Our dream family garden makeover

*Heads up* we have a yard, not a garden, a yarden if you will, but there’s no disputing that it’s a green space! I thought we’d be pretty limited on play equipment with a yard, but Activity Toys Direct have some great all-surface toys that would be a welcome addition to our currently very grown-up space.


Mr B and I, as well as our upstairs neighbour, have put a lot of hard work and imagination into getting as far as we have with what was a blank canvas. We now have a bright, airy space, with white painted walls to reflect the light and lots and lots of pretty pots. Some of the things I’d like to do in this space include buying a chiminea with a built in pizza stone so that we could keep warm in the late summer whilst having something to bake flatbreads and pizzas on. I’d also love to buy some of the investment plants that do well in pots, you know, the ones that you can only afford to buy one a year of! I’m thinking particularly of a pelargonium collection, lots of lupins, and an oriental poppy, for starters. We’d also love a wrought iron table and chairs, we don’t have any storage so something hardwearing will be essential. My pinterest board gives a flavour of what I like! We went ‘fantasy shopping’ with £750, and this is what we came up with.


What is isn’t yet is a family space fit for a toddler – this week Joss learned a new word, “outside” and she needs an outside that is a welcoming and safe space -it needs a few finishing touches, and this is where Activity Toys Direct comes in.

The gold standard toy for this space would have to be something that would compensate for the lack of any grass or turf, the Step2 Neat and Tidy Cottage is ideal, as it has an internal moulded-in plastic floor with drainage, rather than the hard uneven ground that is currently under foot. With kitchen, doors and windows and a sweet little mailbox this would really transform what is already a much improved space into the ultimate toddler play area. I would be really happy for Joss to have friends round to play with this setup, and would feel that we were providing a safe space for roleplay and outdoor creative activities alike.

With a small flat space is at a premium, so this lovely playhouse also has the added advantage of providing a little extra storage space. Space for a few additional roleplay type toys, for example this little bakery or laundry set, which could tuck nicely away with the help of a tarpaulin to protect everything from the inclement weather. Thinking about having friends around, this lovely easel could stand outside on the ground nicely with no need for grass, or could come indoors for playdates too!

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Activity Toys Direct helped us to see that we didn’t need to keep putting off outdoor play until we can finally afford to move to a house with a garden, we already have a lovely space, we just need a makeover with some finishing touches to make it more child friendly!

This blog post is an entry into the Tots100/Activity Toys Direct garden makeover competition

My handmade Boston Tweed Handbag Part 2

I went back to finish my bag making course today, it was hard work! It was actually really tiring doing a 10 – 4 class, more tiring than a day with a toddler, a work or uni day, and that was really surprising as I normally find craft really relaxing, but this nearly finished me off!

I am utterly delighted with the results though, this tweed fabric colourway is perfect for with my winter parka and really retro which is just right up my street! I like the simple leather straps, they were the hardest part to do actually, I really struggled with the rivets but got there in the end, it also has rivet feet and a hard plastic base to give it a good solid shape.


I am a massive fan of the doctor bag, I like a structured handbag so when the instructor said we’d be using a frame I was really pleased. It’s a little different to what I thought I had signed up for, I imagined an introduction course being about basic sewing, a tote or shopper perhaps, but I’m over the moon with this!


From Babies with Love

As you know I work in the Charitable sector and I am always interested to hear about new and innovative work that is happening, now I have Joss, particularly around children and families. When I entered a Facebook competition to win a gorgeous organic cotton romper from the organisation From Babies With Love I had no idea that they were a charitable organisation, when I won I read more about them. I wanted to do something in return so this blog post is in thanks, my disclaimer is that I won a lovely romper and asked FBWL for some photos for this post, all words are my own.


From Babies With Love was set up to offer baby products to the market, made ethically and with great customer service with 100% profit going to babies in need. 100% profit goes to the charity SOS Children, the largest international charity group dedicated to the care of orphaned and abandoned children. You can read more at From Babies With Love

SOS Children's Village Basse

I love the products that are on offer, how sweet are these rompers?!

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And Jossy? Well she looked so cosy ready for bed last night and the romper is so soft that I love it! If you’re looking for an ethical gift idea, or something nice for your little one’s we recommend FBWL for a gift that keeps on giving!


It’s International Babywearing Week!

I have carried Joss since she was a tiny dot, here she is in our first sling, a Babasling, at 3w old


I loved the closeness and hands free aspect in the early days, and carrying a toddler in a sling makes a lot of sense too, great for tired little legs and lovely sleepy cuddles on the go. They’ve seen us through poorly days, tired teething days and shopping days as we don’t have a car. I don’t have a ‘stash’ – some people have tens of slings, we have three, a warm winter woollen, a carrier and a cotton summer sling, whether you use a big supportive length of fabric, or one of many in a stash, the benefits to carrier and carried are many and varied. Do you use a sling? I’d love to hear your experiences!


And finally, this made me smile, Happy International Babywearing Week, keep calm and carry them!


Potato week? Try a cheese and potato pie!

It’s potato week, and I prefer the simple potato dishes, so here’s my cheese and potato pie! I know others make it with layered pots and cream but that’s a bit too rich for me! This is perfect as a side dish for a bigger meal, or we have this as comfort food, with a side of green veg.

To serve four

8 medium potatoes, diced into inch pieces
1 medium sized onion, peeled and diced (I like it diced finely)
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon butter
150g of grated mature Cheddar cheese

Boil the onions and potatoes together until soft, then drain and mash with butter and milk
Add about 2/3 of your cheese at this point and spoon into a baking dish
Top with the remaining cheese and bake at 180 C until the cheese has totally melted and is starting to bubble and turn golden

And finally, as it’s potato week, here’s our favourite potato, ready to be stitched into a page of Joss’ busy book that I’m working on for Christmas, Mrs Potatohead with Velcro hat, bag and feet!


Taking those first unaided steps outside

I am so proud of our smiley Jossy, this week she took her first few unaided steps outside! My favourite link into Small Steps Amazing Achievements to date!

A few photos capturing the moment


Gearing up


Ready, steady…




And topping off the moment, Joss said “night night” to us before bed, what a big day for all of us!

Book Review: ToddlerCalm by Sarah Ockwell-Smith

My recent post on doing your reading but putting the books aside and trusting instincts rings true again. Having read BabyCalm by Ockwell-Smith and found that it was a useful resource to dip into, whilst listening to my inner voice I was pleased to be offered a free copy of ToddlerCalm to read and review. With a baby I felt a bit out of my depth, with a toddler I seem to get even more conflicting advice!

What I like about Ockwell-Smith’s ethos is that she is supportive of a sensible attachment parenting approach. It is great to see for example that she recommends the use of a toddler carrier for free hands, and recommends parents don’t worry about ‘spoiling or creating dependency’ in creating a healthy attachment. I chose two areas that are relevant to us at the moment, although I know the book will grow to be with us a while as we are just entering the toddler phase:

Area one: Toddler eating

We are entering the throwing and ‘don’t want it, no wait I do, no I want cheese, oh wait I don’t’ phase:

I suspected that this was an issue of control when that too-ing and fro-ing started. Ockwell-Smith suggests offering some control to your child, for example some choices about what they might like to eat. Our favourite ‘carpet picnic’ crops up, that I blogged about a while ago, I thought Daddy coined that phrase but it seems to be in common usage. I also found it helpful to read about mealtimes, Ockwell-Smith suggests that we try not to be too rigid about 12pm lunch, dinner at 4pm etc, and says we should “respect the child’s natural appetite.” This was harder for me in the early days but my getting stressed about no-food mealtimes was not the answer and Joss did indeed eat when she was hungry, just not at the times I’d have expected. The Sarah and Gemma stories about their grazers also rang true, I took from the casestudies that following the toddler’s lead results in happier mealtimes for all. I really like the use of case studies in the book as they demonstrate well that these are just phases that we are helping our children through.

Area two: Tantrums

An early area for us but we have started to see a few silent and a few not so silent protests. I think the tips for ignoring negative comments from others is crucial, as children pick up from our emotional responses, I think when the times comes for public tantrums I might find this difficult, but this part of the book is definitely all about parentcalm, so I found the top tips on handling a public tantrum helpful, particularly remembering there are no winners or losers and being ‘too soft or too harsh’ isn’t the way to go, this links to Ockwell-Smith’s comments about the difference between authoritative and authoritarian parenting, and I agree that a healthy balance is something that is worked on and keeps in mind our long term parenting goals.

I look forward to dipping in and out of ToddlerCalm over the coming months! I would have liked to have seen a little more around some of the toddler stage specifics like potty training, although there are case studies around this some more focussed advice would have been interesting, but we might have to just see where that journey takes us!


Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for review, all views are my own