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Enjoying lifes simple pleasures.

13 Oct


The last few weekends we have been getting out and about enjoying the autumn colours and everything that the new season brings. Jumping on our bikes at the weekend and cycling through the woods instills a real sense of peace after a hectic week. The simple things in life are often the things that stay with you into adulthood and I certainly have happy memories of riding out on our bikes and being ‘free’. The two latest crazes in our house are…. wait for it….. stone skimming and playing conkers! Timeless fun that I still enjoy as much as an adult as I did when I was a child. I have to admit Thomas is better at skimming than me which is slightly embarrassing!

Tree climbing continues to be Lily’s favourite thing to do and I sometimes wonder if she was a monkey in a former life!

We have also been busy collecting sweet chestnuts and have devised various ways of opening them without getting seriously prickled! Thomas’ method of choice is to ‘whack them with a big stick’…..

Anyway, here are a few photos of a recent day out in the woods. I hope you have been able to get out and about to enjoy some simple pleasures too.











Growing little gardeners

19 Sep

thomas - beetroot
The lovely weather this year has really helped to encourage our love of gardening. We have had a bountiful supply of fruit and vegetables and growing our own produce has definitely helped with the picky eater in our family!

It is great for children to be involved in gardening. It gets them out in the fresh air, helps their knowledge of science and nature and they can get a real sense of pride seeing something they have grown. Nurturing tiny seedlings into fully grown plants gives them a sense of responsibility, even from a very young age.

Here are a few tips for encouraging a love of gardening in our little ones.

1.  Let them sow their own seeds. This includes making the rows – even though they may end up a bit wonky! Let them choose which seeds they want to sow too (I sometimes struggle with this one!)

2.  Give them their own area of the garden which they can be responsible for – even if it is just their own pot, they will love being able to call it their own.

3.  Try to grow some fruit or vegetables. You don’t need a huge amount of space, you could start with growing a few strawberries or carrots in a pot. We have grown lots of vegetables for the past couple of years and they are all grown in containers.

4. Try flower pressing. Both Lily and Thomas have always loved doing this. If you don’t have a flower press just use a big thick book with some white paper between the pages. For best results, pick the flowers when they are nice and dry. They can use the pressed flowers to make cards or pictures. We love these pressed flower gifts and might need to make some more for Christmas!

5. Encourage a wildlife-friendly garden. Talk about the types of plants you have and which insects will enjoy them. Go on a bug hunt with an insect book to help with identification, or maybe even draw some of the insects that you spot.

6. Get crafty with your garden finds. Why not try these wind-chimes, acorn people or a  Cress Eating Caterpillar?

7.  Little hands need little tools so it may be worth investing in a Children’s Garden Tool Set. If they find the tools easier to handle they will be far more likely to want to use it.

We have had so much fun in the garden this summer and hopefully it will carry on well into the autumn. We are still picking bumper crops of runner beans, apples and raspberries and we are still religiously watering our sweetcorn in the hope that we will soon be enjoying a sweet, juicy crop.





The Big Butterfly Count!

14 Jul

BBC Poster


The Big Butterfly Count is the world’s biggest survey of butterflies and is due to take place from Saturday 19th July to Sunday 10th August 2014. Taking part in the count is fun and easy and will help conservationists monitor the state of our butterfly population. It is a great fun activity to do with the children and you can do the count in your garden, at the park, in the woods or even in a school.

You can find all the information you need from the Big Butterfly Count website. you can also download a useful ID chart from this page and log your results online. You can take part in the count as many times as you like, from as many different locations as you like. You can also check out the results so far to see which butterflies have already been spotted in your area.  There is also a handy little app which allows you to record your count on the go! You can download the iphone version here

We love getting the children involved in nature and this is a great way to teach them about different species of butterflies and about how we can help Butterfly Conservation.



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!!