Dear diary 18th April 2011

Posted on April 18th, 2011 -

I have finally beaten my fear of the unknown and tried you tube. It is so easy, just a few server problems and I have my first Coombe Mill video, I hope this will be the first of many! I hope you enjoy it…..

Dear Diary – The Easter Holidays, family and friends.

Posted on April 15th, 2011 -

I do breath a sigh of relief when the holidays arrive. A chance for the children to chill out, stay in their pj’s till late, catch up with friends and family and leave the clubs and homework behind for a while. For us the holidays are about recharging the batteries and having a change of routine. The term time is so dictated by school, homework and a myriad of evening clubs for each of my children that I hardly feel I have any quality time with them. Some nights we have 4 different activities on the go and coordinating them all and dinner whilst running a business is far from easy.
Theo’s Riding lessons 
Surf Club: Ally, Felix, Theo
Jed & Guy at Beavers:
A trip to Coombe Mill!
Clio tap dancing
 In fact I think evenings are the only time when I would swap living at Coombe Mill for living in the middle of Wadebridge where the children could take themselves to all their different activities. Never mind, only 4 more years till the eldest one can help driving the others around! In fact he could do the school run…….but there goes another parenting dilemma, do I let him  in charge of the bus and his 5 siblings each day or would the worry of his driving be worse than doing it myself? Humm,4 years to think on that one.
Back to the Easter Holidays: now is when living at Coombe Mill is so amazing. Our children are having just the best time picking up old friendships with regular guests and making new ones. Our house is like an open invitation for anyone staying to come in with our children. I love the fact that they are so comfortable bringing others round and that parents staying soon discover one of  the joys of Coombe Mill is not having to know where their children are all the time, but knowing they are safe.
Felix and his new best friend Monica in our house
Dinner times can be frustrating trying to locate everyone, they conveniently forget how to read a watch at such times, but its a small price for their freedom and enjoyment.
While they play inside and out I am able to continue working in the office, restocking the freezer with scrummy meals and cakes and taking the all important bookings.
Banana Cakes
Pork and Honey casserole
cooling for the freezer
I do like to make sure we have some family time out too. This holiday we have been up to Devon for the day visiting our old neighbours.  The 9 children together are great friends and we had a lovely day in the garden and down at their beech.
Lunch in the garden together
Ice cream at the beach shack
Beach fun
They were quite exhausted by the end of the day and half were fast asleep by the time we arrived back at Coombe Mill!
Next week I am taking the children to see their Grandparents in Buckinghamshire for a few days and catching up with more old friends. From there we are off to East Sussex where Nick will fly up and join us to see Yia  Yia (thier Greek Grandma) for a big Greek Easter party with all their cousins, back just in time for the new term to begin.
It’s all go for me but the children are having a ball so I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Happy holidays to all of you and I hope you are enjoying your Easter holidays too where ever you are!

Dusty the disapearing kid goat!

Posted on April 6th, 2011 -

Our new gorgeous kid goat was our pride and joy born just over a week ago. So cute with her beautiful dappled grey, white and black fur and so tiny. We proudly announced her arrival on our Coombe Mill facebook site, showing off lovely pictures of her and the children and her lovely mother Houdini (more on Houdini later!).

Just 1 day Old with Mum

The Children crowing
 round Dusty & Houdini

Dusty, as she has been named by the guests staying this week, gave us quite a scare just 5 days into her early life. She had become the highlight of the feed run for so many children. Houdini was quite at home letting the children cuddle and stroke Dusty and the children would search her out straight away on entering the field. All was well, the sun shone and life was perfect until…….one Wednesday morning last week when Dusty was nowhere to be found. Houdini was doing her pieces bleating for her, the children and Farmer Nick had an extended feed run embarking on a full scale hunt of the field .
Now I did promise to return to Houdini, she is named after her ability to escape from any field. A lovable goat, very gentle with heaps of personality, we had long since ceased worrying of her adventures as she always returned home at night. Needless to say, she didn’t give birth in the field but in nearby woodland within the estate, this was no real surprise for Houdini and we simply moved Mother and Baby to the field. Searching for our lovely lost Dusty had therefore entailed combing not only the field but all the surrounding area too, sadly to no avail.

A cloud of doom surrounded us as Dusty was our first kid goat in 2 years and so loved. I was bracing myself as to how to explain on facebook that our lovely new arrival had disappeared without trace and farmer Ted continued to search along with many guests for the next 24 hours. Finally we all agreed that a tragic end probably involving a fox had to be the answer to her disappearance.

Farmer Nick was just explaining his fox theory to the guests on Friday morning when those staying on Pencarrow (our Scandinavian lodge overlooking the river and goat field) said they had seen Dusty the previous evening skipping around with Houdini and just presumed we had found her!

With new renewed hope everyone searched again, a young kid bleating was heard and the sound quickly followed. There was Dusty hiding inside an old Oak Tree. Nick was worrying about the need to call a tree surgeon and what a shame it would be to loose the children’s favourite climbing tree, when who should pop out of a tiny hole at the base, you’ve guessed it… Dusty!

The now famous Oak Tree!

Whether she disappeared of her own accord or whether Houdini put her there and then forgot we will never know, but we are all delighted to have her back and know that she was safe and well the whole time!

Farmer Nick and Ted have been retelling the story to this weeks guests. In fact if you listen on the video clip here you can hear Nick explaining the whole saga to this weeks guests while they meet Dusty!


Birthday Parties, some great tips ……

Posted on March 30th, 2011 -

With 6 children I feel I have more than my share of birthday parties to organise. It is wonderful to watch children having a lovely time and enjoying all you have organised for them, however, after many years of different parties and different ages I find one thing in common at the end of them all……I am shattered!

Is this just me or does anyone else feel the same? We have a birthday a month through the summer, all the anticipation, build up and then ensuring everyone is safe and happy on the day really tires me out, I find a 10 mile run much less exhausting! 
There are however a few lessons I have learnt over the years which I can happily pass on to anyone facing the party worries.
Toddler Parties age 1 – 3
Parties in the early years are partly for the children and partly for friends and family! Keep the stress down with these simple pointers:

1. Ensure the parents stay too . At this age the children need heavy supervision and you will find you need the help and support of all the Mums and Dad’s to ensure everyone is watched and playing safely.

2. Opt for a maximum of 2 hours, you will find this is long enough of having your Witt’s about you and offering teas and wine for adults as well as the children’s party food and entertainment. The other adults will help you but you will still feel you are responsible and they will look to you for what to do, which in itself is tiring.
2. Keep it simple, a simple garden party with trikes, picnic rugs and toys is plenty, or if it is winter just toys in the front room and a picnic table for the food.
3. If the thought of home is too scary book a village hall or soft play center, takes away some of the stress of home but does raise the price. If money is not a factor then you can take away more pressure with an entertainer, a good one really will keep a group happily entertained and take so much pressure away from you.
We have been lucky enough to have Coombe Mill for our party venue and fill in at least an hour with tractor rides to see the animals, wellies or sun hats depending on the weather!

All aboard and Mums too!
Parties age 4 – 6

 This can be a tricky age group, generally it is expected that the parents will drop and run and use the time a little like free child care! Children at this age need a bit more structure to a party and have expectations and ideas themselves.
1. I would recommend persuading a couple of Mums to stay and help you
2. Don’t be put off the party at home cheap option, the children will have a wonderful time so long as you do a little planning.
3. Organise some games to play, musical statues, parse the parcel, musical bumps, keeping the balloon in the air, hide and seek etc are all old classics which still work well, but my advise (from experience) is don’t make the children ‘out’. Have a winner but avoid losers, everyone can be winners. Tears and tantrums are to be avoided and the birthday person is usually the worst!
4. Again hire a hall if you feel the house is too small or stressful, go for a garden party last minute if the weather is dry, children don’t feel the cold like us adults and run around space is important. A bouncy castle can be fun or a water slide – simple piece of plastic on the end of a slide with water running down – simple, structured and 2 to 3 hours I found to be prefect at this age.
Felix on the water slide on his party in our garden
Again our tractor rides have still been a huge success for this age group, only our own children find it less exciting as it is so home from home for them, but showing off their farm knowledge to friends usually compensates along with a game of ‘it’ in the indoor play barn!
Parties age 7 – 10
Children age 7 to 10 are becoming more independent and like a party that reflects this. However I find a loose structure or activity keeps everyone focused, allows you to know what they are doing and where, which makes life less stressful. I have had “the mad hour” with this age range, charging round the house not realising they are as big and strong as they are, then discovering afterwards the broken bed slats etc.
1.Keep a rough structure and plan activities, but allow a bit of ‘go with the flow’ too.
2. Be careful with sleepovers. We have had some wild all in sleeping bags in the living room style parties. This is fine so long as you don’t mind loosing a nights sleep, if you mind then keep it to a max of two for the sleepover, more and I guarantee they will be awake all night. Arrange collection from a sleepover by 10am the following morning, they will be tired and grouchy and this is hard enough to manage with your own children without managing others too!
3. For a day time party try an organised activity like swimming, zoo visit etc, less stress but can be pricey.
4. After school is an easy one, just a few hours and all the fun of a party on the actual day.

Painted gnomes and decorated
 biscuits ready to take home

5. Home activities which have worked well for me include, ceramic painting, anything from plates and mugs to fridge magnets, just buy the kits from craft shops or on line, and it is so much cheaper than the same thing at an organised venue. Baking simple large cookies (or buy them) and providing bowls of coloured icing and decorating toppings is another winner. These can then double up inplace of party bags for the children to take home, a great 2in1! If the weather is good then water guns and a sort of home grown lazer game with water guns is great fun, make sure it is in the last half an hour of the party so they don’t hang around wet for too long, or pre-warn your guests to bring a water gun and change of clothes with them.

2.5.11 Just had our triplets 7th birthday party – I think this was the best yet with lots of the above activities and more all at Coombe Mill. Pictures and commentry just up on facebook, you can see the fun in the children’s faces!!//

Age 10 – 12

At this age we have tended to move from traditional parties to an activity and BBQ. A BBQ can make a good alternative to traditional party food at this age, simple sausages and burgers in buns, some fruit and birthday cake is actually less hastle than all the party food. Activites which have worked include go-carting (pricey) cinema, lazer tag, sport centre activities such as tramplining, football or swimming and beach parties. What ever they do at this age, my children have always ended back at Coombe Mill daring each other to swim in the river! Perhaps this is just a boy thing though, can’t imagine my daughter opting for this one.

Age 13 upwards
I am just about to enter my first teenage party and happy to receive feedback and suggestions on this one! Popular parties my eldest has been to are iceskatting, disco, roller disco. Not at all sure what we are going to opt for, but its only a month away! As it is May it might be a beach BBQ and beach games but still to be decided, suggestions please…..!

8.5.11 update……..

Thanks for your suggestions Jo, Ally went for paint balling at Big Dunks . All 8 teenagers had a great few hours followed by a BBQ at Coombe Mill, awesome cream cake as requested by Ally and much play (or is it ‘hanging out at 13?) finishing with a water fight and soggy happy lads collected by not so impressed parents!
hungry lads!
Bespoke cake as requested!

I would love to have your thoughts and experiences of birthday parties. If you are on holiday with us for your child’s birthday then do remember I make bespoke birthday cakes(they don’t all ooze with cream – promise!), so just let me know when you book, or when you are here with age, name and flavour and I will make and deliver for your special day. Make sure Farmer Ted and Nick know in the morning too so the birthday king/queen can take advantage of  extra egg collection at the chickens and be our birthday tractor driver for the feed run!

Happy parties

Dear Dairy 24th March. Children at Play…..

Posted on March 24th, 2011 -

What a stunning week our guests are having at Coombe Mill, with temperatures up to 16 degrees in the middle of the day, March really doesn’t get much better than this! What really warms my heart is seeing families out on the farm together and enjoying the grounds and play areas, children find it so easy to make friends, shame we gain inhibitions with age!

The daily tractor rides are such a great way for everyone to meet, children and parents alike, it is then such a simple step to say “hi” later in the day in the play areas. Before you know it the children are like best friends and the adults enjoying a good exchange of ideas and chat too while the children dash around them.

Even my own children, who definitely take Coombe Mill for granted, our enjoying their time out on the farm playing this week. It’s great to see them mucking in with the guests and showing them all their secret places!

One of the great features of Coombe Mill is freedom to explore all of our 30 acres and visit the animals at any time of the day. Newly made friends can often be found exploring together and petting the animals. If they time it right they can catch me heading out to feed Domino her lunchtime bottle and help out, or spot a new lamb just born!

We welcome guests all year round come rain or shine, just have a look on our web site at our availability or simply call us and we can help match your family needs to the best property for you. Worth keeping an eye on our special offers too, we have some cracking spring deals up at the moment if you can get away to enjoy this wonderful spring weather.

If you have a child with a birthday while you are here do let us know. Birthday children are always first up to drive the tractor and I can make lovely bespoke cakes to order with candles all in (at £6 they beat the supermarkets and are much more heathy). One of our children, Theo, turned 9 in the week, he is stretching out his birthday as they all do…. a cake on his birthday after his first riding lesson on our new shetland pony to be followed by a party here on Sunday.