• 10 Free and Simple Summer Holiday Activities

    natural art
  • The End of an Era

    My baby is growing fast!
  • My Top 6 Summer Holiday Reads 2015

    kitty peck and the child of ill fortune
  • Feeling Safe at Home

    Patio Door Security

10 Free and Simple Summer Holiday Activities

natural artHooray! The school holidays are upon us again and its time to rejoice that there are six weeks free of the school run. I love the school holidays, its my favourite time of the year because it means I get to spend some quality time with my children and I dont have the additional stresses and worries that their time at school entails. It wasn’t always like this though, I can remember my first school summer holliday filling me with dread and being horrific because I didnt know what to do or how to keep the children entertained.

The breakthrough came for me when I realised that at small amount of planning makes a big difference. Personally I try to think of a variety of themes or topics to look at over the holidays and then tailor our trips and activities to fit in with those. That approach really helps with sorting through all the options. One of my most successful approaches has been to base these loosely upon what the children have learnt at school or will be learning as this builds upon what they know in a very subtle way.

There are a lot of free things that you can do which are also brilliant fun, if you think a little bit outside the box. Obviously I’d recommend a trip to all your local museums which will no doubt have a range of educational activities. However these are some of the things we are planning to do ourselves:

  • The Summer Reading Challenge
  • I’ve bought a tree spotter book and we are going on a walk around our neighbourhood to collect leaves to put into our book as we identify all the different species.
  • The children will have a go at learning some traditional crafts like the straw plaiting we did recently. We are going to do some weaving and some embroidery as last holiday we had a go at crochet.
  • We will be getting together with friends and having a children’s book club afternoon.
  • Outdoor art: This is always a favourite activity and provides the opportunity to go out and about collecting things to use.
  • Bike rides: The older children are great at riding their bikes so we will be going on lots of long rides. I hope to teach 3 year old Ned to cycle without stabilisers over the summer, although i’m not convinced I can get that to happen.
  • Fossil Hunting: You’d be surprised how easy it is to go out and about and find fossils. There is a fab map of locations here.
  • Chores! We had some fantastic fun recreating old fashioned ways of cleaning the home and I thought we might have another go at some of these and investigate some more.
  • Making our own kite and flying it. We have loads of books about making kites, so I thought we’d have a go at a few of the ideas and take the kites over to Dunstable Downs and see how they fly. There are lots of resources on line if you cant get hold of a suitable book.
  • Country Day: This is a really popular activity for my kids, basically we pick a country and we do lots of things related to it. We’ll spend the day eating the food from the country and see what we can find out about it. See this post about our India day.

I’d love to hear the things which you are doing this summer. Please let me know in the comments and if you take up any of the above ideas let me know how you got on!

The End of an Era

My baby is growing fast!

My baby is growing fast!

With three children things can drag out somewhat. Now Ned is nearing nursery age i’m finally getting to the stage where after 8 years I can get rid of the pushchair. This will be revolutionary in lots of ways, not least because its quite a good general coat hanger in the hallway. Where will I put all the general ‘stuff’ when I go shopping? What will I be able to hide behind and use as a sort of barrier to sociability on the school run? Its a frightening new world out there.

In many way this week will mark a real change. Last week Ned finished his brilliant playgroup, the one i’ve been driving backwards and forwards to for years and the one which feels so much more of a happier place for me than their primary school. When we left for the final time Ned was happy and somehow oblivious that this was quite a major thing, meanwhile I felt all melancholy for my children’s babyhoods. In September I’ll be able to start properly counting down to the end of primary school years. Only 8 of them to endure.

The last few months have also marked a bit of an end of an era for this blog. Fifi and the boy are now easily old enough to read and engage with the things I write, as are their friends. This means that I cant really write the same things I used to or in the same way. Its not useful giving your children an insight into your innermost thoughts and worries! That means there needs to be a slightly new direction to things and I probably need to spend some time making some of the posts private.

I’d love to hear your ideas about what I could do with the blog and which direction I should go with it. I’m tempted to focus more on books, museums and craft which is basically a lot of what I’ve been doing recently anyhow. However, i’m not convinced and I wonder if I should just open up the site to others so they can tell the world their experiences of being a mummy. What do you think?

My Top 6 Summer Holiday Reads 2015

One of the things which can make or break a summer holiday for me are the books i’m reading. A really great book can make a holiday even more memorable or change your feelings about your trip. As St Albans Literary Festival Director, book club member and avid bibliophile I thought I’d share some of my top reads this summer. For me this year its mainly about strong women and quality writing:

kitty peck and the child of ill fortuneKitty Peck and the Child of Ill Fortune by Kate Griffin

This was going to be my summer trip to Dorset read, but being a big fan of Kitty Peck I couldn’t resist making a start on my pre-publication copy. Kate Griffin knows how to tell a good story and with the character of Kitty Peck she has struck gold. Kitty Peck is an amazingly strong woman with worries and doubts which make her seem very approachable.

Set in Victorian London this follows on from the first book Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders, although it would work equally well as a stand alone read. It follows Kitty as she tries to establish herself as a Baron in charge of what was her grandmothers business empire. At the same time as this struggle there is a thread relating to a mysterious child of which Kitty becomes the guardian.

Once I began reading this I found it difficult to put down despite being very time limited. I loved the scene setting, Kitty’s strong voice and it was difficult to predict what would happen next. In my mind I was transported to the grimy underworld of Victorian London and I had to see how the story panned out.

If you’re looking for an easy, enjoyable read which is leagues above the sort of chick lit that most people take on the beach then this is it. I’m very much looking forward to seeing Kitty Peck on the big screen one day soon.

Watch the Lady by Elizabeth Fremantle

watch the ladyWatch the Lady follows the story of Penelope Devereux part of Elizabeth I’s court during its final two decades. Richly detailed and historically accurate this is the sort of novel which if you enjoy reading about powerful women you’ll enjoy.

I was fortunate enough to meet Elizabeth Fremantle recently and I admitted I hadn’t had time to read it yet (thanks to being absorbed in Kitty Peck!) and she assured me that as I like Phillipa Gregory then I’d enjoy this book. I’m very much looking forward to reading it partly because this is such an interesting time in Elizabeth’s reign.

The Silent Boy by Andrew Taylor

silent boySometimes something crosses your path which is so thoughtfully and beautifully written that you cant stop thinking about it. I attended a literary dinner where Andrew Taylor spoke and read out a few pages of his book and I was captivated.

The Silent Boy is a historical thriller based around a mute boy who has witnessed unimaginable things in the French Revolution. It has received rave reviews within literary circles and is by all accounts very well executed.

Wars of the Roses Stormbird by Conn Iggulden

stormbirdI’ve read quite a lot of different novels about the Wars of the Roses however Conn Iggulden’s new series promises to be a compelling read. One of his strengths is his ability to deal with some quite detailed historical facts and turn them into exciting fiction. Having heard Conn Iggulden speak at St Albans Abbey about this book, his research and his writing techniques I’m sure that this will be captivating.

 

 

 

Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood

mrs hemingwayMrs Hemingway is the perfect holiday read for those people who like reading about relationships but don’t necessarily like or ‘get’ chick lit. Based on the experiences of Earnest Hemingway’s four women it takes their stories and beautifully brings them to life with personal and emotive voices.

This is a well considered novel based on historical fact which evokes the era’s in which these women live their lives with Hemingway to stunning effect. I found myself transported to the places where the action was taking place and I enjoyed empathising (or not) with the various women with whom he lived.

Into the Fire by Manda Scott

into the fireInto the Fire is a new take upon the story of Joan of Arc and it promises to be an evocative read by all accounts. It has been given some fabulous reviews from some of the UK’s best historical authors. I like the idea that this book tackles another strong woman, but one which there is a distinct lack of information about.

I must admit one of the things which attracts me to this book is Manda Scott herself. Having met her and heard about her interests and why she wrote the book, I was struck by her genuine enthusiasm and interest in the topic. I’m in awe of the things which she has done with her life and how amazing it sounds. So there you have it, I’m reading it as much to try to feed off that natural enthusiasm for the topic as for the topic itself! I have high hopes.

So, there you have a challenge; a book for every week of the school summer holidays. If you do read any of these books I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

 

 

 

 

Feeling Safe at Home

British Suburban Street

Our Quiet Street

For the past ten years we have lived in a fairly ordinary suburban house in St Albans. It is a very quiet neighbourhood with lots of pensioners and parents, nothing happened really and when it did everyone knew about it. Things were quite dull, boring even. Children could go out to play fairly freely as being a 1960’s- 1970’s housing estate there are networks of wide alleyways and few cars.

However, things have changed in the past year we have been experiencing a bit of a crime wave. All over the estate houses are being broken into, in broad daylight. People are dealing drugs in alleyways and a security guard was installed in Waitrose. Even reading this makes me laugh. I’ll freely admit it sounds funny and middle class. a middle-class dilemma.

However, last year we were burgled. Our house was trashed and ransacked. The same early evening one of our neighbours suffered the same fate. Since then lots of our other neighbours have had the same thing happen. We have installed burglar alarms and i’m paranoid about locking windows now. We sit in our living room with a large block of wood across the patio door to stop it being jemmied open again.

Patio Door Security

The Ultimate in Patio Door Security

At first I was concerned about the children, our daughter was the most affected by it. I wasn’t too worried about the house and stuff, I can genuinely say I was quite unaffected. However, then the doubts started creeping in, who was in my bedroom? Who were these people? Would they come back?

It seems they would, because yesterday someone was in our garden throwing bits of furniture about and yesterday our neighbours were burgled shortly after I left for the school run. Were they watching us? Were they watching me? I’m now sitting here wondering whether the next time I look up I will see a face looking in through the patio windows. Will I wake up in the night to find someone standing over me?

We have been considering moving for a while, mainly because of schooling. However, living in Hertfordshire and with a change in personal financial circumstances its unlikely that we can even afford a similar house. In fact, the house we could get would be about £200K less than what we have now which sort of rules us out of Hertfordshire and since the husband works in St Albans that wouldn’t be much use. To all extent and purposes we are well and truly stuck.

I don’t want to live life in a perpetual state of anxiety. This wasn’t what I signed up for when we moved here. We didn’t want to live somewhere where crime was high and crime resolution (at least on the face of it) low. The circumstances of these burglaries suggests that its the same people, I wish the police would catch them soon. I don’t hold out much hope, funds for policing have been cut to the bones. With all these budget cuts everywhere money is tight for everyone. I’m wondering if this is pushing more people towards desperate measures. Is austerity the ultimate cause of this crime wave?

Do you have any tips about home security? Do you worry about being home alone with the children?

#MyDragonandMe with #Netflix #StreamTeam for Dragons: Race to the Edge!

Dargons: Race to the Edge

How To Train Your Dragon Series Launch – Netflix.
28th June 2015
Photo Credit – Doug Peters

There is a hardly a day that goes by in our household when someone doesnt have Netflix on. Interestingly the other day it was suggested that the BBC iPlayer might become a paying service and I was consciously thinking about which on demand services we use  the most and it has to be said that Netflix was far and away the winner. I think its value is in the sheer diversity of stuff available. I’ve recently been watching the third series of Orange is the New Black, Community and Black Books and will be writing more about these soon. However the kids have been watching Dora, Diego, Umi Zumi and more recently Dragons!

Viking Warrior

My little Viking Warrior

Dragons really strikes a chord in our household as we love the books, even travelling to a book festival to see Cressida Cowell speak about her inspiration for writing them. They combine adventure, fantasy, folklore and a bit of archaeology perfectly and to be honest i’m incredibly jealous of her for writing such a perfect kids story.

Dragon Cake

The Amazing Cake!

So, as big fans of the books, film and now TV series we were absolutely THRILLED to be asked along by Netflix to a special #StreamTeam event to celebrate the launch of the new series. An amazing cake, some fabulous themed food, face painting, craft, dressing up and the chance to see one of the new episodes made for one of the best blogging events of the year.

Dragon FacepaintThe new Dragons: Race to the Edge has the same cast as the movies and looks very similar, just on a small screen. Its easy to follow meaning its perfect for the siblings of more established fans but still hits the right note. Netflix and Dreamworks as a partnership makes for ideal quality children’s viewing and you wont go far wrong with this one. We love it and I think you’ll enjoy it too!

Netflix are running  little blogger competition for our kids. They want to see some amazing pictures of their dragons. If you want to have a look you’ll find them on Twitter at #mydragonandme my kids are shooting videos and all sorts of things!