The garden pond project

As we fell asleep in the tent last weekend Miss L demanded stories. Having forgotten to pack books, I began to patch together some stories from my childhood. Out popped the frogs.

I must have been 6 or 7, at the bottom of the cul de sac at the end of our road was a small park. It being the 80s, we were allowed to go down there as long as we were in a gang. I remember arriving to find the thick grass around the park alive with tiny frogs. 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

Battle Boxes – Great British Adventure Kits

There’s a knock on the caravan door…

Have you got a sheet? asks a small child

Another Knock

Have you got a tent pole? asks another small child

Another knock

We just need something, you know, to make a keep out sign says my daughter

Another knock

We need snacks for us to eat in our den and a rucksack and a flag and another blanket says my son, all in one breath. Continue reading

What’s on your Summer Holiday Playlist?

If we took a  holiday…took some time to celebrate…just one day out of life…HOLIDAY! …it would be so nice…

As I type I am listening to Madonna’s holiday. it is giving my typing a funky rhythm and when I get stuck I pause to click my fingers, try it, it is a guaranteed mood lifter!

Cumbrian-Cottages.co.uk sent me this  family friendly summer holiday playlist they have put together on Spotify, which got me thinking, what would you put on your family’s summer holiday playlist? Continue reading

Party Like It’s 1979

I supplied the photo, (can you guess which one is me?) but today’s guest post is written by the very wise Laura Potts, a mum to two. I think all parents will find her approach to kid’s birthday parties reassuring:

Themed cakes. Expensive activities. Party bags. Kids’ birthday parties have gotten entirely carried away. But the kind of low-impact, homemade celebration that’s been lost to the ages is the antidote to today’s commercialized overproductions – and little guys love it.

Be honest. How much pressure do you put on yourself to throw your child the “perfect” birthday party? 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.

Cars I have loved.

When I was little we had a Renault 5…

How many years have you been driving? asks Mr A, busy trying to sort out our car insurance.

‘Er how old am I again?’ I have to ask these days as I realised I was telling people I was a year older than I am earlier this year. ’35. Right, so 17…nearly 18 years.’

Mr A carries on working out how much the insurance will cost on the new car he has his eye on and I start thinking back over the cars I have loved and driven. I wrote a post a while back about seeing a Mini Metro like my mum drove, it is funny how many memories cars evoke when you see them. Continue reading

The Alexander Villa

One like this please! Picture credit – James Villas, Cyprus

About two and a half years ago the Alexander Residence blog was born, from a rather nice villa in Spain. That was the last time we had a foreign holiday as a family. I miss that sunshine so much. It was an effort getting the kids there, they loved sleeping in their clothes and leaving for the airport at 5am, they were an absolute pain to drag through baggage reclaim.  But it was worth it. Continue reading

@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.

A crafty way to transform your home this Christmas

Once I had made my tree for nothing, I started to wrack my brains for ways to decorate the rest of the house for free. Ruth’s guest post has some great reminders:
Some of the most beloved Christmas traditions are decorating the tree, making paper chains, covering the house in tinsel and, of course, baking lots of delicious Christmas goodies. With December already an expensive and busy month, getting creative with your decorations is a great way to deck the halls without spending a fortune. It also gives you the perfect opportunity to spend time with your family making beautiful Christmas decorations that are all your own. Continue reading