Friday, 28 February 2014

20 Alternative uses for egg shells


20 alternative uses for egg shells

You've got to love eggs - healthy and nutritious and they come in their own biodegradable packaging.  But rather than sling them out next time you whip up a cake or have a dippy egg, consider some alternative uses for the shells.

Add to compost

Eggshells give a great boost to soil, so rather than binning them, add them to your compost.  The shells can take several years to break down, so give them a helping hand by crushing them up a little first.

Garden pest deterrent

Smashed egg shells are sharp and make for a difficult path for slugs and snails.  Add some shards of egg shell around your delicate seedlings and it will keep them safe from hungry slugs- they hate sharp little bits of shell getting stuck to their undercarriage.  Ditto cats.  Sharp egg shells are not kind to little paw pads, so prevent the neighbourhood moggy from using your rose bed as a litter tray by scattering broken shells there.

Feed to chickens

Of course, the main benefit of keeping chickens is wonderful fresh eggs every morning.  When we had our beloved chooks, we'd recycle their egg shells by feeding them back to them.  To prevent any cross contamination of diseases, wash the shells thoroughly, bake in a low oven for 20 minutes or so and crush up the shells before adding to their feed.  The grittiness helps them to digest and the calcium ensures a healthy supply of eggs.  Don't do this if your chickens are poorly.

Boost your pet's bones

An egg shell is 95% calcium, so as well as benefiting chickens, you can feed it to your cat or dog too.  Again, make sure they are clean and disease free first.  Grind up the shells into a powder with a pestle and mortar, then add to their food.

Ground egg shell for food face mask or soil supplement

Add to baking

This was a popular dietary boost in wartime, but there's no reason why you can't give your baking a little thrifty mineral boost still.  Same rules apply about using disease-free, clean shells of course.  Grind up your shells using a pestle and mortal into a fine powder.  Sieve through a fine tea strainer or sieve, and add a teaspoon of the calcium rich powder to your bread baking.

Whiten laundry

A few egg shells added to a mesh laundry bag are said to whiten your whites. I've not tried this yet - let me know if you have.

Scrub pans

Eggshells make good abrasive scourers, so next time you've burnt something to the bottom of your pan and can't find a pan scourer, use some broken egg shells instead.  Remember though they will scratch, so don't use on your finest china.

Remove stains from cups

Next time you notice your mugs have tea and coffee stains, instead of reaching for the bleach, try dropping an egg shell into each cup with some boiling water.  The porous nature of the shell will absorb the stain and you can scrub stubborn stains away as above.

Clear cloudy wine

As a newish home brewer, this one excites me!  Apparently broken egg shells can clear cloudy wine, so I'm definitely going to give this a go on my next batch.

Start seedlings

Surely much more attractive than an old toilet roll tube?!  Line up your empty egg shells in an old egg carton, fill with compost and start of your veg seeds. Leave them on the window sill to germinate and when you're ready to plant on there's no need to disturb the root system as they can go straight in, the shells will break down in the soil.

Egg shell flower vase

Posy vases

Display pretty spring flowers, or a handful of daisies your child has picked for you in diminutive and delicate egg shells.  Perfect for this time of year.

Indoor plants

Eggshells make beautiful natural containers, so make an arrangement of bulbs; ferns; mosses and tiny alpines as a centre piece to adorn your table.  Free plant pots!

Egg shell plant pots
Image credit: The Telegraph

Cress heads

I'm sure as a kid you must have done this?  When your boiled egg is done, fill the shell with cotton wool and grow cress seeds.  Perfect for children as they grow so quickly. See how Red Ted Art does it here.

Egg shell cress heads


Seed bombs

Because the shells are fragile and break down naturally, they are perfect to make seed bombs with.  Scatter wild seed on barren wasteland or hard to reach areas of your garden and engage in a little guerrilla gardening. See my full tutorial for making seed bomb eggs here.

Egg shell seed bombs


Face mask

Use the nutrients in an egg to nourish your skin.  Grind up some shells and whisk together with an egg white to make a face mask.  Leave on to dry, then rinse off to reveal tighter, glowing skin.

Candles

Melt down old candle stubs to make pretty candles in egg shells.  You can reuse old metal retainers from tealights, and buy wick online.  Be sure to use wick for a small diameter candle - the smell of burning eggshell is like burnt fingernails or hair: not pleasant!

Moulds - candles, chocolate, jellies

An alternative way to make a candle in an egg shell, is to use it as a mould like Red Ted Art has done here. You can also use thoroughly clean shells to pour in chocolate or jellies for a fun-shaped treat.


Egg shell candles

Easter decorations

Of course, the architypal use for eggshells is for pretty Easter decorations. Blowing your egg and then adding a hanging ribbon makes a beautiful display.  You can leave the shells natural; colour them with dyes; paint them; add lace or fabric or let the kids loose on them with sparkles and glue.

Add to paint for chalky effect

Chalk paint is all the rage at the moment, but it can be terribly expensive. You can get a similar texture to your paint by adding ground egg shells to regular emulsion for a fraction of the price.  Try making up a small batch in a tester pot.

Use for mosaics

Another classic kid's activity.  Break up egg shells and use to glue onto card, making mosaic style designs. Use the shells natural or colour them first.

Can you think of any more uses for them?  I'd love you to share in the comments below.


Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Rainbow fruit skewers and St Patrick's Day Bento Lunchbox!

Rainbow Fruit Skewers Kebabs


Yes, I've been playing with my food again...

Obsessing about all things rainbow, I made some colourful fruit kebabs. They're great for encouraging kinds to try new fruits, and make a healthy dessert option - serve then up with a dipping pot of plain yoghurt or creme fraiche (or chocolate sauce if you're feeling naughty).

They are also great for kids parties.

Try out different fruits to represent different colours of the rainbow - see what's in season or on offer. I'd suggest steering clear of banana or apples because they discolour unless you are eating the kebabs straight away.

They got my daughter to try melon and pineapple which she's always declared she hated!

Anyway, the skewers gave me the inspiration for a special St Patrick's Day lunchbox for her too.  Using these cute shamrock food picks from Eats Amazing, I made mini fruit rainbows with small chunks of different fruits.

St Patrick's Day Bento Lunch Box

I added some pea and ham fritters, shaped with a shamrock cookie cutter and lots of green - slices of cucumber; cress; a Peperami; cheese in a green wrapper; a homemade cupcake with green sprinkles and a carton of apple juice.

Do you think it will give her the luck of the Irish? She's already got the gift of the gab!



Hanging out with Kirstie Allsopp


Yep. You read that right.  Me, and Kirstie hanging out via the power of Google Plus.

And I was very well behaved too.  I didn't try and stroke her hair. Or tell her that I love her. Or that she's basically my all-time crafting; vintage-loving; dress-wearing heroine.

Check us out chatting about her new range of craft kits available at Hobbycraft.




(With Anthea from Blue Bear Wood and Zing Zing Tree and Pippa from A Mother's Ramblings)

What a lovely natter about all things crafty.

I can't wait to try out some of her new range of kits.  The styling and projects have her familiar stamp of vintage-homeliness and country crafts, and you can choose from:




Candle Making Kit £20

This kit contains everything you will need to create beautifully handcrafted pillar candles.  With a reusable 3” diameter pillar candle mould, and 1kg of wax, plus all the accessories needed. You can create many candles for your home, or they can be beautifully wrapped and given as gift.


Natural Soap Making Kit £25

The Natural Soap Kit contains everything you will need to create handcrafted soap with essential oil and dry lavender flowers.  With 1kg of oils and butters, plus all the accessories needed, you can create a wide variety of soaps to use

Lavender Bath Bombes Kit £20

Lavender Bath Bombe Kit contains everything you need to create fizzing bombes with essential oil and dry lavender flowers. With 4 reusable sphere moulds, plus all the accessories needed, you can create effervescent and beautifully fragrance bombes to add a relaxing blitz to your baths

Stamp & Stationery Kit £25

With seven collectable wood mounted stamp designs, plus all the accessories needed with the Stamp & Stationery Kit, you can create personalised cards, invitations, envelopes, table settings, thank you notes and so much more. 


Patchwork Apron Kit £20

The Patchwork Apron Kit contains everything you need (bar the sewing machine!), to create a beautiful handmade apron.  No need to wrestle painstakingly with cutting out paper patterns and matching onto fabric!  You can straight from the pre-printed panel design to create your very own pinny – a treat for yourself or gift wrap for a truly personal gift.


Needle Felting Kit £20

Create beautiful dry felted accessories with the Needle Felting Kit, with 200g of Merino Wool and an elegant Multi Needle Tool, you can create everything from felt buttons and brooches to beads for jewellery making.


Fabric Covered Notebook Kit £20

This kit includes everything you need (bar the sewing machine and scissors) to create 4 beautiful fabric covered notebooks. With quality notebook included, and additional embellishments and fabric tags too, you will soon be creating stunning covers to keep.


Vanilla Votive Candle Kit £12.50

With a reusable moulds, 1kg of wax, plus all the accessories needed to make beautiful votive candles this kit is the perfect way to get started; whether you are making candles for your home or as a gift

Button Kit £20

Each Button Kit contains an eclectic assortment of buttons, antique charms and findings, to create beautifully handcrafted jewellery, accessories, home d├ęcor projects and more.  With all the little nick-nacks included, you can create bespoke accessories to add a unique touch to your handmade project.

Rose Bath Bombes Kit £20

Each Rose Bath Bombe Kit contains everything you need to create fizzing bombes with essential oil and dry rose flowers. With 4 reusable sphere moulds, plus all the accessories needed, you can create effervescent and beautifully fragrance bath bombes

Kirstie Allsopp:

"From candle making to felting, and sewing to stamping, our easy to follow step by steps will demystify popular crafting techniques and help you achieve beautiful handmade results.”

So, pop down to your local Hobbycraft now, or check check them out online and try out a new craft - who knows, it might become your new favourite hobby!



Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Best Things About Little Winter Adventures


OK, so the weather may not be as nice as it could be, but sometimes getting out and about in the winter has it's own rewards, and unexpected surprises...


Having the entire beach to yourself.

Being able to mess around; laugh; shout; sing and dance like nobody's watching - because really, nobody is!



Not another soul for as far as the eye can see.

Pure uninterrupted views without tourists and backpackers.



Storms turn up treasure.

Windswept beaches are perfect for finding driftwood and shells.  Forests give up their pine cones and pretty lichen covered twigs. There's more bounty to be had after a big storm.



Car Picnics.

When the weather suddenly turns, we peel off our wet waterproofs and muddy boots and retreat to the car for our lunch. A thoroughly British tradition! We always pack a treat and the new fruit-filled Barny bars are perfect energy boosters for tired little legs.


Hot flasks.

Hot chocolate on the go, without having to pay coffee shop prices.



Steamy windows.

Writing on the car windows while the storm rages outside.



Cuddles for warmth.

Cold biting winds are the perfect excuse for a cuddle.  Not that we need an excuse.



Warming your toes by the fire.

At the end of the day, kicking your boots off and curling up in front of a blazing fire.



What are your favourite things about winter adventures?

This post is an entry for BritMums ‘Winter Little Adventures Challenge’ sponsored by Barny, individually wrapped bear-shaped sponges with a hidden filling. Find out more about Barny here www.barnyworld.co.uk 


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Sweet Wild Violet Cookies


Foraged Wild Violet Biscuit Cookies

I love a bit of foraging for wild food, but at this time of the year, pickings are slim.  It's very nearly time for the Wild Garlic to come out in our wood, but for now I'm contenting myself with beautiful and edible wild violets.  They began to bloom very early this year - I spotted some at New Year, and if you look under hedges and in open areas of woodland, you should be able to spot some. There may even be some growing in your lawn.

It's a beautiful spring flower, powerfully scented and associated with romance and love and they were favoured by the Victorians, often given to sweethearts in little posies.

These biscuits have a delicate floral flavour - don't worry they don't smell of old ladies!

First, you will need to make some violet infused sugar.  I like to use this not only in the cookie dough, but also for the candied flowers which adorn the top so I pick in two batches, getting fresh ones for the candied petals, given that they don't last too long once picked.

You can use any basic biscuit recipe, and roll them out and make pretty shapes with cutters, or go for the more rustic approach as I've done here.

Remember to thoroughly wash and dry your flower stems before making your flavoured sugar.

To make the infused sugar:

  • 4 oz white caster sugar
  • Approx 10-15 flower heads
  • Airtight jar or pot
Remove the green parts and stems from your clean flowers.

Layer in an airtight container with the sugar ensuring all the petals are covered.

Leave for approximately 3-4 days.

To make the cookies:
  • 2 oz violet sugar
  • 4 oz soft butter
  • 6 oz plain white flour
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C.

Sieve your petals out of the sugar, but reserve them for making your icing colouring.

Add all your ingredients in a bowl and mix (I use an electric whisk). You'll end up with a crumbly mixture a bit like crumble topping.

With your hands, scoop out a small amount and work into a ball, squeezing and firming - you want balls about the size of ping pong balls.

Lay on a baking sheet covered with non-stick paper and gently flatten out with your palm. This recipe makes approximately 12 cookies.

Bake for around 25 minutes until golden brown and allow to cool on a wire rack.

To make the crystallised flowers:

  • 2 oz violet sugar
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • violet flowers on stems (enough for each cookie)

Keep back a couple of tablespoons of sugar for dusting your flowers, but put the rest in a pan along with the water and heat until the sugar dissolves and makes a syrup.

Holding the stem, dip each flower into the syrup and then spoon flavoured sugar over.

Leave to set firm on some greaseproof paper.

When dry, cut off the stems using scissors.

To make the icing:
  • Violet petals
  • Icing sugar
  • A little boiling water
Last summer I discovered I could make coloured liquid from flower petals, and we used this as watercolour paints.  It worked with pansies, so I guessed it would work with violets too, being the same family.

Natural Violet Flower Food Colouring

Use your reserved petals from the flavoured sugar making, and in a glass add a teaspoon or two of boiling water. Leave for 20-30 minutes until the colour has leeched from the petals.

Now use this coloured water to make up your icing in the normal way.

Natural Violet Flower Food Colouring Cake Decorating

Decorate your cookies with the icing and candied flowers.  Of course, you could use the flavoured sugar, coloured icing and candied flowers just as well in a delicate sponge cake instead of biscuits if you prefer.

Foraged Sweet Violet Biscuits

These cookies were shared as part of a Spring Crafts Google Hangout.  You can see the video below and check the links for more lovely spring crafts:




Red Ted Art: Five little ducks pebbles; Seed bombs; Egg Cress Heads, Plant Markers; Loo Roll Sheep

Kids Chaos: Daffodil Cookie Pops; Painted Pebbles, Newspaper Roses

Zing Zing Tree: Pipecleaner Daffodils and Flower Box; Pipe Cleaner Snowdrops; Paper Bottle Top Flowers; Paper Cone Squirrel

Domestic Goddesque: Tissue Paper Butterfly mosaic; Pinwheel Flower Decoration; Cork Ladybird Fridge Magnet

Me: Egg Carton Daffodils; Plantable seed shapes; April Showers Necklace / Sun Catcher; Egg Seed Bombs.

Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

Homemade Thursday

Monday, 24 February 2014

Act Now - the Saatchi Bill for Medical Innovation



Today I was honoured and humbled to be at the House of Lords to hear Lord Saatchi discussing the Medical Innovation Bill.

New legislation he is hoping to get written into statute to allow doctors and medical professionals the freedom to give patients access to the treatments they request.

Currently the medical profession is stifled by fear of litigation and so doctors; consultants and oncologists are left with only the tried and tested, and for the most part very outdated and ineffective drugs and chemotherapy for those suffering with cancer and other diseases.

We heard Lord Saatchi speak passionately and from the experience of his wife lost to cancer, just how barbaric and horrific some of these current treatments actually are.  And worse still, they only offer a minimal chance at helping the patient.

He likened our current chemotherapy to the use of leeches in days gone by, and said how in years to come we'll realise just how futile and unnecessarily painful the treatment can be.

Lord Saatchi: 

"We need a better balance between defensive medicine and innovation".

"There will be no cure for cancer until a real doctor with a real patient in a real hospital can attempt innovation".

We heard Debbie Binner speak so eloquently about the loss of her teenage daughter Chloe to a rare cancer, and heard from her best friend Mike Thomas what impact losing a friend has.  Ridiculously, even though Chloe was suffering from a teenage cancer, she was deemed too young to take part in a drug trail because she was under 18.

We heard moving testimony from Alex Smith whose son Harrison has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, for which there is currently no cure.  The illness has given Harrison a death sentence from which the only reprieve will be innovative medical research.  Alex implored us that the 'science should serve the children' and for us to look into our hearts and ask ourselves whether we've done everything we can possibly do to help.

Dr Ian Hampson spoke with palpable frustration at the red tape and bureaucracy which is hampering the use of what could be our best hope at curing cervical cancer.  He and his wife Dr Lynne Hampson have discovered that a drug currently licenced for the treatment of HIV, also tackles the virus that causes cervical cancer, the cancer which kills one woman every two minutes.  However, the drug is only licensed for oral use, and to be effective against cervical cancer it needs to be administered as a pessary.  Dr Ian Hampson explained how he's so far battled the bureaucrats for 8 years to get around try and get this drug approved for use in a different way.

Why are we tying our expert's hands?  If a person has a poor prognosis, is aware of any risks and has nothing else to lose, why shouldn't they have the right to demand every possible shot at a cure?  To try every possible medicine and drug.

We have the power to change this.  To make sure that medical innovation doesn't stagnate because doctors and health trusts are scared of being sued.  There would never have been the breakthroughs in medical science over history if people didn't try new approaches. Imagine a world without antibiotics; pacemakers and vaccinations.

The time to act is now.  The bill will be passed if we the public want it.  Go to the website now and make your voice heard.  Cancer affects one in three of us.  It is our problem.  It is our responsibility.

You can watch today's discussion at the House of Lords here:


Further reading:

Article by today's chair Dr Max Pemberton, medic and Daily Telegraph health columnist

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/9733286/The-fear-of-being-sued-is-ruining-modern-medicine.html

Article about Drs Hampson's medical breakthrough for cervical cancer

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-health/10643116/How-HIV-drug-could-treat-cervical-cancer.html

Have your say: http://saatchibill.tumblr.com/TakeAction#.Uwus3xB_uSo

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

5 ways to make moving fun for everyone

Moving is a hassle, there is no getting away from it. In fact, it is entirely possible to describe it as unrelenting catastrophe waiting to happen and still not do the whole process justice.

Keeping all that in mind, the following tips are designed to help you stay further from the edge than you might otherwise be when moving into a new house.

1.     Make it a game, silly!

This is an obvious one, but children can get fractious and anxious about moving to a new home. They’re taking your word for it that everything will still be the same as before and involving them is a great way to calm their fears.

Help them settle by making decorations for their new room; make a treasure map and hide it in boxes containing their items. Then, when you help them unpack, everything new is introduced in a fun way and they have something special for their new space.

2.     Places people, photo-call:

Finding time for a last few photos might seem maudlin, but capturing the last few memories doesn’t have to be. Pose in whatever fashion you like and have a send-off to celebrate, rather than mourning the loss of your old home.

3.     Musical interlude

Find something with a beat, Latin dances are a good place to start, and change out the car-trip soundtrack for something to get you going. As long as you’re moving and making an effort to keep the day light-hearted, it doesn’t matter what you listen to.

Never underestimate the power of music to breeze you right on through the most boring of tasks, even if your moves leave something to be desired.

4.     Surprises

Little touches like upcycling cherished possessions or secretly assembling that dreaded flat-pack furniture as surprises for other members of your household come move time will really be appreciated. Showing how much you value your home life will help everyone to feel more reassured as you make the transition to a new home.

5.     Grown up priorities

No-one’s perfect and even with the best will in the world, getting everything sorted quickly in a new house just isn’t going to happen. Nice wine; cutlery; bedding; the kettle. All these things (and more) should be in easy-to-reach boxes – why make unpacking any harder than it needs to be?


If you’re moving or want more to know more about Linden Homes in Hampshire, information is available at their website.

Disclosure: This is a collaborative guest post.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Magpie Monday - Cute cups & chocolate

So, we're on holiday in a 200 year old Welsh cottage.

All is well now although they were without power for 4 days following the storms and there's hundreds of trees down in the area.

This morning, while the Old Man was bustin' his lungs running up a mountain, I prepared some hot chocolate for us all to enjoy in front of the fire when he got back.  Proper hot chocolate made with Beyond Dark chocolate buttons and hot milk.  So decadent that only a tiny cupful was required.



These teeny tiny beautiful jade green cups were for sale in a charity shop. Because most people see a trio of cups as 'not a full set' I got them for a snip at 80p.  Well, in a family of three, a trio of cups IS a full set, so win to me I think!

Right, we're off to explore a gold mine so I'll catch up with y'all later.

Please grab the badge and link up your second-hand finds.

 


Saturday, 15 February 2014

Green People - Organic Children Shampoo & Conditioner Giveaway

I was contacted and asked if we'd like to try out some lavender shampoo and conditioner by Organic Children for Green People.  And even better than that, would I like to give away two sets to you, my readers.  Well, how could I refuse?


Because of Ruby's crazy ability to get tangles and knots as soon as you as much as look at her her, we were recommended the lavender burst version (there's also 'Berry Smoothie).  It's a gentle, non-irritating organic shampoo and conditioner with the delicious fragrance of fairly traded lavender oil - it smells as good as any adult spa product.

I'll admit, I was a little uncertain to start with as it didn't give the usual lather I'm used to with most shampoos. But that's because it isn't bulked out with artificial nasties such as SLS; parabens and all kinds of other chemicals. Her hair still looked knotty after rinsing the conditioner away.

HOWEVER.  The tangles fell away easily when we dried and brushed it with no dramas or hysterics, so success!

Her hair was left clean and shiny, silky smooth and smelling gorgeous.

At £8.50 for a 200ml tube, it's more pricey than other brands, but you only need use a tiny amount of this product so it will last a long time.  Added to which you can be sure your child's skin is not absorbing any chemical nasties.

Green People's products are not tested on animals and never contain SLS; parabens; lanolin; harsh foaming agents; synthetic fragrances; alcohol or petrochemicals.  They are approved by the Vegetarian Society; The Vegan Society and the Organic Food Federation to name a few.

Not only that, but as an ethical business, Green People donate 10% of their net profits to charity.

For your chance to win a set of the lavender children's shampoo and conditioner, simply complete the rafflecopter below.  There will be two winners, each receiving both products.

This giveaway is open to UK entrants only.  Two winners will be selected at random after the closing date of midnight Saturday 22nd February 2014.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 14 February 2014

The Gruffalo comes to the forest!



This year marks the 15th anniversary of Julia Donaldson's iconic children's book The Gruffalo.

FIFTEEN YEARS??!  Can you believe that?

To celebrate, the Forestry Commission are welcoming him home back into the forest with a whole host of special activities throughout the year.

There will be trails at locations nationwide starting in April and running through until Autumn, when The Gruffalo's Child takes over from October right through til February 2015.

There will be giant sculptures in the woods and an extra special birthday tea party in the summer.  And guess what? You're all invited.

Sign up now to register your interest and hear all the latest announcements. You'll also be sent a free party pack including invitations, activity sheets and picnic ideas.



The Gruffalo trails can be found at:

  • Alice Holt Forest, Surrey
  • Bolderwood, New Forest
  • Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest, Kent
  • High Lodge, Thetford Forest, Suffolk
  • Wendover Woods, Buckinghamshire
  • Jeskyns, Gravesend, Kent
  • Birches Valley Forest, Cannock Chase
  • Delamere Forest, Cheshire
  • Hicks Lodge, Derbyshire
  • Sherwood Pines, Nottinghamshire
  • Salcey Forest, Northamptonshire
  • Top Lodge, Fineshade
  • Beechenhurst, Forest of Dean
  • Haldon Forest Park, Exeter, Devon
  • Cardinham Woods, Bodmin, Cornwall
  • Wyre Forest, Worcestershire
  • Westonbirt, the National Arboretum, Gloucestershire
  • Dalby Forest, Yorkshire
  • Guisborough Forest, North Yorkshire
  • Whinlatter Forest, Nr Keswick, Cumbria
  • Hamsterley Forest, Country Durham
  • Kielder Water and Forest Park, Northumberland
  • Grizedale Forest, Nr Hawkshead,  Cumbria
  • Camping in the Forest site: Ashurst
  • Camping in the Forest site: Ocknell & Longbeech
  • Camping in the Forest site: Holmsley
  • Camping in the Forest site Roundhill
  • Camping in the Forest site: Hollands Wood


Disclosure: I am an official Forestry Commission blogger and receive an annual Discovery Pass to promote their activities throughout the year.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Quick Reads - fall back in love with reading

I used to devour books, get totally lost in another world, dream about the characters and situations I was reading about, develop conversations in my head (ok that makes me sound a little mad...) but the point is, I used to LOVE books.

Nowadays, I rarely seem to have the time.  I've lost my 2 hour daily commute where I used to sink down into the train seat and get lost in a novel.  Since becoming a mother I crave sleep so much more than mental stimulation and I'm generally comatose within 5 minutes of climbing into bed.

Working at home, there's always something else more pressing to do than picking up a book like checking Twitter; updating Facebook; watching Breaking Bad doing the dishes, putting away the laundry, cleaning the bathroom...

When I do snatch a few minutes to read, I have to confess, I prefer to escape in a bit of fluffy chick-lit. Something warm; funny and uplifting.  With a happy ending - it's got to have a happy ending.  There's enough misery and doom in the real world without wishing to spend my 'fun' time immersed in it.  So I steer well clear of horror; murder; war and misery memoirs.


So, I know what I like to read, but the question is, how do I find the time to read?  It's particularly important to me as my daughter is really improving in her reading at school and I want her to see that it's a fun thing to do, not just a chore to complete after school and a tick in the box.

Galaxy Quick Reads, produce a wide range of short books by well known authors and personalities, designed to get adults back into reading.  The short, snappy nature of the books means they can be devoured in one or two sittings so there's no need to feel put off by a weighty tome looking at you menacingly from the bedside table.

Cathy Rentzenbrink from Quick Reads said, “With literacy results going backwards, it’s more important than ever that we are role models for the next generation of readers. Whether it’s a lack of confidence or time which stops one in five adults from reading for pleasure, we hope that our new Galaxy® Quick Reads will help to break these barriers down.”

Research suggests that 70% of parents stop reading with their kids before they are twelve, contrary to expert advice which suggests we should continue reading with our children until they are in their mid teens.  Part of the reason for this may be down to parent's confidence in their own reading ability.



I've just read one of the titles 'Rules for dating a romantic hero' by Harriet Evans.  A few hours of total escapism.  It's really made me realise how much I miss reading and how I must make time for it.

There's a whole range of books in the Quick Reads series from famous authors like Ian Rankin; Maeve Binchy; Kathy Lette and Barbara Taylor Bradford, through to other personalities you might not expect to put pen to paper such as Colin Jackson; Ricky Tomlinson and Kerry Katona.

Galaxy® Quick Reads are sold for £1 (rrp) through major retailers and online booksellers as paperback and eBook editions, or can also be loaned from libraries.

Disclosure: I was sent a selection of titles for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

How to make a fairy tale lace crown



Over on the Fairy Tales hangout this week, I shared this simple but delicate lace crown.

Ruby loves to wear it and it's currently accessorising one of her favourite Disney Princess outfits!

It's simple to make, the kid's can get involved, you just need a little patience for the drying time.

You will need:

A length of cotton crocheted lace, the wider the better (cut to length by measuring your child's head and allow a few centimetres overlap)

Some gold or silver paint - I used DYLON fabric paint which works well but as this isn't going to be washed, you could use acrylics or even spray paint

PVA (white/school) glue

Some stick on gems to decorate


Begin by laying out a length of cling film to protect your surface.

Completely cover your lace in PVA glue - it's easier to do this in a bowl rather than painting it on. Give it a good squeeze to make sure it's totally saturated.  This is the same sort of process I used for my doily bowls.

Then lay it out flat on the cling film, smoothing it out so it's neat and straight.  Leave overnight to dry.

Now you can paint the band.  Leave to dry between coats and before you turn it over to paint the reverse.

When fully dry, attach your gems then overlap the ends and secure to make the crown (I used a glue gun for this).


Do your little ones love fairy tale dressing up?  What's their favourite story and outfit?

Do you know your nose?

Your hooter; your schnoz; your snout; your honker; your proboscis...whatever you call it, it's as plain as the nose on your face that we all need one.

Not only do we need one, but given the hugely important job it does, we need to keep it in tip-top shape.

Our nose enables one of our five basic senses - the sense of smell - and to some extent, the sense of taste also.  We've all experienced that miserable feeling when we have a cold and can't smell anything; food tastes different and it can be quite disorientating.  The brain can recognise tens of thousands of odours from our past and instantly reminds us what we are smelling.

Smell of course can also keep us safe from danger - alerting us to fire; noxious chemicals and even bad food.

But more importantly than that, our noses play a vital role in the respiratory process.  They take in air and filter our particles which would otherwise enter our lungs.  They also help to regulate the temperature of the air we take in.

Every day, a clear nose takes 26,000 breaths, so it's important to keep it unblocked.


If you're suffering from a blocked nose, Otrivine can help, getting to work in as little as 2 minutes to clear your nasal passages - that's up to 7 times faster than decongestant tablets.

Available in a range of drops and sprays, for both adults and children, it helps open up and clear nasal passages by reducing nasal mucus and returning swollen blood vessels to their normal size helping you breathe easy again.  You can find Otrivine in your nearest pharmacy.

Disclosure: This is a featured post in association with Otrivine.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Fairy Tale Crafts - Jack and the Beanstalk Magic Beans

I saw this delightful little craft over at Lulastic last summer where she made these as sweet little love tokens for Father's Day.  I thought I'd make some similar, themed on the classic fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk.

These would make cute little party favours or end of term gifts for school friends, allowing them to grow their magic beans into giant beanstalks at home.


It's such a simple thing to make and amazingly thrifty too - it didn't actually cost me a penny as I photocopied an illustration from a vintage book and used saved beans from last year's garden crop, but even if you do buy new seeds, it costs less than £1 for a big bag of runner beans.

I used a copy of a vintage Jessie Willcox Smith illustration, used a small envelope as a template and made some mini packets to hold the beans.  You can find illustrations (or text from the story would be good too) in old books, look in libraries or do a Google image search.

Using a fine-tipped non-toxic pen, I then wrote my words on the beans.  Simples.


For more lovely fairy-tale inspired crafts, check out the video and links below...



Red Ted Art - Loo Roll Three Little Pigs Peanut Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs finger puppets; Cork Fairy Tale Folk

Kids Chaos - Jack and the Beanstalk Reward Chart; Teacup candle; Mirror mirror on the wall

Zing Zing Tree - Little Mermaid paper plate collage; Mad Hatters paper mache teacup; paper mache eggbox elf shoes

Domestic Goddesque - Rapunzel bookmarks; Fairy Tale puppet theatre; Cinderella's 'glass' slipper

Me and My Shadow - Little Red Riding Hood Cape; Lace Princess Crown (link to follow)