were on the back carriage, it was the only seats available by the time I had booked so we took them. I felt that it’d be a little rubbish as we’d be so far away from the engine pulling us. I needn’t have worried though as the train stops halfway through the journey and the engine is turned around to pull it back the other way. So we did the return journey as the first carriage! Winner!

I went off on a tangent there, on the train we were met by Crackers the elf. “Crackers by name , crackers by nature” he said. He wasn’t wrong. His Irish accent was the perfect addition to his character. He was genuinely happy, outgoing and funny, everyone loved him.

Don’t leave your phone lying on the table or Crackers the elf will take lots of selfies (or elfies?)

He had the entire carriage laughing, singing and taking part in games. He picked on our daughter who refused to shout something out after him (she’s 11, a little shy and too grown up now for Santa/Elves, or so she thinks). He named her the grinch for the rest of the journey much to her embarrassment.

The first games he played he chose my partner and another unfortunate dad to take part in a race in our half of the carriage, and two from the other half. They had to race to the middle where Crackers was waiting, doing funny runs and then run back. The whole carriage was in fits of laughter. The game was then repeated with ladies and then children. There was no opportunity to get bored.

The chosen ones!

Santa arrived on our carriage around halfway through our journey. He seemed a genuinely happy guy with friendly, smiley eyes. He happily chatted with the kids and didn’t seem rushed. It was at this point that Toby surprised us by asking for a robot. One thing he doesn’t have. Panic! He sat and posed for pictures before moving on to the next bay. Crackers the elf followed with gifts, which all seem well thought about. No generic selection boxes which you find all too often.

Toby got an emergency vehicle set which he was delighted with, Kaesey (11) got a make your own jewellery set – it came with clay and stampers to shape it and bake it. It was brilliant. Zak (12) got a science kit. It was almost as if the people that chose the gifts knew our kids. We were very pleasantly surprised.

Kaesey with her gift

Once the unwrapping was finished, Crackers came around with some activity packs – these contained things like colouring sheets, pencils etc. By this point we were on our return journey. We played a game of ‘finish the lyrics to the Christmas song’ and then sung along to lots of Christmas songs. It was over before we knew it.

We were all beaming and buzzing from our amazing experience and couldn’t thank the volunteers/staff enough. The attention to detail and event they put on was perfect in every way. I think Toby will talk about it for a long time.

Our journey lasted around 75 minutes altogether

It’s probably too late for any last minute bookings now but if you had considered going but wasn’t sure it would be worth it then I would say go for it! It’s not a cheap day out, but does represent excellent value for money in my opinion, and there’s plenty of time to save for next year!

17 Elf On The Shelf Ideas

We’ve done elf on the shelf now for a couple of years, not the official one but the cheaper mischievous elves! I know only too well how hard it can be to come up with new ideas year after year.

We actually considered making last year the final time, Toby, our youngest, is only 4 and wouldn’t remember, and the older children are now “too grown up” for silly elves that mum and dad obviously move, but they asked if we could carry on for Toby and if they could help. They were very excited about helping to make it magical for him, so continue we have.

The elves arrived this morning with a North Pole breakfast.

We start with a North Pole breakfast and advent calendars. It’s a horrendous amount of sugar which our kids love the look of but in reality the majority of it ended up back in the cupboard to eat later as they couldn’t manage much! I have a few ideas up my sleeve for the next few weeks but here are some of my favourites from the past couple of years.

Chocolate covered Brussels sprouts!

Par boil your sprouts, allow to cool and cover with melted chocolate and sprinkles. You can do much tidier versions than I can but you get the idea!

Photocopier fun!

Make sure you have plenty of ink for this one! Elves having fun with the photocopier is highly entertaining for the kids. It brought giggles in our house.

Elf selfie cookies

How much time do you want to dedicate to elf on a shelf? Ours (over) cooked up some biscuits and decorated them to look like themselves. There are literally loads of recipes to choose from online and lots of tutorials for piping the icing. It’s the first time I’d done anything like this but I don’t think they turned out too horrendously.

Googley eyes!

I don’t think this needs any further explanation.

Target practice.

A packet of toilet rolls and a Nerf fun and you have a quick yet very effective result!

The Christmas tree is pants!

This had to have one of the best reactions from our children, cover your Christmas tree with their pants and socks, leave a note from the elves saying “your tree is pants, it really socks”, or similar.

One for the older ones!

Our elves stole a bottle of beer and they couldn’t handle it! This was the result. Vomit fest. Of course this isn’t for everyone and our kids didn’t really ‘get it’ so it’s probably one for the older ones.

Dry dog biscuits and bad jokes!

Dry dog food angels! Quick and easy.

Ketchup & Squirty cream Santas.

So so quick and easy!! Sure to make the children smile.

There’s snow place like home.

This took two cans of spray snow, I could definitely have used more. It’s one I’ll be repeating this year as we get very little snow here. There’s snow place like home, there’s snow place like home, there’s snow place like home.

Single and ready to Pringle.

Save those empty Pringles tubs for a quick and easy idea! You could also use cereal packets such as Rice Krispies – snap crackle and pop!

I moustache you a question.

There are so many options for this idea – the kids faces, parents faces, elves faces, pen, eyeliner. How far is too far? That depends how naughty your elves are I guess!

Elf smoothies.

This works well if you have a number of elves, failing that let the kids toys join in and help for an alternative.

Face swap!

Pose the elves in a similar style to your children’s photos and replace them. It’s fairly quick and easy and our kids found it hilarious when they realised what the elves had done! I realised after that the top photo wasn’t entirely accurate but it didn’t really matter all that much!

Green elf milk!

Food colouring and milk for a funny elf prank! Our children weren’t sure about green milk on their cereal though so was glad we only did a little bit.

Enviro-friendly elves.

We have tried to reduce our single-use plastic use and we made some eco bricks, the elves helped us one night by stuffing some bottles. Our daughter who had just taken part in a competition in which her and her team raised lots of awareness of the dangers of plastics in the sea was delighted by this.

I’d love to see your favourite elf antics too.