Painted Driftwood Wind Chimes

14 Mar


We have been busy scouring the beaches for drift wood and other interesting items lately. The storms have washed up so much flotsam and jetsam, it is quite depressing when you think how much rubbish people throw away instead of putting it in the bin.

Anyway, we found some lovely smooth drift wood which we brought home after our last visit.Lily and Thomas put it to good use making pretend campfires, swords and bows and arrows.. then we decided to paint it and turn it into a nice Eco wind-chime.

We initially started to paint them an aboriginal way, using lots of little dots to make up a picture. Lily did this in school last year and loved it. I left the children to it and the driftwood soon became animals. We had a lizard, a tiger a whale and a robin to name a few. We used acrylic paint so hopefully these will last a good while.

We have hung it in the apple tree and it makes a very subtle noise when blowing in the wind. The children love it and of course it was all their own work so they are quite proud!




With spring in the air, we painted these outside and made the most of the warm sunshine. The blossom is on the trees and plants  are starting to appear through the heavy, wet soil. A few more days like this and it should soon start to dry out. If you fancy getting outside and doing some nature-inspired painting, why not enter the Center Parcs Challenge at the same time? You could  win a family holiday, just go to the challenge page to find out how

Braving beautiful Plymouth in the storms of 2014

9 Mar

This post is a little late, especially now that spring seems to have finally arrived (yippee!)

I just wanted to share a few pics of us braving the storms to get some wild and windy fresh air in February. I must admit I don’t really like being out in the wind, it always makes me nervous and I can’t stand being cold. Thank goodness for my coat with a decent hood!


Plymouth took quite a battering in the storms this year with 40ft waves smashing into the coast and destroying local restaurants. Hundreds of trees have come down in and around the city, rivers have flooded and walls have come crashing down. Also of course our rail line was cut off at Dawlish during one of the storms and this has caused mayhem for commuters.  Hopefully we have now seen the last of it until next winter.

There’s no doubt the storm has been exciting in its own way and we couldn’t resist taking the children out to see some big waves (always staying safe of course). People will always talk about the storms of 2014 so here are some of our memories.




P1020853 P1020866 P1020871 P1020874


Looking a little windswept!

Looking a little windswept!

We finished our walk off with a well-deserved cream tea in the Duttons Cafe on the Hoe. This is a lovely little cafe, the owners are so helpful and friendly. They offer lots of gluten-free options including these gorgeous scones. Definitely the best I have ever tasted!

cream tea

Thrifty Pirate Party

25 Feb

I thought we were coming to the end of birthday parties at home but oh no!!…  I did of course give in to pleading and begging from my very persuasive 4 year old and agreed to a pirate themed party at home.

We didn’t want to spend a huge amount of money, I don’t think it’s necessary to go over the top at this age. Good old pinterest came in handy for sourcing ideas and helping fuel my motivation which was somewhat lacking! As you know I am a huge fan of recycling so a lot of my ideas were focused on recycling what we already had.

We made use of a fantastic beach find. A wooden plank had been washed up during one of the storms so this came home with us to be used for our ‘Walk The Plank’ game. The children walked the plank and then they could go off to find some hidden chocolate coins. If they found a coin they could come back and have another go!



We played lots of games which cost next to nothing.

Pass the treasure chest

The prizes are all in a Treasure Chest and the children pass the chest around in a circle. When the music stops they pick something out. I filled it with ‘recycled goodies’ (in other words, cracker toys or items from other parties that the children forgot we had!) I prefer to play this rather than the traditional pass the parcel as you don’t need to waste loads of paper.

Choc Ahoy

This idea was pinched from a friend of mine. She throws the best parties and my children always come home raving about the games. The children sit in a circle and you put a scarf, hat and gloves in the middle along with a big bar of chocolate and a knife and fork. The children throw the dice and if a child gets a six then they have to put on the clothing and then try to chop up the chocolate with the knife and fork. Over-sized gloves makes it a pretty funny, frustrating affair for the children but at least you know there is no fear of them spoiling their appetite!

Pirates Aboard

I printed out 6 different pirate themed images (pirate ship, captain hook, skull and crossbones etc) These pictures are spread out all over the floor. We stuck a list of the images on the wall and each image had a number next to it from 1 – 6. The children dance along to the music and when the music stops they jump onto one of the pictures. You then roll a dice and you call out the picture that coincides with that number. Any child that is on that particular picture wins a sweet! This game is cheap as chips. All you need is the pictures (again printed from the internet) and a packet of Haribos.

Ducky Ducky

This is such a fun game and I remember playing it at family gatherings with my grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. I remember laughing so much I could hardly speak and Thomas is much the same when we play it now. Everyone sits down and one person in the middle is blind-folded. Someone spins the blindfolded player around so that they do not know which way they are facing. They then sit on someones lap and say “Ducky Ducky”. The person whose lap they are sitting on has to reply ‘quack quack’ in a disguised voice. Needless to say this had everyone giggling and falling about…. brilliant.

We made most of the things for the goody bags ourselves. We made some great cardboard swords. I forgot to get a photo of these but you can see them here . We also made some lovely telescopes out of old cardboard tubes. I used the tubes from wrapping paper as these are much sturdier than your average toilet roll. All you need to do is cover them in black paper and then add some gold trim.

We also included some pirate colouring pages which I printed out for free. Just type in free pirate colouring pages in Google and you’ll find enough to keep them occupied for weeks!

We buried some real treasure and my husband drew a map to put in the goody bags so that the children can try to find it at a later date. It is buried elsewhere (at a secret National Trust location!) Two of the children went out last night to find it with their parents. They found the booty and were very excited judging by the photo that their mum sent me!!

We did buy a couple of bits for the party bags but I thought these were quite nice and I figured a compass and bubbles would probably go down well.

Pirate party favours from Dunelm Mill £1.29 for 4

Pirate party favours from Dunelm Mill £1.29 for 4


I was going to make some paper bunting but decided to make some material ones that we could use in the little man’s bedroom afterwards. He loves it and the bunting only cost me £5.50 to make. I bought the material and bias binding on ebay. I will try to write-up a tutorial for making this at a later date.

Bunting2 (4)

We had some fantastic signs at the front of the house which hubby designed. The children love them so much we have decided to leave them up for a few days. I hope they don’t scare the postman off?


P1020928 P1020931


The Cake

I’m not really sure how thrifty the cake turned out to be compared to a ‘shop bought’ one. I initially purchased ready to roll chocolate icing which turned out to be a complete disaster. I had to peel it all off and start again with chocolate frosting. I made an enormous madeira cake which involved an awful lot of ingredients including 8 eggs. All in all I think it cost me around £13 to make and I could have bought one from the local supermarket for a lot less. BUT my children love their home-made birthday cakes and again, I just couldn’t say no!

It turned out quite well but I think what really made it were the Playmobil pirates which I borrowed from a friend, don’t they look great? If you are looking for a fail-safe birthday cake recipe then try this one for a madeira cake. I am the worlds worst cook but this cake came out perfectly. Of course decorating it was another matter and I don’t think I will be attempting this shaped cake again!

For lots more ‘pirate party’ ideas, check out my pinterest board.



My letter to David Cameron

5 Feb

Dear Mr Cameron

Can we have a new Secretary of State for Education please? Can we have one that actually knows something about children and education?  I understand Mr Gove went to a private school which is all very well and lovely but he doesn’t know the first thing about state schools. Yes, he allegedly ‘consults’ with teachers before he comes up with his fanciful ideas but I’d love to know just which schools these teachers are from. You can bet your bottom dollar they are not from struggling state schools.

Improving education in schools will not happen by making the days longer. It will come about by investing in excellent teachers, listening to and respecting their views and by providing them with adequate support and resources to do their job. They are the experts when it comes to Education, not Mr Gove. Asking already over-stretched teachers to work longer hours will have them running for the door. That should bring an interesting end to his education reforms.

I always try to keep an open mind about change. I look at suggestions from both sides and  have always been very good at seeing things from other people’s point of view BUT, what planet is Mr Gove living on?? In a recent interview he said that if our children are in school for 10 hours per day, this still gives them plenty of ‘family time’. How does he come to this conclusion I wonder? If my children finish school at 6, we will be home at 6.15pm and they go to bed soon after 7pm. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for a family meal, let alone anything else. So, weekdays are written off, that means children will only get to spend time with their parents on a Saturday and Sunday. What about parents who have to work weekends? What about all the chores that working parents have to fit in at the weekend, like shopping, housework etc? Does Mr Gove really think that this is an acceptable amount of ‘family time’? If he does, then I pity his children.

If Mr Gove had an educational background then he would know that children learn through play and through exploring ideas themselves. They do not learn best when sat in a classroom for 10 hours having his regimented curriculum spouted at them. Children need time to play what THEY WANT TO PLAY, to use their imagination, to be free to come up with their own ideas and most of all they need time to rest and relax.  My children are exhausted at the end of the school day as it is.

Your Education Secretary has already done his best to destroy our quality family time. He has taken away our parental right to decide when we want to holiday as a family. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that parents who push the limits should be punished but to say that we cannot take our child out of school for even a couple of days in a year is harsh. For most families this means the end of any foreign holidays where children can learn new cultures and languages.

What Mr Gove  doesn’t seem to realise is that we have children because we want them. NOT because we want to pack them off to school for 10 hours a day. We actually want to see them grow and develop and we want to be the biggest factor in that. Otherwise we would just drop them off at the school gates at age 4 and collect them again at age 18.

Mr Gove bases a lot of his theories on the PISA results. Considering the number of different countries participating in this study varies from year to year, it is hardly an accurate comparison. One thing I did find interesting though is that one of the top performing countries, Korea, also reports having the unhappiest students. But hey, does it really matter if our children are unhappy? Mr Gove seems to think not.

Oh and I have to mention the idea of getting children to ‘mop floors and pick up litter’ as way of punishment for bad behaviour. I assume this is some kind of joke! If a child is disruptive in class and refuses to do what they have been told then what makes you think they will pick up a mop and set to work with it? They are more likely to use it as a weapon.

My perfect day at Center Parcs

25 Jan

This month Center Parcs are challenging bloggers to describe their perfect day at Center Parcs.

For my family, this would most definitely involve a lot of time in the sub-tropical pool. We LOVE the pool at Center Parcs, especially the outdoor area, the lazy river and the wave machine. My children would happily spend the whole day in the pool but we do tend to leave before we turn into a family of prunes.

Whilst watching the family videos on the Center Parcs website I heard one family refer to a ‘Baby Owl Handling experience’ Twit… Twoooo.. yes please! I would love to do this as I am crazy about owls. My husband would probably be very happy to have a go at the Aerial Adventure and my daughter may even give this a go too, depending how brave she was feeling. The thing we really love to do is to explore the park, either on foot or on our bikes. We love being at one with nature and making our own fun (although admittedly we do have to stop at EVERY playground that we come across!)

To complete the perfect day I would like a lovely meal at the Hucks Restaurant or The Pancake House. Both serve amazing food and are excellent at catering for coeliacs like myself. Just thinking about it is making my mouth water!

Back to the villa for hot chocolate and stories. On a perfect day the children would go to bed with no trouble at all and hubby and myself can sit back and enjoy a glass of wine or two….

‘I’m a Center Parcs Family Blogger and will be visiting Longleat village with my family. If you want to enter to win a place as a wildcard winner just go to the challenge page to find out how

Handmade Gifts on a budget

18 Jan


I couldn’t blog about this leading up to Christmas because some of these gifts were for lovely family members that read my blog! The children and I spent lots of time making gifts this year. It was probably October when we started. They have both really enjoyed the hands-on aspect of making these gifts and they were very proud to present them on Christmas Day.

Soap-making is very simple and you can read my previous post with instructions here. This year we added a few ingredients to make different types of soaps including Oats and Honey, Lemon and Poppy Seed and my favourite – Lavender Soaps using essential oils and dried Lavender flowers.


soaps 3

We also made some bath salts scented with Lavender essential oil. I think they look pretty lovely and I can vouch for the fact that they smell pretty good too. We used food colouring to make some in Christmas colours. We layered these to look a bit like a candy cane! Topped off with a Christmas ribbon I think these would make a nice gift all on their own.



It is very easy to make bath salts. The main ingredient is Epsom Salts which you can buy in large quantities online.  Whilst you can add other ingredients like Sea Salt and Baking Powder, this is really not necessary. We added some peppermint essential oil for an ‘invigorating and refreshing’ blend and Lavender oil and flowers for a more relaxing blend. They smell gorgeous and you just add a couple of tablespoons to your bath.

There are lots of benefits to bathing with Epsom Salts.  They relax the nervous system, relieve aching limbs, coughs and congestion and remove toxins from the body.

We made our gifts into hampers. I collected some suitable boxes that were due to go in the skip at our local garden centre. There’s no need to splash out on expensive wicker baskets. Just wrap your boxes in a nice wrapping paper and use clear cellophane to cover the top. I chose some other bits and pieces to go in the boxes. These included candles, hand cream and nail brushes.  We also included a little salt dough pot that Thomas made. He loved painting this and covering it in glitter and I think it is perfect for storing rings or earrings. Next year I think I may try to make our own hand cream and candles!




Getting involved in coastal clean-ups

8 Jan


Devon and Cornwall have certainly taken the brunt of recent storms. Our local beaches have faced devastation, with sea walls being destroyed, beachside cafes being ruined and sandy beaches being sucked out to sea, replaced only by a bed of rocks. Waves of up to 27ft have been recorded in Lands End so it is no surprise that such destruction has been left in the storm’s path. Our coastline has been completely changed in places. Porthcothan Beach is beautiful and for as long as I can remember has had a wonderful, natural rock formation. This has been completely destroyed in the last week as you can see from these photos.

Stunning rock formation at Porthcothan, Cornwall. Photograph:Idenna

Stunning rock formation at Porthcothan, Cornwall. Photograph: Idenna

Porthcothan after the storms of 2014.

Porthcothan after the storms of 2014.  Photograph: Idenna

Also left in its wake is a mass of litter and debris which is threatening our marine life and can also be hazardous to the public. On a recent trip to Wembury beach we spotted a dead animal on the sand, and bags and bags of litter. A friend of mine has been making trips to the beach specifically to help clean up and has removed many bags of rubbish. We are going to do the same thing this weekend and will definitely be going prepared for what I think will be a massive task.

If you would like to help clean up your local beach there are organisations out there that can provide help and advice. Surfers against Sewage organise beach clean ups but will also assist you if you want to organise your own beach clean up with volunteers. Their website has lots of information including safety factsheets and advice on the types of marine litter you may find.

The Marine Conservation Society also organises beach clean ups and you can find a list of their organised events here. You can also become a volunteer with the Marine Conservation Society by becoming an organiser for your local beach.

If you would like to help clean up your local beach, you don’t need to join an organised event. You can just turn up and start work but here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Wear warm clothes and sturdy footwear and ensure you have refreshments to hand.
  • Ensure that children are supervised at all times
  • Never remove natural debris such as driftwood or seaweed as this provides important habitats for wildlife
  • Always wear gloves and in addition to a bag for your litter you may want to carry a sharps box or similar container.
  • Report any dead animals or pollutants to the organiser of the beach clean-up, or alternatively to a local life guard who will contact the appropriate organisation.
  • If you find litter that can be directly traced to a company or organisation, this should also be reported as above.
  • DON’T touch anything that you are not sure about. This includes suspicious containers or dead marine life.
  • Most importantly be aware of the tides! Do not risk being cut off or do anything that could endanger your life. Yes, big waves are exciting and dramatic but they are also very dangerous.

Finally take a look at the Western Morning News for some of the latest storm damage images and some pretty terrifying videos!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 673 other followers