How to Pond Dip

How to pond dip

Chances are your child will demand to know how to pond dip on a day when it is the last thing you have planned. Kids are like that I find. The last thing I expected to do on Mother’s Day was relearn how to pond dip, but it turned out to be the perfect activity for the most beautiful day, as I explained over on Becky’s blog A Beautiful Space. Continue reading

Got an hour and a sofa? Join the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend

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This weekend I will be taking one hour to curl up with my kids, my binoculars, a cup of tea and some biscuits to watch out for wildlife in our garden. The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is the world’s largest wildlife survey. 590,000 people took part last year and 8.2 millions birds were spotted.

Bird populations are a great indicator of the health of the countryside, the State of Nature report concluded that nature is in serious trouble and garden favourites like house sparrows, starlings and hedgehogs are really struggling. The more people that get involved, the more we can learn, plus it is really easy… Continue reading

The Perfect Situation: A National Trust Dovedale Family Walk

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Was you ever in Dovedale? I can assure you there are things as noble as Greece or Switzerland.

Lord Byron, of Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire.

I can’t fully explain the buzz we felt at the end of Sunday. The four of us sat on a picnic rug at the bottom of a huge hill, by the river, exhilarated, grubby and full of chocolate cake, sharing a huge sense of satisfaction after a Dovedale family walk. The perfect situation.

Dovedale in the Peak District is a place we go back to again and again. I’ve blogged about the snowy walk my Dad and I took there. I’ve also blogged about visiting Ilam and staying at the amazing caravan site. Whatever the season, the Peak District is a great place to visit as a family. Continue reading

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

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.

Two little Vikings went out hiking…

An utterly magical day out at Sherwood Pines, Nottingham’s Forestry Commission site, with the Vikings and Saxons of the Regia Anglorum who create living history encampments around the UK and Conroi de Vey the Nottingham branch of Regia Anglorum.

I’ve seen a few living history groups in action, but I have never seen one get children so involved, or be so keen, not just to re-enact fights, but to talk about everything from food, to medicine, to coins, to needles, to burials. In fact while the battle was taking place, my two were busy learning how to make bread and grilling those left in camp for clues as to the missing silver cup.

All children got a sheet with details of the crime and suspects and were encouraged to quiz the camp residents. It was great fun and really helped to get everyone talking and learning quite effortlessly.

Of course the forest is a perfect setting, given that a Viking roadway, or the’ Dark Age M1′ was recently discovered in Nottingham forest. I thought it was a really moving reminder of the history of our land, the narration that accompanied the battle really drew this out.

I was torn away by the kids to the walkways in the forest to play in, the den building area and the cafe. I will have to go back for a quiet contemplation of the Saxons and Vikings part in history. I love forests!

I am joining the Where I Live linky over at The American Resident, click the button to travel there!

The American Resident

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

Little Legacy – A kitchen garden and vegetarian kebabs

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I am loving our garden at the moment. I owe that to my Dad, who over the last seven years has filled it with herbs and plants that attract wildlife. It has a wild messiness about it I love. The oregano is nestling under flash but tragic peonies that always flower and flop around my birthday. There are beautiful wild primroses and bluebells next to chives and marjoram. Alpine strawberries clambering under a buddleia, borage bursting up next to brambles.

Dad is really inspiring, hence this post is one of my little legacies, but ultimately I want to master gardening myself. Last weekend I finally stopped procrastinating and dug a veg patch, more on that in another post. For now, at long last, all those green shoots are springing up, a wonderful gift from Dad, and they had got me thinking about what to use all those wonderful herbs for.

I have been dreaming of barbecues all week since we missed the chance last weekend. Mum often made vegetarian kebabs marinated in garlic and herbs, and her barbecued bananas with rum and cinnamon and ice cream were amazing. Then Schwartz, a global leader in herb and spices, asked me what I would do with two of their herbs, oregano and paprika.These veggie kebabs and Greek salad seemed like a great idea.

 Ingredients

  • 400g quorn or tofu pieces/cubes.
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs dried oregano
  • 1 tbs sweet paprika
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • Lebanese bread
  • Greek yoghurt
  • Lemon wedges

Greek salad

  • 2 green peppers, thinly sliced widthways
  • 1 cucumber cut into chunks
  • 200g cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 100g small black olives
  • 100g feta, crumbled
  • Extra virgin olive oil, to serve
  • I have left out the red onion, I can’t stand it, but use it if you like it!
  1. Mix the tofu or quorn with the garlic, oil, oregano, paprika and lemon juice in a glass or ceramic bowl. Cover with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for 3 hours.
  2. Thread the tofu/quorn evenly onto 12 bamboo skewers. Preheat a barbecue or grill pan on high. Cook, turning occasionally, for 6-8 minutes until cooked to your liking.
  3. To make the Greek salad mix, cucumber, tomato, onion, olives and feta in a large bowl. Drizzle with oil.
  4. Divide tofu/quorn among serving plates. Serve with Greek salad, bread, yoghurt and lemon wedges.
Wondering if it is BBQ weather? Check the weather forecast here!

What do you like to cook with oregano and paprika?

@AResidence

5 easy forest activities #weloveforests #SherwoodPines

Since we moved to Nottingham 6 years ago, I have been trying to work out where the forest that Robin Hood roamed in could be. Sadly much of it has been chopped down, you can see the 800 year old Major Oak, but it doesn’t quite give you the feeling of being an outlaw I was looking for, because the forest no longer feels boundless.

I did get something of that awe inspiring outlaw feeling however, when we were invited to a blogger forest activities day out at Sherwood Pines, the East Midlands largest forest open to the public. It must be something to do with the sheer size and number of the trees, but the feeling of being overpowered by nature hits you the minute you leave the car. Continue reading

Easter Survival Pack

National Trust/ Simon Burgess

I’ve been sent some lovely bits and bobs recently which I thought might come in handy for the Easter holidays. Best bit is lots of it is free, or really cheap and can be ordered, or organised online. It’s the little things right? Continue reading

Behind the scenes, the real Team Honk Snowdon

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I didn’t sleep a wink the night before Team Honk climbed Snowdon, all I could think was how responsible I would feel if anything went wrong, many of us just hadn’t had time to train or prepare. I was worried about how much we stood to lose if the alarm didn’t go off, or we were delayed, there are only so many hours of daylight in early March, but the walking alone is 7 hours. So I lay there in a YHA bunk bed trying to pass the sleepless night cracking the logistics of transporting 23 people to and from our start and finish points.

Flashback a month. Annie read this post and convinced me to climb Snowdon. I agreed, then I looked into it properly. Except by then it was too late, Annie had told everyone it was happening.

I called the most outdoorsy, mountain-climbing-savvy person I know, Gemma. Lots of nervous phone calls. Gemma’s stories of friendships ruined on wet, windy and cold mountain treks. My stories of booked up Youth Hostels and guides who don’t like to take novices up in early March, not without crampons and ice axes.

Gemma made kit lists, shared weather reports and found two old friends, locals willing to give their time to guide us. I managed to call after a cancellation, and snaffle the last beds in Snowdon Ranger hostel. It was happening. Team Honk Snowdon was growing, the fundraising and enthusiasm was infectious, as was the sponsorship. Mari had cancelled her hen to join us, Kate had booked a ferry from Ireland.

But the weekend before, the weather was -13 on the summit, with high winds, fog and rain. I couldn’t see the climb happening in those conditions. Meanwhile team honk Snowdon bloggers were struggling with flu, taking kids to A and E, cars for emergency repairs, getting high flying jobs and having to drop out and generally stressing about how to extract themselves from family life for a weekend, nevermind how to get to Wales from Cornwall, Southhampton and Ireland, to name a few far flung places. Mountains had been climbed long before we even set foot in Wales.

So all in all, a tough few weeks of worry. Fortunately we got lucky with the weather. It was a very tough climb, there was ice, snow, sweat and tears and a touch of vertigo, but still, just a day of my life. Here it is on film, see for yourself what we went through:

(Filmed on a Panasonic HD Camcorder HXDC2 as modelled by Mari in the video)

For some people in the UK and Africa dealing with stress, fear, loss, pain, illness, poverty, homelessness, death, addiction is a daily ongoing battle. Which is where Comic Relief comes in. It is never too late to do something funny for money for Red Nose Day or to sponsor us and help Team Honk smash the £6000 mark.

Thank yous All our amazing sponsors. Our wonderful guides Marit and Al. We wore sexy lace pants from ethical pant maker Who Made Your Pants on the climb. We stayed comfortably and very economically at the scenic YHA Snowdon Ranger Hostel and stoked up on hearty breakfasts and packed lunches.  We wore hiking socks from HiTec Sports which kept feet dry and snug and any blisters away. I took a Panasonic handheld camcorder with me on the climb to make this film. Gower Cottage sent some amazing Chocolate Brownies to keep the spirits and energy up and the shorter films were made on a Nexus 7 I am reviewing for Idealo.

Team Honk Snowdon who are, AnniePennyTGemmaKateLauraMariGreg, Marit, Al, StephDanielleHannahKatJenniferNikkiBruce, J,  Kim, Miles,  Emma, Leela and Stefan.

Me, My Dad and the snowy walk

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Me and my Dad took a snowy walk in one of my favourite places, Ilam, in the Peak District. Ilam has a stunning Youth Hostel, an amazing National Trust cafe and the grounds are a paradise for children and grown ups. In Summer it is wonderful for picnics, in Autumn the trees burn every shade of auburn, red and gold and in Winter, well, it’s he first time I have visited, but in Dad’s words, ‘it’s like fairy land’.

We started at Ilam and walked across snowy fields to the Dovedale stepping stones. Continue reading