Review: The Playtown Role Play Centre, Essendine

“Absolutely amazing! The new place to go with children!”

Wow, I just don’t know where to start!! Today was the opening of ‘The Playtown Role Play Centre‘ in Essendine and it was just fantastic. We arrived eager to go in at 0930 on the dot. We were ushered in quickly and straight into the play area. L and I decided to go into the Theatre area first as it was empty and she selected a ‘Moana’ costume to wear and then found a guitar to strum. She really was in her element.Next stop was the Cafe. L enjoyed chopping the cake, vegetables and pizza and using the kitchen area too. What was so lovely to see, was the children happily sharing and enjoying themselves together even though they were complete strangers. We moved onto the Shop area next door and L was drawn to the shopping trolleys and swiftly began filling it with her shopping. Another little girl was using the till, so she kindly rung up L’s shopping for her which was just lovely.

The Fire Station was our next stop and L immediately put on the fire fighter costume  complete with water hose back pack. She decided to man the phones in the fire station before moving onto the fire engine, complete with working siren (amazing!).

Now you’d think that after all of these rooms, we’d be done, but we were barely even half way!! L decided we would go to the Doctors after this and naturally I was ‘poorly’ and needed the doctor to help me. There were plenty of Doctors dress up outfits and a reception area with telephone. I think at this point I was still in awe at how fantastic everything is. It’s like a real town but in miniature form! (although I guess thats the point!)

Next on our high street tour was the Vets followed by the Construction SiteIce Cream Van and Picnic Spot. L enjoyed bathing the animals and checking their temperatures (in the ear!), but she really loved the construction site. We set out the cones to cordon off the area, used the hammer and built a brick wall which clearly needed a drill, such fun. My favourite piece, however, was definitely the ice cream van and picnic area in the middle of the centre, such a lovely centre piece. There was even a beautiful wooden barbecue with kebabs and picnic basket. We then discovered the Postbox complete with felt letters and parcels (lovingly handmade), L enjoyed driving round on the ladybug and then dropping them in the postbox.

The Playtown Centre truly is amazing, and I’m not sure I’ve done it justice with this write up. It must have been sensory overload for L as there is just so much to see and do and it is all so beautifully laid out. Charlene has clearly put her heart and soul into this build and it is clear to see around every corner. The attention to detail is second to none; from the quality of the furniture to the gorgeous wooden toys! I can confirm we now have the Melissa & Doug Ice Cream set on our Christmas list now!

The café on site sells a delicious range of homemade cakes, biscuits and child friendly snacks as well as an array of hot and cold drinks. I had a cup of tea and L a fairy cake, a total of £2.70 for both. We were in the 0930-1100 slot and my only criticism (if you can call it that) is that we couldn’t stay longer as we were having so much fun, it really is THAT good! Well done Charlene and the team for creating a much needed place to play in our area. If you have a spare morning or afternoon, do make sure you book a visit here, you wont be disappointed!

Price: £6 per child, 1 x adult FREE.  An absolute bargain.

Disclaimer: I have carried out the review independently, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thank you

AWOOE x

Going Plastic Free….

Reducing our plastic consumption is something I’ve been considering for a little while now, and when a friend at ‘Peterborough Environment City Trust’ (PECT) mentioned that BBC Look East were looking for a family to try being plastic free for a week, I jumped at the chance.  Sadly for me, I didn’t realise that this meant being filmed LIVE on tv! Needless to say, I won’t be pursuing an acting career as a result of my tv appearance! Having watched the BBC documentary ‘Drowning in Plastic‘ a few weeks, I was absolutely horrified at the sheer scale of devastation plastic is having on our planet. Something needs to be done, and I for one am going to try my utmost to reduce our plastic contribution to landfill….

Having attempted a plastic free week, I’d say that time, I don’t think our family could manage being totally plastic free just yet.  It is astonishing just how many things we buy are wrapped in plastic: vegetables, pasta, fruit, confectionary and many many more, To become totally plastic free, the supermarket chains need to stop wrapping everything in plastic just for the ease of adding a barcode. Something else I have found strange during our plastic free week was how much recycling centres vary across the country. My parents can’t recycle half of what we can. For the UK to cut down on its plastic consumption, what can and can’t be recycled needs to be standardised across the country and the information needs to be readily available QUICKLY.

So, what can you do to reduce your plastic consumption and help our planet?

Cling film: I’m not sure how I didn’t know this, but tin foil is a recyclable provided it is mostly clean.  Next on my purchase list are some beeswax wraps.  These do come across as a little pricey, but they have longevity in them and ultimately better for the environment.  Places I am currently looking to purchase from are the ‘Beeswax Wrap Co‘ and ‘Low Tox Box‘.

Plastic bottles: whilst most of these are recyclable, a significant portion of them end up in landfill.  We love our water bottles in this house.  My current bottle has been on the go for over a year, as have the children’s’. My children love their Sistema water bottles, but they can start to get smelly despite constant washing, so once the time has come to get rid of your water bottle, these plastic ones are recyclable!

Straws: single use plastic straws are terrible.  We have reusable plastic straws in our house that we have had for over a year, which get washed in the dishwasher.  But if you are considering upgrading, there are some excellent metal ones on the market.

Takeaway coffee: whilst these cups may look recyclable, the inner coating is actually plastic! A simple solution is a reusable coffee/tea cup. I LOVE my Bodum one as it keeps my tea hot for hours! However, it can be irritating to carry around for the day. I have since found these ones which are great for travelling as they collapse!

Carrier bags: most stores now have a 5p charge for a single use carrier bag.  I am usually carrying a backpack which I use as my bag, or when supermarket shopping I use reusable bags. Try to keep a reusable bag in your handbag or car for those emergencies.

Wipes: these aren’t very environmentally friendly and should never be flushed down the toilet.  I no longer use wipes within my household, I have an army of microfibre cloths for washing dishes and cleaning with. But should I have my time again with my babies (or perhaps there will be a Raitt £3), I would love to get my hands on some reusable wipes. ‘Cheeky Wipes‘ seem to offer the best ones, and there are often some good deals to be had on second hand ones.  As we still use some wipes, I am going to stop buying them and use a face cloth which I have cut into four pieces.

Sanitary products: Whilst I realise that this may not be everyones cup of tea (no pun intended!), but I have switched from the usual tampons and towels to a ‘menstrual cup‘ and I love it.  After a bit of trial and error in the beginning, it really is great and it Is pleasing to know that I’m not contributing so much waster to landfill each month.

Moving forward as a family, I am altering the way I think about waste.  Things I would like to do:

  • Use the greengrocers and butchers more.
  • Limit the number of packaged goods we buy such as biscuits, cheese, and yoghurts.
  • Ditch cling film.
  • Halve the amount of waste that goes into my refuse bin.

For those of you who were fortunate enough to miss our tv debut, here are some awkward screenshots!

Cat

xxx

Is three still a baby?


I know, I know,  it’s a total cliche but I still can’t believe my little girl, the baby of our family has turned three. It seems such a long time ago that we celebrated your second birthday yet like its passed by in the blink of an eye at the same time.

In the last year you really have moved from baby to toddler, even though I hate to admit it. As a family, quite a bit has changed in the last 18 months, I’ve had 2 different jobs, and your brother has started school, but as ever, you seemed to have taken it all in your stride.

You have always been a terrible sleeper ever since you were tiny, however, progress has been made and you no longer co sleep although I do miss being able to cuddle you whenever I like, but I do feel slightly more rested. It was a big decision to start sleep training you, as I knew it was going to be hard. You’re still not perfect in the sleep department but I’m becoming accustomed to having a catnap in a toddler bed each night! You melt my heart every morning and evening when you give me a big cuddle and tell me you love me; it’s my favourite time of the day.

In the last 6 months, you’ve moved into big girl pants, given up your dummy, naps and stopped co sleeping, it seems my little baby girl has slipped away and become a little girl.  It still seems so alien to say I have three year old, and its going to odd now your brother is at school and its just us.

You are strong minded, fearless, confident, cheeky and downright stubborn but I wouldn’t change you for the world.

Happy birthday my little sausage

Love you lots and lots

Mummy

x x x

Forest School….

So if you already follow me on here, you’ll know I have been dabbling in a bit of Forest School. A PE teacher by trade, but I fancied upping the ante a little bit. So, in February I embarked on my Level 3 Forest School leader training.

If you’ve never heard of forest school, it is really hard to describe without sounding like a bit of woodland weirdo. But there are so many things I enjoy about forest school! The comradery that forms between children, the confidence and resilience it develops through risk, learning life skills such as making fire, tool work, building dens, there’s just so many. Forest schools education explain it well here.

Back in February I started the course and boy was I a rabbit in headlights (I still am sometimes!). The course is not for the faint hearted, it’s been a big learning curve for me and a steep one at that, but over the past 6 months I’ve come to enjoy learning new skills and practising them, but most importantly I cherish every moment outside with my children. Now H and L are regular forest schoolers as they are very lucky to have weekly session at their nursery. But they have loved going out into the woods with me and learning / trying new things. They relish the chance to collect sticks and forage for silver birch bark.

On completing the training element of the course, five of the most intense days of my teaching career to date, I was sent away to try and complete my portfolio; 61 pieces of work (yes 61!). I started off with great intentions but as usual life just got in the way and my discipline to forest school wavered. Come June, I was called back in to complete my Outdoor First Aid certificate which was absolutely fantastic. Our Dave, the instructor had great fun making us over during our casualty simulation. I was given a burn, someone else had an amputation, and there were lots of other injuries with varying degrees of severity.

Fast forward to the summer holidays and I started flapping that I was nowhere near done on the portfolio and assessment week was looming. Over the summer, I think I managed to complete between 10-12 assignments before the practical assessment. This meant working for 1-2hrs of an evening after having the children all dat. September 10th saw the start of the practical assessment and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified!

Monday 10th and Tuesday 11th – thank the lord these were revision sessions, but Dave (our instructor) definitely put us through our paces! We practised tying our knots (timber hitch, alpine butterfly, trucker hitch and a quick release knot), making and keeping a fire going for 10 minutes, boiling water in a kelly kettle, putting up shelters and using some tools; the bowsaw, billhook and sheath knives. It’s safe to say I was exhausted after day one and two BUT I had a fab time rekindling my love for forest school (ok maybe not whittling!) AND best of all having a great time with my fellow forest schoolers.

Wednesday 12th and Thursday 13th – now these were the real deal, our actual assessment. My peers and I had gotten ourselves a little stressed about Wednesday as who doesn’t get a little panicked by a ‘test’. Now today was going to be a real test of not only my forest school skills but my time management. We’d been split into 3 groups, a starter, main and dessert. Throughout the day each person had to demonstrate how to use knots: putting up a shelter, making a low ropes course, making and keeping a fire going for 10mins using their own foraged materials; cut, split and whittle a tent peg, show how to clean and maintain the tools, teach another person for 5 minutes AND if that wasn’t enough, we also had to heat water in a kelly kettle in a group, make a piece of furniture and cook a course of food whilst managing a fire for TWO hours. I think it was safe to safe we were all flabbergasted at the extent of tasks for the day. I don’t think I stopped at all well apart from to eat all our delicious food. We made vegetable soup (from scratch), Gaelic mushrooms on toast, chicken and chorizo risotto and chocolate cake cooked in oranges with hot chocolate. Everything was absolutely delicious. With Wednesday and all the individual tasks out of the way, that meant only Thursday was left. Today we had to lead a session for a group of children. Easy you say, as we had all lead 6 sessions as part of our portfolio leading up to the assessment week, BUT this was Little Acorns ‘Stay and Play’ session! Now if I lived closer, I would taking my little ones to stay and play every week. Between myself, Abs, Jen, Ruth and Hannah we ran a ‘Hungry Caterpillar’ session for 2hrs. Well, what an amazing experience! It was so so different leading an already an established session and I learned a lot. Being a teacher I’m used to planning my lessons and 99% of the time they go like clockwork BUT forest school is so different. Whilst the sessions are planned, the plan isn’t the ‘be all and end all’, I enjoyed the challenge of mixing it up and going with the moment. I’m really lucky that my children attend a fantastic nursery near to where we live, one which uses a ‘planning in the moment’ system. It’s so so important to allow children to discover things and engage with what they want learn. So it’s ok to sometimes go off piste and I did just that today. I was able to work one on one with a pre schooler using a tube we’d found. We tried putting things through the tube and seeing which would come out the fastest, and rolling things down to discover which rolled the furthest. A child’s mind is like dry sponge and as adults we need feed them droplets of knowledge to allow them expand their mind and grow into well rounded individuals.

Now my assessment week is complete and date I say that I enjoyed it. If it wasn’t for all my fantastic and hopefully lifelong friends, I might not have survived the last 6 months with a smile on my face. I am astounded and excited that going into my 11th year of teaching I am doing something new AND that with a huge sense of relief, a big slap on the back I have PASSED the practical assessment of my training. Now with a kick up the bum I can begin motoring through my portfolio and finish those pesky 61 assignments!

Watch this space, who knows what the future will be for me!

Books, Bakes and my Babes

Well, its been an awfully long time since you last saw a post from me, but I think life has just been happening.  I have been beavering away trying to get through my Forest School portfolio (with A LOT of moral boosting texts from my fellow FS pals Abs, Jen and Ruth!), plodding my way through my reading challenge, new bakes, and there have been some challenges to deal with in the holidays with regards to the children’s behaviour.

BOOKS:

So far I am on track with my reading challenge.  My target for 2018 is 25 books, and I am 60% of the way through so far with about 4 months to go.  I’ve tried to branch out and read some new authors, but my favourite picks so far are:

Gail Honeyman: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I got this to see if it lived up to the hype.  It was slow to start for me as it didn’t grab me, in part because its not my usual style, but it was a fabulous read and you really feel like you are part of the story. A definite must read.

Jo Watson: Love to Hate You, Burning Moon and After the Rain. If you’ve never read Jo Watson before, they are all romance novels which are lighthearted but addictive to read.  I’d say they are relatively short as I whizzed through them, but I think I am also a fast reader.

Louise Pentland: Wilde Like Me and Wilde About the Girl. Bookworm and Theatre Mouse kindly sent me Wilde Like Me, I started this after my Spanish adult holiday (although I took a mid book break, something I don’t usually do!). What a lovely read. It took about 4/5 chapters to get into it, however once I got into it, I really enjoyed it and I was thinking about when I’d next be able to able sit down and read it! And lucky for me, no sooner had I finished it, the sequel Wilde About the Girl was released, which is beautifully written account of a turbulent year in the life of Robin Wilde; a tale of heartache, romance, family life, and happiness all rolled into one.

Whilst I may have read already read 17 books this year, I STILL have a huge (and still growing) ‘to be read‘ (TBR) pile which includes:

Terry Hayes – I Am Pilgrim; I have heard great things from this book, but I am daunted at starting it because of its length.

Jojo Moyes – Still Me; I LOVED the two previous books in this trilogy, and I watched the film after reading them, so I have high hopes for this one.

Ruth Hogan – The Keeper of Lost Things; I’ve heard good things about this book and despite hoping my ever faithful bookish friends (Hayley From Home and Bookworm and Theatre Mouse) have read it, they have not. The synopsis tells me that it is a ‘charming, clever and quietly moving debut novel of endless possibilities and joyous discoveries that explores the promises we make and break, losing and finding ourselves, the objects that hold magic and meaning for our lives, and the surprising connections that bind us’. It’s sounds a little off the track of my usual reads but I’ve been trying to broaden my horizons from my usual traditional romance stories and favourite others. It’s on my list, so watch this space.

I’m currently reading Paige Toon – Five Years From Now as my blogger friend ‘Mummy Matters‘ suggested her as an author I might like. I’m enjoying it so far although it has quite long chapters which isn’t a problem but I have a weird OCD about not finishing a chapter. I keep track of which books I’ve read and my TBR reads on Goodreads if you fancy following me on there.

BAKES:

Like all parents, by day five of the school holidays I had already been asked for a snack 3,947 times and it was getting tedious to say the least. I knew I had to up my game as all the snacks I was giving them were full of sugar and expensive. It was then that I discovered ‘My Fussy Eater‘ on Facebook. And I haven’t looked back. Ciara’s recipes are just delicious, I originally bought the book after seeing her wonderful yoghurt bark flash up on my Facebook feed and boy it has not disappointed so far. I am a passionate believer of homemade sweet treats (and I’m in no way saying you can’t buy shop bought as I do that too for convenience!) but I know exactly what goes into a cake baked by me, no preservatives, just simple ingredients. It is great to see that Ciara’s sweet recipes are mostly healthy as they are made with coconut oil and/or peanut butter but there is butter in them too. Whilst cooking some of her recipes I discovered a new peanut butter and just how unhealthy the peanut butter we were using really was. I now cook solely with FUEL peanut butter as it contains no added sugar and no palm oil (which is great for the environment). I have also been trying to think about being environmentally with our lives and I really want to try being plastic free but I need to research a bit more before I jump in. I have seen an amazing company called ‘Global Wake Cup‘. They produce some fantastic reusable cups and bottles as well as backpacks produced from paper and best of all: 10% of all profits go to the Marine Conservation Society.

Anyway, I digress; so far, the children have been enjoying her sweet treats, in particular her: chocolate chip granola bars, cranberry cookies, chocolate chip energy bites, raspberry twists, and oaty biscuits. My husband and I have also been enjoying her savoury meals and my favourites are currently the apple, carrot and chicken balls, pesto salmon and chicken and mango burgers, although sadly the children haven’t been fans of these yet, but I won’t give up that easily!

Left to right: TL – cranberry cookie and chocolate chip energy bite. TR – carrot, apple and chicken balls. BL – strawberry quinoa bars. BR – yoghurt bark.

MY BABES:

I can safely say it’s been a tiring and challenging yet fulfilling summer holiday with the children. We appear to have reached a few milestones with L as not only has she potty trained, she also given up the dummy. Now both of these weren’t without their teething problems; the potty training seemed to go on for such a long time despite L being a really quick learner. She grasped the concept of going for a wee really quickly, however using the potty / toilet for a poo was a different story. It wasn’t until around 7-8 weeks after initially potty training did she grasp the concept. In that time, there were quite a pants thrown away and a lot of “FML” muttered under my breath when I was once again dealing with a poo in her pants. Thankfully, in the last 2-3 weeks she’s come on leaps and bounds and has been nailing it; hoorah! And the dummy, well I somewhat foolishly chose the hottest night of the decade to give that one up, but 6 weeks in and she hasn’t asked for it since about day six or seven. It has however made her night wakings that bit harder to deal with resulting in one tired Mummy.

Whilst his sister has been hitting some developmental milestones, H has been testing my patience somewhat. It often appears that he and his peers develop a universal non listening function the second the summer holidays begin and at times it has felt like a long and exhausted summer ‘break’. I often feel guilty for wishing the time away, but it has felt stressful and consuming quite a bit of the time. I have actively tried not to take them out on big days to lots of new places as I think it gets too much for both myself and the children so I tried to stick to a rule of a day out, a day in rule. For my day out rule, I think we only visited two brand new places and all the rest are frequent haunts of ours.

I think part of the problem is that all they hear is my voice ALL DAY, so I guess I can become a little overbearing and the same is definitely said for both H and L.

This September sees H begin reception and whilst I don’t feel upset in the grand scheme of things, I feel shocked that it seems to have come round really quickly. Last week, we attended his graduation ceremony for nursery and it is all so real now as I held the past 3 years of H’s nursery life in a folder.

It’s September next week and that will see me only looking after one child on my days off. It will be so strange just having L at home with me, and I think that’s what I’m most sad about. Whilst I am (almost) ready for summer to be over and our routine to be restored, I don’t want to miss anymore days with my little H. Some days he still seems so young where as other days he is totally ready; I think it will be a steep learning curve for him as he is such an active boy and really yearns to be outside so I’m a little anxious for September. I’m sure he will take it all in his stride though.

New Jojo Maman Bébé, Stamford

Today I visited the opening of the new JoJo Maman Bébé store in Stamford. It’s located on the main High Street (64 High Street, Stamford, PE9 2AW). The store is beautifully laid out with a really good selection of baby clothes, toddler clothes and maternity wear. I was on the lookout for something for my daughters birthday in October and I managed to pick up this gorgeous little dress (see below).

Our favourite Jojo pieces have always been their waterproof all in ones and braces, so it’s really pleasing there is now a store nearby.

As I was one of the first 100 customers to purchase on their opening day, I also got a lovely goody bag. My goody bag contained an Ella’s Kitchen pouch (which my 4yr old son devoured), a CD, a voucher for COOK, some lovely stretch mark cream and other pregnancy toiletries (I donated those to my pregnant friend in store (as we’re not currently planning anymore) and the best bit was the cool magnet dress up game which my daughter will love.

Why not pop in when you’re next visiting?

Review: ShooSo by Lucia

I’m very lucky to be able to call Lucia from ShooSo a friend and when she decided to put on some sewing workshops, I was instantly interested. Sadly, I couldn’t commit to the initial 5 week course but Lucia decided to do some individual workshops as well, so I immediately booked onto the ‘Zip It‘ workshop.

Myself and a fellow Mum were booked onto the ‘Zip It’ course. She had been to the previous workshop so was a dab hand at threading the machine; me, not so much! I don’t think I’ve ever threaded a machine and if I have, I was 13/14 years old in Textiles class at high school.

The reason I was attracted to this particular workshop was because I wanted a trendy bag I could use for the kids spare clothes in my backpack or a new toiletry bag. I couldn’t wait to get to started, well actually I was absolutely clueless and petrified about making a mistake!!

Thankfully, Lucia was on hand! She was so patient with me and dealt with managing my incompetence and my partner who was excelling! She put my mind at ease and helped me thread the machine myself, something that I think after another couple of goes I think I’ll have the ‘nack’.

After selecting my material and a waterproof lining, we ironed and measured the fabric, and selected a zip, and then it was time to chop it. This was really daunting as it felt like the final step before there was no turning back!

After cutting the fabric to size, we made the zips workable by chopping them down to the correct size and ‘sealing’ them. Now onto the nitty gritty, well actually I concentrated so hard on not messing up my sewing that I can’t really remember all the stages but I know it involved ‘sealing’, boxing, and some other terms I’m ashamed to say I can’t remember! Anyway, TWO hours later I had managed to make a toilet bag come spare clothes bag BY MYSELF. Lucia gave me such confidence to go with it, and was so encouraging throughout and even craftily succeeding in getting me to do EVERYTHING on my own (she should become a teacher!).

Thinking I was done after finishing my toilet bag, I was ready to go home and put my slippers on, but I’d forgotten I still had another bag to make. This time a 3D one! Again, this involved similar techniques like boxing and a new one: interfacing (stiffening the fabric with a kind of liner). I was a bit bolder with my choice of colours for this one and picked contrasting colours. Blues and mustard in my fabric but a pink zip! This one was slightly easier to make as I didn’t pick such technical things (I wanted to run before I could walk with the first one). A further hour later and I had a 3D purse type thing. I’m not sure what I’m going to use this one for, maybe a first aid bag for my rucksack??

Overall, Lucia was so attentive, very knowledgable and made me feel at ease. I’m sure I will be booking onto another course soon and who knows, maybe in the future I may even not get my Mum to do all my sewing!

Thanks Shooso, I had a fab time and will be back.

Disclaimer: I have carried out the review independently, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thank you

AWOOE x

Review: The Bakehouse Cook School

Well, where do I start! I stumbled across ‘The Bakehouse Cook School‘ whilst scrolling through Facebook one evening about a fortnight ago. To my excitement, they not only had a parent / child workshop, they even had spaces left! Fantastic I thought, and I quickly booked H and I on.  And at £32.03, it was an absolute BARGAIN (£2.03 booking fee). We were going to bake cookies, cheese straws and cake truffles, perfect!

I had been telling H for a few days about our special Mummy and H treat, and when the day came, he was really excited about doing some baking.  Both H and L often help me make cakes, cookies, etc, but I was hoping this would be a more pleasurable and less stressful experience.

Sarah and Evey gave us a lovely warm welcome when we arrived, Evey took our bags and put our containers out ready, H and I were offered a drink which was greatly appreciated. Having just run a 10k in 24 degree heat, I was a little parched (but thats a story for another day!), I had a cup of tea, H some orange juice and we both dabbled in sampling some of the very delectable snacks (what we would be making!).

After donning our aprons, it was straight down to business and we began with preparing our COOKIES.  Certainly not for the diet conscious (a WHOLE pack of butter!), we creamed our sugar and butter, then came the flour and coca powder.  H loved getting his hands stuck in and mixing it all together (something he doesn’t usually do at home, so that was a welcome change). Once it was all combined, we then rolled them into walnut sized balls.  I’ve never made cookies this way before, and it was so child friendly, so we will be definitely be doing them again. H then pressed down on each one with a fork (a little too over zealous on a few!). The mixture made a massive batch of around 25-30 cookies, great for a class birthday. We labelled our trays, and Evey popped them in the oven to bake.

Next up was the CHEESE STRAWS, now those who know me will know I dislike cheese.  I hate the smell, the texture, and the taste; but I dug deep and ploughed through. Another really simple, yet effective recipe. A sheet of pre-made puff pastry (seriously who’s got time for making that).  We laid it out on the worktop and rolled it slightly thinner, a task H very much enjoyed. Once rolled, we egg washed the whole sheet, and sprinkled with both cheddar and parmesan cheese.  I won’t lie quite a bit went in H’s mouth, but its all part of the fun.  We decided to spread half of our baking sheet with some basil pesto.  I love pesto, but there were other options, marmite (love it or hate it), red pesto or sun dried tomato pesto, all of which would have been delicious (apart from maybe the marmite, yes I’m a hater). We folded over the sheet of puff pastry and trimmed the edges. H and I then carefully sliced the pastry so we had strips, then we twisted them slightly as we lined are baking tray with them. H was then tasked with sprinkling yet more cheese over them. Off to the oven with them, next up: CAKE TRUFFLES.

This was so easy! And involved ZERO baking. A shop bought Madeira cake had already been blitzed into crumbs for us. We then melted some milk chocolate over hot water and combined the two. Once all combined, we did yet more rolling and made some cake balls. H found this difficult as the mixture was less malleable than the cookies so he was tasked with the decoration. Which, lets face it, when you’re four years old, is way more exciting! We decided to flavour our cake truffles, one vanilla and one orange, they were then covered in chopped nuts and/or sprinkles.

Meanwhile, Sarah and Evey were beavering away getting our cookies and cheese straws out of the oven and displaying them for us. There was so much food!

H and I had a blast, Evey and Sarah were so attentive throughout, nothing was too much trouble at all. We will definitely be back for another round or I might try an evening adult class. I would wholeheartedly recommend giving it a go. H was almost 4, but I would definitely consider going with my 2.5y old.

Well done Bakehouse Cook School. We had a fab time!

Disclaimer: I have carried out the review independently, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thank you

AWOOE x

Four seems so grown up…

I feel like today has been looming for a while, but somehow it still seems so odd that I now have a four year old.  I read my post from when you turned three, a whole year ago; and you have grown so much, yet I still feel you are my baby boy.

You are still an inquisitive little soul, you never shut up (which can be very annoying at times!), and you still absolutely love the outdoors, which is a bit of a concern for school come September, but I absolutely wouldn’t change you for the world.

Last year I wrote about meal time woes and having my patience tested.  We seemed to have turned a corner recently with the eating; although you still don’t have a vastly varied diet, you will generally eat most of the time, now we have learned the art of reasoning! My patience, however, is still tested, at least once a day (usually). Most of time, you go on the naughty step for not listening, but we are getting there.

Since your last birthday, I have changed jobs and gained more time with you; going from five days to three which includes a full weekend as a family, and I have LOVED every minute of it.  We have been able to go away for weekends, plan day trips on BOTH days and it has been marvellous!

You are so independent when we go out, always trying the park equipment, even the tall ones I hate. Sometimes you attack things with no fear, other times, you panic and need my reassurance.  I don’t know if its a boy thing or a toddler thing, but you seem to have boundless energy, and my favourite way to spend time with you is inventing adventures when we are outside. We do love a bear hunt or a treasure walk.

School is now looming and it still fills me with horror that in four months time you will be starting school.  We were lucky enough to gain a place at our preferred choice, where you currently attend pre-school.  Looking back it was a hard decision to send you to pre-school, but you settled well without a backwards glance as I always knew you would (even though there were a few niggly doubts at the back of my mind).  The real tough decision was giving up some of my precious time with you. Knowing school is around the corner has got me worrying over things you are not doing and should be doing.  A daily battle I am trying to win is getting dressed. On days we are rushing out to work / school, I find I am dressing you as if left to your own devices, we wouldn’t arrive until lunchtime.  However, other times, you are so independent and demand to put your shoes on yourself.

For your birthday this year, we have kept it quite low key with no party, which I have to say has been nice.  Daddy and I are taking you see a theatre show of Julia Donaldson’s: Tiddler, Squash and a Squeeze and The Smartest Giant and I can’t wait. We haven’t had any time just the three of us since your sister arrived in 2015! For your actual birthday, you are in nursery for half a day so you can celebrate with your pals and of course cake! You will be going to your favourite place, the forest for your weekly forest school session. And I have to say, I feel I have peaked with your cake this year; I’m not sure I can top it, like EVER!

Although, I am anxious about what this next year will bring, I am so incredibly proud of the little boy you are becoming and I can’t wait to see what memories we will make this year. I hope the next year brings you as much joy as the last four have given me.

Happy birthday my beautiful little boy.

All my love

Mummy

x x

Reaching out of my comfort zone…

I’ve been trying to decide what to do once this academic year has finished as my job is only temporary. H starts school in September and I want to be able to support him as best as I can through what will be a big transition. Lots of things have crossed my mind; I’ve been looking into retraining as an Early Years practitioner but I’ve struggled to find a night course that will fit around our life and I’ve been told I’m over qualified! As a PE teacher, I have a love for sports, and have previously trained as a Gym Instructor and Netball coach, so I’ve looked into training to become a Personal Trainer, but decided against this (for now anyway). BUT after having a conversation with my sister in law back in December, she said something that got my creative juices flowing and a few weeks ago I decided to take the plunge ! After some research into my options locally and further afield, I finally settled on the course I wanted.

19th February

After 1hour and 40 minutes, I arrived (late!) to Hick’s Lodge, Ashby-de-la-zouch for my course; a Level 3 Forest School Leader course! (Well there you have it)

Im really looking forward to getting suck in. It will open a lot of doors for me both as a teacher or possibly as my own business venture; anyway……

As with all courses, the first hour or so was spent getting to know the rest of the group, and wow, what a lovely group we are! Now, I love a bit of banter and thankfully Dave our trainer has truckloads (http://davechurchward.wixsite.com/littleacornsoutdoors), he made the minutes whizz by and the learning fun! On the first day, we learned how to build a fairy house, I say learned, it was all my childhood imagination brought out in 10 minutes.  I can also now use a bowsaw AND a pair of loppers (including tool talks, these are fun to say!), do a clove hitch knot and I created this beautiful star which is now firmly on our front door.

20th February

After being frazzled on day one, the fun was set to continue again. Today we started the day with woodland pictures after learning loads yesterday, such fun to get creative using the resources around us.  Today was BILLHOOKS and more knots.  Billhooks are initially a little bit terrifying as your partner is whacking a massive stick down onto the thin blade you’re holding, but we got the job done and managed another tool talk with minimal mistakes (I hope!). My knot repertoire is building: clove hitch, timber hitch, trucker hitch, alpine butterfly (although now renamed alpine bunny by the lovely Ruth!) and a quick release knot for putting up shelters.

21st February

Wednesday, hump day; the most exciting day so far: FIRE and KNIVES! The day started off recapping the high, low and kit shelters we almost managed yesterday, but as the group were so frazzled yesterday it was like flogging a dead horse for Dave (sorry!) So after shelters, we moved onto sheath knives.  Not as daunting as the billhooks, but fun none the less.  Another tool talk to master (although I think we’re all pro’s now!). After learning how to use the sheath knife and making my own tent peg, I can firmly say that whittling is just not for me! I tried, but I just don’t have the patience, I think its the sportsperson in me, I need instant results! After some foraging in the woods (who knew there was so much stuff to find!), we MADE FIRE.  I really enjoyed building up my little fire, and obviously starting it successfully was real good fun! I’m looking forward to getting my own fire starter and searching the woodland for materials (I’ve already spotted a bunch of silver birch trees with my name on!).

22nd February

We’ll just call this OVERLOAD day.  Lots of reflection and some overwhelmed ladies today, but cook out Thursday helped.  Ruth’s delicious sausages, Heather’s yummy cakes and some incredible looking chocolate orange brownies from Livi and Lucy, although foolishly I gave up all the good stuff for lent, so no cakes/chocolate for me today. Donna and Lois were the fire queens today manning the cooking almost all afternoon (thanks!). I attempted to make some pancakes, but didn’t quite manage it. Next time I’ll keep it simple.

Tonight I stayed in a local hotel as I was shattered from the long commute, unfortunately it wasn’t the idyllic evening I had planned, but I did manage to make a start on some work on the portfolio and sneak a wee 3 miler in as I need to get back on track with my challenges (see previous post here: Challenges).

23rd February

Our final day 🙁 we got the Kelly Kettle on for a cuppa (or now renamed BREW), I foraged for fire making materials, and then we had a wonderful reflection activity on how we’ve felt the week has gone, and how confident we felt when we were doing all the activities.  An interesting task, one I could see working really well with Year 7 and Year 11 students.

On the whole, I can honestly say that I haven’t done a course as tough as this one, nor have I done a course with such a lovely bunch of people.  I am really looking forward to completing the course especially as I know my other 12 lovely ladies (and Dave!) have got my back (Abi, Donna, Heather, Heidi, Jacqui, Jen, Livi, Lois, Lucy, Mandy, Ruth, and Sally). Looking forward to seeing you all again soon and if not, good luck with your portfolio and assessments. You can do it!