desk

You know those posts you see on Facebook about untidy desks belonging to genii (or geniuses for you lesser mortals)? Well, I’d like to think my untidy desk is showing signs of my genius too. However, if I am honest with myself, it’s because I have too many ideas, too many hobbies and I’m trying to get too much done in not enough time. So it all piles up and has an incongruous look of efficiency about it …or not – depending who’s looking at it.

My husband is a very patient man and he lets me get away with it most of the time but occasionally he will make a dig, a snide comment about the amount of trash I have collected in my corner of the room.

I have a ton of excuses ready to throw back at him but if the truth be known, he’s right BUT YOU’RE NOT TO TELL HIM.

The twins are fast growing up and also delving into lots of projects of their own. My mess has inspired them to have a go at weaving, to try their hand at sketchbook club and the latest passion – to sew.

After giving Alice a sewing machine for her birthday, it quickly became apparent that she loved it and would be making great use of her gift. The family very helpfully started mentioning projects she could help them with … ripped jeans, dad’s pants that needed mending and various buttons that needed sewing back on to shirts, jackets and trousers. But Alice wants to get creating, she would like to be a fashion designer she says and I would like to encourage that idea. After all, which mother wouldn’t want to be dressed head to toe in designer gear?

desk

Now, sewing can create a lot of ‘mess‘. Apart from the machine, there is fabric, cotton, needles, scissors and all manner of tools that go into making this hobby as enjoyable as it is. So we need a space to keep everything.

As the 4th small bedroom has only ever been used as a dumping ground and occasionally as a guest room, I decided to convert it into a creative space. Husband should be pleased as all manner of crafts can now live there rather than dotted around the living area. I haven’t had time to strip wallpaper and paint the walls but I hope you can look past the outdated decor we inherited 7 years ago and see what it will be soon. I have even been collecting ideas on a Pinterest board to inspire me and maybe you will get more of a feel from there.

To start our creative space we have this sturdy white desk from Kit Out My Office for Alice to sit at and sew, she has been drawing some designs for her first projects and I can’t wait to start helping her make them come to life.

The desk comes flat packed in 3 separate boxes and is easily put together with the help of an electric screwdriver. It didn’t take us long at all. The drawer slots in easily and is a good space to keep all manner of tools. It is sturdy and we chose all white but the drawer face comes in a variety of bright colours to choose from.

fashion designs

We are also going to use this space for my weaving and for keeping our sketchbook club bits and pieces. In fact, as the room has fitted wardrobes, I can see all manner of crafts moving up to this room soon.

Disclosure: We were sent the desk for the purpose of this post. All opinions are my own

boots for dog walkingNovember is Baxter’s birthday and he will be 4 years old. In January we’ll be counting 3 years since we left Battersea Dogs Home with him and he became such an important part of our family. We really couldn’t imagine life without him nowadays.

We’ve all got to know each other very well and it’s fascinating to understand him more as time passes.

I mean, we always knew he liked food, he lives for it! I can’t go into the kitchen without him appearing in the doorway with the saddest, hard-done-by look on his face. I can’t open any packaging that remotely rustles without him leaping off the sofa and heading towards the promising noise. In fact, I would go as far as saying that food is Baxter’s most favourite thing in the whole world.

In second place of Baxter’s favourite things is a lap. You haven’t even sat down properly and he’s already climbing onto your lap settling himself as comfy as possible regardless if you’ve yet to put your mug of hot steaming tea down. Once he is comfy, he takes a huge sigh and relaxes into you, dropping off to sleep with a loud snore.

walking the dog on the beach

He hates being left at home alone though and will stand blocking the front door if he can get there before you. When you send him back into the lounge the look on his face is so sad it is heartbreaking. On the flip side – mention the ‘w’ word and he goes crazy, yapping excitedly until you’ve got your boots, coat and doggy bags ready!

We try to walk him twice a day, fitting it around work, after-school clubs and every other commitment that goes into daily life. We are very lucky that either Oana (my daughter in law) or our lovely next-door neighbour, will take him out to stretch his legs when we are at work/school.

However, Dad is king of the dog walking and the two of them set off on their walks on a regular basis. Around the Warren (a local green area), across the fields on the old WWII runway or, when we are at the coast, the beach.

Now Baxter has a dream…that of catching a seagull and whenever we are at the coast he pulls as hard as he can to get on the sand to chase them. So, we always make a point of stopping off at the beach and watching him run as fast as he can across the sand chasing the gulls who circle above him and return laughing above him out of reach. If he runs into the sea, which he doesn’t like as he’s not too sure what to make of the constant waves rolling in. However, should he find himself soaking wet, he will then roll in the sand to dry himself off….you can imagine the state he gets in, can’t you?

boots for dog walking

All this dog walking requires some good quality footwear and jackets. You need to know that your feet are going to stay warm and dry and you want to be sure you won’t get wet or cold as you are out in all weathers.

Millets have a huge selection of outdoors clothes including waterproof jackets, fleece, hats & gloves and footwear. They got in touch and asked if we’d like to choose two pieces and review them. Dad checked out the men’s selection and found a great pair of boots and a green parka.

He’s been wearing them a lot. At the park, on the beach and for walks around the area we live in. He’s very pleased with his choices. The boots are just what he was looking for walking the dog. They are comfortable, high to the ankle and have a good grip on the sole. The jacket (minus the fur trim around the hood – that’s not him at all) has also been a huge success. He has tested it on very windy days (Storm Brian and Ophelia) and he has been caught in the rain. He made a point of telling me how impressed he was and pointing out the beads of water running down the coat rather than penetrating the fabric.

Success Millets! The man and his dog are both very pleased. However, we still need to catch that seagull…

boots for dog walking

Disclosure: Millets online sent us the jacket and boots for dad for the purpose of this post. All opinions are our own.

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 book review

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

Kaspar Prince of Cats book review

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.