Our stay begins at Poppy Cottage

This week we’re taking time out from research and project work and taking a family holiday at Druridge Bay on the beautiful Northumberland Coast. Poppy Cottage is a literal stones throw away from the most glorious coastline, its site is a working farm and September is fabulous for quiet walks and blowing the cobwebs away.

As we live near an urban farm Joss has loved seeing farming on a bigger scale, with diggers, tractors and different breeds of livestock than we’re used to its a country mouse’s dream!

Sadly Joss is loaded with cold and don’t we know it, a bad nights sleep was much more bearable for these views though and I’ll be sharing more of our holiday snaps as the week goes on.

The Farm itself at Hemscott Hill has also seen camping action this summer with some brilliant bell tents set up, more on those later but suffice to say their pitch is in a beautiful part of the world!

I’m off for a glass of red and a spot of reading before we’re back to exploring again tomorrow!






Traidcraft for a fair trade Christmas 2014

I know, I know I said the C word in September but it’s for a brilliant cause!

Traidcraft for a fair trade Christmas 2014

Traidcraft just launched their Christmas 2014 catalogue and it’s jam packed with gifts that keep on giving from their producer partners across the world. When you buy from Traidcraft for a fair trade Christmas 2014 you’re helping to transform the lives of poor producers in the developing world by enabling them to use their skills and resources to trade their way out of poverty.

For example Gospel House in Madampe, Southern Sri Lanka, seeks to provide employment opportunities for disadvantaged young people, often with no educational qualifications.

Skills training for continuing development enables many to move on to other jobs.

Wooden toys

Many of the handmade fair trade wooden toys on offer at the Traidcraft online shop are made at Gospel House; with this an absolute best seller for Traidcraft we were very happy to review their beautifully hand crafted fair trade wooden bus…and now the wheels on the bus really do go round and round all day long in this house!


Fairly traded and handmade, it makes a long lasting and unique gift.

With a removable roof, two floors and a little wooden driver and 24 wooden passengers, the hand painted quality shines through and this is a sustainable gift worth every penny at £49; this is a gift that will grow with little ones as they develop role play and I daresay I’ve quite enjoyed pootling about with the little people too!

It’s a moving bus and zooms quite nicely on our wooden floors; of course when the weather has been good we’ve taken all the people for a bus journey outdoors too!


Joss has had hours of fun taking all the people out, commenting on their unique hairstyles and sweet rosy cheeks, putting them in and out of their handy calico storage bag.

I loved hearing her making them “chat on the bus” and she even got a few of them sharing a hug while they queued up to board! When she finally realised that each of the people has a matching person we found that matching clothing and hairstyles brought new fun to the game! Because Joss is at an age where she’s learning about colours the vibrant clothing on each little man and woman helps with her play and development and she liked counting the buttons on the jackets and the pockets too.

All aboard, ding ding!!


And much more

I kept the new catalogue by my bed this week and perused the gift ideas thinking about family members and friends and what they might like to receive. There’s so much more than toys and games on offer, from homeware and decorations to fashion and food there’s something for everyone! What are you waiting for, head on over to Traidcraft and start your fair trade Christmas planning!




Study and stay smart with Smiggle, Dodo Pad and Helix

Smiggle is dedicated to creating original, fun and affordable stationery. The brand’s products are focused on bold colour, quirky graphics, good value, innovation and most of all – giving fans the tools they need to have fun at school, college and uni!


I recently reviewed Dodo Acad-Pad and Maped Helix Maths Set – these will keep me organised and help me plan my time, not an easy task when juggling with family life too. If you’re in need of some help check out my top tips for study from home parents while you’re here!

Smiggle UK (2)


5 reasons for needing to say sorry to Sarah & Duck

An open letter to Sarah Gomes Harris and Tim O’Sullivan (creators of Sarah and Duck)

Dear Sarah and Tim,

I must apologise for saying that Sarah reminded me of sinister ol’ Salad Fingers, I still find it odd that she’s seven but lives alone with a duck but I can let that slide, I made those comments before my daughter was old enough for me to sit down and watch the show with her and it now has a special place in my heart, in Charlie and Lola style I am extremely absolutely sorry.

sarah and duck

I have turned over a new leaf and stopped picking faults with Cbeebies shows, I adore them and here are my 5 reasons for needing to say sorry to Sarah & Duck:

1) Scarf lady’s bag

A talking bag, genius,sheer eccentricity…I hope that when I am old and confused I will live much like Scarf Lady with a house full of woolen items and a talking bag to correct me, oh and a pet donkey, and a weeping woolen tree to harvest more yarn…


2) Sarah’s love of sea cows

From about the age of five or six my brother was obsessed with sea cows or manatees, thanks to Sarah and Duck now Joss is too, I like to think of this as a family tradition now and it wouldn’t have continued without this show

3) Sarah’s fireworks dance

Hearing Joss sing this cracks me up, the lyrics are simple but it’s soooo sweet “this is my fireworks dance, I do it when there are fireworks…fireworks, fireworks,fireworks, fireworks”

4) Problem solving

This show is all about solving life’s little problems, Sarah goes to the library to seek answers to life’s many troubles – why are donkeys sad? Why does bug like buttons? The answers are lovely – “donkeys are friendly animals, they look sad but they are not. As long as they get lots of carrots and hugs they are quite happy”

5) Northern accents in kids tv

There aren’t enough Northern accents heard on kids TV so this is a big plus point, I love Sarah saying ‘hallo’ – it’s like a breath of fresh air!

Why I had to go through PND to find myself – PND support

I have a guest post up with Beth from Betty and the Bumps today, she asked me to share my experiences of becoming a mother and how this is different from my life before; here’s a short extract, if you’d like to read more pop over and say hi on Beth’s blog!

People are surprised when I say that PND was the making of me, but it forced me to confront some uncomfortable truths about myself. It revealed my ‘true self’ – I found a great strength in myself, a strength and new resilience I didn’t know I had, but I also had to confront my selfishness and perfectionism and this was not an easy task. For a while I wondered why I didn’t do this during pregnancy, to prepare myself and our family unit, but I think I buried my head in the sand, I was afraid to say that I wasn’t sure I’d ever be ready to be a mother

Joss farm

Last days of summer party food

It doesn’t seem fair that Autumn is upon us, especially when our summer fruits are still in season! Our last days of summer party food were a welcome break from blackberry picking this weekend!

ripening tomatoes

This weekend we enjoyed some great summer produce, much of it from Aldi, and I thought this would make brilliant budget party fayre, full of flavour and great value too.

This Cypriot chicken dish is so simple, chicken on the bone cooked for 20 minutes then topped for the final 20 minutes with a mix of garlic, fresh parsley, fresh basil, homegrown toms and half a small block of feta crumbled. Served with pittas gently baked in parchment for ten minutes with oil, garlic and basil this made for a really tasty dinner.

Last days of summer party food

Later over a glass of red wine and to see out the last of the summer evenings we shared a platter of goats cheese, fresh figs (in Aldi’s Super Six and really delicious) marinated olives and some fantastic physalis that hubby picked up in town, divine.

Last days of summer party food

What seasonal food have you enjoyed this summer?

Smiggle UK survey shows kids can’t wait to get back to school!

You know I love a quirky stat and new stationery, and Smiggle – the UK’s newest, boldest and brightest children’s stationery retailer – has just that for us!

A survey by Smiggle has revealed that far from dreading their first day back in the classroom, youngsters actually can’t wait. Of parents questioned, 66 per cent revealed that their child or children are itching to get back into their uniform, despite their virtuous efforts to keep them occupied for six weeks.

Two-thirds of primary school parents admitted that the prospect of seeing classroom friends, coupled with a new pencil case, would see their children (aged four to 10) running through the school gates! Having been a stationery loving child myself the idea of new pens, pencils and rulers and seeing what my friends brought in after the summer was an exciting prospect! Of those parents who admitted that their children were hankering after the classroom, 87 per cent said seeing fellow friends was the main reason for wanting to return, with the prospect of a new pencil case almost as compelling, with 80 per cent citing this as a secondary factor!

Seeing the Smiggle UK range made me hanker for a new pencil case myself, I love these pets ones!

smiggle uk1

Virtually all parents questioned (93 per cent) said that they would be purchasing a brand new pencil case and rucksack for the new school year, in an attempt to ‘set the tone’ and encourage learning, and 76 per cent of parents said that their child had a favourite pencil, pen and rubber, which they would not want to do their homework without.

smiggle uk

Smiggle is dedicated to creating original, fun and affordable stationery. The brand’s products are focused on bold colour, quirky graphics, good value, innovation and most of all – giving fans the tools they need to have fun at school!

For more information about Smiggle and its infectious stationery products, visit Smiggle today!

Disclaimer: This was not a sponsored post, I just like what Smiggle are bringing to the stationery market for kids!

5 ways to overcome common toddler fears

Common Toddler Fears

I recently did a straw poll of over 50 mums and dads with toddlers to identify a list of common toddler fears; the following were identified as common:

Hand driers


Mannequins or people in fancy dress

Bugs and creepy crawlies

Public toilets


Vacuum cleaner or hoover

common toddler fears

Not so common toddler fears

As this was an unscientific poll it did throw up some really interesting fears, some very specific and as a precursor to saying that we shouldn’t belittle our little one’s fears later in this article there are some that were too funny not to mention. These included:

“My daughter 2 year old is scared of the toilet because it has eyes on the inside of the lid…And she is scared of mannequins, especially the ones that don’t have any facial features… in a nutshell- if it has a face she probably won’t like it and if it doesn’t have a face she’s not happy either..”

“Fat men he doesn’t know. Not even joking. It’s embarrassing when he starts getting upset and hiding because of the big fat man”

“Oh and the wheat bag thing you stick in the microwave. He’s 2″

“The wobbly shed! PS it doesn’t wobble”

“Big mega poos until they come out”

5 ways to overcome common toddler fears

We had a spell recently where Joss started asking ‘what’s that noise’ and asking to be carried or hugged if we heard a hoover, lawnmower, loud roadworks, car alarm etc.

More concerning for us as parents though was a really tough time where she was scared of M.O.N.S.T.E.R.S (yep monsters, we had to spell it out to avoid using the word for a good month and a half).

From the scary – “there’s a monster in my bed Mammy, it’s purple and I don’t like it” – to the ridiculous – hearing “what’s that coming over the hill, is it a monster, is it a monster” by The Automatic in a charity shop and Joss needing to leave the store NOW to get away from it! – it wasn’t an easy time as it really disrupted her sleep and disturbed her.

The problem was, Joss was unable to say what a monster was or where she’d heard the word or got the idea to be scared so it was hard for us to tackle. Here’s what we found worked after some research, these form our 5 ways to overcome common toddler fears

1) Recognise the fear

Don’t belittle their fear, it’s very real for them however imagined or surreal it might seem to us big people. We acknowledged that Joss was scared of monsters and talked about them in a way she could understand, I said that I could understand how it felt to be afraid – “it’s hard when something is scary, I understand you don’t want to go into the living room, let’s hold hands and go in together”

2) Talk about the fear truthfully, use books or other tools

Rather than saying that there’s no reason to be afraid or that monsters are not real we talked about them instead. She had some books about monsters, we talked about how they looked silly, what colours they were, that they made us laugh. She still had this dialogue of ‘monsters are scary’ but that slowly started to be replaced by ‘monsters are silly…’ We had some tough decisions about whether to start with monster spray or clear the room rituals that Id read about, I am glad we avoided these as I think they may have sustained or reinforced the fears instead, I think it helped more to be consistent and offer lots of repetition and praise. For slightly older children asking them to draw a monster or another fear might be a useful tool

3) Use lots of praise

I praised Joss’ efforts to overcome her fears, we had a spell where she insisted there was a scary monster under her chair, I encouraged her to point to the scary monster and say you’re not scary, you’re silly, and when she did I used lots of praise and encouragement, when she started to get scared of loud noises we did the same.

4) Use humour but don’t laugh about it if they’re upset

Children can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s imaginary so don’t laugh at them when they’re afraid, help them talk their way through the fear with you instead.

5) Make nighttime less scary

At the height of our time exploring monster fears Joss started to show signs of becoming afraid during bedtime, we did a lot of work to reassure her that Mammy and Daddy are here for her and we kept the hall light on for a few evenings. Over time her fears started to subside. Then we noticed that at times of change, my working away for a few days or her grandparents going on holiday and not seeing them for a little while seemed to unsettle her and bring back the fears again. With lots of praise and reassurance we have been helping her to understand change and prepare her for change by talking to her about where she is going for the day, what we are doing and building a strong sense of attachment.

As her fears decrease she has become bolder, sometimes shouting monster, run! She has also started to draw monsters and give them names so we’re moving away from something she’s too scared to speak about to her being able to be much more vocal about the fear and work it out for herself.

Do your little ones have any fears? How do you help them through?

- See more at: http://mumsdays.com/#sthash.RFuw1FtF.dpuf

Eating out with kids in Newcastle

Very excited to have a guest post up over on the Tots100 site about Eating Out with Kids in Newcastle

Eating Out with Kids in Newcastle

Eating out with kids in Newcastle


Serving up great Sardinian pasta with amazing customer service Panis Cafe is our gold standard venue for family food in Newcastle. The welcoming staff genuinely love kids, my two year old daughter Joss always gets a great reception and last time we popped in they remembered her order! The decor is a really interesting one for children too, a bit like a cave with decorative mouldings and lighting – it’s a real talking point! (We recommend trying the Malloreddus cun Sartizzu, coloured pasta with Italian sausage in a tasty tomato and garlic sauce. It’s a great one for kids to dig into, full of flavour and the bright pasta colours add an unusual twist.) Service is swift, ideal if you’re dining with little ones.

Best for kids’ activities

For a really special dining experience As You Like It offers a weekly Kids Club with characters and storytelling every Saturday and Sunday between 12 – 4pm. Pirates and princesses abound and the kids’ menu is pretty special too: £6.95 for starter, main, dessert and a drink. The small person’s Sunday roast is a hit here and the portion sizes are spot on. This is a great venue for a kids’ birthday party or for a special treat after a day out.

Best for a buzzing atmosphere

If you’re looking to add a bit of zing to your children’s palates head to Zapatista Burrito Bar. The food here is fast, healthy and tasty – and it’s served in a buzzing environment. Portions are big so we often share a burrito but there’s a good kids range too. It can get really busy here so, if the weather’s good, we sometimes head back out to sit on the grass outside Newcastle’s Civic Centre as the takeaway service is brilliant. The sweet shredded pork is to die for and if you’re feeling brave and not sharing with a tot try the chipotle sauce – smoking hot!

Best for culture

Newcastle’s museums are brilliantly varied, educational and child-friendly. Our favourite is the Hancock (also known as the Great North Museum). Once you’ve explored the natural science, archaeological and cultural exhibits head downstairs to the Street Cafe. This is somewhere we often stop for a simple sandwich lunch before heading back out to play on days where I’ve not managed to make a packed lunch.


Who doesn’t love an ice-cream? If we fancy a treat we often head to one of the three Mark Toney venues in town. If staying for lunch you can get a child-sized portion of any adult meal and the home cooking is good too. But the real reason we pop in is for the phenomenal ices! The ice-cream parlour decor adds to the traditional feel, the knickerbocker glory is a big hit with us.

Best for a brilliant cuppa

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay and play whilst you have a good brew The Basement Coffee House is a hidden secret in the centre of town. Huge squishy sofas, a fab selection of drinks, paninis, bakes and snacks and a smashing playroom at the back for tots – this is a great place to meet with friends and chill out. The service could not be friendlier and, as the coffee shop belongs to Cornerstone Church which runs a lot of youth activities, it’s also project that does a lot of good too.

Best for cake

Afternoon tea in the city centre is a fave of ours and Tea on the Green is the place to come for mouth-watering cakes, tasty sandwich combos and a truly great cuppa (the scones are amazing too!). A family-run and welcoming gem in the city, the vintage china is pretty special and adds to the experience – as does the loose leaf tea.

Best for quality ingredients

Finally, Bill Quay Farm Cafe over the river in Gateshead deserves a special mention. The Farm was recently voted top North East outdoor play venue and the cafe does a cracking range of local food, varied specials and home baking. Our favourites are the soups and curries, like this World Cup Special – so good they don’t last long! If you’re lucky, you can pick up some fresh farm eggs or some Bill Quay sausages to cook at home too!

Ripening tomatoes and thinking ahead to next year’s yardening

Next year I really want to make this little space sing, we’ve had a big success with transforming the yarden this year but there’s a way to go to make it really do all of the things I want it to.

Yarden update

Namely I want to grow more to eat!

This year the herbs have done superbly and have been a lovely addition, so much so that I’m sharing my lemon balm tea recipe again!

fresh lemon balm tea recipe

And these ripening tomatoes are coming along so nicely I thought a little photostudy was in order, now I’m off to ponder and plan…

ripening tomatoes