Review: The Careless Collection – Artisan Chocolates

AD/Gifted Product. Masterchef 2018 finalist and pilot, David Crichton, has launched an exciting new range of handmade luxury chocolates – including a vegan selection and a bright pink ruby chocolate bar. The Careless Collection is a contemporary new range of handmade luxury chocolate bars in distinct flavours and vibrant colours.  Each recipe has been created in David’s development kitchen in Cheadle Hulme, offering unique flavour combinations for sophisticated palates. He sent me a box from The Careless Collection to try out.

His inspiration for the range came from the TV show when the contestants were tasked with creating a dish for an idol and he chose George Michael. Based on the song ‘Careless Whisper’ and the chocolate bar Wispa, he created two variations – one with a rich chocolate mousse and balsamic vinegar, and the other with salted butter caramel. He has since developed these two bars and added to the range.

The Careless Collection

The flavour combinations are something you might not have tried before, I know I certainly haven’t. Each box costs £12.50 and contains four bars. The box I received had a bar of each of the four flavours, which was a great way to introduce yourself to the range.

The Dark – Heirloom Ecuadorian Nacional 71% dark chocolate shell, filled with a salted butter caramel, olive oil and balsamic vinegar ganache. This is by far the richest bar in the collection, seriously good chocolate filled with an incredibly rich salted caramel butter. There are hints of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, but they are gentle and don’t overwhelm the chocolate. It is very rich and I love (really love) the slated caramel butter, I’d like a big jar of that and a spoon please.

The Milk – Single Origin Venezuelan 43.5% cocoa shell, filled with toasted coconut and lime. This smelled like a posh bounty bar, and tasted like a very posh bounty bar. The coconut inside was delicious and beautifully offset with the lime. It wasn’t too sweet either, which I sometimes find with coconut. This was one of my favourites.

The Ruby – Using a very unique, naturally occurring, ruby cocoa bean, the chocolate (which I’ve never tried before) really tastes of berries. The bar is filled with muscovado caramel, and a rich dark chocolate ganache flavoured with floral notes of rose and lychee. The rose was reminiscent of Turkish delight, but not at all overpowering. It was, I think my favourite, just because it was so unusual.

The White – 29% Cocoa butter white chocolate shell, with a unique blueberry, tonka bean and basil filling. The sweet white chocolate really brings out the cherry notes from the Tonka bean. The blueberry is subtle but it’s a delicious combination.

The Careless Collection is a truly artisan product, handmade and unique. They’re the kind of thing you’d bring out after dinner to share with friends; a real conversation starter and a great way to finish a meal. It’s worth noting that you don’t need to scoff the whole bar to yourself. I think they’re best cut up and shared with friends. Sharing is caring, after all.

For more information about The Careless Collection or to buy online, you can visit the website.

We were sent a box of chocolates for the purposes of this review. All images and opinions are our own.

Our summer – living with lovely chaos

This morning my son went off to spend the day with his cousin. There’s not a lot that’s unusual about this, but it’s been a date which has been in my diary for weeks. It’s been a little beacon of peace in what has been quite a busy summer. I’ve been looking forward to today for ages. I had grand plans to catch up on some work, do a bit of life admin, tidy up a bit and maybe just sit and watch something on TV, something which isn’t Horrid Henry!

I’ve done most of my work, I’ve done my life admin and drunk some still hot when I got to them drinks. It’s been very useful, but I’ve not loved it. I went on Twitter and just tweeted about my day, I described our days together as lovely chaos, and in that I think I perfectly described him and us and our family life.

Family Festival Review: Just So Festival 2019

Like many family homes a late night walk to the bathroom means you run the gauntlet of discarded toys. There’s still an element of paddling when you go to the loo, the dining table is covered with half made crafts, science experiments, and drawings he has done or is doing. I don’t have a living room, I have a room which is given over to a wonderfully complex wooden train set which I’m pretty much forbidden to touch, lest I do something wrong.

The kitchen is a mess, mostly of his making. His constant school holiday hunger is driving me close to bankruptcy. I can’t make, bake or buy enough food to fill his belly each day. His favourite snack is toast which he’s recently learned to make himself. My kitchen is now given over to shifting dunes of toast crumbs and sticky surfaces where he’s dolloped honey or jam.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

This summer hasn’t always felt like my favourite. He’s pushed back a bit, he’s trying to assert himself and I’m giving way where I need to, he’s 8 now and needs room to grow into himself. Equally, he’s 8 now and needs to stop thinking he is king of the house and my direct line manager. He needs to learn to give and take and to listen to me. Like the time I told him not to walk into ankle deep mud whilst wearing the only shoes he had with him for the weekend.

Glamping at Camp Katur, North Yorkshire

The house seems too quiet, too tidy and too big without him. He goes back to school next week and I’m getting a little taste of my days without his lovely chaos. I will miss him and all the really ace stuff we’ve been doing, but he needs to get back into a routine. I need to start cracking on with my life and it would be nice to get my house back to something approaching tidy.

I’ve loved my summer of lovely chaos with my boy, the highs have been high and the lows thankfully not too low. We’ve been on adventures, we’ve done a million things, but being with my boy, learning with him and about him is the loveliest thing of all.

Win a set of Bigjigs Frog Skittles

Bigjigs have been making and selling traditional wooden toys since 1985. Since my son was born, we’ve always had lots of Bigjigs in the house, his wooden train set is still very much loved and played with most days. Their toys are robust and designed to delight and entertain children. I have one set of Bigjigs Frog Skittles to giveaway. Read on to find out more.

The Bigjigs Frog Skittles set contains six cheeky frog skittles and two differently coloured balls. The Bigjigs Frog Skittles set is an excellent way to improve dexterity and hand/eye co-ordination and is suitable for ages 3 years and up.

The Bigjigs Frog Skittles is available from a range of retailers and online for around £15.49.Bigjigs Frog Skittles

WIN A Bigjigs Frog Skittles SET

To be in with a chance to win a set of Bigjigs Frog Skittles, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Check out our other giveaways over on our competitions page.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:
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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 be sent a set of Bigjigs Frog Skittles.
6. The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on 29th September 2019.
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.
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Dealing with Sun Cream refusers, with Childs Farm

AD/Gifted Product. I think it’s probably fair to say that most people don’t enjoy wearing sun cream. It’s sticky and greasy and it quite often brings me out in spots. If you’ve got a sensory disorder, like my son, then even the merest suggestion of putting sun cream on can be really challenging. I can’t keep him in all summer, and for a while we have compromised with a big sunhat and just cream on his arms, but a sunny holiday in Devon and us all wanting some beach time means, that we have had to insist on sun cream on all of his uncovered bits.

Over the years we have tried all kinds of tricks to get sun cream on him. We have applied it while he is asleep, we have ambushed him and we have tried getting him to put cream on us so he knows it’s ok. This week we showed him some pictures of bad sunburn, so he knew what could happen if he wasn’t careful and I gave him a bag of Childs Farm creams and carefully explained why he really needed to use them. He started by helping put sun cream on me, the back of my neck always gets a bit pink and is one of the areas he dislikes the cream the most, so he used a roll on cream on me, then rubbed it in. He’s a helpful boy.

There was a spray one which he used on my arms. He liked spraying the cream too. He seemed to react most negatively to the more traditional lotion. I let him rub some on my arms, then I admired his handy work. He went away and obviously thought about it for a little while, then came back and picked up the roll on cream and tried it on his arms. This was a really positive step, so I tentatively suggested he try it on his legs. This went down surprisingly well and a few minutes later he was dancing around my room shouting “Mum, I’ve overcome my greatest fear” whilst rubbing sun cream on the back of his neck.

This was all such a huge breakthrough, huge. I genuinely could have wept with relief. I’m not sure what the catalyst was. It could have been me patiently going through things again with him, it could have been the sunburn photos, it could have been having his own sun creams, or it could have been me saying we wouldn’t be able to go to the beach again if he wasn’t wearing cream. Whatever it was it worked, and I’m forever grateful.

Dealing with Sun Cream refusers, with Childs Farm

He’s very familiar with the Childs Farm brand, he uses quite a lot of their products at bath time anyway. I think using a brand he already enjoys was helpful too. I really like using their moisturiser myself, so I knew the sun cream would be kind to my sensitive skin too.

The Childs Farm sun cream range has factor 30 and 50 spf sun creams, most of which are water resistant and protects from UVA and UVB rays. It is suitable for babies and children and adults. It is dermatologist and paediatrician approved and suitable for sensitive skin and safe for people who may be prone to eczema.

We were sent a selection of sun creams and were not asked for anything in exchange. I wrote about our experience because it’s been so hard for us to get our son to use any cream at all!

Family Festival Review: Just So Festival 2019

AD/ Press Trip. We have been going to Just So since 2014 and we are huge fans of this wonderfully magical family festival. Each year is different from the last, sure there are some of the same things going on, but each year is delightfully different. Just So Festival 2019 was their 10th festival and memorable for a million reasons.

This summer has been a bit damp, we’ve had fairly extreme rain and some sunshine. I was hoping for a sunshiney weekend, but as we packed up the car on Friday morning, the heavens opened and over the next 12 hours dumped about a months worth of rain on the North West. We arrived at Rode Hall during a huge deluge and despite the best efforts of the organisers, we had to wait for about 45 minutes to get on site, which was fine.

Family Festival Review: Just So Festival 2019

We were camping in the Accessible Camping area and despite the rain we managed to pitch the tent and go and get our wristbands. By the time we were unpacked and settled, it was 8pm and the boy was asking to go to bed. It was still raining so decided to turn in early in the hopes that the morning would bring some sunshine.

Saturday did bring sunshine, so we put our wellies on and headed onto the site to explore. I’m not going to lie, it was very muddy, pretty slippy and quite treacherous in parts. I have limited feeling in my feet, so this made things harder for me to get about. My husband lent a steady arm and we explored as best we could. A lot of families were recreating the “squelch squerch” pages from We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, which tickled us quite a lot, maybe they need a Bear Tribe for next year?

Family Festival Review: Just So Festival 2019

Saturday at Just So Festival 2019 saw us enjoy a whole load of fun things; the Silent Disco, the Woodland Library, Sirin, Toast, Campfire Stories and Campfire Songs, the Woodland Playground, The Retrosettes and a wander down to the lake to watch people go for a row. We met up with some wonderful friends and had a gossip, a catch up and a play. We sat down a lot because I was finding walking on the mud a bit hard going, but it didn’t dampen our spirits too much. Squelch squerch.

Sunday arrived and the site had dried up a treat. It was still muddy, but not as slippy as it had been and I found I could get around an awful lot easier. We launched ourselves into our last day and walked around looking for all the small things which bring us Just So joy, like the Dream Antelopes, the rollerskating flamingos and Boudicca on her chariot.

We ventured down to Footlights again for lunch and a listen to Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers. Wandering through the woods past the queue to meet the Fairy Queen, up to the Spellbound Forest and around the campfire with the very incredible Professor Pumpernickel (not pumpy knickers, as he corrected us). The blue haired professor is always a highlight. His collections of whizz-banging experiments are not to be missed and the boy was rapt. He even went up to him afterwards and had a chat with him, which demonstrated a huge leap in his confidence.

Family Festival Review: Just So Festival 2019

He loved the Giant Marble Run and Hammer and Chisel. We didn’t make Clay Faces this time, but we can do that at home too, so it’s no hardship. We listened to Hurrah for the Pirate King and danced to the ukulele orchestra. Together, we did all kinds of brilliant things and we filled our hearts up with a enough magic and wonder to last us a while yet.

I always find it takes a day to unwind, shake off our real world stresses and properly get into the rhythm of Just So. Our evenings by the campfire, listening to stories and singing our hearts out are a highlight. We love the live music, we love dancing down the Flamingo Lounge. We love the bits of magic around every corner.

It’s such a shame that the heavens opened and cast a cloud over the festival. There were a few grumbles and I did retire early on health and safety grounds on the Saturday night, but all the staff were really helpful and did their very best to make sure the show did go on.

It would have been nice if the sun had shone a little more, but we made a whole lot of muddy memories and my son had such a brilliant time. One of the most important things about our Just So weekends are that they really make us disconnect from our busy lives and reconnect with each other. It’s not just about the magic and the wonder, it’s about slowing down, dressing up as an owl (or a fox, or a stag, or a fish) for a few days and just experience life through the eyes of my child.

Family Festival Review: Just So Festival 2019

I hope next year it’s drier and a lot less muddy, but no less magical. I take my hat off to everyone who worked at Just So Festival 2019 and everyone who managed to bring joy to the weekend in spite of the weather.

See you round the campfire next year?

To grab your tickets for next year’s Just So Festival, visit www.justsofestival.org.uk.

We were invited guests of the Just So Festival 2019, we were given weekend camping tickets in exchange for this review. All images and opinions are our own.

Days Out: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, The Lowry

AD/Press Trip. One of our favourite places to visit is The Lowry and Salford Quays. There’s so much to do there, from the Imperial War Museum North, The Lowry Outlet, Blue Peter Garden and of course The Lowry itself. There’s always something fun on and it’s worth a visit just for a look around the galleries upstairs, but during the school holidays there’s even more fun on offer.

This week we were invited to visit The Lowry, have lunch at Pier Eight and watch their summer blockbuster – We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, followed by an actual bear hunt. With summer holiday boredom seriously kicking in at home, we relished the chance to have an afternoon of bear hunting at The Lowry.

Days Out: We're Going on a Bear Hunt, The Lowry

We began by having lunch at Pier Eight. I’ve eaten there before in the evening and the food has always been excellent. We ordered from the new bar menu, the boy chose pasta from the kids menu, and I chose four of the small plates. There is currently a lunchtime offer where you can get four small plates and two drinks for £18, which is really good value.

Days Out: We're Going on a Bear Hunt, The Lowry

I chose the soup of the day, which was celeriac, one of my favourites. I also ordered the dirty fries, topped with cheese, crispy onions and spicy mayo. There was a dish of falafel and hummus and some delicious broad bean bruschetta. It would have been a very fine lunch for two, but definitely a delicious but too big lunch for one!

Days Out: We're Going on a Bear Hunt, The Lowry

After lunch we made our way to The Quays theatre for the 2pm performance of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. The boy is 8 now and I did wonder if he might be a little too old for it, but I needn’t have worried. It was an hour of brilliant fun, we were both laughing our socks off, joining in in all the right places and singing and dancing in our seats. It really is a fabulous show, packed full of memorable songs and funny moments. It’s a treat and a half, and a great way to spend an afternoon.

We’d had such a lot of fun, we decided to do The Lowry Bear Hunt, or as much of it as we could. Around The Lowry and The Lowry Outlet there are lots of big bear benches dotted about, all have a page of bear facts to read. It’s great fun and we loved trying to find them all.

Days Out: We're Going on a Bear Hunt, The Lowry

Upstairs at The Lowry is The Lookout where throughout the summer you can find lots of different and free family activities. On the day we visited there were lots of colouring and craft activities on offer, so we just enjoyed hanging out and doing a bit of colouring together.

We had a brilliant afternoon at The Lowry, there was lots for the boy to do. We both absolutely loved the play and the actual bear hunt was inspired and lots of fun. If you’re stuck in the summer holiday doldrums, an afternoon down Salford Quays is a great way to perk everyone up!

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt runs at The Lowry until 1st September, for more information or to buy tickets, visit the website.

Days Out: We're Going on a Bear Hunt, The Lowry

We were invited guests of The Lowry and received complimentary tickets and a meal in exchange for our review. 

Lancashire Lightning Vitality T20 Blast – Great family fun!

AD/Press Trip. In the weekend after the nail-biting Cricket World Cup, and still full of cricket fever, we took my son and his cousin to Emirates Old Trafford for the afternoon. We had been invited along to watch Lancashire Lightning’s Vitality T20 Blast match against Durham. The boys were incredibly excited about going to their first live cricket match, and I was too.

Lancashire Lightning Vitality T20 Blast - Great family fun!

The doors opened at 1pm, but the match started at 2.30pm. There were lots of things going on outside the ground for families, they’d closed the road off outside and you could take part in all kinds of sporting challenges. The boys were keen as mustard to get inside, so we did that.

This match was billed as one of the most family orientated fixtures of the summer, with lots of activities going on around the ground for children to enjoy. It certainly was that. We’d brought a picnic with us, so we took our seats and got stuck into our sandwiches. There are plenty of places to grab a snack or a meal around the ground, but you can save a bit of money by bringing your own if you prefer. Likewise, drinks of both the hard and soft kind are readily available. It’s all very civilised, and there wasn’t a sniff of rowdiness.

We watched the teams warm up, and before long the match began. T20 is fast-paced, exciting cricket which is ideal for cricket fans who might be a bit overwhelmed by longer versions of the game. It was three hours of action, with lots of singing and dancing. The celebrations reminded me a lot of the ice hockey games we sometimes go to, but this was much, much warmer!

Lancashire Lightning Vitality T20 Blast - Great family fun!

Very quickly the boys and I started to pick up on the rules and we really got into the swing of things. The crowd was full of families, all absolutely loving it. Going to see live sport can be an expensive business, but we were very pleasantly surprised. Tickets for children start at just £1 and adult tickets for the stand we were in were around £13. Having taken the family out to other sporting events and not got much change out of £100, this was a bit of a revelation.

The Vitality T20 Blast is three fast-paced hours of cricket fun. It’s a brilliant family day out, with loads going on too. If you’re lucky like we were, the players sometimes come out at the end to meet the fans, sign autographs and take selfies. This was the icing on the cake for the boys, and they were thrilled to meet their new heroes.

Lancashire Lightning Vitality T20 Blast - Great family fun!

The boys and I had a brilliant afternoon; we arrived at Old Trafford complete newbies and left really wanting to come again another day, and then another day after that!

You can find out more about Lancashire Lightning, their Vitality T20 Blast matches and buy tickets on the Lancashire Cricket Club website.

Disclosure: We were given complimentary tickets in exchange for this review. All images and opinions are our own.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2019

AD/Press Trip. Last year we went to the first ever Timber Festival and it really wowed us. We were keen to return again and return we did. Timber Festival is held in the National Forest at Feanedock in the Midlands, it’s a beautiful place and a great spot for a festival.

The National Forest has been growing since the early 1990s, over the last 25 years or so millions of new trees have been planted. It makes sense then, with climate change and climate emergency being high on the global agenda, that Timber is a family festival with a distinct environmental bent.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2019

For me it was a chance to have three days of chilling out, having fun and getting back to nature. For my outdoorsy son, he was looking forward to running around with his friends, building dens and learning more about nature. As ever, before we arrived I went through the programme and circled all the things I wanted to see and do, but as usual I missed quite a lot of those things, went with the flow and still ended up having the best time ever.

If you’ve ever been to the Just So Festival, Timber is a bit like that, but with a lot more things for adults and older children to do. The layout of the festival is a little different to last year, something which I approve of. It’s a large site, which is great because you don’t feel like you’re with hoards of other people, there’s a real feeling of space.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2019

We arrived late on Friday afternoon and pitched our tent in the accessible camping section between our two friends, Jenny at The Brick Castle and Rachel from Marvellous Mrs P. Each of us has our own physical challenges, so the accessible camping area was great for us all; and our kids get on very well together so spent much of the weekend playing beautifully, which was really nice.

After a quick meal we ambled off to wristband exchange and had our first look at the site. There’s a beautiful viewing spot at the top of a slope (which all the kids loved rolling down) and we arrived just in time for the start of a glorious sunset. We had a look around, got our bearings and a drink, had a little dance to the Woodland DJ on The Eyre Stage, and watched the sun go down. We had a plan for the next day, and nothing was going to stop us.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2019

Except when we woke up, the glorious sunshine had turned to rain. It was pretty heavy rain too. We sat in the tent, drank coffee and surveyed our options. We waited until the rain abated, then scuttled down to Field Notes because I really wanted to see Phill Jupitus. I managed to find a spot inside the tent, so I was at least dry while the rain hammered down outside. Phill was fantastic, interviewed by Radio 4 stalwart, Geoff Bird, Phill talked us through his six favourite Wilderness Tracks and regaled us with some great stories about his life and career. An hour very well spent.

By the time Phill had left the stage, the rain had more or less dried up. I found the boys in Cardboardia and we headed over to the Shivelight area, where I had high hopes of finding some chill. Shivelight is where I found my people. It’s a quiet area, tucked away from the hubbub where you can indulge in some yoga, forest bathing, tai chi or all manner of chilled out things.

The tai chi tent was heaving, which was a bit of a shame. Instead I headed to the guided meditation tent with Rachel, and made myself extremely comfortable. I put the headphones on and while a mediation played, I drifted off to a faraway chilled out place in my head. Rachel, being the wonder that she is had booked us both in for a relaxing hand massage afterwards in the Weleda shed. It was a perfect hour and a great way to go into the afternoon.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2019

Saturday afternoon involved lots of exploring. My son REALLY WANTED to make something in Cardboardia, it was busy and we had to book in, but that was a huge highlight for him. Cardboadia is a new area and was a huge tent where you could go and make cool things out of cardboard for the Cardboardia Parade on the Sunday, more of which later.

After a late lunch, we headed to As The Crow Flies to listen to some Forest Folk Stories from Tom the Tale Teller. While we were under the forest canopy, we explored the area a bit. It’s a great spot for kids especially, what with the Giant Marble Run, Hammer & Chisel and the Shadow Lanterns. There was also a great programme of performers including the inimitable storyteller, Ian Douglas and Professor Pumpernickel, as well as the Ukulele Chorus and a great selection of Campfire Bands and Storytellers.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2019

As the day turned to evening we all settled around the campfire. At some point throughout the day I’d managed to eat something which disagreed with me, so I retired back to my tent for the evening and the rest of the gang partied into the night. I’m not really sure about what happened while I wasn’t there, I just know that my son came back full of happy and pretty filthy. Thank goodness for the excellent festival shower block nearby.

Sunday morning arrived and I realised the clock was ticking on our festival experience (seriously, these things always need an extra day or something), so we breakfasted and then scampered down to the festival site. We headed to the Elemental area and we were wowed by the Shimmer tree, a sound and light installation where cymbals are turned into speakers and as the wind blows through them, the tree makes a beautiful and haunting noise. I could have sat under there for hours, it was magical.

From there we explored the small but lovely Timber Maze. Ben enjoyed it so much that he wanted to do it again and again, so I left them to chase each other through the maze and found the Seams tent. The tent paid tribute to the coal seams which run underneath the Timber site. Inside you experience a multi-sensory journey inspired by the evocative names and diagrams of the geological seams beneath your feet. Through sound, light and smell you get a feel for underground life and emerge viewing the area in a new light.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2019

From there we went over to Halcyon Days, an area tailor-made for families. There were circus skills to be tried and enjoyed as well as Maypole dancing, archery; and a whole host of other things. The area we enjoyed the most was Beginners Luck, which was a selection of huge games, like Scrabble, Guess Who, Ludo and Tiddlywinks. It was great fun and we played in there for a good hour or so.

I can’t not mention the food at the festival. Though we were on a budget and catered for ourselves quite a lot, we allowed ourselves a couple of meals and some lovely ice cream from Ginger’s Comfort. They really do make the best ice cream in the world. My lunch on Sunday was a really very excellent vegetarian momo from the Tibetan Kitchen, something I would be very happy to eat over and over again.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2019

The range of food available was excellent, with really good vegan and vegetarian options. You could eat a different thing for every meal and never get bored. Plus Sunday was roasting and the beer tent on The Common was well stocked with ice cold cans of soft drinks which really hit the spot!

After lunch we wandered back over to the campfire for some more quality time with Ian Douglas and his stories, the boys descended on the nearby Hammer & Chisel and spent a happy hour hammering and sawing. We sat for a while, absolutely transfixed by If The trees Could Talk, a collection of fairy tales written by the LGBT+ community in South Derbyshire. It was incredibly moving and there were very few dry eyes around the campfire at the end. Beautiful stuff.

After our early afternoon chill out in the woods, we set off for the Cardboardia Parade. We didn’t really know what to expect from the parade, but the crowd was split into two rival factions, Miners and Trees. Everyone brought a cardboard weapon they’d made, and other cardboard things were handed out (it was much cooler than it sounds). Led by the brilliant Baghdaddies the parade marched through the site and up the hill where they was a bit of a mock skirmish. It was brilliant, my 8 year old loved it and was really sad when it was over. I think it was one of his highlights.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2019

It was very very hot on the Sunday afternoon; so after the parade we retired to the shade for an ice cream and a little rest. We looked back on all the things we’d seen and done over the weekend; there was so much going on I feel like we missed most of it, but still packed in so much of the good stuff. The boy loved the As the Crow Flies area, Cardboardia and Halcyon Days. I was thrilled to see Phill Jupitus. I loved the music, the meditation, the whole chilled out vibe of the festival. Timber is just three beautiful, chilled out, educational, environmental days in the woods; and I can’t wait for next year!

Sign up to the eNews at www.timberfestival.org.uk to be the first to hear about dates and early bird release tickets for 2020.

We were invited guests of Timber Festival 2019. We were given tickets in exchange for a review, but we paid for everything else while we were there. All images and opinions are our own.

Today I learned a lesson about love…

I was at the gym this morning and something really big happened to me. It’s a bit of a story, a story about love, so pull up a chair and hug your brew.

Monday is the day I usually do two dance classes and a tai chi class. I’d dragged myself to the gym in pain, half way through my first class my back spasmed and my right knee gave out. Being the determined little bunny I am, I cracked on with the class. I might not have jumped, twisted and shimmied like I’d normally do, but I was determined to finish.

After my second dance class there’s a 15 minute pause before tai chi. I usually grab a mat, lie on the floor and stretch my back out for a bit. I did just that and whilst I was full of frustration and anger about hurting myself, despite wanting to pick myself up and go home, something made me stay for the tai chi.

The class began and after about 20 moves my knee made a massive clicking noise and the pain went. My back wasn’t feeling too bad either. I concentrated on the flowing movements and my breath, knowing that this 45 minute class is my one chance this week to empty my mind and quiet the shouting of my inner anxiety voice.

When I’m doing tai chi all I can really do is concentrate on the movements and breathe. About 25 minutes into the class my head emptied and a voice, maybe my inner voice kept telling me I was getting stronger and better, not for anyone, or because of anyone, but because I deserved it. I was doing it just for me, and that made me cry. Fat silent tears ran down my cheeks for several minutes while I held myself in that moment.

Only a very small group of very close people know I’m having a lot of treatment at the moment and going through some things. There have been some incredible people who have been with me throughout. I listed these fine people in my head and I began to cry again.

These people, these good friends who message me and check I’m ok are amazing. Call me soft if you want, but it occurred to me that this is what real love and friendship really is.

I thought about my son, when he was born and I held him, looked into his eyes and fell deeply in love with him. I thought then that I knew what pure love was, I was right, my son taught me a lesson about how to love other people, what unconditional love felt like to give, but I’ve never really been sure that I have ever received that.

My good friends are the ones who cheer for me, lift me, hold my hand, listen to my woes and tell me to get out there and kick some ass. I realised that each of them love me and they love me unconditionally. There’s no expectation that their love and friendship comes at a price. I don’t need to be thinner for them, or fitter, or more well-read; or do the washing up straight after dinner or whatever. They love and care for me exactly as I am.

Sure, I know each one of them probably hopes and wishes that I will find a peace, live pain free, and that I get as fit as I’d like to be; but they don’t need that to be a part of our relationship. I am perfect as I am, to them at least. So I cried all the way home knowing and understanding that for the first time in my life I have recognised that I am loved, and what’s more, I am loved unconditionally.

Today has been a real day of days. I’ve acknowledged that all the hard work and pain I’m going through now is just for me and not to please or appease a single other soul, and I’ve realised that I am loved and cared for. These are huge things.

Knowing and understanding that I am loved is really grounding. These are solid foundations I can build on. Today really feels like a massive turning point in my journey back to wellness. I feel full of love and I’m ready to start building on that. Bring it on.

Today I learned a lesson about love...

What my son’s school report doesn’t tell me

I’ve just had a message from school to say that your school report will be coming home tomorrow. This is perhaps my least favourite day of your school year.

I see a child who has made incredible leaps since September. I see a boy who loves reading, and writes me notes about how much he loves me. My boy is someone who skips down the road shouting out his three times table. I see a boy who needs extra help, but tries so hard to help himself.

Your school report will tell me facts, facts that I’m not that interested in really. It will tell me your scores for tests which mean nothing to me, you or your future. It will tell me where you’re expected to be at this age and where you actually are. What it won’t tell me is how happy you are at school. It won’t tell me about the kind things you did to make the new boy feel welcome, or that time you reeled off a huge list of Viking facts the rest of your class, and perhaps even your teacher hadn’t learned about yet.

It won’t uplift and shine a light on the huge efforts you’ve made with your writing this year and how you’ve gone from hating everything about writing to scribbling notes on every available scrap of paper, and sometimes even my walls. Your report won’t tell me about how you’ve grown to love drawing and even got pretty good at it. It won’t tell me about how good you are at swimming and martial arts, or how you are learning to identify all the different trees we pass on our walks.

Your school report will tell me in bald terms how you match up against your peers and where you are lagging behind. There may be passing mention of some of what makes you my bold, brilliant, funny, kind and interested boy, but your school report doesn’t define you to me.

Your school report is largely a time consuming tick box exercise for your teacher. It needs to be done, but its contents are of little or no interest to me. To me you are an individual with a million strengths. You are a unique and wonderful personality. I have no idea where you will go in life, what you will be, even who you will be. All I care about is that you are happy and healthy, that you are kind and you are liked and that you try hard. Not everyone can be good at everything, we’ve got to try a lot of things to find our strengths and you have a great many of those my darling, and most of them won’t be listed in your school report.

I won’t show you the report, it’ll be read and then put in a box for a future us to read. Maybe in ten or twenty years you will find it and read it. I hope when you do you will remember the boy who tried hard above all else and a boy who was happy and loved.

I have spoken to your teachers and met with them regularly. They know and love you as the enthusiastic and interested individual you are. They do know your strengths and your capabilities, they do know the giant leaps you have made this year. But this will not come across in your school report. If you read it, do not take it to heart my dear boy; you are all I could have wished you to be and more. I’d change nothing about you, except your ability to tidy your own room.

Four pieces of paper do not define you to me; they do not define your future or anything of any serious consequence. Keep being brilliant and interested in the world; please keep learning and wanting to learn. Keep trying hard, because that is all I could ever ask of you, my brilliant darling boy.

What my son's school report doesn't tell me