days out

Every year, my family and I visit RHS Wisley to see their annual butterfly exhibit. There is something so extraordinary about living in the UK but being able to see loads of exotic butterflies. It's not an everyday occurrence, which is probably why it feels so special.

It's one thing seeing a couple of butterflies out in the open. But at The Glasshouse at Wisley, you will find so many more. They have over 50 species of exotic butterflies. Some are flying around, some are resting leaves and trees, and some are munching on old fruit. You probably won't spot more than 20 species, but it's fun trying. You can get a butterfly spotting guide for £1, which is a big hit with the kids.

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Before I moved to the area, I knew that Kingston-upon-Thames was known for its shopping. And in the last few years, it has gotten even better. And it's not just shopping. There are restaurants, cafes, as well as pubs, bars and a delightful theatre. There is so much that you could easily, and happily, do to spend a day in Kingston.

A few weeks ago, I took Moozles and Dubz to enjoy some of what Kingston has to offer. We started off in the Bentall Centre. It is an indoor mall housed in a gorgeous building. And it houses some of my favourite homeware shops (Zara, H&M and West Elm). We are currently renovating our house, and I have been spending a lot of time exploring the internet for gorgeous items for my home. But sometimes you just need to get to a shop and see things in real life.

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It's been a bit tough feeling festive this year. Our home renovations still haven't finished, and we don't even have a Christmas tree. But on Friday, we took the time out for some family fun in Kingston. The kids and I went shopping at Bentalls and had afternoon tea at the Hilton Doubletree. Husband then met us at the Rose Theatre to watch Alice in Winterland.

Fans of Lewis Carroll will be familiar with both Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Alice in Winterland is a combination of both books. Alice's world is falling apart and all she wants to do is stop time. Her journey to Wonderland helps to show her how important it is to move forward and to accept change. The show had some really touching moments, but there were plenty of exciting moments and fun songs.

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I love Christmas. Shopping for gifts, visiting Santa, meeting up with family and friends, and buying cheesy festive jumpers. But my favourite part is going to the theatre to see a show with my family. For the past few years, we normally see the Christmas show at the Rose Theatre Kingston. This year, I am so excited about Alice in Winterland.

Written by Lewis Carroll, and adapted and directed by Ciaran McConville, Alice in Winterland looks like it will be another family favourite. Watch as the White Rabbit visit Alice and begs her to help him save Winterland (a frozen world of mad hatters and a terrible Jabberwock). The very brave Alice goes on a magical adventure. Expect puppetry, projections and a delightful cast of 30.

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It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Normally I hold off on Christmas conviviality until after Thanksgiving (this Thursday), but last week I kicked things off a little early. I took Moozles and Dubz into Kingston to check out the Christmas Lights Switch On. We had never been to a switch on ceremony before so we were keen to go.

There is actually more than just lights in Kingston, though the lights and big tree are very pretty. There is a lovely Christmas market full of things to eat and to buy as gifts (for others and for yourself). The Alpine Village has a bar as well as some delicious food. We ate burgers and bratwurst, as well as waffles and mini Dutch pancakes. There are some tables, but getting a seat depends on how busy the market is. I would expect weekend evenings to be heaving.

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Everyone knows how Americans love Halloween. Besides the dressing up and trick-or-treating, we go crazy for pumpkins. And not just buying our pumpkins at the local Tesco, but going to a pumpkin patch. Sadly, the UK is a bit behind on the pumpkin patch bandwagon. It has improved in the last five years, but it still has a ways to go.

Today we visited Garsons Farm in Esher. It is an amazing pick-your-own farm, and we normally visit twice a year (in the summer for various fruit and vegetables and in October for a pumpkin). We normally visit a week before Halloween rather than just two days before. There wasn't a huge array of pumpkins today but we found one good one in the field. There were loads of lovely pumpkins in the shop so we got one and some ornamental gourds.

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A couple of weeks ago, we were surprised with a sunny, warm weekend day. We were determined to get outdoors and enjoy the sunshine. We remembered that a few months ago we had gotten a family membership to the Historic Royal Palaces. We had only used it once so decided to visit Hampton Court Palace again.

If you're not familiar with Hampton Court Palace, it is the former residence of Henry VIII. It is incredibly beautiful and grand. But if you have young children, you may want to skip the palace itself and just enjoy the stunning grounds. We did go inside the palace, but only for about 20 minutes. The sunshine was calling us.

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Who hasn't heard of the famous, and very wealthy, Phileas Fogg and his plan to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days?! Jules Verne's acclaimed novel was written over 100 years ago, and is just as exciting today. Around The World In Eighty Days is brought to life (and adapted) by Laura Eason and is currently touring the UK in a live show.

The show starts off in Victorian London and follows Pileas Fogg and his valet Passepartout as they try to travel around the world within 80 days to win a bet. There are eight actors who play over 125 characters and they transport the audience on exciting adventures as they travel on trains, boats and even on a elephant.

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While our family outings are normally in London and Surrey, sometimes we go farther afield. Last month we ventured to Oxfordshire to visit Blenheim Palace. Not only is it the birth place of Sir Winston Churchill, but it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And it is truly magnificent.

When you drive into Blenheim Palace, you can't help but feel awe of this fantastic palace and the lake and grounds. And when you enter the palace grounds, this feeling does not go away. As an American, I did not grow up visiting palaces and stately homes. And to be honest, my children are probably not that impressed since we have visited so many. But I can't help but be dazzled by beautiful architecture and landscaped gardens. It is a glimpse of a decadent time.

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Tom hates bedtime. It is so boring. But one night he hears a noise outside. There are girl pirates trying to steal the front of his house (to disguise their pirate ship, obviously). Tom and the fearless girl pirates embark on an adventure to find the naughty grown-up pirates who have been going around town stealing priceless objects. And this is the story of The Night Pirates, now on at the Rose Theatre Kingston.

Yesterday I took Dubz and Moozles to Kingston to watch this fearless and fun family show. Dubz is five so he loves all things pirates. At nine, Moozles was not fussed about going until she found out that there were girl pirates. We love a bit of girl power so we were excited to see some females taking charge.

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