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Butterfly Conservation – Special offer family membership

20 May
Brimstone Butterfly

Brimstone Butterfly

A few days ago I had a lovely email from Becky at Butterfly Conservation.  As a family we work hard to attract butterflies to our garden and we get quite excited when we spot an unusual Butterfly or Moth in our garden. Some months ago my husband came running into the house and excitedly bustled  us all outside to see a Hummingbird Hawk Moth. Unfortunately in my excitement, I forgot to take a photograph but here’s one I grabbed from their website.

Humming Bird Hawk Moth

Humming Bird Hawk Moth

The Butterfly Conservation website has lots of useful information on it. You can use it to identify Butterflies that you may have spotted and you can also find out how you can do your bit to encourage Butterflies into your garden. They also have a family fun page with lots of ideas for Butterfly themed activities.  A family membership with this charity is something that the whole family will enjoy. Every penny of your membership goes to helping preserve our Butterfly population. You can find more information about how your money is spent here. To get 25% off family membership, enter the code FAMILY25 at checkout. This is valid for the month of May only.

Family Membership includes:

–          A Junior magazine filled with information and activities

–          A ‘Let’s look for Butterflies’ sticker book

–          Butterfly and moth ID charts

–          A set of colouring pencils

There are lots of other benefits, check out their membership page for more information. Membership would also make a wonderful gift for someone so why not head over to their website and take a look?  They are also running a children’s competition at the moment. They would like children to design a T Shirt and the winning design will be printed onto T Shirts that will be sold in their online shop. More details are here



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.



Should new mums be bribed to breastfeed?

12 Nov


It was announced today that new mums are going to be paid £200 in shopping vouchers if they breastfeed until their baby is 6 months old. This is going to be trialled in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire and possibly rolled out nationwide next year.

Why should mothers be financially rewarded for breastfeeding? Surely the only incentive should be the benefits that breastfeeding brings for mums and for babies? Wouldn’t it be better to spend this money educating women on these benefits and to provide better support for mothers who need help with breastfeeding? This money could be much better spent by training more breastfeeding support advisors and providing more local latch-on groups.

Surely what the NHS should be doing is making breastfeeding ‘the norm’ by working on awareness campaigns and providing more support on maternity wards where it is really needed? I had a very difficult start on my breastfeeding journey. I stayed in hospital for 2 days in order to perfect the ‘latch on’ and there was only one nurse on the ward who could really offer good advice and support. The rest of the staff were just too busy or did not seem to be interested. Money should be spent improving this support as the first few days are the most crucial on any breastfeeding journey.

Of course there are plenty of women out there who would like nothing better than to breastfeed but for one reason or another are just not able to. This can be extremely upsetting and something that they may always feel sad about. Seeing other women being thrown cash for doing something they are just not able to do will only add insult to injury and could lead to feelings of inferiority and guilt. Why should they be made to feel like this?

My main concern is the monitoring of this scheme. It seems that all mums will have to do is to tell their Health Visitor or Midwife that they are breastfeeding and they will be given these vouchers. Sorry if I sound sceptical here but REALLY??? Undoubtedly, some mums will just see this as a money-making scheme, tell a few white lies and head to the supermarket and buy formula with it. When it comes to assessing the success of this trial, of course it will show that breast feeding rates have gone up how realistic will this actually be?

Breastfeeding rates are low in this country and that definitely needs to be improved but surely the following benefits are enough to persuade mums to breastfeed? (taken from the NCT website)

Benefits for babies
Breast milk is a living fluid and every mum’s milk is tailor-made for her own baby. It contains many ingredients which help a baby stay healthy, such as antibodies to fight germs and hormones that help your baby’s development.
Babies who are breastfed are less likely to have ear or urine infections or get stomach bugs or chest infections.
Babies who are breastfed are less likely to become overweight children.
If your family has allergies, your baby is less likely to get eczema or a wheezy chest if they are breastfed.
Fewer babies who are breastfed get diabetes in childhood.
Premature babies who receive breast milk have a lower risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (a potentially dangerous bowel disorder).

Benefits for mums

Breastfeeding helps reduce the risk of developing certain types of ovarian and breast cancer.

Mums who have breastfed have a lower risk of hip fractures and diabetes when they get older.

Breastfeeding helps your uterus return to its normal size after birth.

Surely this should be incentive enough without resorting to bribery? What do you think?

Sunshine, acorns and the enormous onion.

8 Oct

I can’t think of a better way to spend a lovely sunny day than walking through the countryside. So this weekend, after a hearty sunday roast we pulled on our wellies and grabbed some buckets for the journey. Experience has taught me that you either take a bucket or come home with a pocket full of pine cones, leaves and feathers! As we were at Grandad’s house this meant we could take our pick of country walks as there are so many that lead straight from his farm. It’s so nice to completely get away from any cars. The added bonus of being at Grandad’s house is being able to take his dog with us on our walk. Lily would desperately love a dog but for the time being she will just have to put up with borrowing one.


I love how the simple things in life still make my children happy. Seeing a cow or a sheep will have them running to get a closer look and a chat with some random animal and they get so much enjoyment looking for acorns and chestnuts or collecting interesting leaves.  I’ve always hated days out at expensive theme parks for just this reason, children are capable of making their own fun by just using their imaginations and I do believe this should be encouraged more in our busy lives.


free-range children

walking-collage-2We enjoyed climbing over gates, sploshing through mud and collecting lots of autumn goodies. We came across spiders nests, trees that were oozing some kind of resin (Thomas wanted to stick his fingers in this), toadstools and mushrooms and prize-winning Pedigree South Devon cattle. As cow’s go I think they are pretty gorgeous don’t you?


We collected lots of treasure on the way. Now, I wonder what we can make from this?


Now on a random note, just look at the size of this onion that Grandad grew!!



Our potted allotment

1 Oct

You may have seen our earlier post on growing vegetables in containers. This was our second year attempting to grow some of our five-a-day in pots or raised beds. We had the best weather for growing this summer but it was difficult to keep up with the constant watering. That is the difficulty with container grown veg. It all dries out very quickly and to make matters worse our three water butts ran empty three times over the summer.

On the plus side, the garden was teeming with wildlife. Some good, some not so good like these pesky caterpillars!


Solomon Seal Sawfly - How disgusting?!

Solomon Seal Sawfly – How disgusting?!

And here are some photos of the good guys which are always welcome in our garden.

Our garden has been full of Hoverflies this year

Our garden has been full of Hoverflies this year

Damselflies feed on flies and other small insects

Damselflies feed on flies and other small insects


Mr Toad lives in one of the grow bags containing our tomatoes

So, now to the fruits of our labour. We have had a fantastic crop of runner beans this year. They have been producing for months and are still showing no signs of stopping. Our freezer is full of them! They freeze really well, just prepare them and drop them into boiling water for one minute. Then transfer them to some icy cold water and cool before bagging them up into freezer bags. We grew these in some raised beds, about 4′ x 4′, I initially raised the seeds in pots and then transplanted them out in spring.

Our runner beans at the start of the summer

Our runner beans at the start of the summer

We grew Broad Beans for the first time this year, again in our raised bed and I was really happy with these. We planted them in the winter and they were ready to harvest in June. This was great as they were ready before the rest of the vegetables which all seem to be ready at once.

broad beans

We grew our Courgettes in pots and also planted a couple in a spare piece of flower bed. All of the plants were successful. the pot-grown ones did have the advantage of being better protected from the slugs.


We had a bumper crop of garlic and will certainly be planting some more this autumn. This lot should see us through until then.


Our potatoes were a bit disappointing this year. We grow these in old water butts. We had one that was leaking so we cut it in half and now have two giant planters. They usually work well but this year they got blight and a lot of them were wasted. Next year we will try a different variety. The ones that were successful were still very tasty and the children love digging them up!


Other crops that worked well this year were salad leaves (the cut and come again variety), beetroot and carrots. We also had a really good crop of blackcurrants from just one plant that is grown in a pot. The children were picking these straight off the plant and eating them… yummy.

We will never be completely self-sufficient from our container-grown crops but we have certainly cut down on our food bill this year. For us though it’s about the satisfaction of growing your own food, knowing where it has come from and involving the whole family in growing it.

Frugal Family Holiday – camping in Cornwall

11 Aug


With the cost of holidays soaring through the roof, we decided to keep things cheap this year and go camping in Cornwall. Petrol costs were minimal for us as it was only an hour away. We already had our fantastic tent which was a gift from a special lady  (thank you Auntie Tina!)

The joy of Cornwall is that there is just SO much to do there, come rain or shine. As it happened, we had a mixed bag of weather. Most of the rain was over-night and the heavens really opened so we were more grateful than ever for our great tent which was fully water-tight, even in the heaviest of downpours.

One of the main things we did to try to be thrifty was to cook all our own meals rather than eat out. We did have the odd meal out of course, it is impossible to resist all the lovely cafes and the local cornish pasties and cream teas!

If you are holidaying on a budget then you can’t go wrong with a day at the beach.  Pack a picnic and you’ve got a whole day of  fun ahead of you for free.  You could try surfing, climb some sand dunes, build sand castles, explore some caves, collect some pebbles and shells, explore the rock pools. All will provide hours of fun and if you park a little further back from the beach you can also save money on car parking.

There are lots of other ways to have fun on a budget:

  • Walk the coast path. Take some snacks and drinks to keep you going and some binoculars for bird watching. Have a look at the South West Coast Path website for some inspiration.
  • Make the most of any free activities. Check out museums and libraries before you go to see what they have on offer
  • Design your own nature trail and set off to try to spot everything on your list.
  • Discover local heritage. In Cornwall this should definitely include mining. There are lots of old mine relics that you can visit for free. Wheal Coates Mine near St Agnes is in a breathtaking location and well worth a visit.
  • Explore the Camel Trail on your bike. This is a fantastic day out and you can hire trailers if your little ones are not up to the 18 mile ride. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do the whole trail, it is broken down into sections.
  • Explore endless fishing villages and seaside towns. Even if you are just window shopping you can always make a note of something you would really like and put it on your Christmas list!
  • If you can stretch to National Trust Membership this is so worthwhile for a holiday in Cornwall. There are numerous NT properties in Cornwall and Devon. With their membership you get free entry to all of these properties (both gardens and houses) and also get to park in any National Trust Car Park for free.  Their properties are family friendly and during the holidays there are nearly always special events like trails or crafting activities.

The Trevella Holiday Park website has a great section on their website called  ’50 Great Adventures’ which will give you LOADS of ideas for things to do in Cornwall, most of which are free.

Finally, here are some pictures of our camping holiday this year. We stayed at Higher Trevaskis Camping Park. We loved this site because it is very quiet and child friendly. The owners will go out of their way to make sure you have a great holiday. Whether that’s ordering you a paper for Sunday morning or supplying you with the latest surf forecast! The washing up and bathroom facilities are the cleanest I have seen and it has a lovely, relaxed atmosphere. There are no bars or clubhouses, just good old-fashioned family time. As you can see, we had loads of fun.


As paternity leave comes to an end..

6 Aug

Cry Baby
So, I hear his Royal Highness is coming to the end of his paternity leave. Will Catherine find this a shock to the system?

Following the birth of my first child my husband had two weeks of paternity leave. I look back on those days as heavenly. Obviously there were the usual hiccups which follow giving birth. Sore nipples, piles and stitches to name but a few. Despite that though I remember this time as being really special. My husband would be at my beck and call, bringing me food, doing his fair share of nappy changes and generally being my rock. I think during this time I was lulled into a false sense of security. I didn’t do any cooking or housework, had the occasional nap in between feeds and when I was feeling more ‘recovered’ from the birth we would go for lovely strolls with the pram in the gorgeous spring sunshine. Cards and gifts would arrive every day from friends and family, people would pop in to meet the baby and the house was full of the scent of spectacular bouquets I’d been so lucky to receive,

It was a really ‘bonding’ time for our relationship as a family of three and I remember feeling really exhausted happy. As the end of my husband’s paternity leave came to an end, I remember feeling ever so slightly nervous about what was in store but nothing really prepared me for the shock of being home alone with a baby. She was not an easy baby. She had a tongue tie which made breastfeeding a constant, painful struggle for about the first 6 weeks. She would cry constantly and totally refused to sleep during the day. Reflux kicked in at about 3 weeks old (right on cue for when hubby returned to work) and all-in-all it was exhausting and emotionally draining. I remember my husband getting home from work on the first day and I just broke down in tears. She had cried all day and not slept at all – surely this wasn’t what newborns were supposed to be like?

At our antenatal classes I remember sitting in the hospital with lots of other pregnant couples, all looking equally petrified and the hot topic of conversation would always be ‘the birth’. Why does no one mention the end of paternity leave?! This can be equally traumatic in many ways (OK, maybe I am being a bit melodramatic here). I would look at the clock most days, it would be almost lunchtime, I’d still be in my P.J’s and I hadn’t eaten breakfast. The house often had that just-burgled look about it and the chance of getting time to prepare a healthy lunch for myself was non-existent. My days were taken up with breastfeeding, winding baby and changing nappies and I totally lost track of who I actually was anymore. I couldn’t hold a proper conversation with anyone, was totally exhausted all the time and was more than a little anxious about leaving the house with a baby that was likely to scream the place down at any given moment.

So, if I had to give some advice to Catherine on how to prepare for this I would suggest:

  • Ask H.R.H to stock the freezer up with some home-cooked meals
  • Accept EVERY offer of help that you can get, whether it’s from parents, ladies in waiting or the butler..
  • Get yourself dressed the minute you get up, otherwise you may never get dressed all day
  • Have a constant supply of chocolate at the ready
  • Get yourself a baby sling. These are great for enabling you to get things done whilst you carry a future-king around hands-free
  • Only allow visitors if they agree to make their own cup of tea and bring you cake
  • Accept that housework is not important. OK, this one probably doesn’t apply in the case of a princess…

How did you find your first weeks as a new mum?



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