Friday, 11 April 2014

Springtime fun at Mead Open Farm



We've been visiting Mead Open Farm in Bedfordshire ever since Ruby was a baby. She's always enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of the animals, and when she was younger would happily spend hours in the soft play area or in the playground.

Now she's reached the ripe old age of 6 I did wonder if the farm would still hold such appeal for her.  I needn't have worried, we had a fabulous day there in the spring sunshine.

She remembered bottle feeding the lambs on previous years and was keen to try again.  She was much braver and more determined to keep hold of the bottle from their super sucky grasp this time.

Feeding the lambs at Mead Open Farm

Sheep and Mead Open Farm

Sheep and Mead Open Farm

Lamb at Mead Open Farm

She giggled at the goats who were locking horns and ramming each other and the funny little kid who hadn't quite got the hang of what the feeding bowl was for.  But we did find one who was very lovable and just wanted some strokes.

Kid Goat at Mead Open Farm

Goat at Mead Open Farm

Goat at Mead Open Farm

Feed the animals at Mead Open Farm

She also remembered petting the rabbits so anxiously watched the clock until it was time for them to come out.  I know she'd love a rabbit at home - but I'm not sure what our dog would make of it!

Petting Rabbits at Mead Open Farm

She was more confident feeding the sheep and the goats this time too, bravely holding her hand out still and flat while they nibbled the pellets from her palm.

Feed the goats at Mead Open Farm

We popped into the special Easter area and completed the egg hunt puzzle - fingers crossed we'll win annual membership!

Easter Bunny Egg Hunt at Mead Open Farm

The new adventure playground has just opened and it was a real hit.  Topsy Turvey Towers is cleverly planned out.  Really impressed with the wooden safety crossing barriers behind and in front of the swings - how many times have you seen a toddler run in front of a swing?!  Why don't all parks do that?

It's a great quality wooden beast of a playground, full of rope bridges, tunnel slides, climbing areas and high viewing platforms.  Quirky details like grass covered tunnel tubes and of course the upside down trees which give the area it's name.  Everything was a bit topsy turvey here.

Topsy Turvey Towers at Mead Open Farm New Adventure Playground

Topsy Turvey Towers at Mead Open Farm New Adventure Playground

Topsy Turvey Towers at Mead Open Farm New Adventure Playground

When you're bored of that, head over to Diggerland, a large enclosed sand area with JCB style vehicles to climb on, pretend drive, as well as mechanical diggers you can practise your co-ordination on scooping up sand.  There's tonnes of buckets and spades provided for castle building too.

Also new this year is the Sky Trail.  A high rope course which looked like great fun.  Sadly even the thought of a safety harness wouldn't persuade Ruby to have a go - I guess she's got her Mum's head for heights!

There's plenty to do to keep the whole family entertained all day and the entrance fee of £10.75 for adults and £9.75 for children (you can get cheaper rates if you pre-book online) was reasonable considering everything's included - there's no extra charges for any of the activities.

There's cafes on site offering a range of hot and cold food or you are welcome to take your own and use the picnic benches.  There's also loads of hand washing stations all around the farm, toilets and baby changing facilities.  It was very busy on the day we went and certainly could have been cleaner - I think the staff had a job keeping up with clearing the tables, replenishing the washrooms and emptying the bins.  But that was the only negative of what was otherwise a really fun day.

Rope Bridges at Mead Open Farm


Linking up with Country Kids at Coombe Mill.

Paws Outdoors - Walkies in the Woods


It's no secret that me and my family love visiting the forest. Another important member of our family is our four-legged friend, and she loves nothing more that a trip to the wood too.

Scurrying around in fallen; finding ridiculously long sticks (ok more like branches) to drag along; sniffing out animal scents; padding about on the soft springy moss; wading though wet mud; leaping over logs; chasing the odd squirrel...you get the picture, it's basically doggie heaven.

She likes nothing more than a new adventure, a break from her usual round-the-block routine. The chance to be off the lead and run free.  It stimulates her senses, reduces her boredom and exercises her mind as well as her body.

Just like us, she loves to let off steam in the forest; see new sights; experience new places; run til her heart pounds then come home and put her feet up.



Forests are a favourite location for many dog walkers, with over 20 million visits to Forestry Commission sites by dog walkers each year. The new Paws Outdoors campaign in association with the Kennel Club aims to build on this popularity and will include a number of on-site activities throughout the year. Many Forestry Commission woods and forests have dog agility trails, events and hundreds of way-marked trails that offer physical challenges for dogs and owners.

Simon Hodgson, Forestry Commission chief executive, says:

“Our new Paws Outdoors campaign will help to make our sites even more appealing for dogs and their owners. The Ruff Guide to the Forest, which includes information specific to over 35 Forestry Commission locations, is packed with hints and tips for how to make the most of your local forest and surrounding area, and even includes an introduction by the local rangers’ dogs who have sniffed out every corner of our sites!"

The Forestry Commission are also looking for a new canine face for the campaign, so if you think your wonder hound has what it takes, why not enter them?  Check out the Facebook page for more details.

Disclosure: I am an official Forestry Commission blogger and receive an annual Discovery Pass for my local site.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Super Simple Easter Nest Cake Pops - No Bake!


How to make simple Easter chocolate krispie nest egg cake pops

This is my take on the classic Easter treat which I'm sure we all made as kids and still do with our kids. Bringing it right up-to-date as a 'cake pop', I've experimented with different methods and think I've cracked the simplest way to get beautiful results.  So easy even the littlies can make them.  Ruby adored making these with me - and not just because she got to lick the bowl!

How to make simple Easter chocolate krispie nest egg cake pops

The secret to getting the lolly sticks in without too much faffing and waiting, it turns out is simple...

Make them upside down!

Ingredients:

100g good quality dark chocolate
100g All Bran cereal
Large pack of Mini Eggs (I found it was cheaper to buy them from the pick and mix section at the supermarket)

You will also need a mini muffin tin, mini/petit four cake cases and cake pop/lolly sticks (I happily found sets of sticks with wrappers and ties in the party section of my local pound store).

How to make simple Easter nest egg cake pops

Begin by placing one or two Mini Eggs at the bottom of your cake case.

Melt your chocolate in a bowl over a pan of water.  Once melted reserve a tablespoon or so in a separate bowl or cup.

Stir in your bran cereal until it's completely coated in chocolate.  I sometimes like to add a spoonful of crunchy peanut butter which gives a delicious nutty taste, but be careful of allergies if you're serving these at parties.

Spoon on top of your eggs inside the mini cake cases.  Firm down as you go.

Now coat the tip of a lolly stick generously with the reserved chocolate and ease into the centre of the 'nest'. You may need to push some of the chocolatey bran up around the stick to hold it in place.  It's a simple operation, just be gentle not to knock the sticks over until the chocolate has hardened.

How to make simple Easter nest egg cake pops

Leave to set (ideally pop the cake tray in the fridge).  As the chocolate sets it will hold the stick firm.

Once cooled and set, gently lift each case out of the tin, peel off the case and hey presto, you have a beautiful chocolate nest with eggs - on a stick! Wrap in cellophane wrappers with a pretty pastel ribbon to give instead of Easter eggs. Or if serving at home, display in a painted jam jar filled with more Mini Eggs.

How to make simple Easter nest egg cake pops

Center Parcs Chief Creative Chef has lots of tips on how to make nest treats, and this one inspired me:

"Mix some cereal, such as bran or broken up wheat, together with some melted chocolate and form the mixture in to nest-like shapes, leaving to cool for a finished nest."

This is my entry to the Center Parcs and Tots 100 April challenge. If I’m chosen, I would like to visit Sherwood.

Linking up with Fun Food Friday.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Vintage travel inspired child's bedroom

Vintage travel themed child's bedroom


Inspire their sense of adventure and instill a love of travel with this vintage style bedroom.


  • Bed from Feather and Black currently reduced to £249.  This traditional metal bedstead comes in white, duck egg blue or bronze as shown here.

  • Aviator wallpaper from Vertbaudet currently on sale at £20.30 per role.  Create a feature wall with this vintage inspired paper.

  • Matching aviator bedding set from Vertbaudet currently on sale at £21.75.

  • Taupe table and chair from Verbaudet.  Available in various colours, table £39, chair £59. Create a work station for homework or arts and crafts.

  • Touch globe light, best price £15.27 from Ryness Lighting.  The perfect bedside light for little travellers, easy to switch on and off by simply touching the chrome base.

  • Tin globe handles from Mollie and Fred £2.99 each.  Great for updating plain or existing furniture.

  • Vintage suitcases - search on eBay or look out at car boots and charity shops for old suitcases. Use them to store out of season clothes on top of wardrobes; as a toy box; full or dressing up clothes or stack them up to make a bedside table.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Magpie Monday - Back for Tea

I'm just back from a wonderful weekend in Stockholm.  It was an early birthday surprise from my clever Old Man who managed to get me all the way to the airport before I found out where we were going!

It was a lovely break with lots of mooching; glasses of bubbly; much salmon and a spot of sight seeing.

Apart from missing our daughter who was having her own holiday at Granny's I REALLY missed my daily cuppas.  I gave up caffeine back in January (go me - 3 months!), and so finding a decent cuppa away was near impossible.

Caffeine is a national institution to the Swedes and whilst we could get decaf in the larger chain-type coffee shop (Wayne's and Espresso House were good) we were not exactly catered for in the gorgeous little independent coffee and cake houses where the locals take their 'Fika' (coffee and cake - the Swedish equivalent to the British afternoon tea).  Here they look at you as though you'd tried to order a luke warm cup of wee.

Not to worry I'm back home now so I can enjoy my Yorkshire Tea decaf (absolutely the best decaf I've found, after extensive research!) and what's more I can enjoy it in one of my most recent purchases, this beautiful fine bone china water lily teacup.



Doesn't tea always taste better in a china cup?  And at only £3 from a charity shop this was cheaper than a cup of coffee in Stockholm!

What second-hand gems have you found lately?  I'd love you to grab the badge and link up.
      


Monday, 31 March 2014

Magpie Monday - Mermaid Tea Party

I like to tell myself that buying pre-loved is my way of saving the planet and saving some money, but if I'm honest, it's always those impulse buys that are my downfall.  They are worse than a counter of chocolate bars at the checkout till.

It's hard to find a balance between picking up pretty things to admire in your home, and actually filling it with STUFF.  I know I drive the Old Man bonkers with it.

I do try to enjoy things for a little while and then pass them on or re-donate them, but I'm essentially a hoarder so letting go is difficult.  It's pathological.

Sometimes I just see something that I HAVE to have, and when it's only a quid it's hard to refuse.

My daughter is currently obsessed with mermaids (or is that me?  The lines blur a little sometimes).  We have Mermaid bath times, crafting and dressing up.  She went to school for World Book Day as the Singing Mermaid recently, and her poor costume took a battering.  Apparently it's tough for a mermaid at school, kids keep treading on your tail.  Her wonderful teacher came into school the next week and gifted her a replacement outfit as she'd been clearing out her daughter's room, wasn't that kind?

So when I saw these, I had to get them for....mermaid tea parties!!



And when I got them home and showed Ruby, she instantly exclaimed the same - like mother like daughter!

Funnily enough, I didn't buy these at the seaside last week, I actually bought them in a local charity shop at the weekend.

I saw the other week, the brilliant Family Days, Tried and Tested had made a little small world edible beach, so inspired by that we'll be having crushed ginger biscuit sand and turquoise lime jelly for pudding today!

Suffice to say, the Old Man thinks I've completely lost the plot, and I suspect if I try and bring tat like this home again, he may just leave me.

How do you control your second-hand habit?  Or don't you?!

I'd love you to grab the badge and link up.
      


Thursday, 27 March 2014

DIY easy Cracking Easter Egg Pots



Chompsing my way through a chocolate dessert pot the other night, I noticed the pleasing oval shape of the container. Ruby's never one to let me throw anything away if it can be used for junk modelling or crafting, so I stocked up and bought a few more.  And you thought I was selfless drinking wine so she could have corks to play with?!


We painted our pots (remove all labels first) with poster paints mixed with white acrylic to get lovely pastel colours.  They needed a few coats.

When dry, fill with mini eggs.  Run a glue stick around the rim and carefully lay a single sheet of tissue paper over the top trying to get it as taut as you can.  Leave for a few minutes for the glue to dry, then carefully tear the tissue paper away leaving a sealed 'lid' attached.

Now you have pretty pots of Easter eggs to give away.  Simply 'crack' them open to get to the contents.

A simple but effective way to jazz up some inexpensive chocolate eggs.  We'll be giving these away to school friends at the end of term.


What Easter crafts have you been doing?  Check out the #GetYourCraftOn linky for over 40 fabulous egg and chic crafts to inspire you.

As featured on Fun Crafts Kids.