This is what a tickle looks like!


This is our entry into the Tots100 Mr Tickle competition, want to join in?

To be in with a chance of winning the prize a £140 Mr Men Bundle and Mr Tickle App download, all you have to do is Tweet a picture showing Tots100 what you think a tickle looks like, using the hashtag #MrTickleApp before midnight on the 12th May 2014 see the Tots100 site for more details!

50 Outdoor Activities to do Before You’re 11 & 3/4

The National Trust are encouraging us to bring up our children outdoors – have you seen their brilliant campaign; 50 Outdoor Activities to do before you’re 11 and 3/4? Lots of free resources available here

Joss is nearly two and has done eight things on the list:

  1. Visit a farm
  2. Find some frog spawn
  3. Play pooh sticks
  4. Have a look in a pond
  5. Run around in the rain
  6. Make a daisy chain
  7. Pick wild blackberries
  8. Look inside a tree

I love this resource, whether the weather is good or bad the list grows with them, in time she will be ticking off making an outdoor den and making a home for a wild animal, bird watching and eating an apple straight from the tree.

We have the 50 Things… book with I’ve Done That stickers, its a brilliant read with loads of inspiration!

Which activity will you try next?

This was not a sponsored post but just a campaign we are interested in and thought others might like the free resources too!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Carpet picnics and dens

“Do a den”

Joss asked to build a den last week, how could we refuse?

We are always outside exploring but occasionally the intrepid explorers in us want to have a PJ day and what better way to bring the outdoors indoors than with a den and a carpet picnic?


Armed with a drying rack and plenty of blankets, a sharing platter and snacks a dull grey day starts to look altogether more interesting! Deserving of an Outtakes mention for odd socks and the fact that this could be anyone’s child given the cut off the lunch looks canny anyway!





Research Skills for Bloggers

As you know in my work and studying a big part of what I do is social research. I find the relationship between research and blogging to be a close one; research helps my blogging and blogging helps my research. I find new topics, organise my thinking and plan using my research skills, and in my work I find blogging forces me to give my personal opinion, to work fast and be reactive to key issues that might increase my influence in the blogosphere.

Research skills relevant to blogging are about:

  • Systematising
  • Defining a question
  • Analysing data (anything can be data, we’re not just talking statistics here)
  • Unpacking complex issues
  • Observing and
  • Arriving at conclusions and understanding their limitations

Five research tips for bloggers

  • Make media alerts work for you

This is something I’ve always done for work but didn’t think about doing for my blog until recently. So my blog focus is a) parenting, but more specifically parental mental health, eco-parenting and child development. Once you can narrow the focus of your interest in this way and understand keywords in these areas you can bring new blog post ideas directly to your inbox by harnessing the power of alerts. I use google alerts but there are lots of tools out there. I have alerts set up for mothering and mental health and working parents. This week these alerts brought a story from the media directly to me, the headline that ‘Working Mother’s no longer Feel Guilty’ so within an hour I had a ‘hot topic’ at my fingertips and could blog in time to join in with the discussions across social media. Alerts help me to be reactive and drive interesting content relevant to my readership. If you’re interested in policy and commenting on institutional approaches to your blog interests you could set up alerts from relevant government departments. I like to get Department of Health alerts in the area of mental health for example. Getting the keywords right can involve a bit of trial and error but once you get it right you have live issues arriving straight to your inbox saving you research time and maximizing the effectiveness of your reading time.

  • Ask questions of data and stories

Ever see a media headline and just run with it? I am really interested in media literacy, asking the right questions of what we’re told rather than accept the journalist’s interpretation. This was highlighted really nicely this week.


My quick view of this graph told me that gun crimes fell following the introduction of the ‘stand your ground’ law. But take a closer look, the Y axis has been flipped so what looked like a sharp fall actually represents a sharp rise.

Don’t forget to ask:

  1. Who created the message?
  2. What opinions or biases might they have?
  3. Why this headline? What is it trying to achieve?
  4. Might others understand this differently than me?
  5. Is there anything that is omitted from the article? Could I do some more reading around this to see what’s missing?
    • Find new sources in untapped areas

So you usually read fellow bloggers, mainstream news and online magazines. What are you missing? How about reading new sources to find ideas for new material, what about an online journal in your area of interest? It might be quite academic or heavy but have a message you could write in a way your readers might like. I am really interested in motherhood and there’s a great free academic resource called Mamsie an online journal with a lot to say about my area of interest, an untapped resource that I now love to browse for new ideas.

    • Define your question

This is all about critical thinking, so you want to write an engaging blog piece, how can you unpack your topic for your reader? Do you need to define the issue for them? Maybe you need to explain the history of the issue, what is the main idea you want to bring across? Are you wanting to open up a debate, start a conversation or convince someone of your argument? Do you have enough evidence to back up your argument, or a new idea that hasn’t been talked about yet? If you’re writing a piece you think you’re going to want to promote then defining your research question can be a useful starting point.

    • Draft and restructure

Though scientific in its approach I actually see research as a craft, refining and redefining, drafting and restructuring to help the flow of an argument I see a lot of potential for creativity. Mindmapping is my favoured way of looking at an issue, of drafting and then restructuring my points. This mindmap came out of my prep for my recent post on working parents, it didn’t take long but cut my drafting time as I knew what I was going to say before I started blogging:

What about you, do you apply non-traditional blogging skills to your blogs?

Nature’s Path Gluten Free Cereals Review

As you know I am big on ethical and sustainable products; Nature’s Path are a family-run, independent organic food company that believes in “leaving the earth better than we found it”. I like that.
Nature’s Path cereals are gluten free, I wanted to test them because A) I consider myself to be a cereal afficionado (oh yes!) and B) I have been interested to know more about gluten-free.

We were sent a lovely pack of products to try from the range:


My favourites were the Trail Mix Granola Bars, lots of lovely textures and a big hit of cinnamon which I love! I love cereal bars and reach for them when I’m dashing around, they are a really generous size and great for an on the go breakfast for my work days.

The Maple Sunrise breakfast cereal was AMAZING, sweet but not too sweet I really liked the blend of quinoa, corn and flaxseed and this was a big hit with hubby too. Again lots of different textures gave a great long lasting crunch, remembering that these are a Free-From gluten free product this would be a real treat, I have a friend with coeliac disease who says many gluten free cereals are boring, this is not one of them!


Mesa Sunrise was a surprise, I expected malted flakes but these are just honest to goodness flakes, the corn/flax blend is really tasty, these were my faves for an everyday cereal.

Our household fave, porridge! Another work fave, the quick porridge is so handy. I loved the apple variety, more lovely cinnamon!

And finally the Nice and Nobbly Granola, chunky, tasty and fruity this was a great cereal but would make a brilliant fast gluten-free crumble topping too!


These definitely passed our taste test, the Nature’s Path range is varied, tasty and brings a different take on gluten free, available in most supermarkets and the website has some great recipe ideas too.


Disclaimer – we reviewed these cereals and were sent the products to try, all views are my own

Wooden Lolly Stick Washi Tape Plant Markers

Quick and easy why use plain sticks when you can add a flash of colour?

We’ve been daisy picking today and my mind wandered onto some of the new varieties of plants we bought this year, clearly the herbs are easier to identify but geranium ringo rose looked great so it’s worth remembering the name for next year and marking them up now.

Take a handful of lolly sticks, apply washi tape in a straight line top to bottom, cut and then trim any excess and round the corners, then take a perma-marker and write your plant names directly onto the tape.

Gardening Fun with a Toddler in Tow

What beautiful weather for a spot of yardening! Joss planted some seeds ages ago, basil, oregano and salad leaves, they were in the kitchen window and she’d ask to be lifted up to see her ‘planties’


They sprouted, then they sprouted some more and before long they were lovely leggy herbs ready for planting outside.

What fun to be nearly two and have your own yarden patch!

With a small trowel and a children’s watering can, a packet of seeds, some sun and good luck we’re starting to create a space we can all enjoy!

And toddler friendly tips?

  • You could start small with some ‘quick wins’ like sunflower seeds, they grow really fast to keep little one’s interested!
  • Wild seed mixes are lovely, you can just sprinkle them and let the birds and the bees do their work and be surprised by what you get
  • Tell them about bees, worms, spiders and ants as you go! Did you know that three quarters of the foods we eat — fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs — need pollinators to reproduce? I think we’re going to read up on encouraging bees and chat about why they’re so important
  • You don’t need to buy a lot but having some child sized tools will be handy, Joss couldn’t lift our watering can when full!
  • Make spot just for them, we painted a pot plate with a few outdoor paints and wrote her name on it :) a few windmills and ornaments add to the feel that it’s just for them


Maternal mental health and moving on mumslist

Real Life

Spring is here and isn’t it grand!?

This week has seen a lot of sling action, getting out and about and enjoying the sun. It was a different sort of work week for me, two days of media training but the chance to pick the brains of the experts about blogging and tweeting too, this has given me a new strategy that I’ll talk about in a bit. I also finished my two week wardrobe challenge, and now have a capsule wardrobe of just 30 items, scary but freeing too!

So maternal mental health, this week I blogged about two big issues, bottle nursing, which I think doesn’t get the coverage it deserves and was probably my toughest blog post yet, and I also wrote a piece trying to unpack and ask some questions about mother’s guilt, working and the media.

All this is building up to a big piece of news and some more posts around maternal mental health. This week I became affiliated with PANDAS Pre and Postnatal Depression Advice and Support.


In short I am setting up their first North East group, the Newcastle Upon Tyne PANDAS Support Group. I feel really well of late, I have enjoyed several months anxiety free and have been feeling strong for a while now. I want to bridge a big gap between formal mental health services and community services, there is very little available to new mums anyway following the cuts and being lonely and frightened with dependents can be a very dark place. I approached a group of friends some of which I’ve met some I have yet to meet looking for others who can help me get set up, I was blown away by their honesty and sadly by their numbers, but we all want to offer our support to other parents and that makes me feel so proud of them, and of how far we have come on our own journeys. I look forward to sharing experiences, offering support and maybe making some friends along the way too.


Blog life

Two new things, 1) to devote an evening a week to building up content on a range of ideas and 2) to blog daily where possible about topical issues in the media linking into twitter and facebook feeds on ‘big issues’ around parenthood, politics and media. I did this with my post on maternal guilt, it came out of Mumsnet stats that were released that day and I tweeted my response and linked into discussions on Facebook which drove more traffic. I would also like to see my Tots100 score continue to increase, currently at 549 I have worked hard to get to this position and would love to understand more behind the metrics too.



We’ve been yardening again so I’m about to blog another How Does Your Garden Grow but also found inspiration here:

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