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Adopt a Donkey for a special Christmas gift this year.

13 Dec

 

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Are you fed up with unused toys cluttering up the house? Do discarded gifts get you down? Why not purchase an unusual gift this year that will really benefit someone?

The Donkey Sanctuary Adopt a Donkey scheme is a wonderful gift idea for people of all ages. We are lucky enough to have an adoption scheme with Eeyore who lives at the Donkey Sanctuary in Ivybridge. Our lovely Auntie Audrey adopts him for us every year and we love to read his updates and also to visit him a couple of times a year.

Many of the donkeys rescued by the Sanctuary have experienced neglect or abandonment, and the adoption scheme ensures that they will never want for warmth, care or food again.

In addition to caring for the donkeys, the Donkey Sanctuary also provide Donkey therapy to children in the UK and internationally. They support projects in 35 countries worldwide! For more information on their work, please visit their website.

It costs just £24 to adopt a donkey for a year and the adoption pack includes:

  • A framed portrait
  • Four beautiful postcards
  • A certificate and their donkey’s story
  • Regular updates about their donkey

You can also visit your donkey for free at the sanctuary.

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Beautiful Burgundy. Family cycling in France.

9 Oct

France is a great location for a cycling holiday. We are not quite ready for on-road cycle routes and travelling miles and miles each day so this year we opted for one base that was in easy reach of family friendly rides.

The canal paths and sleepy waterways are perfect for cyclists of all abilities. We set off for the day, loaded up with picnics, drinks and sun cream and just loved the relaxed and easy way of life. No one rushes anywhere in Burgundy. The colourful canal boats drift along with ease, the crew giving a wave as you ride by or perhaps lifting a glass of wine in your direction to say ‘Bon Soir’. The beautiful villages along the way are very welcoming with their boulangeries and cafes.

canal-collage

Our accommodation was on the edge of Vermenton. A lovely small town with all amenities and a very good campsite by the river. Friends of ours stayed at this site for a few days and loved it.

We stayed at Le Moulinot. This is a wonderful property that provides everything a family needs for a fun-filled holiday. The property is spacious and welcoming, has all mod cons (including a DVD player with English films) and is situated next to a beautiful millpond and swimming pool.

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There is a canoe on the pond which we made use of every day. The swimming pool was cool and inviting during the scorching hot days and there were plenty of loungers for relaxing and reading.

You feel completely free here and are surrounded by fields, streams and wildlife. Other than the owners who live in an adjacent property, there are no other neighbours and it felt very safe for the children to be wild and free. It is a bird spotters paradise, with a resident Kingfisher, Dippers, Herons and Buzzards flying over-head and beautiful dragonflies flitting about on the water.

Wildlife Collage.jpgOur favourite wildlife were the Coypu who doggie-paddled across the pool at dusk and entertained the children for hours. Although they are from the rodent family they are very sweet and look like little otters or beavers. They  have been eradicated in the UK so we were quite excited to see them. There were also red squirrels and  Loir (Edible Dormouse). We had a brief glimpse of a red squirrel but sadly never spotted a Loir as they are nocturnal. We did however hear them in the roof space at night!

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Coypu spotting!

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The beautiful and tranquil, Le Moulinot

Vermenton is an excellent base for exploring Burgundy. Here are our recommendations for places to visit.

  • Noyers-sur-Serein. A beautiful medieval town with an old castle to explore. Try lunch at Rouge et Blanc where you can get a fantastic platter of cheeses and cold meats.
  • Grottes de St More – Quite an energetic hike to these and you do need to be a bit of a mountain goat at times! If you are feeling adventurous though they are definitely worth exploring. Good for spotting sleeping bats!
  • Avallon – Another medieval town with some great restaurants. Thomas had his first taste of snails here. L’horloge restaurant on 63 Grande Rue Aristide Briand was really good at accommodating my gluten free requests. The owner spoke good English and was very reassuring in talking me through their menu.
  • Chablis – The only place I have ever been where it seems normal to have wine with breakfast! Check out the wine tours here, there are plenty to choose from. The open air market is excellent too.
  • Vezelay – A trip to the Basilica is definitely worthwhile. We had lunch at Restaurant le Dent Creuse which was very reasonably priced and despite looking like a tourist trap was actually very good.
  • Grottes D’Arcy – These are excellent caves with a guided tour in French (my husband and children enjoyed a spontaneous translation from a lovely Parisian English teacher). Look out for the second oldest cave paintings in France and amazing geological formations.
  • Auxerre – We visted here on our last day and I wish we had discovered it earlier. It has the best market of any we had seen. Do not miss Cathedral St Etienne, it has stunning stained glass windows, statues, gargoyles and paintings that take your breath away.

auxerre-collage

grottes-de-st-more-collage

vezelay-collageAs well as site seeing there are plenty of other things to do in the area…

Kayaking

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There are quite a few options for Kayaking the Burgundy rivers. We decided to head to St Pere in the Morvan Valley and chose AB Loisirs. They were helpful and friendly and spoke English which was very useful for us! Our route was a five mile fairly easy paddle and was easily managed by our 7 and 10 year old who shared kayaks with us. This was a great way to explore the river Cure and get up close to the wildlife.

Two minutes from AB Loisirs is Brasserie de Vezelay where you could buy a perfect, cold, gluten free beer. They also serve bar snacks. Definitely worth a visit if you are a coeliac like me.

Markets

We love visiting French markets with their atmosphere, sights and smells and stocking up on local cheeses and pastries. You can find a list of market days here.

Ecluse Des Dames on the Canal du Nivernais

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Ecluse Des Dames – a wonderful find!

I have to mention Ecluse Des Dames which we happily discovered on a bike ride. This is a play park in the trees! For just five euros each your little ones can play tarzan for as long as they like whilst you enjoy the picnic areas and hammocks and keep a close eye on them. (Children under 6 must be accompanied by an adult). The owners also have a small bistrot here where you can enjoy a glass of Chablis and a goats cheese salad. What a perfect way to spend the afternoon.

Burgundy was a delight for all the family and we would definitely recommend Le Moulinot. We will have some very happy memories of this trip.

What is your favourite holiday destination as a family?

A moral tale: “Little Worm’s Big Question”. Book review and give away.

13 Apr

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From the depths of the ocean to the dusty moon, Little Worm travels the world and beyond to answer his big question: what makes him special? In ‘Little Worm’s Big Question’ we encounter Whale, Beetle, Polar Bear and others who reveal their special quality. Little Worm hopes that by hearing their stories, he will learn what makes him special. It’s only when he returns home and meets another worm, that he then realises the truth: everyone is special in their own way, including him.

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There is a clear moral message at the centre of this story. We all have something special about us and sometimes, even though it might not be obvious, it’s right under our nose. The illustrations are wonderfully accurate. The writing style is clear and easy to follow and it is a lovely story to share and to talk about. When we read this book it prompted a lovely conversation about what makes everyone in our family unique and different.

We have two copies of this book to give away. To be in with a chance of winning one, please email your details to tracydixon24@gmail.com. Two winners will be chosen at random on 18th April 2016.

You can purchase Little Worm’s Big Question from Ethical Shop for £7.99.

‘Amazing’ Magazine review and give-away!

6 Apr

amazing cover.jpgRecently we were asked to review an educational magazine for children aged 7+.

I had my reservations about this because because I have purchased ‘educational’ magazines before and they have never really interested my children, despite both being avid readers.

I was pleasantly surprised when our Amazing magazines arrived. They have a very ‘comic’ book feel about them and the cover is very bright, colourful and captivating with a horrible history feel about them.

I instantly liked the issues that I was sent. They are easy to read and full of useful facts, puzzles and even recipes.

Amazing inside.jpg

The content of these magazines is based around the national curriculum and includes English, Maths, Science, Arts and Humanities, along with many other subjects. I really liked the section on Personal Development which included information on Special Educational Needs. This subject is explained in very simple terms that children can understand and I think reading this would really encourage greater understanding among children and their peers. I’m so glad to see this included.

Of course the real testers were Lily and Thomas (now 9 and 7 years). I gave them a magazine each and they read them cover to cover in bed that night. Thomas wanted to jump out of bed there and then and make a catapult as suggested in his magazine! We have since made this and it works great (video to follow!)

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I asked Lily for her own review of this magazine and this is what she told me:

“This Amazing magazine is awesome! From Roman Gladiators to Chariot Races, from Latin to a Roman word search. There are puzzling anagrams and poetry. i like page 26 because of the real ‘Roman Life Rap’. It’s fun to read but also educational. The step by step instructions for building a catapult have really come in handy!”

By Lily Dixon aged 9, nearly 10!

We have 10 free copies of Amazing magazine to give away! To be in with a chance of winning, please email me at tracydixon244@gmail.com. The first 10 readers to get in touch will be sent a copy direct from the publishers.

If you love the magazine as much as us, subscriptions can be purchased with a discount of 10% by using the discount code WOW10. Check out the Amazing website for details.

 

Win Christmas at Coombe Mill Farm

21 Oct

We want to win Christmas at the lovely Coombe Mill Farm! We have never had the chance to visit and we think Christmas would be the perfect time. This video explains why. Thanks to my lovely daughter Lily for the voice-over.

Our video entry: Christmas at Coombe Mill Farm #CoombeMillXmas

Silly Yak ready to roll, gluten free pastry

7 Sep

I just HAD to tell you about this fantastic pastry. I have always hated making gluten free pastry, it is such a difficult process – whenever I attempt it it crumbles, breaks and basically falls to pieces. I don’t really see the fun in that! So you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover Silly Yak’s ready-to-roll pastry which is available in Tescos.

ready to roll

pastie collage

It rolls really easily, no cracks or breaks and actually feels really glutinous!

I have only tried one recipe so far. Being a cornish lass it just had to be pasties. I have not had a lot of experience making them so excuse the amateur look of them. The children (who can be fairly tough food critics), told me they were amazing. We recently bought them some non-gluten free pasties from a well know pasty maker and they told me mine were far better. Now that’s a good endorsement for Silly Yak pastry if ever I heard one!

At £1.75 for a 400g block I think the pastry is a really good price. This makes a change as you normally pay a huge premium for anything labelled ‘free from’. Silly Yak say they are looking at expanding their range to other gluten free pastries so watch this space! You can see their list of stockists here.

group pasties

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 http://bit.ly/1gvBHBB