How do I get my kids to ride a bike?

c.1983/4

I am 5…6…maybe 7 years old. I am wobbling down one side of the cul-de-sac on my second hand red bike. Dad is holding tight to the back, running along with me. I am calling out to him.

‘You’re doing it!’ he calls. I notice his voice sounds further and further away.

‘Noooooo!’ I call, ‘waghhhhhhh! you let go!’

But I keep pedalling and I realise… I am a cyclist!

It all seems simple in my memory. Learning to ride a bike. Hmmm, fast forward to 2014 Continue reading

2013 looking utterly incredible, thanks to Photobox

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Before the year ends, I wanted to show you this. Our photo album from Photobox. If you’re anything like me finding time and making yourself slow down long enough to put this together is a real achievement in itself. Actually the software is easy, it is choosing the pictures that takes the time!

I cried when it arrived, it brought back so many fab memories of our Carnival Cruise and it is just so stunningly beautiful and the photos so sharp. How cool too, is the collage cover? But this photo book just keeps on giving. Continue reading

What’s your favourite childhood memory? #REBUILD

Me and my brother, my children

Mine has to be collapsing in a fit of giggles with my brother in a Danish supermarket over a packet of biscuits named BUMS! I’ve always been close to my brother and it was amazing when life replicated the same birth order and age gap in my children. When I watch my kids plotting things together it takes me right back to my childhood.

My brother and I still find ourselves falling apart with laughter over the most inappropriate things. People often ask me what the secret to us remaining close over all the years is. I’ve no idea. I think the shared experience of holidays, day trips and adventures really helped though. We were lucky to have parents who were able to help us see the world, to have adventures and experience new cultures and to have the time and space to simply enjoy our childhood together.

This week we got a letter from Luqman, the boy we sponsor through Action Aid. His life is different, but throughout his letter is so much evidence of the positives sponsorship brings to his community. Sponsoring a child through ActionAid is about helping their whole community.

Action Aid recruited some special people to highlight how important happy childhood memories are. This triggered some great ones for me.

Sarah Alexander visited Sierra Leonne, this video shows how children in conflict countries are still so in need, even 11 years on from the conflict.

I saw very similar scenes when I visited Ghana, but Ghana is a stable country by comparison, the thought of what children have seen in Sierra Leonne, and since experienced, makes me really wonder about their childhood memories. Little things make a huge difference though, windows of play opportunities, a bottle of bubbles goes a long way to creating happier memories.

I’m joining ActionAid in kicking off their #REBUILD campaign. You can help:

  • Please share this post wherever you can, on Twitter using the hashtag #rebuild.
  • Write a post or a status update about your childhood memories #REBUILD
  • Please consider ActionAid child sponsorship, if you can, £4 a week can make a real difference to another community. We’ve found it opens up a whole world to our children too.

How to do a DIY family photoshoot

Love Mister G’s photobombing of Miss L’s shot of me and Mr A. We did a bit of a family photoshoot recently, we needed a picture of all four of us in a hurry. The results made me realise it was something we should do more often, rather than waiting for the perfect moment to happen or paying for a photographer. I’ve listed the ingredients for a perfect shoot and a lovely Photo Box Photo Mugs giveaway too, the perfect way to celebrate your efforts.
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We came, we saw, we conquered, Camp Bestival 2013

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This was our second year at Camp Bestival and we still found loads of new things to keep us busy. I think it took us longer to get into the festival mood this year, Mr A and I had less time to switch off from work, and the kids being older, wiser and more used to the site, had very strong ideas about what they wanted to do which caused some frictions. (TIP: On Friday everyone is fresh faced and wants to do everything, so there are more queues and people, so try to save some things for other days!)

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No I will not wait ’til Sunday when it is quieter to make slime in the Science tent Mummy!

But I always think festivals are a winding down, transformative kind of ritual, and by Sunday breakfast, Camp Bestival’s magical work on us was complete, look: Continue reading

Two tales of Legoland…30 years and 30 minutes #maddayout

That’s my Dad in Miniland at Legoland Windsor, Father’s Day 2013.

That’s my Dad in Miniland, Denmark c1984.

My photography skills improved a little, or maybe it’s just technology.

It meant a lot to take my Dad to Legoland, nearly 30 years on. To take my kids, just a little bit younger than I was when I went. To take a glimpse into my own childhood, to remember and be reminded how it felt to be a child and to see being a parent in a whole new light.  Continue reading

To call a spade a spade

My Grandad’s old spade hangs on the wall, to remind me that greenfingers do run in my family, that gardening is a huge legacy and I really want to learn more about it. Watching my Dad, another keen gardener, with L, or seeing the way my brother grows chillis and tomatoes on his London balcony, I always thought the green fingers had bypassed me. Then, in my typical bull in a china shop, Gemini fashion, I decided to attack the garden one day.

This is what it looks like in the Estate Agents documents, from when we nearly sold it last year. Neat and tidy but a bit bare. Glad we didn’t sell it, but we need to ‘reown’ it.

I decided we were having a veg patch. Mr G was put to work on hosing the turf, while I dug. Each time I dug it got a little easier, instinct and Mr G’s excited shrieks kicked in. I’ve watched my Dad digging enough times over the years. We even found an old horseshoe which sent Mr G on a fabulous journey of the imagination and had history mad Miss L speculating.

We added the old boat shaped sandpit as a raised bed

We stuck canes in as we had seen my Dad do, to keep the neighbours cats off. Then we forgot about it (told you, I am a Gemini, master of unfinished projects).

Until my Dad gave us a Kew Gardens seed and soil test kit. We tested the soil in a series of test tubes and realised it was perfect for growing stuff. So we filled the old sandpit with the wild flowers that came with the kit and added the broken old watering can and the old horseshoe for decoration. I hope it brings our crops luck!

Then Mr G and I found some pea seeds in a tin in the shed. As I was planting the peas I could see my Grandad in my mind, hear him, telling me how to do it. I could see his big hands, the dirt permanently engrained in the creases, gently pointing where to go. And the peas, they only went and grew!

See, all that information I’ve absorbed from watching the professionals in action is there, just a bit buried. I’ve had two rather fast growing little ones to look after and there hasn’t been much time for plants in my life.

We bought some more seeds, and me and Miss l went for it.

We thought some windmills would brighten it up and some log roll edging to keep little feet from jumping onto the seeds as they grew.

It still felt a bit flat, so what we needed was a scarecrow. I looked around for some ideas and discovered hessian ones last longer. You can see how I did it in my how to make a scarecrow post.

Costings

Seeds – £17 (bumblebee wild flower mix, peas, carrots, broccoli, beetroot, lettuce)

Tomato plants  – £3 in the sale

Scarecrow materials – £10 online/petshop

Log roll edging – £10 Asda

Windmills – £4 for 8 mini ones Asda, larger ones National Trust £6 for 2.

What do the images in your home mean to you?

I read a list of decluttering tips that made me rather sad recently. It suggested going back to the Victorian trend of reserving photo frames in your home only for people who are dead. For me images in my home are about capturing life: adventures, moments, people and feelings you want to remember.

When I was asked to review a next day delivery canvas service from Your Image 2 Canvas, I immediately knew I wanted pictures that would remind me of our outdoor adventures. Pictures that would bring the outdoors inside and encourage us to continue to get out. I haven’t quite decided where to put them up yet as we are in the midst of a huge reorganisation, so I thought it was appropriate to photograph them outdoors. Continue reading

What were you like at School? Let the sparks fly!

I was thrown back into my school days recently by an email. When I stayed with Mummy Barrow the night before we flew to Ghana we realised Daddy Barrow’s mum had worked at my secondary school. After Ghana she mailed me to say she had remembered me to my old headteacher, at which point I panicked slightly. I still care, after 17 years what he thinks of me, and I have good reason to worry.
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@AResidence does @RedTedArt

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Top left, image from Red Ted Art, right, my space crab, bottom right L’s turtle family, bottom left Mr G’s turtle goes off in the campervan.

We love Red Ted Art craft book. It was full of surprises. It was the perfect collection of…

every memorable craft activity I ever did as a child, plus every one I am still waiting to try…

I admit I have shyed away from step by step craft activities in favour of open ended experiments, glitter bombing, collage making and junk modelling. But as my kids get older I am starting to realise that while open ended creativity is vital, it is actually really easy and satisfying to learn some technique too. I was surprised just how much technique kids can pick up with even the most simple materials and activities.

Red Ted Art is beautifully presented and so easy to navigate in a style that is appealing to both adults and children. No patronising cartoons, just lots of beautiful photographs and clear text and lots of clean white space. Each section is themed so easy to find, which also gives a clear sense of developing new skills.

Nearly all the projects have scope to be tackled by very little ones with some help, or bigger children independently. But the best bit, there are ideas and techniques I could use to make proper grown up gifts with. Everyone is a winner.

The activities we tried really encouraged us to make things together as a family. Perfect for a rainy Saturday afternoon, tea and biscuits. Mr A even got stuck in to our turtle shell making.

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There was plenty of room in the activities for individual variation, you could copy the idea exactly, or make it your own, as we did with our shell creatures. These are creations kids are going to be proud of, to want to play with, treasure and keep. In fact it was lovely to create shell creatures they are still playing with four weeks later.

I think this is a craft book to grow up with, it has all the classics I remember doing as a child, blowing eggs, papier mache, making things out of sticks and much more I have never heard of besides. I particularly loved the nature section, the walnut shell beds with people in have to be the most perfect thing to make as a child.

Can’t fault this book, it was like every memorable craft activity I ever did as a child, plus every one I am still waiting to try, all bundled up in one beautiful wrapped package. It was like wandering into the craft equivalent of an old fashioned sweetie shop.

This is the perfect Easter present and the perfect book to while away some happy Easter holiday afternoons with.

Over to Miss L, who is going to show you how she got on making felt strawberries.

We were sent a copy of Red Ted Art to review. It is available to buy here currently at just over £10 from Amazon.

Boosting children’s memory and language using photobooks

At this time of year my head always turns to the exploding files of pictures on my laptop. A while back I decided to embrace being part of the digital generation and to stop worrying about them. My kids as grown ups would only ever want to see so many pictures of themselves as kids, so if I lost a few hundred along the way no problem, representative bits were printed out, framed or on the blog.

But I promised myself I would still make some photo books online. Continue reading