Saturday 30 March 2013

We're going on a snail hunt..

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Having been sent a Snail World kit to review my children immediately wanted to try it out. So they donned warm clothing and headed out into our garden...

We looked by the shed:

We looked under the bushes:

We looked along the fence by the drive:

But all we found was this one empty snail shell:

So it appears that all the snails are still sensibly hibernating! Looks like we will have to have another snail hunt when the weather is warm enough for them to come out.. A good lesson in studying minibeast habits though.

Friday 29 March 2013

Friday Book Review: Otter Chaos! by Michael Broad

Otter Chaos! by Michael Broad
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed sharing this with my son at bedtimes. Its a simple story about the conflict between 2 otters that dates back to their youth so that they still hate each other when they are grandfathers.

Each otter has his own family (the Blacks and the Browns) with 3 generations all needing a new home. The 2 youngest otters in each family are best friends so they are very upset to learn of the family feud. Things get worse when both families claim the same new home as theirs.

As the grandfathers used to be boxers as young otters they decide that the 2 families must compete against each other in varying competitions to see which family deserves to win the nice big home. It is only the 2 mother otters that take a back seat on this and build up a friendship whilst observing their families antics.

The characters of each of the otters are well created so that they are all individuals. The question is can the young otters friendship survive the contest? And which family will be made homeless at the end of the day?

A good book for confident young readers or to share as there are just enough illustrations and the story keeps you going.

View all my reviews

Thursday 28 March 2013

Reasons to be Cheerful: Week 13 #R2BC

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

Clare is still looking after the linky over at Seasider in the City so please have a look and say hello! Meanwhile here are my reasons to be cheerful this week:

1) Go me!

I haven't had one of these for months so I am so pleased:

All the hard work of running and dropping the calories paid off with a 3 lb loss. Now I just  need to watch out in the school holidays that it doesn't creep back on again... But that leads me on to:

2) School Holidays

We all broke up today and its nice to think we have just over 2 weeks with no school. Hoping to mix up chilling, getting out and about and house sorting! Watch this space for what we get up to.

3) Running

I am well into week 8 and its 28 minutes at a time! Funnily enough the first time I did this in the snow I just managed it but today I set off too fast on first half and struggled. Its fab to be going twice around the loop now and I just hope that I can squeeze in my 3 runs a week whilst kids off school. It does help on sunny days when I get views like this:

4) Walk in her shoes

I may have finished the challenge a while back but my local paper has only just put me in the news:

Its not too late to donate to help Care International provide safe drinking water to more villages.

Why are you smiling this week?

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Whose eggs? Easter family forest fun #weloveforests

Your local forest is a great place to have fun this Easter and they have plenty of activities to do with your children such as this downloadable activity sheet. It is full of facts such as:

Then there is a challenge to find something related to those facts:

And a place to draw something too:

If you want even more ideas go to their Discover and Explore page.

Josephine Lavelle, Forestry Commission, says:
“Easter isn't just about chocolate, it's a time when lots of woodland animals lay their eggs. Our free downloadable activity sheets will help children learn about more about the forest and the animals that call it their home.”

For those you want to combine fun with fitness the forests can also be wonderful places to get on your bikes as a family. If you want to know which forest is best for your family's cycling abilities then they have a great search engine to help you choose.

Paddy Harrop, Forestry Commission:
“Lots of families come to the Forest of Dean to enjoy the fresh air in their lungs and have a good run around. The Family Cycle Trail is pretty popular, and visitors have rated it a 4.2/5. It’s laid over former railway lines with connecting routes to local villages and picnic sites – you can imagine how nice it is on a sunny day – and it ends with a long downhill stretch which is a hit with children and grown-ups alike!”
I know I'll be off to Whinlatter at some point over this Easter break (snow permitting!) and maybe I'll get the bikes on the car and head back over to Grizedale now my children can both cycle. 

Monday 25 March 2013

Family Fun: Easter baking

My daughter decided she was going to make some Easter biscuits yesterday. A fun thing to do on a cold Sunday. So she grabbed her favourite cookery book and started looking for recipes she fancied making. Then she had a look to see if we had the ingredients in the cupboard... Uh oh we couldn't make of any of them.

So I turned to google and looked for recipes which only needed flour, sugar, margarine and eggs. A little bit of searching later and I found a recipe for Easter bunny biscuits. I had to then read out the ingredients to my daughter so she could measure them and then mix them in the bowl. We had one big mishap with an egg ending up on the floor but eventually the dough was ready to chill in the fridge.

After tea we got the dough out again and my daughter set to rolling it out, she quickly learnt that plenty of flour was needed to stop the dough sticking! Then it was time to cut out shapes using our biscuit cutters:

We had so much dough we could make lots of different shapes for me to bake in the oven:

It caused much amusement when one of our men shaped biscuits was a little bit more manly than the others:

The recipe was a little bit time consuming with the kneading and chilling but the biscuits are vanishing fast... We haven't decorated them like it says in the recipe they taste nice enough on their own. 

Saturday 23 March 2013

#CountryKids in the Church yard

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Church yards can be like a mini countryside setting whether they are in town or country. They are like a little green oasis and great places to spend time with children! Whether its looking for nature or reading the gravestones there is so much to do.

The church next to my children's school is a good place to fill 15 minutes when waiting to pick up the children. This week big girl was off sick so she and I spent time wandering around until little brother came out:

Some of the gravestones made us sad when you work out that the child buried there was only weeks if not months old. It may seem a bit morbid wandering around graves but my daughter and I found it very interesting and some stones had lots of fascinating information on them:

With it being a cold spring there were flowers to see but not much wildlife. In summer I've seen slow worms basking in the sun! Don't think we'd find much today as its coated in snow:

So why don't you take your children down to the churchyard? You can hunt for wildlife or flowers with any aged child. Get early readers to try out reading the gravestones. For older ones you can create a grave scavenger hunt:

  • earliest/most recent date for burial
  • youngest/oldest person buried in grave yard
  • how many different occupations
  • most common surname
  • anyone born somewhere overseas

I'm sure you can think of more to add!

Friday 22 March 2013

Mums Helping Mums with Tilda and World Food Programme

I have just downloaded the free Mums Helping Mums cookbook from Tilda. Its packed full of yummy recipes from celebrity mums, bloggers and Tilda themselves. For each download Tilda will donate a meal to a mum in Bangladesh. So its a win win situation.

Here is what Tilda have to say about their Mums Helping Mums campaign:

Mums are one of the most important and special people in our lives. They witness our first steps, help us form those first few all-important words as well as nurture and feed us during our vital formative years. But, for many mothers in developing countries the simple task of providing a nutritious meal to their family is a hardship.

Lack of nutrients can lead to low birth weight, which can seriously affect a child’s physical and cognitive development, so it is essential that they receive vital nutrition early on. Through its ‘Mums Helping Mums’ campaign, Tilda has donated over 305,000 nourishing meals so far to the World Food Programme, helping thousands of mothers to give their unborn children the best start in life. This year, Tilda aims to help thousands more.

For every special pack of Tilda Pure Basmati sold,Tilda will be donating one nutrition-boosting meal to expectant mums in Bangladesh. As part of our pledge to help lend a helping hand to mums, we asked some of our favourite celebrity mums and parenting bloggers to share their favourite family recipes in aid of the World Food Programme. 

So far they have donated 130,000 meals this year thanks to people in the UK. This is the story from one mum who is being helped by the World Food Programme:

A mum’s story

For Nasima, nothing is more important than the health of the baby boy she is expecting. She lives in the village of Bambaria, in a flood prone area of northern Bangladesh with her day-labourer husband, her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Home is a small bamboo hut and putting food on the table is a daily struggle.
“My first baby died during delivery last year – the journey to the hospital by boat and cart was long and I was weak,” she says. She is determined that will not happen again.
Nasima, 19, is receiving nutritional support from WFP, under its programme for pregnant and nursing mothers. Her rations are delivered to her home every fortnight – a premixed combination of cereal flour and vitamin-fortified oil.
“I mix it with clean water, as they taught us, and make this WFP food into a porridge. Even if I get a little queasy these days, I make sure that I eat this WFP food morning and evening,” she says.
“I know that this food is making my baby strong so he will get the best start when he arrives in this world,” says Nasima. “He is the first grandchild for both our families, so he is very precious.”
Expectant mothers like Nasima are also trained through the WFP programme on hygiene, breastfeeding, how to prepare foods for young children and the essentials of a balanced diet.
Nasima will continue to receive her food supplement up until her baby is six months old while he is being exclusively breast fed. She will then receive supplementary foods for her son, in the crucial weaning period.
Despite having made inroads into poverty, Bangladesh has high levels of under nutrition.
Improving maternal and child nutrition is a pillar of WFP’s work. When a mother is malnourished she is more likely to have a low birth weight baby, who in turn will be more likely to get sick, have trouble concentrating in school and may earn less in adult life. This is called intergenerational nutrition.
WFP intervenes in the crucial 1000-day window from conception to two years of age, during which time not receiving sufficient nutrients can cause irreversible damage to the brains and bodies of youngsters.

Thursday 21 March 2013

Reasons to be Cheerful Week 12 Spring? #R2BC

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart
Our linky host is still Seasider in the City whilst Michelle is on her Lent break. So please pop over there to see why she is smiling! Meanwhile her are mine:

1) Spring?

The calendar may say that it is Spring but there are also a few signs around to show that things are changing (despite heavy snow forecast for tomorrow!). We have fields full of lambs and flowers are coming out all over. These are some I found today:

2) Time with the children

The upside of having to leave work to collect a sick child from school is that I got to spend a lot more time than normal with the children! My son and I got to snuggle up watching movies whilst his sister had a snooze and then played on the Wii. 

Today before picking up her little brother my daughter and I wandered around the church graveyard - strangely we are both fascinated by graves! It was good to look and see what was on the stones:

Then we got to spend time after school in the park with a couple of other brave families (it was a wee bit chilly). Lovely to be able to chat to some other parents whilst the children got some fresh air play.

3) Proud Mummy

My son passed his next stage of swimming so is going to be on stage 4 from next month! He is a cautious swimmer so we will see how he does in this next class... He also earned his 3rd Beaver badge for experiments:

So glad he is still really enjoying his colony and long may it continue!

His big sister was in the school talent show on Friday. Her act was a poem that she acted out as she told it. She may not have won a prize but the head teacher told me how much he enjoyed her act and the energy she put into it!

4) End in sight..

With another dose of tonsillitis keeping her off school I rang the hospital for news on the operation to whip them out. We now have just over a month to wait hopefully until they are gone and hopefully she will be a lot healthier and happier.

What is making you smile this week?

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Forest Learning for International Day of Forests 2013

March 21st is the International Day of Forests:

The United Nations wants an annual celebration of the world's forests to highlight why we need to protect them. This is their promotional video:

In England the Forestry Commission are responsible for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment and are therefore keen to get more people using our forests and learning from them and with them. 

Therefore on March 21st they are hosting over 30 events including:
  • a land skills event for a college group in Whitwell, Derbyshire
  • shelter building activities for 80 eight year old pupils at Whinlatter Forest in Cumbria
  • local primary schools in Kent are visiting Bedgebury Pinetum to go on an endangered tree walk
  • working with a Scout group in Bartley Green, near Birmingham, to help them work towards their Forester badge
  • taking a 6th form group with profound multiple learning difficulties on a sensory trail at Westonbirt, the Forestry Commission’s National Arboretum.
Sir Harry Studholme, Forestry Commission Chair, said;

“Trees and woodlands are important to all of us. They frame our landscapes and shape our environment. Our quality of life, even the air we breathe is enhanced by our trees. The timber in our woods impacts not just the natural but also the built environment. Our buildings and our furniture are showcases to the versatility of wood.

“The Public Forest Estate in England is a fantastic platform for the Forestry Commission to show the best of what can be done with forestry. How we manage our nation’s forests sustainably and safeguard them for the future: Leading the way in demonstrating how forests are an important part of the economy and good for the environment, while at the same time a space for people to enjoy themselves and experience nature.

“World Forestry Day promotes awareness of the value of forests across the globe. The learning resources launched today give information on the protection of, production and recreation of forests reminding us about how important they are. What better day to join in the celebrations and launch our new approach to learning!”

They want to highlight more of what the forest can offer not just as a nice place to visit but that they are a great learning resource. I am certainly looking forward to trying out some of their family downloads when we next get up to Whinlatter

There is so much on offer for people of all ages which is nicely shown with this handout:

There is so much more to do and learn in the forests so get on to the Forestry Commission site to find your nearest forest and find out what they have to offer you, your family or your school! 

Tuesday 19 March 2013

#CountryKids River and Rocks

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Sometimes the best things in life truly are free! We can spend fortunes on toys and games but my children get so much pleasure just being down by the river tossing stones and rocks in the water. 

Tonight before Beavers they were having a whole lot of fun down at the River Kent on the recreation ground seeing who could make the biggest splash:

They would have carried on for much longer but a) I was cold and b) it was time for Beavers! Roll on warmer days when they can throw themselves in the water and not just rocks... and we can ditch the winter hats for sun hats:

Monday 18 March 2013

Couch to 5 k Progress Report

Well I am now nearly through week 6 of my NHS choices couch to 5 k podcasts. They are really well put together to teach complete novices how to run. There is just enough talking for instruction and motivation with plenty of music to keep you going.

It now seems a long time since week 1 when I found the 60 second runs far too easy! Over the last 2 weeks the podcasts have had me doing things like a 20 minute continuous run or today two lots of 10 minutes. It doesn't even feel all that tough - except when battling against rain or cold winds...

I am now a familiar sight trotting around the roads and paths in Staveley in my luminous pink jacket! There is nearly always someone I know to encourage me on with a comment or even a beep on the horn. The fact I can record and share my progress on MapMyRun and I can see what I have done helps a lot too:

Create Maps or search from 80 million at MapMyRun

The village itself has plenty of beautiful views to inspire me with too. Its just such a shame that when I'm running I can't stop to take a photo... However when I'm on my warm up and cool down legs (or on the now redundant recovery section) I am only walking briskly and can snatch a few photos like these as I go:

Martins Bank 
Staveley Wood Turning Weir

St Margaret's Tower

St James' churchyard

View from Miles without Stiles bridge
I do have to remember that my goal from all this (apart from getting fit) is to raise £100 or more for CancerCare. Here's hoping that by May 18th I can complete the 10k Star Walk run and do my sponsors proud!

If any fitness and sports companies want to help me achieve my goal in return for an advert and plenty of mentions then follow the links up the top to e-mail me or find me on social media!

Saturday 16 March 2013

In touch with history

Sometimes when researching my family tree names, places or events crop up that are familiar from my knowledge of history. Once such popped up last night when I found the record of my great, grandfather Charles Downs Band's voyage to Cape Town in 1891:

The name of the ship he sailed on was Dunottar Castle which was a familiar sounding vessel. I therefore had to look it up on Wikipedia and found quite a lot of information. She had an interesting career from breaking the record for voyages to South Africa and war service in both the Boer and First World Wars. Such a shame she then came to an unnecessary end in 1915.

I'm not sure what he was doing going out in 1891 but I know he died whilst helping to build the new Rissik Street Post Office in Johannesburg in 1896. This building is currently being renovated after decades of neglect thanks to its importance as a historical building:

Photo by Steamhunter
Such a shame Charles never got to see the finished building. I wonder what other buildings he helped construct in his role as a stone mason? Most definitely a long way from his home town of Glossop in Derbyshire and his wife and 9 children. 

I do wonder if I'll ever be able to find out more about this end part of his life...

Friday 15 March 2013

Family History Friday: Jones Family

With the 6 nations show down between Wales and England tomorrow its time to celebrate my Welsh ancestry! My great grandfather Owen Evan Jones was born in the town of Trefriw in the Conwy valley in North Wales in 1875.

His father Llewelyn Robert Jones had worked in the wood yards and the iron works as well as a lime burner. It must have been a tough life in this part of Wales and Owen left sometime after 1891 as a qualified teacher. His father had disowned him for teaching English which was the only language allowed in the schools so he moved to Lancashire.

This must have been a very strange place to a young man whose family had been in Caernarvonshire and Denbighshire for generations. Luckily he found love in the form of my great grandmother Hannah Honorah Audrey Spencer and started his own family.

Despite moving to England he was always proud of his Welsh roots and taught his grandson (my dad) how to pronounce the town of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (and he can still say it!). It was partly the pull of this Welsh blood that led me to choose Swansea university and loved spending 3 years enjoying the culture and rugby! 

This summer I finally got my first visit to Trefriw even though it was very brief. Some of it looked like is must have done when he was there in the 19th century:

Original chapel

Parish church

Methodist church

School - was this where he went?
One day I will get back and do more research to find out more about my Jones and Roberts ancestors and my Welsh roots..