A Brief Explanation of my Blogging Break

Hello all.

I have not posted on here in about a month now. I have not abandoned this blog or anything. I am simply very busy with work, revising for an important university exam and lots of other bits and pieces that are taking up pretty much all of my time at the moment.

My exam is at the beginning of June and after that, I am committed to posting much more regularly. I’m also going to start vlogging too, which is pretty exciting. In between revision and building new furniture (more on that another time) and family stuff etc, I have made a very long list of things I’m going to blog about once I have time to do so.

I promise there’ll be more posts coming soon!

Gardening, without the Garden

I have always liked the idea of growing my own food. It appeals to me on many levels: it involves being outdoors, it’s a nice, productive and not very expensive hobby and, now from the perspective of being a parent, it’s great for educating my daughter about where her food comes from and how plants grow.

The problem is our lack of garden. We live in a very nice apartment and I know that I’m actually very lucky that my home’s only drawback is that I don’t have a garden but still, it is a bit limiting, especially when the weather is nice.

It seems that the people who own our apartment building had the same thinking. So last year they gated off an area of the car park, put some benches in and some containers of flowers, creating a pleasant place for residents to sit outside. On seeing this, I had the idea that the section of the gated off area under Pip’s bedroom window, which wasn’t being used for anything, would be perfect for us to grow some plants. I very politely asked the owner, who said it would fine, they had hoped people would want to use the area. That was last year though, and too late to start planting anything. So instead I bought a mini greenhouse when one was on offer at our local garden centre and it sat in it’s box in a corner of my bedroom all winter.

Now that spring has arrived, we’ve started our little growing project. It’s amazing how many vegetables you can grow in containers! They will need more water and more feeding than plants grown in the ground – it’s important to remember that if you’re thinking about having a go at this yourself. We’ve been sewing seeds in little peat pots and keeping them on the kitchen window sill where it’s nice and sunny.

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Last weekend, our tomato and Brussel sprout plants had grown big enough to be moved outdoors so I finally constructed our mini greenhouse and Pip and I spent Sunday afternoon repotting all of our little seedlings into big pots. She was thrilled to have an excuse to get a bit mucky and so excited at the idea that these tiny plants would someday give us food to eat.

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We’re also growing chard, courgettes and carrots, although I’ll need to get some deep containers for those since they need plenty of space to grow under the soil.

I’m going to keep one pot of tomatoes on the kitchen windowsill to see if it’s possible to grow them entirely indoors. I’m not sure how well this will work but we’ll just have to wait and see!

I hope this has shown that you don’t need a garden to grow your own veggies! I’ll be posting regular updates on how our growing project is going.

Thanks for reading.

Easter Holiday Plans

I have been a little absent from blogging lately. This is mostly due to being employed now! Yes, after a long 7 month search, I finally found some part time work and, even if it is just at the local supermarket, it’s having a really positive impact for me. Plus, I managed to get hours that mean I can still take Pip to and from school. I miss a few hours of family time at the weekend but Pip and Husband seem to be really enjoying having some time on their own – something they’ve never regularly had. On top of work, there’s been studying and housework and childcare to fit in so while I’ve been getting used to this new routine, writing has taken a back seat. However, I am determined to start making time for it again. My general aim is to post once a week but sometimes it might be more or less, especially as I have a uni exam coming up in June.

Given that I now have even less time with Pip, it feels more important than ever to make the most of school holidays. I have 6 full days just me and her over the next two weeks and I have lots of plans for us! We’re going to be planting some seeds, doing some Easter and Spring themed crafts and, of course, playing lots of games.

I’m not a religious person so for me this time of year is all about Spring time, new life, growing plants and, lets be honest, the chocolate eggs and other Easter treats. We’ll be making some yummy stuff later this week, which I will be blogging about of course! It’s important for Pip to learn about other cultures and religions so we will also be looking at various Easter traditions from around the world.

Last week was Pip’s school parents’ evening. Her teacher gave a great report and I’m really pleased and proud of how well she’s doing at school. Of course, we’re very aware of how her learning is going anyway but having her progress confirmed by the teacher is still nice and it’s good to keep communication open so that we know what’s going on at school and vice versa. She gave me a few pointers on things we could do at home to help her learning. To that end, we’ll be doing some storytelling activities over the holidays as well, partly as a way to practice writing in full sentences independently and partly to help her focus her amazing imagination into an actual narrative. Pip comes up with some brilliant ideas and it would be great for her to start recording them on her own.

What are your plans for the Easter Holidays?

Welcome to the Little Gamers Guild!

I am thrilled to present my new blog linky for sharing experiences of playing tabletop games with our children, called the Little Gamers Guild. I have long thought, and said, that tabletop games are brilliant way to have fun as a family (even on the rainiest of days!) and are a fantastic educational tool. Please share your tabletop game related posts at the bottom of this page. To kick things off, I’ve created a list of our top ten favourite tabletop games to play with younger children. The linky will run on a monthly basis so look out for next month’s too! I’ll be creating a monthly round up of the best posts.

Little Gamers Guild Badge

With Pip quickly moving on to tabletop games intended for 6 years old and beyond, I thought now would be a good time to look back at all of the games for younger children that she’s enjoyed for the last few years, before they’re forgotten forever! I hope this list inspires you to try out some tabletop games with your little people.

(The list isn’t in any particular order, mostly because neither myself nor my daughter are any good at picking favourites!)

1. Skunk Bingo – For ages 3 and up, this game is great for developing social and memory skills. I particularly like the cute artwork and using the log as a mechanic.

2. Feed the Woozle – For ages 3-6 with 3 different levels of difficulty, this game is great for parties or just for a more active play. We always end up in fits of giggles over this one.

3. Create Your Own Fairytale Spinner Game – For ages 5 and up, this game is all about creativity and imagination. As a family who love telling stories and playing games, for us this is just a brilliant mixture of the two.

4. Snug as a Bug in a Rug – Like Feed the Woozle, this game is for 3-6 years and has 3 difficulty levels. I really like the original concept of this game and it’s great for learning to recognise shapes and colours and for counting, as well as some basic logical thinking.

5. Hoot Owl Hoot! – For ages 4 and up, this game is incredibly cute and we found it’s a really nice one to play when little friends are visiting. Be warned, there can be a bit of upset if the game is lost but luckily it’s quite short so you’ll probably have time for another go.

6. Elephant’s Trunk – For ages 4 and up, this is a really fun game to play as a family and it’s easy to transport as everything fits into the four tins, or ‘suitcases’, making this a good game to take on holiday. I really like the concept and design of this one.

7. My First Carcassonne – For ages 4 and up, this is a good choice for those parents who already love tabletop games and want to introduce their children to the medium. Our daughter saw us playing the grown up version of Carcassonne and wanted to join in but it was just a bit too complicated so this was a great solution for us. It’s a fun one even for the grown ups to play and we often get this out when family are visiting.

8. Race to the Treasure – For ages 5 and up, this game has a good original concept and introduces the idea of map coordinates to children. Being a cooperative game, it’s a great one to play as a family, working together to defeat the ogre (who we named Bogden, incidentally!).

9. Build a Robot – For ages 5 and up, this game did need a tiny bit of tweaking in it’s mechanic (see my review for more details) but it’s a great game, especially for little people that love robots. Like most eBoo products, the artwork is really nice.

10. Tell Me a Story – For ages 3 and up, this set of story cards is really multi-use so while it can be used as a tabletop game, it can also be used simply as a resource for learning about narrative and storytelling. We have two sets and we’ve been using them for years now.

Here’s the Little Gamers Guild Badge to pop on your blog:

Little Gamers Guild
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Being a Parent is Awesome

I’m going to start this post with a mini rant. Since before I even became pregnant, I’ve been endlessly hearing how rubbish life is once you’re a parent. No more fun, endless mess to clear up and having to be responsible and serious at all times. Mostly this has come from people who don’t have kids. But I’ve also seen a number of parents in blogs and social media talking about all of the things they miss now that they’re parents.

So I thought I’d do the opposite. This is a blog post about how absolutely awesome it is to be a parent.

First of all, children know nothing. Now that sounded mean but it’s true. It means that they are amazed at everything new they learn. I remember the look of complete awe on Pip’s face when I explained to her that the sun isn’t moving up and down, it’s the Earth spinning. Watching someone discover every little thing about the world around them and be totally fascinated by it is just wonderful.

Secondly, being a parent gives you complete license to occasionally act like a child. Yes, obviously it’s important to make sure the child is safe, properly fed, healthy and you’re doing everything possible to give them the happiest life possible. Do you know what makes children really happy? Playing! I spend large amounts of my time building things out of LEGO, giving voice to inanimate objects and pretending that Pip is no longer Pip but is actually whichever character she’s decided to be on that given day.

That last point brings me to the next awesome thing about having a child. Their imagination is limitless. Pip makes up the best stories and characters. She’ll put on a costume and suddenly be someone completely different. She’ll make up a whole life for that character. They’ll go on adventures to places that she’s invented or from other stories or films that she knows. Doctor Who has come to rescue Rapunzel from Daleks before!

Children are completely honest. I do get a bit tired of people being polite and not saying what they really mean. I actually want to know if my new hair colour suits me or if the cake I made tasted disgusting. If you don’t tell me the truth, I can’t change these things. I will continue to obliviously have horrible hair and serve horrible cake. It’s great to have a child that will tell you the absolute truth. She has no concept of saying things to be polite or to spare someone’s feelings. Of course, one has to be careful because children also have no concept of what is socially acceptable. If I dressed up as a Disney Princess to pop to the supermarket, Pip would probably tell me that I look brilliant.

Children also have no shame. Pip will burst into song in any public place. Ok, so this usually earns her cheers and claps, rather than the laughter of mockery that I’d get for doing the same thing but still, it’s great that she can do that without feeling any embarrassment. She’ll also strike up a conversation with absolutely anyone. She says ‘Hello’ to everyone she passes (Oh, while I’m making that point, can I just say that if you ignore a five year old who has just cheerily said Good Morning to you, you are a complete misery and are making the world a more miserable place to be).

Having a child has reminded how happy little things can make someone. A single hug can change her mood from grumpy to elated. A hot chocolate completely makes up for getting soaked in the rain. An email from her Uncle will make her whole day better. It doesn’t matter to her what she’s doing as long as she’s doing it with people she loves.

Having a child, alongside being married, has been the best, most amazing and exciting experience of my life. We have fun every day. I love her so much and even when she’s at her naughtiest, I’ve never for a second thought that my life would be better without her. Yes, occasionally I think it might be nice to go out for an evening slightly more often but I wouldn’t trade being able to do that for being a parent. Plus, I know that one day, Pip will be grown up and I’ll be able to go out as often as I want and I’ll probably miss these days of her being small.

What are your favourite things about being a parent?

Fossil Hunting in Penarth

My daughter loves dinosaurs and really any ancient creatures. Learning about things that lived millions of years ago seems to just fascinate her. She has been insisting for about the last two years that she’s going to be a palaeontologist when she grows up. She wants to go digging up dinosaur fossils around the world.

After a little research, I discovered that we didn’t need to travel that far to find fossils. Penarth beach is a great place for finding fossils. So on Tuesday we went there to see what we could find.

We had a walk along Penarth pier when we arrived. There were beautiful views of the sea, of the English coast in the far distance and of the cliffs along Penarth beach.

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We walked along the beach, careful not to stray too close to the cliffs. There were warning signs about falling rocks and we did see quite a bit actually coming down the cliff face. This is actually the whole reason that this beach is a great place for fossils. As sediment constantly falls from the cliffs, so do fossils. We kept our eyes open for anything interesting.

We found an ammonite fossil, what we think is some fossilised coral and plenty of pretty stones and shells.

fossils & stones collage

We also found lots of fossils in larger pieces of rock.

Rocks at the beach

After a long walk along the beach, we sat in Alexandra Park to eat our packed lunch, then home on the train.

It was a brilliant family day. Pip absolutely loved being a Fossil Hunter for the day.

Of course for the perfect finish to the day, we had pancakes for tea!

Happy Chinese New Year!

Celebration days are a great opportunity for learning about other places and cultures. So today, because it’s Chinese New Year, we’ve been learning about China and Chinese culture.

We watched video clips on the internet about people living in China. The CBeebies website is great for finding videos on a wide range of subjects, all aimed at younger children. These taught Pip a lot about how Chinese people celebrate Chinese New year and the meanings behind their customs and traditions.

We used the Barefoot Atlas iPad app to find China on the globe then found out lots of facts about places and culture in China. I really like this app because it’s great either to use for looking at a specific country and getting an idea of where it is in the world but also for Pip to explore alone, finding places in the world that she wants to know more about.

For lunch, I made a yummy sweet and sour vegetable stir fry. Unfortunately it wasn’t a meal that Pip could join in with making but she did enjoy watching me make it and talking about all of the different ingredients.

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In the afternoon, we made Chinese style paper lanterns, decorated with stickers and glitter glue (really they should have been red but these were the colours we had in our crafty box).

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We’ve had a great time learning about China today. Happy Chinese New Year everyone!