Our Top Five Most Fun Summer Things

It has not by any stretch of the imagination been a boring summer, ok the sun could’ve shone just a little bit more, but we definitely made the most of it. We had days out to exciting places, met new people and tried new things. We had days in and did painting, crafts, splashing in the paddling pool. But mostly we had a really good time. Looking back over the summer here are our top five most fun things we did…

1. Coombe Mill – we snuck in a visit to meet the Coombe Mill gang, and take a tour of their farm while we were on holiday in Cornwall. It’s such a beautiful place and 100% geared towards families. The small boy loved it and still talks about his visit. We met and helped feed all their animals, collected eggs, tracked down a newborn deer, we played pooh-sticks on the river which runs through the farm and best of all, we visited their miniature railway. A grand day out and we can’t wait to have a proper holiday there soon.

Coombe Mill

2. CBeebies Land at Alton Towers – this falls squarely into the “we didn’t think we’d like it as much as we did” category. Neither of us adults like roller coasters, so we visited with very mixed feelings. By the end of the day we were completely won over and the small boy had the time of his little life. His highlights include meeting Postman Pat, the Charlie and Lola House and the In The Night Garden boat ride. A brilliant day out and the queues weren’t as dreadful as we imagined. We’ll be back!

Things to do summer

3. Blackpool – Being a northern girl I have fond memories of trips to Blackpool as a child, one sunny day we decided to hop in the car and head off to see a show on the pier, take in the sights and have a stroll on the beach. Blackpool has changed a lot since I was a girl, but the small boy loved the razzmatazz of it all and couldn’t get over the fact there were actual, real donkeys on the beach. We’re going to try and take him to see the illuminations this year, I think he’ll be wowed by them.

4. Just So Festival – We managed to bag ourselves a day ticket to the festival and we were suitably wowed. The Just So Festival which is held in the Rode Hall Estate in Cheshire was a magical, mysterious, marvellous experience. It’s a family festival which is packed full of amazing things, from pirate boats and buried treasure, forest adventures and crafty fun, drumming and dancing to theatre productions and circus training. All the festival goers dress in “tribes”, so be an owl, fox, stag, fish, frog or a lion, be yourself if you want. This was most definitely the highlight of my summer. I came home with flowers in my hair, looking more relaxed and happy than I’ve done in a long time. Oh, and the boys had fun too, as much fun, if not more than me! We’re already booking our ticket for next year!

Just So Festival 2014

5. Picnic in Delamere Forest – at the start of the summer we hopped on a train and the boy and I went to Delamere Forest. It was our first solo trip since my operations and I was nervous, but everything was fine, better than fine, we had a great day. He loved the train ride and was as good as gold. We got to the forest and found all our friends there, so we set to work making sandwiches for our picnic with the help of Roberts Bakery, while the children ran around and tumbled on the grass, later being entertained by a storyteller. Delamere Forest is a fabulous place to explore, I’ve heard they’ve got a Gruffalo trail, so we’ll be heading back their soon, you never know who we’ll meet in the deep, dark woods!

Roberts Bakery

Of course wherever we go, whatever adventures we’re having, we always take a picnic, you can find some of our favourite picnic sandwich recipes here and here. And if you’re looking for something to keep boredom at bay and for summer things to do, then Roberts Bakery have some great ideas in their 50 Days of Summer Activity Pack which you can download for free from their website.

Note: This is not a paid for post, I have not been financially compensated in any way.

My Sunday Photo 31/8/2014

image

OneDad3Girls

Redecorating with Rodgers of York

When we bought our forever home three years ago we had a babe in arms and we were just desperate to get in. All the walls were simply slapped with white paint and neutral carpets were fitted. We just wanted to get in and get comfortable, then at a later date we’d think about wallpaper, nice furniture and turning our house into a cozy family home.

There are a few rooms in my house which do need some attention, the avocado downstairs loo for a start, but that’ll have to wait for now. I’d really love to stamp my style all over the kitchen too, but that needs a good deal of thinking about first. So style priority number one is my lounge. It’s a nice enough space, it is long and was originally two rooms which have been knocked through. At one end is the TV and toys, and the other is the open fire and all of our books. It’s a much more grown up and cozy space.

Rodgers of YorkI’ve longed to do something with the white walls around the fireplace and to make a feature out of it, I love teals and blues, so I’m thinking peacock shades around the fireplace to make it feel more opulent, probably something like this stunning  “Embrace” Harlequin wallpaper from Rodgers of York.

I love their selection of wallpapers, they’ve just started stocking the Sanderson Emma Bridgewater wallpaper, which is as stylish and on trend as you’d imagine it is.

I’d love a new sofa, this retro brown leather Halo Gable sofa would look fantastic opposite our fireplace, especially if teamed with this lovely Ercol Ravenna armchair, which would be perfect to curl up in and read a book in front of the fire.

Rodgers of York

I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in to some pre-Christmas redecorating, and with the help of the friendly and knowledgeable people at Rodgers of York we can finally have the stylish, comfortable, cozy home that we’ve always dreamed of.

Sponsored

Back to School: Your School Uniform

It’s with incredibly mixed feelings that in just under a fortnight we’re sending our small boy off to join the nursery in “big school”. We’ve been busy over the summer buying all the things he needs, school uniform, water bottles, book bags, the lot, but it’s well documented that I’m not a happy shopper, so I’ve turned to the internet to see if I can save myself the stress of being in an actual shop; the internet did good, I found YourSchoolUniform.com

As he will be in nursery he doesn’t need the fully badged uniform just yet, so we can get away with just a plain jumper and a plain coat, but YourSchoolUniform are able to supply uniform with the logos on, you just need to check if your school is listed. The website was really easy to use and free delivery options are available. Like most parents, typically we chose to buy clothes that he will grow into, so he’s sporting the baggy look in the pictures.

School uniform

We went for a dark blue sweatshirt made from cotton and acrylic, it’s really soft and comfortable and he’s very proud and excited to wear it. The sweatshirt is made by Hubaco and has been designed exclusively for YourSchoolUniform to ensure it’ll stand up to the rigours of school life. We also chose a matching fleece jacket in dark blue, which I think he looks great in, you can’t really go wrong with a fleece, they wash so well, hold their shape and it will keep him warm while he’s running about outside.

The uniform we’ve got from YourSchoolUniform looks to be good quality, the stitching is good and strong and I’m hopeful that it will last, I think it will endure the rigorous testing that only a small boy can give it.

For me I’m happy that while he’s in school I know he’ll be warm and comfortable. I think he looks really smart and whilst I do have incredibly mixed feelings, I can’t wait to see him lining up with his friends on his first day, looking smart and adorable in his uniform.

Note: we were sent a sweatshirt and fleece free of charge for review purposes. All images and opinions are my own.

Family Nutrition Q&A with Dr Sarah Brewer‏

family nutrition

Dr Sarah Brewer

One of the hot topics of conversation when I get together with my mummy-mates is food; what will they eat, what won’t they eat, are they eating enough, what will stop them and us getting stinking colds, all of that and more. So when Nurture Drinks gave me the opportunity to have a chat with top nutritionist Dr Sarah Brewer, I saw my chance to answer all our questions and more.

What are the main concerns about family nutrition at the moment?
Lack of vitamin D is a concern, a study in Southampton found that a third of children seen in an orthopaedic clinic had low levels of vitamin D and were at risk of developing rickets, 15 minutes of sensible sun exposure is a healthy way to top up vitamin D levels.

Are supplements for children worth it?
Up to the age of 5 the government currently recommend children take supplements of vitamins A, C and D, a good children’s multivitamin should cover it. Over the age of 5 it depends on how well they eat and how good their diet is. The Imune Nurture drink is a great way for children to top up their vitamin levels too.

Does vitamin C help with colds?
If you’re stressed or have an active lifestyle then it can help, but a balanced, healthy diet is key. Zinc lozenges can reduce the length of cold symptoms too. Olbas oil is excellent to helping with snuffly noses.

What can we do to look after ourselves as parents and boost our immune health?
Take a good multivitamin, don’t skip meals. Taking a rhodiola supplement may help reduce stress. Getting plenty of sleep is the key, but it’s not always easy as a parent. Try meditating before bed, aroma baths and power naps can help too.

How important are Omega 3 oils?
Omega 3 fish oils are really important and key for brain and eye function. There is evidence that omega 3 deficiency can contribute to ADHD, poor attention and behavioural problems. If you can incorporate oily fish in to your families’ diet that will help, so eating homemade salmon fish fingers and nuts are a great way to add omega 3 to diets. Two to four servings of oily fish a week is the current recommendation, though this is less if you are pregnant or trying to conceive.

Omega 3 is now added to some follow on milks and if you’re concerned about your family getting enough omega 3, then fish oil supplements are available and there’s an algae supplement for vegetarians. Omega 3 is an brilliant brain booster, and if you take it with evening primrose it can also reduce wrinkles and scaly skin.

We like cooking together as a family. What’s good to make together?
Things like homemade chicken nuggets or fish fingers are good, dip in egg and roll in breadcrumbs; make your fish fingers from salmon and that’s a great way to get some oily fish into your diet. Pizzas made with your own sauce and fresh toppings are fun to make too.

Should you hide veg in food, or it best to be upfront?
I hide veg, when I make a bolognaise for example I grate veg into the sauce and cook it out, chopped mushrooms are good because they can taste quite meaty, maybe add some soy protein or lentils too. All veg, hidden or not is good.

How should we deal with picky eating phases?
Keep offering healthy options and they’ll eventually eat them, try saying eat half and leave half, some is better than none. Kids won’t go hungry so keep offering them good things.

Fruit and veg. Is it 5 or 7 a day now?
It’s still 5 a day as a minimum, most people average about 4 a day, in America they recommend 10 portions a day. I have an “open fruit” policy at home, I have a large fruit bowl and the family can eat as much fruit from it as they want, variety is important.

Is diluted squash better than pure juices?
Squash is a good option for getting then to drink water, it’s best to dilute more than the bottle recommends, dilute as far as you can get away with. I prefer squash with natural sweeteners. Again with pure juices you should dilute them down, so half juice, half water. Like the Nurture drinks which are half juice and half water.

Is it true you shouldn’t eat after 8pm?
If you do it regularly it’s not great for you, but every so often won’t hurt. It can slow down your metabolism if you consistently eat late at night.

What’s good for strengthening hair and nails?
Nail strength is largely genetic, but biotin, silica and fish oils can help with your nails. Poor hair strength and condition can be a sign that your diet is poor or you’re under stress, a good multivitamin can help, as can eating more protein and taking a protein supplement. Stress causes constriction to the scalp so stimulating the scalp can help as can caffeine shampoo. Nourkrin supplements and treatments are expensive, but can help with hair growth too.

Are there any links between diet and asthma?
I’ve written a book about that subject, Overcoming Asthma: The Complete Complementary Health Program. Sensitivity to certain foods can trigger asthma, for example sulphites such as those found in wine and tartrazine in drinks can have an impact. Coffee, an apple a day, oily fish and a whole food diet can help.

Why do you recommend Nurture drinks?
It’s an exciting new development, Nurture have no added sugar and the no spill cap is great. The flavours are interesting and they can really help boost immune health. They contain beta glucans which can help reduce the chance of catching a cold and can reduce the length of the cold too.

Thank you to Dr Sarah Brewer for kindly giving her time to speak to me. This is not a sponsored post.

Baker Days Letterbox Cakes

Organisationally I’m quite rubbish. I used to be a project manager which forced me to be professionally organised, but at home I was and remain a shambles. This unfortunately means that gift buying is always, always, always done at the very last minute and in a bit of a panic. I was asked to try a Baker Days letterbox cake, which seems like the ideal and personalised solution to my present buying woes.

We were asked to choose a Halloween themed cake which we could personalise with our own words, though you can choose from almost any themed cake imaginable. We liked the spiderweb cake design which we customised with the words “Spooky Creepy Scary Boo!” But you could choose whatever message you wanted. It was really easy to order and was delivered within a few days, though there are various delivery options available depending on how disorganised or organised you are.

Baker Days

Our cake arrived through the letterbox in excellent condition. Tightly packed in a cute keepsake tin and presented in a box with a little packet of party balloons and blowers with a personalised greetings card. Honestly if someone sent me a little personalised cake in the post, cutely presented like this for my birthday or another occasion I’d be delighted, it’s such a lovely looking, thoughtful gift.

We decided to share the cake between us for pudding after Sunday lunch, the cake was enough to cut into four fairly generous pieces or eight smaller bites. The sponge was light and the icing was sweet but not too thick. It was a nice slice of cake. The cake we had was 5 inches in diameter, though larger cakes are available and you can also choose chocolate or fruit cake if you’d prefer. They also make a range of personalised and themed cupcakes which look super-cute.

Baker Days

The letterbox cake starts at £14.99 plus postage and packing, but it includes a greetings card, a keepsake tin and the balloons and blowers. I think it’s a lovely gift to post to someone, especially if you’re always a bit last minute like me. I like that it’s personalised, I like that it’s a little bit of fun, I think it’s a great idea and it’s definitely on my last minute panic present buying list.

Note: I was sent a cake free of charge for review purposes, all images and opinions are my own.

Wipeable Tablecloth Review & Shopping Bag Giveaway

When we bought our house three years ago, we bought a new, big dining table which we use every day. The plan was that the table would be the centre of our lives; meals eaten at it, crafts and homework done on it, friends and family gathering round it. All that has happened and more, but we were stupid and just left the plain wood bare. This means the table is already scarred from the “stabbing it with a fork” phase the small boy went through. So to protect it from further harm we ordered an oilcloth wipeable tablecloth from Wipe Easy Tablecloths.

To order, we measured our table and selected the appropriate size and design of oilcloth wipeable tablecloth and it was delivered the next day. We wanted something fairly neutral, so I opted for the duck egg with white polka dots, it was a good choice because it does look fantastic in our kitchen, the shade is lovely and restful.

wipeable tablecloth

We have over the course of the Bank Holiday weekend given it a rigorous testing. We’ve had a takeaway curry, we’ve done painting, gluing, sticking, we’ve played with playdoh, we’ve made cakes and we’ve eaten family meals on it. Everything has wiped clean from it, and it’s stopped the relentless stabby fork from marking the table. It’s fair to say we are delighted with it.

Wipe Easy Tablecloths have a huge range of oilcloth, PVC and vinyl designs to choose from, so you can easily find a tablecloth to suit your style and they’re really reasonably priced, so much so I’m going to treat myself to a Christmas one nearer the time. I can’t believe it’s taken us this long to get one.

The gorgeous people at Wipe Easy Tablecloths have offered a lovely prize of an oilcloth shopping bag for one of my lucky blog readers. To enter simply use the rafflecopter widget below (and don’t forget to read the terms and conditions)…

a Rafflecopter giveaway

wipeable tablecloth

You could win one of these lovely oilcloth shopping bags

Terms & Conditions:

  1. This competition is open to residents of the UK only.
  2. There is no cash alternative offered.
  3. To enter, please use the rafflecopter widget above. Please ensure you leave some contact details or I will not be able to contact you if you win.
  4. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualifying entries. The winner will receive an oilcloth shopping bag.
  5. The competition will close on 14th September 2014.
  6. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this competition.

Note: Wipe Easy Tablecloths sent me my tablecloth free of charge for review purposes and have offered the oilcloth bag as a competition prize. However this has no bearing on my opinion of the tablecloth, all opinions are my own.

A special snuggle & the same old (adorable) routine

I’m sat on the sofa, or propped up in bed. Invariably I’ve got my iPad and I’m working. The small boy, wanders in, spies me and goes in for a snuggle. We sit in companionable silence for a while, me enjoying his closeness, for it is a rare thing. Then the questioning starts.

Me: Do you want a drink?
Him: No

Me: Do you want a snack?
Him: No

Me: Do you need a wee?
Him: No

Me: Do you need a poo?
Him: No

Me: Do you need a tickle?
Him: No (he squirms)

Me: Do you need me to blow a raspberry on your belly?
Him: No (he squirms some more)

Me: Do you need me to eat your feet?
Him: No (he kicks his legs so I can’t grab his feet and he giggles)

Me: Do you need me to bite your bum?
Him: No. Not my bum!

Me: Do you need me to squeeze your squeezy cheeks?
Him: Noooooooo Mummy!

Me: Are you sure you don’t need a tickle?
Him: No. I do NOT.

Me: Do you need me to kiss you all over your face?
Him: No Mummy no!

What he really means is yes Mummy yes. So I do all of the above and we dissolve into a giggling, tickling, squealing mess. Then we sit, snuggled just a little bit closer and carry on sitting in our own special companionable silence.

I love these moments.

Special snuggle

My Sunday Photo 24th August 2014

Silent Sunday

OneDad3Girls

Plum Jelly – preserving summer

With three established plum trees in our garden we suddenly get quite popular at this time of year; people popping round on the off chance they can take a bag home to turn into a duff or a crumble or a sponge. This year has been an exceptionally good year for our plum trees and we couldn’t give the fruit away fast enough.

We used to be keen picklers and preservers (before we became parents), so I decided to make a batch of plum jelly. It’s very simple, you don’t need mad skills to make it, all you need is time and patience.

Ingredients:
4.5 lbs of ripe plums (any variety)
1 pint of water
1.5 lbs of preserving sugar

Method:

  1. Halve the plums (you don’t need to remove the stones, I left most of them in, but if it popped out easily then I discarded it), and place into a very large pan. Pour in your water, put the lid on the pan and cook until the fruit has fallen apart, this should take about 10-15 minutes.
  2. Set up your jelly bag, if you haven’t got one of these don’t worry, you can put a sieve over a large bowl, line the sieve with a clean piece of muslin, this will work just as well.
  3. Once your plums are cooked, gradually ladle into the jelly bag or lined sieve and leave (preferably overnight) to drip. Don’t be tempted to squeeze the juice out as this may result in a cloudy jelly. You should get around 2 pints of juice from the plums.
  4. Put your plum juice into your very large pan with the preserving sugar and stir until the sugar melts into the juice. Turn the heat up and bring it to a low rolling boil, it’s better to take this slow and steady, than rush it and push it too far. At this stage put your clean jars in the oven to sterilise them.
  5. You should carefully taste the jelly at this stage to see if it needs any more sugar, this will vary depending on the ripeness of the fruit, remember you can always add but you can’t take away, so keep tasting. Personally I like a slightly tart jelly.
  6. Keep an eye on your plum jelly, keep stirring and you should feel it start to thicken. Scoop any foamy scum off the top (this is just impurities from the fruit and the sugar, it’s not harmful at all) and discard.
  7. Take a cold plate (if you put it in the fridge to chill, that’ll help) and put a dribble of the jelly on, leave it to cool and if it sets to the consistency you want then your jelly is ready to be put in the jars, if not keep stirring and testing the jelly regularly.
  8. When it’s ready, carefully remove your jars from the oven (they will be incredibly hot) and pour in your jelly, we use a wide necked funnel for this, but filling a jug and pouring it into the jar works just as well. Work quickly and carefully and get the lids on your jars while everything is still hot.

Leave to cool and and then it’s readily for slathering on crumpets, or baking with, or for whatever use you can think of.

plum jelly

Personally I like to put my jars of jewel coloured jams and jellies away until the winter months, it’s lovely to open a jar of something homemade, special and evocative of summer just when you need the sunshine memory the most. But then I’m sentimental like that.