31 July 2014

Heddons Mouth- A lovely walk

We are holidaying in a lovely part of North Devon, the coastline is all around us, it is beautiful, there are large cliff faces jutting out with fabulous views across the sea, beautiful valleys filled with greenery and trickling streams and raging rivers running through, beaches for paddling and harbours with working boats to watch. 

Having been to the area before we knew of a lovely walk that we wanted the Little ones to experience, just a few minutes drive from where we were staying, in a place called Heddon Valley, it is a National Trust area and the walk is along the river to the sea, Heddon's Mouth, in between two steep valleys covered in broken rocks and rubble from when lime was sourced there, the lime kilns can still be found at the beach end of the walk.

I did it, I climbed up myself

The walk can take you either side of the river as there are two bridges where you can cross, we walked up one side and down the other, it is a little longer than a mile each way so far enough for the Little ones to walk and doesn't take ages.

A moment of pondering a top of the rocks

When we first arrived at Heddon Valley we stopped in the National Trust car park and had a play on the grass by the stream, our picnic lunch as well as a little look around the shop. There is a lovely pub there that is popular with walkers too.

We walked along the left hand side of the river until we reached where it met the sea, the river disappeared under the large rocks and pebbles on the beach and appeared again further down the beach flowing into the sea.

view from the cliff

While us grown ups took the opportunity to rest our feet and have a sit down on the sun warmed pebbles the Little ones were off exploring the rocks and the stream, finding pebbles to throw trying to splash each other and reach the deep part of the stream. 

They had fun looking for coloured pebbles, paddling and made little statues and towers with the stones.

Little 1 tried to see what size stones she could lift and what kind of splash they made in the stream, while Little 2 scratched marks onto the pebbles and tried to write her name.

We had a lovely relaxing time playing on the beach and stayed almost a couple of hours, the girls were happy and we were all relaxed and enjoying our holiday. The Little ones were rather tired on the walk back and a couple of piggy backs were in order, Little 2 even managed to fall asleep on my back! We must have tired them out!

28 July 2014

Rumaging in rockpools

This week we are on holiday in sunny North Devon. I was born and bred in Devon and holidayed in the area as a child too, it is an area we return to as a family now that we live further away, we love the views, the fresh air, the coast and taking the children to places that we went to as we were growing up.

If you have read my previous holiday posts you will know that we always aim to have a beach within reach of our holiday destination, a holiday isn't complete for the Little Ones without sandy toes, paddling and ice creams, in fact come to think of it, I don't think we have been anywhere in the last 4 years without a beach!

After setting off early and munching breakfast in the car we had missed the bulk of the holiday traffic, by late morning we had arrived at our destination and after a quick stop for brunch as we were all starving, we headed straight for the rockpools while we waited for the allotted arrival time at our accommodation.

We made our way down to the beach with buckets and spades and two excited children, it was one of those small harbour beaches with that kind of dirty shingly sand and lots of rocks and rock pools so we avoided the sand and started exploring the rock pools.

The Little ones got stuck straight in with their buckets seeing what they could find, not hesitating to look under seaweed and paddle through the water, we found crabs, lots and lots of tiny 1-2cm ones in almost see through grey and white, they were everywhere. There were also little fish, sea snails, and anemones to be found lurking in the sunny pools.

There was lots of paddling and digging up of stones too, Little 2 spent ages filling her bucket with muddy shingle, emptying it and doing it again.

In no time at all it was time to leave and we bundled two soggy happy little children into the car, both asking if we could come back again tomorrow. Maybe not tomorrow but there will be several more beach trips this holiday and that's for sure. What a lovely way to spend the first afternoon of our holiday.

26 July 2014

A gorgeous little fairy door for my girls

With two little girls in our house there is often talk of fairies, Tinkerbell and all things girly. Little 1 is getting older and is definitely becoming more girly, she always wants to wear a dress or skirt now, her trousers lay growing too small at the bottom of her drawer. She talks of pretty things and has taken to dancing around the living room singing Frozen songs at the top of her voice.

The Little ones have recently become the proud owners of a beautifully crafted fairy door, from Fairy Nice Trading. Fairy Nice trading make handmade fairy doors, each one lovingly individually crafted, we chose the Fairy tweet door that comes decorated with a lovely bird box and pink and green paper roses. Each door is also adorned with a lovely door knob with a little crystal, a letter box and a working door knocker.

The door arrived carefully packaged with a personalised letter to the girls telling them how to use the door and to take care of it, inside the envelope was also a tiny key.

beautifully crafted
teeny tiny fairy key
Fairy doors are attached with glue (or we used sticky fixers) above the skirting board or anywhere on the wall of your choice (seeing as fairies can fly). We decided as we have a two year old and two cats in our house placing the door higher up would be the best thing to do otherwise it might get damaged. We placed ours outside Little 1's bedroom as that was the best piece of wall, where both girls can see it from their bedrooms, high enough that Little 1 can reach it but Little 2 can't (yet).

The idea of the door is that your child will get a visit from the fairies (that being Mummy or Daddy!) when they have been good or done something great, when they need bit of encouragement or even lose a tooth. We have told the girls that the fairies are watching then and will see when they do good and bad things.

The fairies first visited Little 1 a few days after our door arrived, she had an excellent preschool report and so the fairies left her a note saying how pleased they were with her behaviour and proud of her achievements they also left her a little butterfly pen and notepad. She was really pleased and excited insisting on taking in into preschool to show her teachers (alongside a brief explanation from me!).

We have decided with the girls that when the time comes and they lose their milk teeth they are going to leave them by the fairy door and knock the knocker to let the fairies know they are there, hoping for coin in the morning. 

I have had lots of fun looking for little trinkets that can be left for the girls and begun to stock up on a few things for unexpected events (like the school report). We are going on holiday soon and I found a little plastic bucket, spade, sailing boat, rubber ring and pretend sandcastle as a free gift on a well known kids magazine recently, I gave the Little ones the magazine having removed the gift before giving it to them ready for the fairies to leave the holiday themed gift before we go. I think I am going to have lots of fun with this! 

Fairy Nice Trading have a website www.fairynicetrading.com, they are also on Facebook and Twitter too.

N.B We received a small discount on our fairy door in return for this post. This was not a sponsored post.

25 July 2014

Toogiez - the wearable, playable, stickable sidekick for kids!

Have you heard about Toogiez? They have just launched in the UK, Toogiez are a range of attachable plushy toys that come with specially designed t-shirts. There is a velcro shape on the t-shirt and on the back of the toy so that your child can proudly display their favourite character on their chest and carry their new favourite toy with them wherever they go.

There are many characters in the range. There is a princess, a fairy, girl and boy superhero, a pirate, spaceman, duck, dog, teddy, a baby and several others, some of which are shown below.

We were asked to try out one of the t-shirts, to see what Little 1 thought. Our Toogiez arrived in a cute little fabric bag with a little card telling us the name and a little description of our new friend as well as the other friends in the range.

The velcro attachment
Little 1 immediately liked her new fairy friend and took her off the t-shirt to play with, she spent the rest of the day holding her whenever she was sat quietly and kept going back to her. The toy is like a little foam filled pillow really which is probably why Little 1 liked holding her as she has the same sort of texture as her comforter and is easy to hold. She has played with her new friend on and off for the last few days, so hasn't spent much time on her t-shirt!!

The Toogeiz we received was from an original prototype batch with hearts on the girls t-shirt, the designs have been revamped for the launch and are now a fairy castle and city scape design, pictures below...

Toogiez are available for ages 2-8. they are currently only available from kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/10957565/toogiez-playable-wearable-stickable-sidekicks 

Toogiez have just been launched this week, why not pop over and check them out, you can also find them on twitter and facebook.

N.B We were sent a toogeiz and t-shirt for this review, all views and opinions are our own. This was not a sponsored post.

23 July 2014

Little 2 is going to playgroup.

After my recent post Ready for playgroup? I went on the internet searching the Ofsted reports and I came across a preschool at a school 15 minutes walk away that takes preschool age children in the morning and a rising 3's age group in the afternoons, this school was one of our choices for Little 1 and I know it is a good one so we arranged to go and look around.

Fun scooting in the garden

It was amazing, the children were beautifully behaved and engaged the whole half hour we were there, there is a sensory room, they have chicks at Easter, a big garden with adventure area and there was a room filled with the things the children had made that year all ready to go home for the end of term. Little 2 was so comfortable she went off to play near us as we talked. Having worked in several nurseries over the years I know a good setting when I see one and this one was ace, the Ofsted report said they were outstanding too, why had I never heard of it before?

Little 2 naturally falls into their September intake as she will be 2 years 9 months in that period, they only take 15 new children per term (Sept, Xmas and Easter), which we thought was great, only a few other children will be there when she starts and lots of staff to help with settling as Little 2 hasn't been away from me before. The only small niggle is that it finishes at almost the same time as Little 1 finishes school but they said there was no problem picking her up 15 mins early so I can get to school on time for Little 1, apparently they have a few from the other two nearby schools that do this too.

She has been offered 2 afternoons a week starting mid September which times well as Little 1 starts going to school full time then and I won't have to pick her up at lunchtime and take her sister to playgroup all at once. Once we get into a new routine I think it will do us both good, it will be lots of exercise for me to school and home then playgroup and back then back to both for pick up, and hour and a half for me to have just to myself -completely alone, its been a long time since I had time to myself and exciting new opportunities and friends for Little 1 and 2 as well.

Little 2 is really looking forward to going to 'pre-school' as she calls it, she has to wear a little green t-shirt with the logo on and also has a green book bag just like the one Little 1 has for school. It is a new era for us with one child starting school and the other going to playgroup for the first time, what will I do in my free time, blogging probably!!

21 July 2014

Time for playgroup?

Little 1 will be going to school in September, having looked on the calendar that is just 6 weeks away eek, and while Little 1 is at school it will just be Little 2 and I. 
I have been thinking recently that Little 2 is going to get bored with her sister absent 5 days a week. Little 2 is bright, at nearly 2 and a half her language skills and memory are amazing, she is beyond where she should be. (I trained in child development so I know when I say this, I am not boasting- honest). I think she is going to need more than I can give her to keep her entertained and occupied all week without her sister around to play with. 

At the moment Little 1 currently attends preschool 2.5 days so we are used to quiet days without her around, I usually use those days to do the laundry and food shopping with just one child in tow. During the week we attend toddler group one morning and Tumble Tots another as well as Messy play sessions occasionally so we have a couple of mornings filled each week. We go to the park together and when Little 1 is at home as well as playing together, we do arty activities and throw in the odd playdate too, however although this sounds like we are busy we are actually at home a lot particularly in the afternoons. Add to this that Daddy has the car for work so I can not venture very far during the week. I think we are going to get bored doing this week in, week out while Little 1 is at school. 

I started thinking about whether Little 2 would benefit from attending playgroup this year, she has her name down to attend preschool like her big sister but that is not until September next year as all the preschools are so oversubscribed around here they only take them the year before they start school. 

We did some research to find what is about and actually the provision is really rather poor, there aren't any playgroups near us despite living in an area with 3 schools really close together, a community centre and village hall. We found one a little way away and went to look around, but it wasn't for us and would have been a bit of a trek with the pushchair anyway. There was no need for Little 2 to go to nursery which is quite expensive and I didn't see the point in a childminder as she wasn't going to do anymore there than she would with me. I just wanted something for her to do a few hours a week, a chance to get messy and explore, learn some new things and for her to spend some time with children her age rather than just her older sister.

Should I find something for her to do this year? What would you do?

19 July 2014

Homemade fruity yoghurt smoothie lollies

With the warmer weather upon us the need to cool down two sweaty children has arisen on many occasions, the ice pops had run out and after spotting the Centre Parcs July challenge to make homemade lollies, we decided to make our own.

We had recently acquired a new lolly maker but had only used it for fruit juice and squash lollies up until now so this time we took some inspiration from Center Parcs lolly enthusiast, Deb Rogerson.
'Want to experiment with different flavours? Mix Greek yoghurt with a squeeze of honey, then just add your own additional flavouring. How about adding some crushed blackberries or blending banana in with the yoghurt'
We make our own yoghurt at home and had some fresh vanilla yoghurt made up ready to use.

I decided a summer berry mix would be nice as the Little ones love all kinds of berries. We had some raspberries and strawberries in the fridge so in order to remove the seeds that I didn't think the Little ones would like in their lollies we mashed them through a sieve. Little 1 did the strawberries....

And Little 2 did the raspberries...

We ended up with a thick tasty syrup of the mashed fruit, no skin and no seeds, to this we added a few generous dollops of yoghurt and got mixing.

We half filled the lolly moulds as we were intending to make two flavour lollies and put them on the freezer at an angle to create a diagonal line.

Later when the bottom half was frozen we added the second layer of blended peach and the yoghurt mixed together, the Little ones were very careful filling the mould and there was some tasting going on too!

We carefully put on the lids and put them in the freezer to set.

The following day was warm and sunny, perfect for tasting lollies in the garden. The two colours looked good, the Little ones got stuck in and loved the berry layer.

As I had blended the peaches, the peach layer had pulp in it, the Little ones were not so keen on the bits in this layer and didn't fully finish their ice lollies, but Mummy and Daddy were happy to polish them off! Next time I think we'll stick to sieving the fruits so there aren't any bits.
We have been thinking of more tasty flavours to make, our blueberries are nearly ready to pick in the garden, I think I might add them whole to yoghurt and try them like that, The girls will love digging out the fruit.

This is my entry to the Center Parcs and Tots100 July challenge. If I am chosen I would like to visit Longleat Forest.

17 July 2014

It's all about yellow

You may have heard me mention over the last month or so that little 1 will be starting school in September, yes that's right, my once tiny little baby is now all grown up enough to go to 'big school'.

I have bought the uniform, it has been labelled and sits neatly in her drawers, which we rearranged together last week to accommodate it all, waiting for the day to come when she gets to wear it.

Over the last few weeks Little 1 has attended a few story sessions put on by the school to meet her new teacher and class mates, she has walked into these sessions with a smile on her face and a spring in her step and come out running towards me happy with a big grin on her face, I thought we were going to be ok.

She has been attending the preschool attached to the school for the past year and used many of the school facilities, the hall, playground etc throughout the year and did her nativity singalong as part of the reception nativity so she is familiar with the school and really looking forward to attending, being a big girl and wearing her uniform.

She is going to be in Yellow class (hence the title of this post), she wakes every morning asking if today is the day when she will go to yellow class and I have to tell her 'No, not yet' (after the holidays just doesn't work with a 4 year old), there is a mini strop as she wants to go TODAY and then she gets up happy and smiling as always and gets on with her day.

But something isn't right she has been clingy recently, wanting more cuddles, to be picked up (she is too heavy for that now), she is easily upset and the word 'No' sets off the waterworks (throwing herself sobbing onto the sofa kind of tears because I won't let her have a biscuit before dinner!). I am sure it is a bit of anxiety towards school, it must be a scary place when you are 4. 

We have had extra cuddles and little chats, one on one time and read stories about going to school, she seems ok on the outside, she says she is looking forward to it and can't wait. I just think she is a bit nervous underneath, which is completely understandable.

Something she said though today though makes me think it is not actual school but friendships bothering her, you see there are 3 reception classes at her school. Her two closest friends and a few others she mainly played with at preschool are in another class together as well as several others who she went to nursery with before starting preschool, considering that half of each class is made up of those who attended preschool she doesn't have anyone in her class that she plays with very much they are all in the same other class.

She said to me today, 'Mummy why am I not in that class, I don't play with anyone in my class they are all in the other class', I didn't have an answer for her, I said I didn't know and felt terrible for her. I know it was recommended that her and her closest friend were separated but I agreed on that as they are a bit too close and I don't think being together would have given either of them the chance to grow and make new friends.

She is happy to be in yellow class and loves her teacher, she hasn't said she wants to be in the other class. I think she feels she has been separated from the others and it does look like that from her perspective but I'm sure it wasn't deliberate. I have done what I can do to prepare her for school, the uniform, the storybooks and the support etc but what I can not prepare her for are the inevitable friendship troubles, the breakups, the best friend one day-worst enemy the next heartache that she will have to deal with at school. 

It has brought up old feelings of my own time at school, I was bullied, I didn't have many friends, even now I only have a couple of good friends, and the friends I did make at school tended to make other friends easily and move on. I didn't like the social side of school and I am scared that this will happen to Little 1 too.

We have done what we can for her, she is happy, funny, popular and has more confidence than I ever did but she is anxious too. I am proud of the little girl I will be waving off at the school gates and don't doubt her ability to make friends and everyone will love her personality, I know that. 

I just can't help worrying if my little girl will be alright on that rollercoaster of emotions that 'big school' brings. I can't be there for her at school, all I can do is help her deal with whatever life throws at her, celebrate the good times and offer a shoulder and cuddle through the not so good. 

I do hope she will be happy.


15 July 2014

Decorating ducks with Little 2

I've said before that the Little ones like collecting things and our last little stroll was no exception. Little 2 had collected feathers, seeds, grass and a leaf when we popped out for a coffee and stroll around a lake nearby with Nanny on her recent day off while Little 1 was at preschool.

There had been lots of ducks on the lake, we had fed them bread, and spotted a stork too.

I had the idea of following on the duck theme the next day when I came across the feathers. Little 1 was at preschool again so I decided to have a bit of one on one creative time with Little 2. I hopped onto the internet and printed off a couple of duck templates with the idea of sticking the feathers on. They were rather small so I ended up drawing a duck freehand instead, I don't think it looked too bad for someone who can't draw!

Little 2 couldn't wait to get started, she loves sticking. She took her time and was very methodical covering the page with glue, dipping it carefully and waiting for it to drip before glueing the paper.

She enjoyed sticking the feathers on the duck and the seeds below to make grass, the leaf was apparently a tree!

Little 2's mini duck creation
After clearing up the sticking we moved onto colouring the other pictures, even I coloured one in and found it rather therapeutic. Her duck pictures are now on display in the kitchen and she proudly showed them to Daddy and Little 1 when they got home. Little 1 has now insisted I draw her some ducks to colour too.