Me: “Dinner’s on the table girls.”
Alice: “Not yet mum, I can’t put this book down!”

Separate occasion
Me: “Don’t forget to take a book in the car for the journey.”
Bessie: “Oh brilliant, I can read Kaspar Prince of Cats!”

Kaspar Prince of Cats

What more proof do you need that Kaspar Prince of Cats by Michael Morpurgo is utterly compelling? I have yet to get a look in but judging by the twin’s reaction this book is very, very good and on my half term reading list!

There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the twins engrossed in a book. They get comfortable on the sofa, sinking into the cushions with Baxter cuddling in on the scene too as close as he can, happy for the warmth of a soft lap.

Silence reigns in the house and my two little people start to take an adventure via the printed words forming pictures in their mind as the story develops.
Is there anything better?

The fact that they are huge animal fans – any picture or video of an animal on my Facebook stream is always met with very long ‘awws’ – meant that the book was already set up to be a hit. However, some books can disappoint. I have had to write in the girl’s school reading books twice now asking permission to exchange their books as they found them boring.

Not the case for Kaspar Prince of Cats though. This book, read to date by two people, is already well thumbed and has lost its ‘brand new’ look.

The story is about a cat, which you obviously gathered by the title. A special cat that arrived at the Savoy hotel in London in a basket. Carried in by Johnny Trott, the bell boy, who carried all of Countess Kandinsky’s belongings.

Now I can’t tell you what happens as I haven’t read the book yet, not to mention it would be a huge spoiler but, suffice to say that Johnny ends up with Kaspar. The two of them become great friends with Lizziebeth, a spirited American heiress and Johnny and Kaspar find themselves travelling around the world. They encounter all sorts of troubles on their journey – theft, a shipwreck even a rooftop rescue!

It is said that he goes by the official title of Prince Kaspar Kandinsky, Prince of Cats.

It is said that he is a Muscovite, a Londoner and a New Yorker.

It is said that he is the only cat to survive the sinking of the Titanic…

I’d say they are the perfect ingredients to cuddle up on the sofa for a good read, wouldn’t you?

You can win a signed copy simply by entering the competition on the Rafflecopter below

PS. **Puts on detective hat** I thought you’d really interested to hear about how Michael Morpurgo was inspired to write this story

MIchael Morpurgo blog tour

We are delighted to be invited by Harper Collins to take part in the #MorpurgosAnimals blog tour where each blog is focusing on a separate book. Other books to look our for are: – The Butterfly Lion, The Fox and The Ghost King, The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips, Born To Run, An Elephant in the Garden, Toro! Toro! Shadow and Running Wild reviewed by some of my favourite bloggers.
For up to date information follow Harper Collins on Twitter and Facebook

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This summer the twins spent a fortnight with the grandparents whilst Paul and I worked (this has been the most difficult part of going full-time for me, not being able to spend the school holidays with my girls). At the end of the fortnight, Paul and I travelled up to the Midlands on Friday after work and we all spent the weekend together.

We have visited a number of places on previous visits, Sherwood Forest, White Post Farm and Newark, all of which are beautiful but this time the grandparents took us to Creswell Crags.

Creswell Crags

What is Creswell Crags?

It’s such a strange name that doesn’t give anything away, does it? But if you venture out to this beauty spot you’ll be surprised at what a great place it is for the family and especially for the kids.

map of creswell crags

The first thing that struck me was the fact that this place has been a stop off for travellers for thousands of years, we’re talking between 50,000 and 10,000 years ago.

The limestone gorge has plenty of caves along the sides and in some of them, stone tools and animal remains have been found along with the most amazing Ice Age rock art proof of the dwellers that passed by many years ago.

Creswell Crags cave home

We are lucky to have a number of caves used in prehistoric times in Britain and walking around them brings a quick history lesson to life – not just for the children! It’s impossible to not think about how it would have been and looked all that time ago. How cold would the caves have been to sleep in? How would they have kept themselves warm and safe with no door to close?

Situated on the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire border Creswell Craggs has a large car park where you can leave the car all day for just £3. It is free to visit the site and walk around the lake and gorge and you can also stop off in the cafeteria and gift shop before making your way home.

There are two tours that you can book to attend The Ice Age Tour and the Rock Art Tour. We hadn’t booked anything and arrived at the wrong time to join a tour so it’s worth checking their website before you go for times and prices.

creswell crags flint knife blade

The Ice Age tour takes place in Robin Hood Cave, the largest cave on the site and you find out who lived there, why they were there and how the information was discovered.

The Rock Art tour shows the only Ice Age Rock Art known in Britain. It was discovered in 2003 and consists of engravings of animals, birds and motifs. The engravings are estimated to be 13,000 years old making Church Hole Cave the oldest in Britain.

Cresswell Crags pony ride

We chose to walk around Creswell Crags under our own steam. The walk is a leisurely one with the girls scrambling up every rock face they can to peek into the caves – which incidentally are closed and only opened by the tour guide. The photo above is down at the bottom of the gorge working our way back up to the centre. We also collected a bagful of wild blackberries on our way round and added them to our roulade pudding that nonna prepared that evening.

Cresswell Crags

There are lots of informative signs as you go round which the twins loved reading. I don’t think they could quite understand the extent of how old it all was but they found it fascinating and I know it’s the kind of information that stuck.

reswell crags

Down at the bottom of the gorge, we got caught in some light rain and the pair of them danced around having a good laugh and enjoying being outside in the fresh air.

creswell crags

Sometimes it’s when you least expect it that you get a really good photo. I love this one of Alice in the tree whilst we were waiting for the rain to stop.

Once we had completed the gorge, we worked our way back to the centre where there is a large green area with games for the children to play on – slides down the mammoth’s tusks and climbing frames. There are also some picnic tables, where we stopped for lunch and as you get to the top there is the gift shop full of fossils, semi-precious stones and plenty of other merchandise to tempt you.

If you don’t have a picnic, the coffee shop has snacks and drinks and there is also an exhibition that you can pay to enter too.

A great family day out enjoyed by all.

Eternity Rose

Photo by Oana Dascalul

Soon, there won’t be any getting away from it… Christmas is on the way and coming fast. Everyone’s going to be on the lookout for the best gifts to give. If you have a loved one to think of and have no idea what to buy, take a look at the Eternity Rose as an option…

When I lived in Italy there was (and still is) an artist who lived in the town called Maestro Paolo, an eccentric guy – as most artists are, who was always coming up with really good ideas. He’d build wooden huts throughout the village and fill them with interesting things to look at and the tourists would stop in awe as they walked the cobbled streets. He’d organise really fun town carnivals and when you walked past his jewellery shop you could see birds flying around and baby rabbits in the window chomping on fresh grass and carrots. (I must add no harm was ever done and he would take the utmost care of them.) But there was one idea of his that I simply fell in love with – silver handmade roses.

They were beautiful to look at and looked as delicate as a real rose. A tall stem with a couple of leaves and a fresh rosebud at the top just starting to open. I admired them so much, I decided to buy one for my mum to remind her how much I loved her. Living so far apart was difficult for us both and this would be a constant reminder of my love for her.

I also bought one for a very good friend of mine for a special birthday, I thought the silver rose would live on whereas real flowers would soon pass and be forgotten.

When Eternity Rose got in touch and asked me if I would like to review one I accepted, simply because it reminded me of that special gift and that special time in Italy. They make them in gold too but I went for the silver as a reminder of Mastro Paolo’s roses.

Eternity rose

Photo by Oana Dascalul

I must say, the rose is packaged in the most beautiful wooden box which really adds a touch of luxury to the opening of the gift. Inside the box is lined with a soft blue velvet-like fabric and the rose sits in a specially carved out space making sure no damage comes to the flower and delicate petals.

The Eternity Rose is a real rose. It has been taken at its most perfect stage and dipped in silver (or gold) It is then hung to dry and the finished product is a delicate and beautiful flower that will stand beautifully in a single stem vase.

I am very impressed. I think anyone opening this gift will love it. It is an object of beauty which is unusual and still maintains the deep meaning behind the gift of a rose. Plus it will live on for years and years.

Who would you buy an Eternity Rose for?

Disclosure: I was sent an Eternity Rose for the purpose of this post.

 

beach hut southwold

We recently had a weekend away to Suffolk and stayed the night in an Airstream glamping campsite which was a fantastic experience. We managed to get out and about and it quickly became apparent that there is a lot to see and do in Suffolk, so much so that we plan on returning as soon as we can. Whilst we were there, we picked up some great leaflets giving ideas of things to do in Suffolk so I thought I’d write them all down in preparation for our next trip.

Things to do in Suffolk

Aldeburgh

Aldeburgh shell on beach

We stopped off at Aldeburgh and walked along the beach as a swimming race was taking place. There is a fabulous sculpture of a scallop shell on the beach made by Maggi Hamblings with the words, ‘I hear those voices that will not be drowned.’

Apparently, there are two fish and chip shops in Aldeburgh both owned by the same company but everyone seems to think that one is better than the other. You can tell which because of the queue waiting outside the shop. We have to return as we didn’t manage to try the famous fish and chips.

Helmingham Hall

Helmingham Hall is a beautiful manor house surrounded by a moat dating back to 1490. It is still owned by the same family, the Tollemache’s and Lady Xa Tollemache is a renowned gardener having won many medals at the Chelsea Flower Show, in fact, people come here to visit the gardens as much as they do the historical building.

Framlingham Castle

Famous for being the base from which Mary Tudor rallied her troops and set off to claim the throne in London. Framlingham Castle is part of the English Heritage and offers a great family day out. Walk the walls, visit the workshop, the cafe and of course the shop plus picking up a lot of history on your way. It is said that a walk around the walls of the castle offers some of the best views to be had in Suffolk.

Thorpness

house in the clouds

We visited and walked around the quiet seaside village. We walked as far as The House in the Clouds, a famous building for its tall structure and seemingly house in the sky. Opposite was an old windmill that featured in the CBeebies programme, Grandpa in my pocket. We walked around the pretty boating lake but it was too cold a day for us to take a boat out so we popped into the restaurant The Kitchen and enjoyed some freshly made pizzas and a crab salad.

Southwold

under southwold pier

I was quite excited about going to Southwold as I had heard lots about it. We parked up at the pier and walked Baxter along to the end. It’s amazing as there are so many curiosities and shops to visit. The Quantum telescope, The Waterclock and the Wacky Walk of Mirrors being a few. The Under The Pier show is a must, an arcade about half way along which has some completely mad machines.

southwold pier

Lavenham

Known as England’s best kept medieval village, Lavenham is chocolate-box pretty with half-timbered merchant’s houses, winding streets, a 15th century church and a long list of listed buildings including the 800 year old Swan Hotel. Lavenham’s more recent claim to fame is being the village where Harry Potter was born. Lavenham was used as Godric’s Hollow in the filming of The Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2.

Visit a brewery

Of course! Suffolk is the home to Greene King, Adnams and Aspall plus a range of smaller breweries too. the most picturesque possibly being St Peter’s Brewery in South Elmham. I have to go back just to buy some Adnams gin.

The list of things to do in Suffolk is infinite and one place to look for more inspiration is on the Visit Suffolk website where they give a list of 50 things to do in Suffolk!

Where to stay in Suffolk

There is a wonderful range of places to stay in the county, take a look at Suffolk Secrets who have all kinds of accommodation from contemporary through to rustic cottages and many of the properties are pet-friendly too. Whether it’s a couples retreat or a big family reunion there is something for everyone.

This is a collaborative post.

Things to do in suffolk pin

Is there someone in your life who is difficult to buy for?

Are you always on the lookout for a new recipe book, something a little bit different from the usual?

Have you been thinking about reducing the amount of meat you eat, maybe even stepping into the world of vegetarians but you’re not quite sure how to start?

I have three cook books to show you that can tick all of those boxes, not only will they amplify your recipe base but also will make the most wonderful gifts. We are talking about the Soulful Baker by Julie Jones, The Flexible Vegetarian by Jo Pratt and Cook Yourself Happy by Caroline Fleming.

Soulful Baker

cook books

Probably one of the most beautiful books you will see on the shelf this autumn. The Soulful Baker is a delight to look through searching for that special sweet recipe. This book truly was a labour of love as Julie Jones put it together when her mother, who taught her to cook, was diagnosed with dementia. They would spend time baking together and Julie started an Instagram feed which then led to this book.

The astonishing beauty of her creations will take your breath away and the method is written in such an easy format that your creations cannot fail.

I have been flicking through trying to decide which recipe to try first but there are so many good ones to choose from, I can’t wait to get started.

For me, baking has always been associated with emotion. Those precious hours set aside to unwind and spend quality time preparing something with love and care. I was first introduced to baking when I was very small, stood upon a stool working alongside my Mother, her oversized apron folded in half and tied around my waist. I often think of her encouraging instructions and advice with affection, ‘beat really fast – otherwise the batter will curdle’. No fancy or expensive equipment was used then, just a big ceramic bowl and a wooden spoon. Such happy days. Days I recreate with my own children now. — Julie Jones

The Flexible Vegetarian

cook books the flexible vegetarian

The more I look around me, the more vegetarians I see and when I weigh up how much meat we consume I want to start reducing the quantity but not losing out on wholesome tasty meals. I have a few of Jo Pratt’s books, like In the Mood for Entertaining and Healthy Eating. I even met and cooked with Jo last year at a work event which was a wonderful experience plus I got to see first-hand just how clever her recipes are. Clever but simple, tasty and healthy.

cook books The Flexible Vegetarian

The Flexible Vegetarian is filled with delicious and practical recipes for every lifestyle and if you do have a stubborn meat eater to cook for the recipes offer a neat solution – just add meat or fish as they can be served either way.

There is a huge variety of ingredients that I have never cooked with before but aren’t difficult to find, so I am looking forward to trying my hand at some and venturing into a whole new culinary world.

Cook Yourself Happy

cook books

Have you heard of Hygge? I have a whole Pinterest board on it. It’s not so easy to translate as it refers to a state of mind, a sense of being rather than an object. Hygge is all about cosy, wholesome lifestyle and I think Cook Yourself Happy The Danish Way falls into this sense of being.

Caroline Fleming draws on old family recipes that boost your wellbeing both inside and out. Warm smoked salmon with pickled cucumber, fried pork belly and baked apples with marzipan are amongst some of the favourites but as she says herself, “Cooking and the results are (for me) ‘love’ that you can taste, smell and touch – all a big part, I think, of making us the happiest people.” See more of Caroline on her Instagram @carolineflemingofficial

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of each book for the purpose of this review.