Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Our first trips camping at Ashurst in the New Forest

Several years ago, Ram and I bought a small tent, with the intention of making camping a regular thing. We spent one night in the New Forest in late September, then it was winter. Come spring I was pregnant with Harry and didn't really fancy it, and camping with our up-all-night-screaming-babies-and-toddlers was out of the question. The tent has since been used for nights with Harry in the garden, but with the lovely weather we've been having lately we decided that it was finally time to give family camping ago.

So a few weeks ago we bought a smaller pop up tent and second airbed, loaded up the car, and headed off to Ashurst in the New Forest for a night's camping. It's where we stayed before, one of the closest campsites to us and has good facilities. When we arrived we drove around the site a couple of times looking for the perfect spot, finding a great space at the far edge of the campsite with a view out across the open land behind us and forest in the background.

Camping in the New Forest

We split up with an adult and a child in each tent. The children loved setting their beds up with their pillows and sleeping bags, and getting all their teddies ready. We let them go running off by themselves across the field, and they absolutely loved the freedom.

Children in a tent

There is a footpath that leads from the campsite, and a short distance away there are fallen trees to play on and walk across. We spent ages here, and also found a geocache.

Child walking on a tree trunk

For dinner we headed to La Pergola in Lyndhurst just down the road. It was perfect for us, pizza to eat and a playground to keep the children entertained. It's very popular though, we arrived soon after six and the only seats were outside, but I can see why, the food was delicious. Then we had a quick drink at the pub next to the campsite while the children played in the playground there, before heading back to our tent.

Tent selfie

We got the children ready for bed and then headed out for a pyjama walk with our torches. In retrospect it wasn't the best idea as Harry managed to step into a puddle and soak the bottom of his onesie, meaning that he had to sleep in his clothes as I'd only brought one set! They really loved the experience though. Then we finished the evening playing football in the open area behind the tents while the sun set, it really was quite idyllic!

Camping by sunset in the New Forest

The next few weeks we couldn't stop thinking about how much fun we'd had, but we knew that our tent set up wasn't really practical. The airbed didn't really fit into the smaller tent, and it has no inner lining meaning that everything was wet in the morning. Ram is always keeping his eyes open for a bargain, and was delighted to find a family tent at a reasonable price - we snapped it up, and found ourselves the new owners of an Urban Escape Atago 5 man tent. We were a little daunted by its size at first, but we practised putting it up and then chose another weekend when the weather was looking good (I'm afraid that we are fair weather campers!) and headed back to Ashurst. 

Urban Escape Atago 5 man tent

Our new tent is fantastic! It was so nice to be able to stand up inside and there was loads of room for all our things. The tent has two bedrooms inside, and even the smaller one easily fitted the double airbed. Our camping experience was definitely improved! 

We had another pleasant evening watching the children run about, this time very much enhanced by our fold up chairs and some Pimms from the Co-op down the road. It's such a nice time of year with the long summer evenings, camping is a great way to make the most of them.

Pimms at the campsite

We'll definitely be back, and we already have a few more possible weekends pencilled down in the calendar. Perhaps next time we might even manage to stay for two nights!

Sitting outside a tent in the New Forest

We paid £23.20 each time for a night's camping at Ashurst Campsite in the New Forest. Ashurst Campsite is run by Camping in the Forest - you can find out more information on their website. 

Monday, 29 June 2015

Making a Space Snack with Miles Kelly

To celebrate the release of the three new Miles Kelly's 100 Fact Books, I was invited to come up with my own space themed snack inspired by the 100 Facts Space Travel book. Eating in space is of course quite different to eating on earth, not only do astronauts have to contend with eating in zero gravity, so they can't eat anything that will break up into tiny pieces, the food also has to be easy to prepare, capable of being stored for long periods, light in weight and mustn't need to be refrigerated. Most of the food is served in packets, to which water is added before eating.

Miles Kelly 100 Facts Space Travel
Page image from 100 Facts Space Travel

To inspire us, we were sent the ingredients to make our very own Space Pudding to enjoy while looking through the books. All you need is some Angel Delight, powdered milk, water, a syringe and a re-sealable plastic sandwich bag.

Miles Kelly books with Space Pudding

Harry very much enjoyed making the Space Pudding. First you need to add two tablespoons of Angel Delight and two tablespoons of milk powder to the bag, then add the water using a syringe. When all the water has been added, you squish the bag in your hands to mix it all together, leave it to stand for a couple of minutes, then eat by cutting a corner off the bag and squeezing it into your mouth - great fun!

How to make Space Pudding

We watched a few videos to learn more about eating in space, and discovered that instead of bread for sandwiches, astronauts prefer to eat tortillas, because they don't make any crumbs which are annoying to have floating about the space station. They are also light, don't take up much space, and can be stored for a reasonable period of time.

So for our own Space Snack recipe we came up with a tortilla based snack. I had a think about what other foods we had in our cupboards that would travel well and would be sticky enough to stay where they were put in zero gravity and my thoughts turned instantly to our favourite family food - pizza!

So here is our recipe for a Tortilla Space Pizza Wrap:

Tortilla Space Pizza Wrap

One tortilla wrap
Tomato ketchup or tomato puree in a tube or sachet (about three tablespoons worth)
A bag of grated cheese with herbs already added (a large handful). In space this would have to be freeze dried grated cheese as there is no fridge!

Making space tortilla pizza

We put the grated cheese into a re-sealable bag and added a sprinkle of herbs and a couple of big squeezes of tomato ketchup. If we were really making this in space, we'd need to add some water too, to rehydrate the cheese. Then Harry squashed it up with his fingers to make sure that it was all mixed in. I cut a corner off the bag and Harry squeezed it onto the tortilla. I hope that the mixture would be sticky enough not to float away. Then Harry wrapped up the tortilla ready for eating, making sure that the bottom was secure enough to contain the filling.

We ate it cold, but it could easily be warmed up in the microwave. I think it tasted pretty good! I'm not a big fan of ketchup myself, but if the food was being prepared for space it could easily be made with a more tasty and healthy tomato sauce, perhaps with the herbs or other flavourings already added. I loved this challenge, and it really encouraged us to think creatively, as well as learning a great deal about everyday life in space. It would have been a great activity for our Space Day!

Space food pizza

Harry is very interested in space (he even has a space themed bedroom) and he couldn't wait to get his hands on these three fantastic 100 Facts Books from Miles Kelly. As you would expect, each book in the series contains 100 facts about each topic, with each double spread forming a chapter on a different theme.

100 Facts Space Travel talks about the history of space travel, what space travel is like now, and where technology could lead us in the future. Each page is a mixture of photographs and cartoon illustrations. All the facts are explained and expanded upon, and there are a few little quizzes and extra "I don't believe it!" facts added in.

100 Facts Space Travel book from Miles Kelly

100 Facts Stars and Galaxies looks at deep space, beginning with the formation of the universe, with facts all about the different types of stars, black holes and constellations, finishing by taking a look at the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. There are little activity suggestions added in, like exploring how the universe is expanding by blowing up a balloon, and creating your own constellations by using a torch shining on holes pricked into a piece of cardboard.

100 Facts Stars and Galaxies book from Miles Kelly

Finally, 100 Facts Solar System takes a closer look at our own Solar System. It features each planet in turn, with a fact file, information about what the planet is composed of, and information about their moons.

100 Facts Solar System book from Miles Kelly

All three books are laid out really well, with a mixture of fact boxes, diagrams and images, and different sizes and styles of text makes the information fun, and easy to dip in and out of. The books contain a huge amount of information, and I know that they are going to be both an interesting read and a useful source of reference.

We were sent these three books to review, as well as the ingredients for our Space Pudding.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Cardboard tube monsters craft

This month we have been busy making Monsters from cardboard tubes, using our latest craft box as members of the Bostik Bloggers team.

Cardboard tube monsters

The box was stuffed full of bits and pieces that fitted the theme, along with some Bostik products to use in our crafting.

Bostik Bloggers craft box

In the box was also a wonderful big cardboard cone that I thought would make a great monster body. I raided our junk modelling supply for some extra toilet roll tubes, and set Mia loose with a paintbrush and selection of different coloured paints.

Painted toilet roll tubes

Then we looked through our crafty bits to see what we could use. First we worked on monster hands and feet. Mia threaded the colourful beads onto pipe cleaners, which was really easy for her to do and satisfying because the textured surface keeps the beads firmly in place. I cut out some feet from glittery card, and laid out lines of Bostik White Glu for her to stick pom poms in place. The Bostik White Glu was really easy to apply to small areas using the nozzle at the top of the bottle, and once it was dry all the pom poms stuck really firmly.

Monster hands and feet with pom poms

Mia and I had fun gluing all the bits together to make our first two monsters! We finished them off with a feather and some googly eyes. Again, the Bostik Glu worked perfectly for this craft, easily sticking all the different types of embellishment that we used.

Monsters made from toilet roll tubes

Then after school Harry joined us and we completed our Monster Family, using lots of different scraps and embellishments, and the children were so pleased with them! It's a really fun craft for children of all ages, and easy to do with all the crafty bits and pieces that you tend to collect when you have small children around!

Toilet roll tube monster family

If you enjoy crafting with cardboard tubes you might also like our cardboard tube owls and minibeasts and bugs made from rubbish.

The box of craft materials was provided to me free of charge by Bostik as part of the Tots100/Bostik Craft Bloggers Club.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Book review - Grandad's Island by Benji Davies

Grandad's Island cover

Grandad's Island by Benji Davies is a new picture book about a young boy called Syd who enjoys visiting his Grandad. One day when he goes around to his house he finds his Grandad up in the attic, and Grandad takes him through a secret door to visit a magical island together. Syd wishes that they could stay there together forever, but Grandad tells him that he is going to stay there, and even though Syd is very sad to say goodbye, and lonely when he returns home, he knows that his Grandad is much happier where he is.

Grandad's Island inside

Although it's fairly subtle, the story is really dealing with the experience of a young boy that has lost his Grandad. However this isn't something that Harry picked up on when we read it together, he just saw it as a lovely story about a boy and his Grandad having adventures together, even if it was a little sad at the end. I do like the way that the book deals with the subject matter, and the way it shows that those we love can still be near to us even if it seems as though they are far away.

Grandad's Island illustrations

What I liked most about this book was the illustrations, they are absolutely beautiful, with vivid colours and full of detail. As well as the book I was sent some lovely postcards with images from the book, and I'm definitely going to be finding a place to display them as they are wonderful pieces of art!

I received a copy of this book to review, Amazon link is affiliate.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Things are actually growing in the garden!

I was quite busy over the weekend so I didn't get out in the garden much, although my parents were here on the Friday to look after the children while I was away at BritMums Live and I notice that they did do a bit of sneaky weeding! The tomatoes are looking nice and healthy now, and some of them have started to get flowers, I just need to remember to keep pinching out the side shoots.

Tomato plants in vegetable patch

I had a big cull of all the pots that we had in the garden, all inherited from the previous owner. I was hopeless at looking after them properly and they were mainly filled with big, dead plants. Most of the large pots were given away on Freecycle, and the rest were filled with new compost and bedding plants from a big pack of petunias that I bought. This planter had been at the top of our drive for the last three years with something dead in it, now it's looking much better with some flowers.

Petunias in a pot

Amazingly out of the 24 plants that I bought only one has died so far, the poor thing was eaten by slugs so I've been putting pellets down now. We also inherited a lovely strawberry planter, the strawberries are sadly long gone but I've planted it up again with the petunias and I'll try it again with strawberries next year.

Petunia in a strawberry planter

I did keep some strawberry plants alive though, and this week we harvested our first - the children love picking and eating them. As long as I look after them I do seem to have a reasonable success with growing strawberries, so I'll definitely be getting more plants.

Strawberries growing in the garden

The apple tree in our front garden is also looking good this year. Last year something must have gone wrong, perhaps it didn't get pollinated or something, because we had no apples at all. But this year we had loads of blossom and now I can see plenty of apples growing. I'm not sure what variety the apples are but they must be cooking apples because they aren't very tasty to eat raw. In the past though I've made some delicious apple cake and apple crumble from them, so I'm looking forward to trying that again this year.

Apples growing on an apple tree

I'm sharing my garden snaps on the How Does Your Garden Grow? linky at Mammasaurus. I know that my gardening prowess does not come even close to some of the other linkers, but joining in from time to time is definitely keeping me motivated to spend a bit of time working on our garden!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Britmums Live 2015

BritMums Live 2015 at The Brewery

This year was my third year at BritMums Live, and once again I had an amazing time! This year was a little different for me as I was invited to speak in a session all about Pinterest - definitely well out of my comfort zone but I'm so glad that I was involved and it was such a confidence boost.

Lanyards for registration at BritMums Live

I arrived early at The Brewery as I had been asked if I was able to help out with registration. I eagerly accepted, as it saved me having to worry about walking in by myself, and I loved the chance to see behind the scenes. It was a bit daunting at first when the doors opened and people started rushing in to grab their lanyards, but it was a great way to put some faces to names and I really enjoyed it. I was also very excited to see my badge with the word 'Speaker' on, and to find myself in the agenda!

Speaking at BritMums Live 2015

It did mean that I missed the initial opportunity to find people to chat to, but luckily my fab blogging buddy Swazi saved me a space for the Welcome and opening Keynote talks. Victoria Wright in particular was excellent and really inspiring. Then came the highly anticipated and closely guarded secret event - an Ice Breaker Guinness World Record attempt. A fellow table member spotted the toilet rolls that were hidden underneath our table so we had a bit of a clue as to our task, which was to wrap as many people up as mummies as we could within three minutes! It was great fun, and we all beat the record by one mummy, wrapping up 51 people in total!

Guiness World Record attempt with mummies

During the tea and coffee break I found my way to The Hub which is the central area populated mainly by brands. Apart from briefly popping out to check in to the Travelodge down the road, this is where I spent the next couple of hours - not really talking to the brands but mostly taking advantage of the biscuits and free wine from Lindeman's and socialising! In fact I only attended one session over the whole two days which is very different from my previous BritMums experiences. I'm not sure why, there just weren't as many that jumped out at me as before, and because I know now quite a few bloggers I was just having too much fun chatting and meeting people.

One area that I wished I had spent more time in was the Craft Lounge, hosted by Lady Sew & Sew and Make it Coats. It was new this year and a brilliant idea for crafty people like me and people that just wanted to sit down quietly for a bit and occupy themselves with something creative. There were three tables - knitting, crochet and sewing - and you could take a seat at one of the tables and either someone would be along to give you a hand or you could just sit there and work on your own project and chat.

The Craft Lounge at BritMums Live

A lovely lady tried to teach me crochet, and I managed a few sad looking rows, but I just can't get my head around it which is a real shame. All the other bloggers on the table were producing some wonderful granny squares! So I tried out the sewing table and had much more success over there, I made a couple of patchwork hexagons and would have loved to have spent more time here sitting and sewing away. There were also performances from Elle & The Pocket Belles who were wonderful, three glamorous ladies singing away and giving it their all, I really enjoyed listening to them.

Elle & The Pocket Belles at BritMums Live

There were some fun stands in The Hub with brands to chat to, I particularly enjoyed the SuperSavvyMe stand where I created a magnetic moodboard, and the ladies at Parragon books were super friendly as always. Every attendee also received a gorgeous keepsake bracelet from Merci Maman which is engraved BritMums Live 2015, what a lovely memento. I'm looking forward to trying out my tortilla goodies from Santa Maria, and as I've mentioned already the Lindeman's wine stand was also very much appreciated!

Making a moodboard at BritMums Live

We went out for dinner at Wagamama's and then finished off the evening in the Travelodge bar, so when I got up on Saturday I wasn't feeling that great - partly due to the drinking but also feeling a little overwhelmed after the hectic day on Friday and of course nerves due to my session which fell in the last group of the afternoon. Every time I was in The Hub I couldn't miss the sign at one end announcing to the world where to find us speaking about Pinterest! The day went quickly, especially as I found myself joining a group of bloggers for lunch at All Bar One down the road - I've never got on very well with the BritMums lunch before and have found myself wandering aimlessly around with a box, nowhere to sit, and no-one to talk to, so I'm so glad that they invited me along.

BritMums Live speaker list

Our session went really well I think, I did my introduction and then Jen Stanbrook and Helen Neale had some brilliant tips to share about using Pinterest to grow traffic to your blog. I hope that we gave some useful information and people felt able to ask us questions. If you have any other questions please do feel free to get in touch and I'll try to help, I'll also be posting some of my notes from the session shortly.

I think that this was my favourite BritMums yet. It felt quieter somehow than previous years, and I felt much less overwhelmed, perhaps because now I do actually know quite a lot of people and I was always able to find someone to chat to. Lots of people also came over to speak to me which was wonderful and made me feel like a celebrity - thank you so much for coming over if you are reading this and I'm sorry if I didn't recognise you straight away, I'm hopeless with faces!

Have you also written about your BritMums 2015 experiences? I'm pinning away to the BritMums Live 2015 Pinterest board, so if you have a post that you'd like me to share please either leave it in the comments below or tweet it to me @jenniferjain so that I can include it.

Follow BritMums's board BritMums Live 2015 on Pinterest.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Race for Life along Worthing seafront

Yesterday I took part in the 5km Race for Life event along Worthing seafront. Coming the day after the BritMums Life blogging conference I must admit that I was still in a bit of a daze, as well as suffering after two long days standing on feet unaccustomed to wearing heels. But it was a beautiful day, sunny yet cool, and there was the added motivation of trying to keep up with my friend's six year old daughter, who quickly outpaced us all!

Me running the Race for Life

It was a lovely run along the seafront, and we were very proud of ourselves when we finished! It was lots of fun, a great challenge, and we raised plenty of money between us for charity.

Finished the Race for Life Worthing seafront 2015

I was invited to join the Brioche Pasquier Race for Life team, who paid for us to enter the race and started off my fundraising with a £50 donation. They also sent us each a fab t-shirt, water bottle, and some samples of their brand new breakfast brioche super cereals to try, which are also given out to people taking part in Race for Life events around the country. I really enjoyed them as a snack, they are healthy and filling, with a good amount of chocolate chips, and they were also very welcome at the end of the race!

Race for Life with Brioche Pasquier

It was a great atmosphere, it was amazing to see that almost everyone was wearing pink and looked to be really enjoying taking part, and I was proud to be there. There were plenty of crowds to cheer us on, and Harry and Mia even joined in for a little way en route before heading to the playground!

Finished Race for Life

Brioche Pasquier are a Champion sponsor of Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life 2015 series. Last year they raised £20,000 for Cancer Research UK through their Raise Some Dough promotion, and this year Brioche Pasquier are offering 400 free entries for Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life series. Brioche Pasquier want to showcase your best moments for the chance to win a £500 donation to a Race for Life JustGiving page - you can find out more details on their website.

Brioche Pasquier covered the entry for me and two friends to the race, as well as giving me a head start with my fundraising.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Our day trip to Rome from Civitavecchia

On our recent cruise, we stopped in Civitavecchia. The reason that the cruise ships stop here is because it is the easiest port for visiting Rome, and you can arrange all sorts of excursions for a visit. They can be pretty expensive though, and after a bit of research Ram found that it would be easy enough for us to organise our own trip there, taking the local train, a journey which takes just over an hour. Luckily we were cruising with my parents and they very kindly agreed to look after Mia for the day so that we could just take Harry (6) along - we did a lot of walking!

Day trip to Rome from Civitavecchia

From the cruise ship you need to take a port shuttle to the edge of the port and then head for the train station, which is about a mile away. We were hoping to take a taxi to the station to save Harry's legs, but there weren't any to be found so we ended up walking. On the way back though we managed to pick up the bus which cost just 80 cents and was clearly labelled. At the station we bought a BIRG pass which covers your train travel to Rome and back, as well as public transport once there. It cost 12 Euros for an adult and 5 Euros for Harry, with his travel within Rome being free. The staff at the station were very helpful when it came to buying the ticket and reminding us to validate it before we left, and you can find the train timetables online. We took the train to Roma Ostiense which is linked to the Piramide Metro station, and then the Metro to Colosseo which is just a couple of stops.

Ram and I visited Rome together almost ten years ago, and despite staying for nearly a week we still felt that we'd not seen everything. We had places in mind that we wanted to take Harry, but we were very conscious that he's only little, and there would be a lot of walking in the heat, so we tried to stick to just the highlights.

We started our day at the Colosseum. We purchased joint tickets for the Colosseum and the Forum in advance on the official website, which was well worth doing as it was very busy. There was still a queue to collect the tickets, but it wasn't as bad as the queue to buy tickets. It was well organised, and once inside although busy there was still plenty of space to see everything. We didn't do a guided tour and there isn't a great deal of interpretation, so if you aren't doing a tour it's worth getting hold of a guide book if you want to learn more about what you are seeing.

Child at the Colosseum

Harry was very interested, we have a Playmobil arena set which he enjoys playing with so he had some idea of what to expect. It doesn't take too long to visit and you can have a good look around on the ground floor and one of the higher up levels.

Next we headed to the Basilica San Clemente, and I'd definitely recommend a visit if you are in Rome. We discovered it on our previous visit and it really was a hidden gem. It was a little busier this time, so it's obviously become a bit more well known, but it wasn't at all crowded. When you enter the basilica it looks like a normal old church, although still interesting to visit, then you descend to find the remains of the old fourth century church underneath, and then you go down again to discover the remains of a first century pagan temple and Roman streets, and a villa with a spring, all dug out at the bottom. It really is amazing, and gives a good sense of just how much history is buried underneath modern day Rome. Admission to the excavations is currently 5 Euros with children free, but this will rise to 10 Euros come July 2015, and check the opening times before you visit, as it closes for a couple of hours over lunch. Unfortunately you aren't allowed to take photographs, but you can see some on the website above, it really is a fascinating place.

Next we headed to the Forum. Again, there was quite a queue to get inside even with pre-booked tickets, but once inside it is such a large space that there are no problems with the crowds. Once again, there isn't a lot of interpretation if you aren't doing a tour and we only found a couple of maps on boards, so if you want to know more about what you are seeing but don't fancy a guided tour I'd recommend buying a guide book.

Me at the Forum in Rome

We knew that Harry wouldn't have the patience to stay very long, so we did a quick walk around, stopping at the places that interested him with plenty of breaks for snacks in the shade. He was getting tired in the heat but we still managed to have a good look around and he really was interested in everything. There is a lot to take in, and we found it was a good idea to find somewhere to sit where you can see a lot at once and talk about it, to get the bigger picture.

Child at the Forum in Rome

We finished our day with a walk along Via dei Fori Imperiali, which is a route that we often walked on our previous visit as it was close to our hotel. There are lots more excavations along by the side of the road that you can just wander past, and there is also Trajan's Column to see, which was covered in scaffolding on our last visit so it was nice to have a proper look!

We stopped in at the Vittorio Emmanuele Monument, an imposing structure which you are free to climb for some fantastic views of Rome. You can also take a scenic elevator ride to the very top.

Vittorio Emmanuele Monument in Rome

Harry was definitely flagging by this point so we abandoned our tentative plan to stop at the Vatican City on the way back. We later found out that was a good idea, as the queues would have been so long by that time that we would have seen very little. So we walked back to the Colosseo Metro station, and it was time to catch the train and head back to the ship after a very tiring day!

Child asleep on the train

On our cruise we also visited Pompeii, this time with both children, and you can find my post on Visiting Pompeii with small children here.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Book review - Wild by Emily Hughes

Wild is the debut picture book by Hawaiian author-illustrator Emily Hughes, and tells the story of a little girl that has known nothing but nature from birth.

Wild by Emily Hughes

"No-one remembered how she came to the woods, but all knew it was right". 

The animals taught her to eat, to speak, to play, and she was happy. 

Wild book review

But one day, she is found by some new, strange animals that look just like her. They take her away to live with them, and try to make her behave like them, and she isn't happy at all. But the story has a happy ending, because in the end they all realise that you cannot tame something so happily wild...

Wild book inside illustration

I really liked this book, it's a simple yet quirky story with gorgeously detailed illustrations which perfectly capture the characters and really reflect the mood of the story. I especially loved the contrast between the scenes in nature and those in civilisation. It's a lovely book!

I received a copy of this book to review, Amazon link is affiliate.
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