Ten books to read before Secondary School

This morning I was stood in the playground looking at the Year 6’s and thinking they’re just a few short months away from Secondary School. These children look like giants compared to my 7 year old, but they’ll soon be making the leap to big school. The summer holidays are stretching ahead, and if you’ve got a Year 6 to entertain, I’ve picked out ten books to read before Secondary School which should entertain, enthrall and interest 11 year olds this summer.

Ten books to read before Secondary School

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. Nine year old Bruno knows nothing of the Final Solution and the Holocaust until he meets Shmuel, a boy who lives on the other side of the adjoining wire fence and who, like the other people there, wears a uniform of striped pyjamas. Read the story of these two young boys who form an incredible friendship despite their different backgrounds, a box of tissues is essential!

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. When baby Bod escapes a murderer intent on killing the entire family, who would have thought it would find safety and security in the local graveyard? Brought up by the resident ghosts, ghouls and spectres, Bod has an eccentric childhood learning about life from the dead. But for Bod there is also the danger of the murderer still looking for him – after all, he is the last remaining member of the family. Everyone needs to read at least one Neil Gaiman book, and The Graveyard Book is an excellent place to start!

Ten books to read before Secondary School

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. Northern Lights is the first volume in Philip Pullman’s award winning His Dark Materials trilogy. Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live half-wild and carefree among the scholars of Jordan College, Oxford. The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight. Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences far beyond her own world.

Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge follows the story of a twelve-year-old orphan called Mosca Mye and her loyal companion, a cantankerous goose. Together they become the unlikely heroes of a radical revolution. Mosca is on the run, heading for the city of Mandelion. There she finds herself living by her wits among cut-throat highwaymen, spies and smugglers. With peril at every turn, Mosca uncovers a dark plot to terrorize the people of Mandelion, and soon merry mayhem leads to murder.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgeson Burnett, this is a true children’s classic and an absolute must-read for anyone. After losing her parents, young Mary Lennox is sent from India to live in her uncle’s gloomy mansion on the wild English moors. She is lonely and has no one to play with, but one day she learns of a secret garden somewhere in the grounds that no one is allowed to enter. Then Mary uncovers an old key in a flowerbed – and a gust of magic leads her to the hidden door. Slowly she turns the key and enters a world she could never have imagined.

Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathon Stroud. When Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career,  she finds herself joining the smallest most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

What Not To Do If You Turn Invisible by Ross Welford. Turning invisible at will is one way to cure your acne, but a far more drastic act than 13 year-old Ethel Leatherhead had initially intended when she tries a combination of untested medicines and a sunbed. When one day her invisibility fails to wear off, Ethel is thrown into a nightmare of lies and deception as she struggles to keep herself safe, to find the remedy that will make her seen again – and solve the mystery of her own birth. A gripping and very funny read!

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz. Stormbreaker is the first book in the number one bestselling Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz. Fourteen year old Alex is forcibly recruited into MI6. Armed with secret gadgets, he is sent to investigate Herod Sayle, a man who is offering state-of-the-art Stormbreaker computers to every school in the country. But the secondary school aged spy soon finds himself in mortal danger.

Railhead by Philip Reeve. Railhead is the story of a petty thief, Zen Starling who is destined to ride the rails  of the space train to nowhere special. That is until Raven, a strange and mysterious figure, persuades Zen to commit an elaborate robbery to steal the pyxis, is a mysterious box containing a shining black orb. Could this bring everything in this galaxy, and the next, to the end of the line?

I am Malala (Young Readers Edition) by Malala Yousafzai. Raised in a once-peaceful area of Pakistan transformed by terrorism, Malala was taught to stand up for what she believes. So she fought for her right to be educated. And on October 9, 2012, she nearly lost her life for the cause: She was shot point-blank while riding the bus on her way home from school. No one expected her to survive. This book documents her journey from village girl to Nobel Peace Prize winner, we hear firsthand the remarkable story of a girl who knew from a young age that she wanted to change the world – and did.

Ten books to read before Secondary School

Review: EasyRead Time Teacher Watch

Learning to tell the time is a vital life skill and one we are working on with the boy. We’ve changed some of our clocks to ones with big numbers and we’re always asking him what time it is. But really the most effective way is to wear a watch and check the time yourself throughout the day. We’ve just got him an EasyRead Time Teacher Watch so he can really crack telling the time over the summer.

Review: EasyRead Time Teacher Watch

The EasyRead Time Teacher Watch is aimed at children aged 5-12 years. It has a fabric strap for breathability, it’s water-resistant, is non allergenic and had a stainless steel back. Not only that, but it has a Seiko movement, so you know the watch is a good quality make.

The EasyRead Time Teacher Watch has a really clear face. It’s divided into two, so children can quickly learn TO and PAST. There’s a simple instruction leaflet featuring their three-step teaching system which can be found on the outside of the watch box and in the leaflet inside. It’s really simple and should be easy enough for most children to pick up and follow.

The three-step teaching system:
  1. Read the number at the end of the long hand.
  2. Say which side the long hand is pointing to (TO or PAST).
  3. Read the number at the end of the short hand.

It’s as simple as that. EasyRead recommend that parents get their children involved in timing their daily activities, such as “you have five minutes to finish your breakfast”.

Review: EasyRead Time Teacher Watch

The EasyRead Time Teacher Watch comes in a range of standard colours and it costs £19.95. Additional watch straps, which are available in several bright colours are £4.95. I think, given how messy my boy can be, it might be useful to buy a spare strap. The straps are washable, but a spare is always useful.

EasyRead have a few other products to help your child learn to tell the time including wall clocks, school clocks and teaching aids; 24 hour wall clocks for home and school, 24 hour wrist watches and children’s alarm clocks which come with a night light and snooze button.

My son is delighted with his new watch. Not only does it look pretty cool, I think it will really help him learn to tell the time. He has grasped the three step concept really quickly and so far he’s been happily telling us the time. I’d really recommend the EasyRead Time Teacher Watch for helping children learn to tell the time quickly and easily.

For more information about the EasyRead Time Teacher Watch, visit their website.

Review: EasyRead Time Teacher Watch

Disclaimer: We were sent a EasyRead Time Teacher Watch for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Giveaway & Review: Petit Ferdinand Customised Labels

Since my son started school four years ago, I’ve lost count of the number of hours I’ve lost rummaging through the school lost property box. One week he managed to lose three jumpers! The school are generally pretty good; as long as things are clearly labelled, they usually end up finding their way back home.

Four years ago I invested in some sew on labels. This was a big mistake, having to sit and sew on labels on all his polo shirts, jumpers, trousers, PE kit and coats took far longer than I anticipated; but I soon discovered iron on labels and better still, stick on labels. These are complete game changers and save hours and hours of my time every year.

Review: Petit Ferdinand Customised Labels

My latest batch of name labels have come from Petit Ferdinand and I opted for the £30 value pack which includes; 20 stick-on clothing name labels, 20 iron-on clothing name labels, 40 stick-on item name labels, 10 stick-on shoe labels, 30 stick-on item name labels and 20 stick-on item name labels. That’s 140 name labels in total.

You can customise your labels with different colours, fonts and images; which all help them to stand out in a pile of lost property. The value pack comes in a booklet which keeps them all together. There are simple instructions on how to apply them and make them stick to clothes, shoes or bits of kit like water bottles.

Review: Petit Ferdinand Customised Labels

They’re easy to use and really help my son spot his jumper in a pile of identical school jumpers. This pack from Petit Ferdinand will last us at least two years and I think they’re excellent value.

I’ve moved on from the dark days of those dreadful sew on labels. I absolutely refuse to go back to laboriously sewing them into clothes; stick-on name labels are the future and for £30 for 140 name labels you can’t really go wrong.

Review: Petit Ferdinand Customised Labels

For more information about Petit Ferdinand, or to order some name labels, visit their website.

Win name labels from Petit Ferdinand worth £30

To be in with a chance to win back to school name labels from Petit Ferdinand worth £30, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Check out our other giveaways over on our competitions page.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:
1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only aged (18) and over.
2. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
3. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget above, complete any mandatory entries and any optional entries you would like.
4. The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
5. The winner will win a £30 value pack of personalised name labels from Petit Ferdinand.
6. The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on 12th August 2018.
7. The winner will be informed by email within 7 days of the closing date.
8. The winner will be asked to provide a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
9. The winners name will be available on request
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11. Entry to this giveaway confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.
12. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this giveaway.

Disclaimer: I was sent a value pack of Petit Ferdinand name labels for review purposes. All images and opinions are my own.

Recipe: Greek Inspired Olive, Spinach and Feta Pinwheels

In a few weeks time I’ll be hosting a celebratory picnic with some close friends. My mind is busy planning what I can serve up to my guests which is delicious, no fuss on the day and they will enjoy. I’ve sidestepped soggy quiche and I’m thinking a selection of different flavoured pinwheels might hit the spot. I was brainstorming some filling ideas when I found a jar of Olive Branch Sweet Olive, Fig and Almond Relish in my cupboard, and I wondered if this sweet and tangy relish would work in a pinwheel, thankfully it did and I’ll be making these Olive, Spinach and Feta Pinwheels again!

Recipe: Greek Inspired Olive, Spinach and Feta Pinwheels

Pinwheels are sheets of puff pastry, rolled up with a tasty filling and baked in the oven. They’re really simple to make; especially if you decide life is too short to make your own puff pastry and you buy the ready rolled stuff. It usually costs about £1 for a sheet so it’s quite economical.

Alongside the olive, fig and almond relish, I added chopped spinach, feta and a little bit of Cheddar cheese to the mix. The result was really different, a delicious sweet, tangy pinwheel with enough cheese and spinach to balance out the sweet with the savory.

Recipe: Greek Inspired Olive, Spinach and Feta Pinwheels

Greek Inspired Olive, Spinach & Feta Pinwheels

Makes 15

Ingredients
1 pack of ready-made puff pastry
A jar of Olive Branch olive, fig and almond relish
2 large handfuls of baby spinach, chopped
100g feta cheese, crumbled
Fresh black pepper
75g finely grated Cheddar cheese

Instructions
On a large board unroll the sheet of puff pastry, leave it on the paper it comes wrapped in. Spread the jar of relish all over the pastry leaving a bare edge along one of the long sides of the pastry. Spread it out as evenly as you can.

Scatter the chopped spinach and crumbled feta fairly evenly over the top of the relish and season with black pepper. I don’t think it needs salt as the cheeses make it quite salty. Scatter about 25g of the finely grated Cheddar cheese over the top, this will melt and stick it all together.

Recipe: Greek Inspired Olive, Spinach and Feta Pinwheels

Roll the pastry up along its long side, roll it us as tight as you can, as if you were making a Swiss roll. Wrap it in the paper in came in and put it in the fridge for 10 minutes or so. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and carefully cut into rounds approximately 1.5cm thick. You should get around 15 pinwheels from this.

Place each round on a greased baking tray and top each one with a little of the finely grated Cheddar cheese. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a rack for 15 minutes or so. Because the relish has sugar in it, these feta pinwheels will be extra hot, so don’t be tempted to gobble them up straight from the oven.

If you don’t have a jar of the olive, fig and almond relish to hand, you could choose your own favourite relish. Alternatively a nice olive tapenade would be great in these Greek inspired pinwheels.

I am certain these Olive, Spinach and Feta Pinwheels will go down well at our celebratory picnic. They’ll be great with a nice chilled glass of prosecco on a sunny summers day!

If you enjoyed this pinwheel recipe, you might also like these simple cheese and onion pinwheels.

Recipe: Greek Inspired Olive, Spinach and Feta Pinwheels

Crafts: Make Your Own Ladybird Flower Pot

This summer has been an absolute belter. We have loved having some actual summer for a change, but it hasn’t been that great for the garden. My lawn is brown and my plants are looking a bit sorry for themselves. We’ve been trying to keep them watered as well as we can using waste water from the bath and shower, but they could do with a really good drink. We’ve been doing a few garden crafts, such as these pretty cupcake case flowers and we’ve been painting some pots for inside the house, like this Ladybird Flower Pot.

Crafts: Make Your Own Ladybird Flower Pot

The ladybird flower pot does take a couple of craft sessions to do, mainly so paint can dry properly in between coats, but it’s worth it, it’s a very pretty pot and would make a nice gift with a little plant in it.

How to make a Ladybird Flower Pot

You will need – 
A small terracotta pot
Red paint
Black paint
A paintbrush
A pencil with a rubber on the top
Bostik White Glu
Bostik Glu Dots
A black foam circle
Googly eyes
A black pipecleaner
Sticky tape

How to make your ladybird flower pot:
Firstly, paint the outside of your plant pot all over with red paint, leave it to dry. It might need a few coats of red paint, so make sure you leave time for the coats to dry.

Crafts: Make Your Own Ladybird Flower Pot

Once the red paint is dry, take a fine paintbrush and paint a black line from the top to the bottom as neat as you can. Taking the pencil with the rubber top, dip the rubber into the black paint and carefully dab spots around the pot. Do as many or as few as you want. Leave the pot to dry, the black spots may take a little while to dry off.

Once all the paint is dry, paint the whole pot with PVA glue, this will stop the paint from running off if the pot gets wet. It won’t make it 100% waterproof, but it will be splash-proof at least.

Crafts: Make Your Own Ladybird Flower Pot

Once the glue has dried, make a pair of ladybird antennae out of your pipecleaner. Fix your googly eyes onto the circle of black foam with a glu dot, this will be your ladybird’s face. Stick the antennae to the back of the foam face with sticky tape and then stick the face onto the plant pot with some of the white glu. Leave it to dry.

Crafts: Make Your Own Ladybird Flower Pot

Once it’s all dry you can put a little plant in your pot. What a lovely, cheery little gift to give someone, or to keep for yourself.

If you enjoyed this, you might also like these bee and butterfly crafts.

Crafts: Make Your Own Ladybird Flower Pot

Disclosure: We are Tots100 Bostik Bloggers and we were sent a box of craft items to use to create this post.

Three of the Best Stage 5 Biff, Chip and Kipper Books

If you’ve got or had a child in Primary School in the last few years, you’ll know that Biff, Chip and Kipper books play a huge part in teaching them to read. My son has been faithfully bringing home the Oxford Reading Tree, Read with Oxford Biff, Chip and Kipper books for several years now. They’re honestly my favourite books to hear him read to me.

The Biff, Chip and Kipper books by Roderick Hunt are full of adventure; the stories are interesting and exciting, and the action happens all over the world, so you get to explore lots of things when you’re reading. The illustrations by Alex Brychta are brilliant. He has woven a cast of characters into the background of his stories and you’ll see the same ones pop up in all kinds of different guises.

My son is able to read independently now, more or less. We’re at that stage where we are trying to build his confidence in his reading. We also want him to really love reading. We’ve recently got our hands on some of the newer Biff, Chip and Kipper books. They have four stories in each one as well as points for discussion. I’ve squirreled a few them away for our holiday, I know he will love these compact editions, both to read with us and by himself.

Three of the Best Stage 5 Biff, Chip and Kipper Books

I’ve picked three of the latest Stage 5 Biff, Chip and Kipper Books from Read with Oxford. Stage 5 is the “Becoming Independent” stage and is generally aimed at children aged 5-7 years. Stage 5 is ideal for children who are beginning to read independently.

three of the Best Stage 5 Biff, Chip and Kipper Books

The Beehive Fence and Other Stories
In The Beehive Fence, read how Biff overcomes her fear of bees during an African adventure. Join Chip, Wilf and Nadim in A Good Turn on the very first Scout camp where they mean a troop of cub scouts. In What a Journey! Mum and Dad take the family on holiday by train, but the journey isn’t quite what they expect. The last story, The Fair-Haired Samurai find out if Kipper’s Aikido classes come in useful when the magic key takes him on an adventure to Ancient Japan.

Fireball in the Sky and Other Stories
This bumper book contains four fabulous Biff, Chip and Kipper stories. Starting with The Ogres Dinner where the children meet the King of the Ogres and wonder who or what will be for dinner that night! In The Secret Pop Star the children meet a boy band hero and unexpected things happen. In the Fireball in the Sky the children encounter aliens in an unexpected encounter. Lastly, in A Knight in Town the magic key brings an extra person home from an adventure, with hilarious consequences!

The Strange Old House and Other Stories
Join Biff, Chip, Kipper and Floppy the dog in these four exciting stories. Go on a spooky night-time adventure to The Strange Old House; find out what happens when there’s a Flood! and the family all have to move out – what will the come home to? Discover how Biff and Wilma rescue two imprisoned Princes in the Tower and find out what happens when the magic key goes wrong in Key Trouble!

These bumper books each contain four Biff, Chip and Kipper stories and each costs £10.99. Between each story are discussion points and tips for how to read the stories. They are exactly the kind of books they’re used to reading at school; so it will feel very comfortable and natural for them to read these Biff, Chip and Kipper books. If you’re planning on doing some reading with your stage 5 child over the summer, then these books are a great investment.

To learn more about you can help support your child’s reading, visit the Oxford Owl website.

Three of the Best Stage 5 Biff, Chip and Kipper Books

Click here for more of our book reviews and round-ups.

Disclosure: We were send a selection of these books for review purposes.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2018

Over the weekend we went to the Timber Festival 2018. This was the first ever Timber Festival in the National Forest and we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. We’ve been to other festivals organised by Wild Rumpus, such as the Just So Festival, so we expected something fairly fantastical and we were not disappointed.

We arrived in the National Forest on Friday afternoon and we were directed to the small accessible camping area where we pitched our tent and then went to pick up our wristbands. We had a quick look around the top end of the festival site, but I had to go back to the tent to change out of my sandals and into my walking boots as the site was hillier and rougher under foot than I was expecting.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2018

After an evening of merriment with our friends, we were raring to go on Saturday morning. We consulted our festival maps and decided to explore the more far-flung areas before the sun rose too high. We headed off to Halcyon Days so Ben could go on a bug hunt with the RSPB and then over to The Coppice to try our hands at stone balancing and to explore the coppice maze. The Coppice was a lovely area with some really interesting things to do, but it was quite far from the main areas, so we only went there once.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2018

After exploring the upper area of the festival site, we walked down the hill, past the Nightingale Stage where there was a dance class going on and into The Common. This was where there were lots of rural crafts going on, such as whittling, clay crafts, willow weaving etc. The group of small boys went straight to the straw bale house building area and got stuck in. It turns out that a good grounding in LEGO building can help you when it comes to building a house out of straw. Just keep an eye out for hungry wolves!

Beyond The Common was Field Notes; an area packed with food and drink vendors and a lovely beer tent (at reasonable prices). It was here where we found most of our meals. There was a large marquee in this area which hosted discussions, speakers and the keynote speaker – Stuart Maconie. I saw Stuart a few weeks ago giving a talk about one of his books, I was excited to hear him speak again and I was not disappointed. Interesting, thought-provoking, honest and funny, if you get the chance to go and see him, do.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2018

One of our favourite areas at the Just So Festival is the campfire area in the Spellbound Forest. The Timber Festival 2018 version of the Spellbound Forest was The Canopy. Just So favourite, Storyteller Ian Douglas was around the campfire several times each day and into the night, delighting everyone with his wonderful stories. It was a smaller, more intimate gathering than at Just So, which made it extra special. Ian is frequently accompanied by Dieter Wadeson aka Mr Foppletwig, who delights everyone with his slightly mad science experiments. Also around the campfire were some brilliant bands and singers, most notably Fishclaw and The Concordia Ashby Choir who performed their version of Africa By Toto and had everyone joining in. Brilliant.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2018

Near the campfire there were three other wonderful little areas of note. The boys loved the Hammer and Chisel area where children (supervised by a parent) could get their hands on real tools and worked together to build a wooden play area. The Museum of the Moon was incredible. Hidden in the trees was a giant moon. There was a subtle soundtrack on a loop playing music and the sound of a rocket launching. It was incredible and it looked stunning lit up at night.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2018

Just past the moon was the Eyrie Stage; a small woodland stage which hosted the most wonderful, eclectic mix of music. It was a real treat to listen to the music; especially Jason Singh who played some wonderful music based on birdsong, insects and environmental sounds.

If I had stuff to complain about, it would be that the site isn’t quite as accessible as it could be. The hills were a problem for me and my chum who both have some mobility issues. Things felt a little bit far apart; so the wonderful Coppice area only got visited once because twice would have been too much for me.

I’m not going to complain about the weather, this was the first festival I’ve been to where I’ve not suffered from rising damp, but it was so hot. I was very thankful they’d made drinking water freely and plentifully available at lots of places around the site. Plus there was a shower block close to where we camped, which was bliss in this heat.

Timber Festival 2018 was a wonderful experience. We felt immersed in nature and the surroundings; we spent time with our wonderful friends, the boys all ran about playing; getting filthy, battling with sticks, learning about insects, whittling, building straw houses, balancing on slacklines. They experienced life as a virtual reality owl; they listened to ancient stories around the campfire, learned some mad science stuff; danced to incredible music and generally got filthy and went a little bit feral for a few days. It was brilliant.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2018

As ever, we were sad to leave, but absolutely delighted to have been part of such a wonderful festival. I would say although it is family friendly, it’s not really pitched at really little ones. The boys in our group were aged 7-10 and they were in their den-building, stick-fighting, adventurous element. It’s the family festival to go to when you feel you’re too old for Just So. I think we’ve got a couple of Just So years left in us, but we also cross over well into Timber. We loved it, we’re already looking forward to next year. Timber Festival 2018 had such a cool, folky atmosphere; it was the perfect way to wind down and have some summer fun with the family.

Sign up to the eNews at www.timberfestival.org.uk to be the first to hear about dates and early bird release tickets for 2019.

Want to hear what other people thought of Timber Festival 2018? Here are some other reviews which you might enjoy from The Brick CastleThat Lancashire Lass and We’re Going On An Adventure.

We were invited guests of Timber Festival 2018 and we were given tickets in exchange for a review. All images and opinions are our own.

Didsbury in Bloom 2018 – Judging Day

On Monday 9th and Tuesday 10th July Didsbury village is being judged by the RHS North West in Bloom judges. Last year Didsbury won both the Urban Community category and a Gold; so there are high expectations for Didsbury in Bloom 2018.

The road I live on, Ford Lane is one of the areas which is judged. We have a green at the top of the road and flower filled planters all the way down the lane. It looks lovely, but it doesn’t happen by magic; a team of hard-working residents lovingly maintain the planters and keep the lane looking good all year round.

Didsbury in Bloom 2018 - Judging Day

In the weeks running up to judging day, more residents do their bit by helping to tidy the green or water the planters outside their homes. I’m slowly trying to make our front garden more attractive, but it’s a slow process, not helped by the lack of rain.

Didsbury in Bloom 2018 had the twin themes of Remembrance and they also celebrated the centenary of women winning the right to vote. There has been a team of wonderful volunteers who have been working with schools to plant and maintain a poppy path running from Didsbury Park to School lane. The verges have been cleared and planted with poppy seeds which were harvested from the fields in France, then scattered by school children. In bloom they are a lovely, arresting sight. It’s well worth taking a detour to wander down the lane to see the poppies and remember them.

Didsbury in Bloom 2018 - Judging Day

2018 has been a challenging year for gardeners, especially over the last few weeks. Manchester has had an unseasonal amount of not rain, or sunshine as it’s sometimes known. We’ve been enjoying/enduring a heatwave and our usually lush green at the top of the road is now a brown.

We’ve been draining our water butts and recycling our bath water to keep the planters looking healthy, but the grass has had to take one for the team. I hope the judges will take the current weather conditions into consideration and not hold our brown lawns against us.

Didsbury in Bloom 2018 - Judging Day

I think despite the challenges, Ford Lane is looking fantastic. It’s a shame the heatwave has taken its toll on the main flower bed on the green; but all of the other planters are beautifully blousy with blooms. I love the Votes for Women bike most of all I think.

Didsbury in Bloom 2018 - Judging Day

All of the Didsbury in Bloom volunteers have worked so hard this year, I take my hat off to them. Thank you for making Didsbury extra beautiful all your round!

The Didsbury in Bloom 2018 team won’t know the results of the judging for a little while yet; but we have high hopes of repeating the success of previous years.

Didsbury in Bloom 2018 - Judging Day

Read more about Didsbury – Five fabulous things about Didsbury Village.

Catch The PAW Patrol Live Great Pirate Adventure this Summer

This summer there’s a treat in store for PAW Patrol fans – the PAW Patrol are going on tour with their PAW Patrol Live show! The UK’s favourite pups will be going on a Great Pirate Adventure during July, August and September this year.

In The Great Pirate Adventure, Mayor Goodway is busy getting everything shipshape for a big Pirate Day celebration in Adventure Bay; but when Cap’n Turbot falls into a dark and mysterious cavern, it’s up to the PAW Patrol to save the day!

Marshall, Chase, Skye, Rubble, Rocky and Zuma ride to the rescue, saving Cap’n Turbot and discovering a secret pirate treasure map. An exciting adventure awaits!

Catch The PAW Patrol Live Great Pirate Adventure this Summer

The pups soon set sail on a pirate adventure to find the treasure for Mayor Goodway. It’s all paws on deck to solve this mystery and find the pirate treasure, including help from the newest PAW Patrol pup – Tracker! No job is too big, no pirate pup is too small!

The PAW Patrol Live! The Great Pirate Adventure tour is visiting the following arenas this summer…

28th July – The Playhouse, Edinburgh
2nd August – Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle
4th & 5th August – SECC, Glasgow
8th August – Echo Arena, Liverpool
11th & 12th August – Manchester Arena, Manchester
15th August – Fly DSA Arena, Sheffield
18th August – Arena Birmingham
22nd August – Motor Point Arena, Cardiff
25th & 26th August – The SSE Arena, Wembley, London
29th August – First Direct Arena, Leeds
1st & 2nd September – Windsor Hall, Bournemouth International Centre
8th & 9th September – Brighton Centre, Brighton

I’m all fired up for PAW Patrol Live – The Great Pirate Adventure! I know my boy will really enjoy going to see the PAW Patrol pups when they come to Manchester this August.

Tickets for PAW Patrol Live – The Great Pirate Adventure are on sale now and you can find them at https://www.pawpatrollive.co.uk/.

Recipe: Wonderfully Mancunian Manchester Tart

Growing up in Manchester, a regular pudding at school was Manchester Tart. A traditional Manchester Tart is a shortcrust pastry case, topped with a layer of raspberry jam and bananas which is then covered in crème pâtissière and sprinkled with desiccated coconut. This is a slightly tweaked version of a traditional Manchester Tart, I don’t like bananas so I’ve left them out. Other people don’t like the coconut, which can easily be left out too.

Recipe: Wonderfully Mancunian Manchester Tart

My Grandma was an accomplished pastry chef and school cook. When she died I inherited her cookbook collection. The jewel in the cookbook crown was a large hard-backed book filled with her handwritten recipes which she’d developed over the years. In this book in her best copperplate handwriting was her recipe for Manchester Tart. Over the years, the original tart was probably served to thousands of Mancunian school children.

This delicious tart was a favourite school dinner treat and is based on the similar but fairly ancient Manchester Pudding.

Recipe: Wonderfully Mancunian Manchester Tart

I’ve not so much reinvented it, but left the bananas out. Feel free to add them back in, or leave out the coconut if you prefer. It’s quite forgiving really, as long as you’ve got a layer of good jam and lots of crème pâtissière you can’t go wrong!

Traditional Manchester Tart

Ingredients:
1 packet of ready-roll shortcrust pastry – or you can make your own
½ jar of raspberry jam
1 tablespoon of desiccated coconut
2 vanilla pods
800ml double cream
5 egg yolks
4 tsp corn flour
100g caster sugar

Method:
Pre-heat your oven to 200°.

Grease an 8 inch tart tin and gently press the pastry into it and trim the pastry roughly, you can tidy it up once it has baked. Place some baking paper and baking beads on top of your pastry and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the baking paper and beads and put back into the oven to crisp up for 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave to cool.

To make the crème pâtissière, split your vanilla pods and scrape out some of the seeds, put the pods and seeds in a pan with 500mls of the double cream. Warm this gently, stirring frequently until it is near boiling point. Remove from the heat and take out the vanilla pods.

Meanwhile whisk your egg yolks, corn flour and caster sugar together in a large bowl. Then slowly (so you don’t scramble the mixture) add some of the heated cream to the bowl, keep adding gradually, whisking all the time until the mixture is thoroughly combined.

Pour the mixture back into the pan and heat gently, whisking all the time until it is near boiling and thick. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. There are a number of ways you can prevent your crème pâtissière from forming a skin; personally I like to go back to it every five minutes or so and give it a good whisk, this will also help it cool a little quicker. If you don’t want to do this, you can lay a piece of cling film directly on the top of the crème pâtissière.

Recipe: Wonderfully Mancunian Manchester Tart

You will need to leave it for around an hour to cool properly.

In the meantime, whisk the remaining 300mls of double cream until it is in firm peaks. Once the crème pâtissière is cool you can carefully whisk the two together.

If you’re using the coconut, in a small pan warm the desiccated coconut up. Keep stirring until it is lightly toasted and fragrant.

To construct the tart, trim the edges of the pastry case with a sharp knife so they look neat. In your cooled pastry case generously spread your raspberry jam on the bottom. If you want to add thinly sliced banana to your tart, this is the time to do it.

Carefully fill the pastry case with the crème pâtissière mixture, smoothing it off and sprinkling the top with the toasted desiccated coconut. Put the tart in the fridge to cool overnight.

There are quite a lot of steps to making this tart, which is partly why I cheated and used ready-made pastry. Manchester Tart really is worth making at least once, and crème pâtissière is nothing to be scared of!

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like to try this Cornflake Tart or my lemon and elderflower gin meringue pie.

Recipe: Wonderfully Mancunian Manchester Tart