Making a home for frogs

11 Dec

When I emptied out our tomato grow-bags recently, I was amazed to find a total of 3 frogs and two toads hiding in one of them! I’m so glad I wasn’t over-enthusiastic with my garden fork! They seem to love living in our greenhouse and we find some in there every year. At certain times of year our garden is full of toads and frogs. I’m guessing they like the fact that the garden is normally full of wet leaves and is not tidied up as often as it should be. I’m always surprised to find them hiding in the flower beds and under leaves, rather than in the pond.

frog

 

toad-close up

As I wanted to give our greenhouse a good clean out, we decided to make our frogs and toads a little home. They needed a little encouragement moving in but they look quite happy in their new pad! You just need an old terracotta flower-pot which can be half-filled with some wet leaves. We are going to try to find a little tray to place in front of their ‘frog lodge’ to make a little pond for them.

frog-lodge

Have you created any animal habitats in your garden?

Autumn crafts and fun!

3 Dec

I LOVE autumn! I know my husband thinks I’m crazy but I do! I love Bonfire Night and Halloween, I love kicking up the leaves on a cold crisp day and I love to see frost glistening on the ground. I also love autumn crafts and there seem to be so many for this time of year. Natural materials are in abundance and we always have a collection of pine cones, various nuts and leaves scattered around the house in autumn.

We have been really lucky with the weather and have been getting out and about so much. Probably too much as the housework has been neglected. But as the song goes.. you’ve got to make hay whilst the sun shines! We recently went to a Christmas Fayre at Saltram house, it was a gorgeous sunny day and we were in T-Shirts!

leaf play 2

leaf play

If you are looking for simple autumn crafts then glittery cones are about as simple as you can get. You can either use glitter glue or use PVA glue and then sprinkle with glitter. It is best to bake your pine cones at about 160 degrees for 20 minutes. This will kill any little bugs that you can’t see and dry out any resin.

glittery-cones

For Christmas, these lovely pine cone fairies are so sweet and look lovely hanging on our ‘twig tree’ each year.

pinecone-fairy

I have been wanting to try these clay leaves for some time. Again, they are really easy to make and I think quite effective. I let the children decide how they wanted to decorate them. I did have to bite my tongue as I was really hoping for some nice red/orange autumn colours but they had other ideas! Still, I think they look lovely and they are very proud of them.

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finshed leaf

To make the leaves we used air-dry clay. Pick some leaves that have some good thick veins on them. Place the leaf with the veins facing downwards into your clay. Then take a rolling-pin and roll this over your leaf a few times. You need to press quite firmly to ensure the print transfers to the clay.

rolling pin

leaf print

leaf print 2

When you have your outline, cut around the outside of the leaf print with a craft knife. Place the leaf inside a small bowl with some cling film between the clay and the bowl. This will allow it to dry with a slight curve to it and will ensure that it does not stick to the bowl.

drying

When your leaf is dry, paint it with acrylic paint and then give it a coat of PVA glue to make it nice and shiny and to preserve the paint. I picked some fresh new leaves so that they could copy the colours.

leaf colors

Thomas and Lily added a touch of glitter which I think looks just like frost. We used the Extra Fine Glitter for this.

It is quite expensive but you don’t need very much of it and it really does come in useful for so many crafts.

finished leaf 2

I think I might have to make my own now in some nice autumnal colours!

For more autumn craft ideas, check out this earlier post.

Dover Castle and other Kent adventures

16 Nov

At half-term we enjoyed another fun-filled trip to Kent to visit the in-laws. Trips to visit Grandma and Grandad are always much-anticipated and the 5 -6 hour journey is always filled with cries of ‘are we there yet?’ As soon as we arrive the children race around to the garden to see what delights Grandad has in store for them. This time there was a treasure hunt awaiting their arrival which took them all around the beautiful garden. See this post for more on this magical garden.

A new archery target was just too tempting and we’d hardly had time to unload the car before they were shooting off their arrows. They both love archery and it definitely helps having an ex-archery instructor as a Grandad! This time he had added to their collection, a hand-made quiver.

lily-archery

t-archery

It’s so addictive that even I had to have a go!

mummy-archery

The following day Grandad’s home-made zip wire was installed which gave them hours of pleasure. On some visits there is also a pirate-ship fashioned out of scaffolding poles, spare planks and bits and bobs that he keeps in his Aladdin’s cave (otherwise known as ‘The Shed’).

We spend as much time outside as we can when we go to Kent, come rain or shine there is always something to do. This time, on a chilly day we headed to Dover Castle. Nick and I visited there around 10 years ago but we’ve never been with the children so it was a real treat. Visiting the castle is not cheap, for a family of 4 it would have been £50! We decided to bite the bullet and invest in membership to English Heritage instead. This means that as well as visiting the castle we can visit numerous other historic sites throughout the UK. We can also go back to Dover Castle as many times as we like in 12 months. Joint adult membership (you can also take up to six children free of charge) is £86 but if you enter the code ’20off’ at checkout you can get 20% discount. You can also get English Heritage Membership by using Tesco’s Vouchers.

We had a great time here, it was SO busy that unfortunately there were parts of it we didn’t get to see, including the underground hospital and the secret wartime tunnels. If you can go outside school holidays I would definitely recommend it but of course that’s not possible for most of us now (note to self.. don’t go off on a rant about school holiday rules!)

castle

kids-castle

lily-window

dungeon

throne

group-dover

Inside Dover Castle, with Grandma, Grandad and Great Uncle Stephen.

During our visit we also enjoyed a walk on Shakespeare Cliffs, taking in Dover Harbour Beach. A blustery chilly walk with amazing views and a chance to blow away the cobwebs!

daddy-tom

tom-walking

grandma

grandparents

 

 

Craft It Up Christmas. Book review

10 Nov

A few weeks ago, I was sent a review copy of the lovely book Craft It Up Christmas Around the World
I LOVE craft books but am often disappointed when I buy one which is full of the same ideas and crafts that I have seen a million times. Craft It Up Christmas however, is full of new crafts which I have not come across before. They are all influenced by Christmas traditions from around the world and the book includes fun facts from countries which have inspired each project.

The step-by-step instructions are clear and easy to follow, with great photographs showing you how the end product will look. My favourite craft is definitely the ‘Pay it forward’ advent calendar and we have been busy making this the past couple of days. We have tweaked it slightly and this is now going to be our ‘kindness advent calendar’. It includes ideas like ‘making a present for someone’,’phoning a relative and asking how they are’ and ‘feeding the bird’s. The great thing with this project is that you can get it out year after year, if need be you can always changing the wording inside each little envelope.

pay-forward

 

The children were able to help make this on a rainy day. They loved getting involved and thinking of ‘kind’ things that we could do for other people. Writing and sorting the numbers was also great for improving Thomas’ numeracy skills.

Kindness calender collage

This was a very easy project and luckily we already had everything we needed to make it. Many of the projects in this book can be made with items that you will probably already have in the house. There are crafts for all ages and for both beginners or more experienced crafters.

We are definitely going to try the yummy Snowman Cake Pops. They look adorable!

These almost look too good to eat!

These almost look too good to eat!

 

We are also going to try making this framed Christmas Tree  because I just can’t resist a button project!

christmas-tree

Craft It Up Christmas Around the World is a great book for all ages!

 

Grow Wild. Please vote for Plymouth!

21 Oct

grow-wild-1

 

Some of you may have heard about the Grow Wild Project already. There is £120,000 up for grabs in a round of funding made available to transform our local spaces into wildlife havens. The funding has been made available by The Big Lottery Fund and Plymouth has been shortlisted to the final five. With its ‘City to Sea’ proposal, the plans are to transform Plymouth from Armada Way to the Hoe.

If Plymouth wins the money it will really transform our local spaces. Watch the video on the Grow Wild Website to see the plans. The idea is to involve the whole community in this project, from start to finish.

  • 1000 pupils will be invited to help sow native wild flower seeds and bring the plans to life.
  • An orchard will be planted on Armada Way and passers-by will be encouraged to stop and enjoy the fruit
  • The site will play host to events that will inspire young people to enjoy nature.
  • A scarlet sea of poppies is planned for the Naval Memorial on the Hoe

 

Please, please, vote for Plymouth so that this vision can become a reality! Voting ends on 4th November and you can vote here

 

What exactly is Green Parenting?

20 Oct

free-range children

The other day I was chatting to a mum about my blog. She was intrigued as to what exactly green parenting is so I thought I would ramble on for a bit about my perspective on this.

For me, being a ‘green parent’ is a combination of being conscious of the environment and parenting in the most natural way that I can. I don’t embrace everything that is eco or natural, it is about what works for us as a family. For example, breastfeeding my children was always important to me and I managed this with both Lily and Thomas, fighting tooth and nail to overcome the pain and discomfort that I suffered in the first few weeks. However, some aspects of natural parenting just fill my with dread. We have never been a co-sleeping family and we never could be. Green daddy and I can barely function on disrupted sleep and I honestly think that we are able to be better parents because we don’t have a wriggly snoring child in our bed at night. That’s not to say I don’t agree with it, it’s just not how we do things.

What else do ‘green parents’ do?

Limit their effect on the environment. We buy second-hand when we can and pass on toys/clothes to friends so that they are not wasted. We never throw anything away unless it no longer has a use or cannot be used by someone else. We keep things until they are broken.

We teach our children about recycling We actively recycle at home but we also explain WHY we recycle. We encourage the children to think about passing on toys when they no longer want them, we talk about how compost is made and why we make it and we often up-cycle things that we have around the house. Basically, we try not to waste anything.

Eat organic food. OK, I will hold my hands up here and admit that we don’t shop for organic food. If money was no object then we would but it is simply too expensive for us at the moment. However, we do grow our own organic fruit and vegetables as much as possible. This means that we are helping the environment and also teaching our children about the benefits of growing your own food. As you can see in my previous post, you don’t need a big garden to grow a few veg!

Use cloth nappies As an ex real-nappy advisor, I can rant on about cloth nappies for ages but needless to say they will save you lots of money and you will not be sending hundreds of nappies to landfill. Cloth nappies can be used for 2 to 3 children, meaning the financial savings are huge! Disposable nappies take hundreds of years to rot down so the nappies you use for your children will still be in landfill when your children have grandchildren!

Limit screen time We don’t ban our children from watching television but we do limit what they watch and how often they watch it. Our children play so well using their imaginations that they don’t need ready-made entertainment on tap. They make up their own fun and their own games and I’m sure this is partly because this is what they have always been used to.  A recent report from Public Health England showed some worrying results:

  • higher levels of TV viewing are having a negative effect on children’s wellbeing, including lower self-worth, lower self-esteem and lower levels of self-reported happiness
  • children who spend more time on computers, watching TV and playing video games tend to experience higher levels of emotional distress, anxiety and depression

Enjoy the great outdoors We love getting out and about during our free time. As a family, we enjoy the simple and natural things in life. Whether that’s walking in the woods, cycling, beach-combing or skimming stones on the river.

To me, all of the above things make a ‘green parent’. I’m sure I’ve missed quite a few points so feel free to add any in the comments!

Enjoying lifes simple pleasures.

13 Oct

skim-6

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.

 

 

skim-2

skim-3

 

skim-8

 

 

skim-12

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