12 April 2017

What to put in a non-chocolate Easter basket for a three year old?

This year I decided to do an Easter basket for my daughter, filled with non-chocolate Easter gifts perfect for a three year old. I figured that since she is bound to get a crazy amount of chocolate from family and friends, a non-chocolate Easter gift basket would be a better bet. I included all sorts of perfect Easter gifts for the little ones here, suitable for toddlers and pre-schoolers, ranging from books to crafts, and wanted to share my ideas with you.

Wicker Easter basket with gifts for kids

Wicker Easter basket with non-chocolate Easter gift ideas for kids

I've never done one of these seasonal baskets before, but I thought it might be a fun tradition to start one. You could do one for Christmas, one for Easter, one for Halloween and what not, depending on what kind of traditions you follow. Maybe even a Hanukkah basket or a Ramadan basket! You could probably also save many of the seasonal items from year to year so it shouldn't break your bank or your environmental credentials too much... Anyway, here are the items I selected for my non-chocolate Easter gift basket for me three year old daughter.

three Easter books

For reading... 

There are a huge amount of Easter books out there, but to be honest, anything with bunnies, chicks or lambs would do perfectly! I find my three year old particularly loves anything to do with bunnies...

As for Easter books, I got a few firm favourites from Usborne Books. That's not my Lamb is one of the classic touchy-feely books, and while this is aimed more at the baby market my three (nearly four) year old daughter still loves reading these to herself and touching the different textures. Easter Bunny Flap Book is another cute book with colourful drawings, Easter eggs hiding under flaps and little peek holes to the next pages. The third Easter book we got was the Easter Fun activity book, which has 12 simple crafts suitable for young kids - and a sheet of stickers inside too.    

paints, felt tip pens, colouring pads and paint brushes and foam stickers

For crafting...  

An Easter egg decorating kit is a perfect addition to the Easter activity pack. I bought paint brushes from my local Flying Tiger, and grabbed Crayola paints and felt pens to make a full kit. Now all that is needed is some hard boiled eggs. And what child wouldn't love stickers? I also got a pack of glittery monstrosities from Flying Tiger, and I am expecting these to be a huge hit. Could even stick these on the eggs.  

Colouring is another surefire activity that keeps my kid entertained. I got the lovely Farmyard Finger Puppets and Little Woodland Animals Frieze from Phoenix Trading, who do lots of paper-based cards, crafts, and games. I am particularly excited to play with the finger puppets and use the frieze as a decoration in my daughter's room.

paper bunny bunting, small bunnies and chicks and bunny stick balloon

For decorating...

I also thought that it would be fun for her to decorate her room, or our living room with some Easter related little things. The little bunnies and chicks are from Sainsbury's, and I have saved them from a previous year. The stick balloon (also fab for using as an Easter egg hunt marker) is probably from Tesco's and is at least a year old. These things last forever if you aren't too rough with them. 

Little Woodland Animal bunting I thought would be perfect for Easter as well, as it has loads and loads of bunnies in. It is from the same designer as the frieze I introduced earlier, so should look nice together.  

bunny ears and a bunny pencil case

For being a bunny...

And of course - you do need to include bunny ears! These are old one's from Sainsbury's, but you can get similar ones just about anywhere around Easter. I also bought a bunny pencil case from Paperchase, because I couldn't resist it for my bunny-mad babe. 

Easter basket filled with Easter gifts

So there, a bunch of non-chocolate Easter gifts for an Easter basket - I would love to know if you have ever made any of these yourselves and what you included in! 

What did you include in Easter baskets? What non-chocolate items would you recommend?

A non-chocolate Easter basket - Easter gift ideas for 3 year olds (also suitable for toddlers and pre-schoolers)

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6 April 2017

Cheddar from Cheddar - our quick trip to the gorges

We recently had a mini day-trip to Cheddar. I admit, my primary aim was to go to Cheddar and buy cheddar, just so I can later say I've bought cheddar from Cheddar. The fact that Cheddar Gorge area is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty came rather secondary, but it did make our quick family trip pretty stunning.

After badgering my husband on three separate times driving on the M5 to follow the signs to Cheddar we finally did. About half an hour later, we drove around the gorges for a while, before stopping over at one of the parking areas to have our supermarket-bought lunch. Chilly wind and the potential rock falls persuaded us to stick to the warm safety of our car for our snacks, but we did stretch our legs too. Four goats, trotting up and down the steep walls were eyeing us suspiciously and at a distance while we took family pictures.

A family day trip to Cheddar Gorges - tips on what to do

Family picture at Cheddar Gorges

cheddar gorges

dad and daughter watching cheddar gorge

mum, dad and daughter at cheddar gorge are of outstanding natural beauty

Unfortunately the impending three to four hour drive back to London was hanging like a dark cloud above us. Due to a cranky toddler and a long journey back home we did not have time to visit the caves, which I hear are quite spectacular.

Instead, we popped by The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company in town - these guys make their cheese locally and mature them in the caves. In fact, they are the only company that makes cheddar in Cheddar. At the shop the "cheese sommelier" introduced us to all the different varieties at the tasting counter. We particularly enjoyed the Cave Matured Cheddar, Natural Blue Cheddar and Truckle, and their Cheddar with a Good Slosh of Port. We ended up buying a silly amount of cheese, and also some chutney - a Harvest Chutney from Rose Farm, by another small local producer.

Girl on daddy's shoulders at Cheddar town

Cheese counter at Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company shop

an antique cheese press

tasting cheeses at a cheese shop

a canister of somerset scrumpy cider

And while in West Country, who could resist some proper Somerset Scrumpy! As soon as I saw a big canister of scrumpy I knew I had to get it. Presentation so far away from the ever-so-slightly-ponsy artisanal drinks we would usually go for, but yet so tasty. 

I wouldn't mind stopping here again and spending a bit more time. The town was rather touristy, but, the scenery was breath-taking, and cheese mighty tasty.

Top tips for Cheddar Gorges:
  • Buy cheddar! Just so you can say that you have bought cheddar in Cheddar ha ha. We enjoyed The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company who mature their cheeses in the caves, and who are the only company making cheddar in Cheddar. 
  • Reserve enough time. It takes at least 20-30 minutes to get off and then again back on to M5. If you are planning on visiting the caves add several hours more to your trip.
  • Parking in town is difficult. During high season (mid March to end of September) you will need to park in the paid car park area - there really isn't anything else. It is about £5 a day.
  • Parking in the gorges is free - there are parking areas on the side of the road. They are a nice place to stop over, have a packed lunch and watch climbers and mountain goats. You could also hike a bit if you have older kids. 

Have you ever been to Cheddar? And what did you think?

4 April 2017

Should you go see Peppa Pig: My First Cinema Experience at the cinema?

We went to see the Peppa Pig: My First Cinema Experience at one of the premieres in London a couple of weeks before it got to cinemas. I thought I would quickly review the film too so if you have Peppa mad kids you will know whether it is worth paying for the tickets for it! 

mum and daughter at peppa pig premiere

peppa pig premiere cinema theatre

We have been to a few premieres by now (including Kate&Mim-Mim and Teletubbies) and they usually are similar, manic experiences with lots of sugary treats, kiddo entertainment, characters to hug and little goody bags to take home. This was exactly that! We ate pigtastic biscuits and fairy cakes, drank Peppa Pig juice cartons, got a face painting and watched balloon modellers, and gave a great big cuddle to both Peppa and George before going in to watch the film. 

face painting kit at kids party

face painting at peppa pig premiere

little girl with a rainbow face painting

eating a peppa pig biscuit

Peppa Pig: My First Cinema Experience review

Peppa Pig: My First Cinema Experience review: mum and daughter at the premiere

My thoughts on the Peppa Pig film are that it is fantastic for Peppa fans and especially kids under the age of five. 

The film opened with a presenter, Daisy, Peppa's friend, speaking to the audience. It then moved on to showing episodes, which included visiting the London with the queen, visiting the zoo, travelling to Australia and so on. There were lots of episodes (nine to be exact) and the episodes were interspersed with the presenter coming on screen and talking to the audience, singing nursery rhymes and encouraging the kids to move between episodes. This worked well - the kids were able to move about and get that energy out in between episodes, and were then able to watch again. The whole film was about one hour, so not too much for even the smallest ones. 

As for adults, well, it was fun to interact and sing the nursery rhymes with my daughter, and as she was so enthralled with the film and suitably able to concentrate due to the frequent breaks I do admit, I did rest my eyes a bit too! The episodes were fun, and guest appearances (for example Jo Brand) kept me entertained.  

peppa pig film on screen

peppa pig film daisy the presenter on screen

peppa pig film the queen on screen

Should you go and see the Peppa Pig film then?

If you have a child that loves Peppa Pig, most certainly, yes. It was such a great experience for my daughter. She loved it. Before we went to see the film she kept saying to me she didn't like Peppa anymore (I think someone at school may have said it was for babies or whatever...). After the film, well, she liked Peppa again and she now a week later still talks about how much fun the film was. 

The Peppa Pig: My First Cinema Experience was also perfect as a first introduction to going to the cinema for the smallest ones - it was so easy and you didn't have worry about them making noise or moving, as that was the whole idea of it! If you want to see it, you can find tickets and locations here.  
I did a video too!

If you would like to win this fun Peppa Pig activity pack worth £12 please enter below - includes the items in the picture although colours/toppers may vary. There are daily tweet and daily entry options too! UK entrants only due to postage.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Are you going to see Peppa Pig film in the cinemas?

You might also like: Our little zookeeper with Zookeeper Zoe

31 March 2017

March 2017 - What happened in our lives

These pictures took a lot of cajoling by me. 

While I thought taking a beautiful family picture, one in when we are all scrubbed up would be a nice memory for us, but what do I know eh? It nearly started a domestic when I suggested taking out the camera and moving away from the bouncy castle and leaving the frosty beer inside. I did get my pictures eventually, even if they came at a price of a grumpy husband and a whining child... 

Is it the same for you guys when you take family pictures? Because if so, I think this monthly family portrait project I have started might be short lived.  

A smiling family picture at a wedding pavillion

Anyway, these pictures were taken at a family wedding nearby Plymouth. I love going to weddings. It is always such a privilege to be invited to celebrate a big moment in life. Getting married, loving, being joyful. Weddings are wonderful. All the planning that goes into them, the little details, the nerves, the expectations, the happy smiles, the funny little mishaps, the beautiful words spoken. 

It really is a privilege to be there, even if it can in practice be difficult. As we live in London, the journey involves about five hours on the road, from one coast to nearly the other coast. With a three year old in the car. On our way back we did break the monotony by popping by Cheddar to buy cheddar. I admit, we did it just for that pun. 

wedding pavillion iron fence

Wave to Mummy family picture in March 2017

sky and dove painted inside wedding pavillion roof

mother father and child smiling in a family portrait

outside garden at a hotel

Other than the wedding and cheddar buying trips, I sort of struggle to remember what we did in March. I know it has been a busy one as our months usually are. I worked. Husband worked. I had a few late nights at work. Did a presentation to a bunch of professors on a work project. Made sushi twice and I love sushi so March was a surprisingly tasty month.

Over on the blogging life I have been to more blog events than usually. Even went to the Peppa Pig premiere. Did some Facebook live videos which I loved doing. I now have a newfound respect for television presenters as I was bricking it with my one and only viewer logging on. Which was probably my dad. 

Sleep has been an issue. Our growing girl has been waking up for midnight snacks, and just been a general pain during the night-time so we have not had much shut eye recently. She has been a proper little miss madam quite a few times, and we are getting a surge of independence and defiance as she is nearing her fourth birthday. 

a funny family picture at a photo booth with everyone dressed as rockers

Now to go back to the photo-taking issues... These photo-booth pictures on the other hand were a totally different story as far as picture taking goes. Not a single complaint made when we took these! 

We, especially my daughter, went in so many times eventually the photo booth attendants at the wedding told my daughter the booth was broken. I did notice though that they managed to fix it for those people who had not been to the booth the umpteenth of times already...  

How was your March? 

26 March 2017

Did becoming a mother change me at all?

I sometimes think about the ways becoming a mother has changed me. I once heard a beautiful Bengali quote, which says that the day a baby is born, it is not just one but two people that are born. A child and a mother.

new mum giving a kiss to a newborn girl

I gave birth nearly four years ago and in a way I am a new person. I am a mother. I am something more than before. Becoming a mother did change me in some ways, and over the years I have grown more. 

But in another way, I am still me. Being a mother has not fundamentally changed me, not my deepest sense of self. Nor has it, rather unfortunately, corrected my character flaws or made me in any way a better person. 

I am still the same old me. The one who comes up with great plans to do all kinds of things, but rarely ever manages to finish them. The one who has bags and bags of unfinished craft projects. The one who constantly looks for a step up somewhere, somehow, as long as it is a step up. The one who is like a dog with a bone when she wants something - including winning an argument. The one who should sleep, but gets distracted by a variety of things until 3AM. The one who would be happy doing pretty much anything in life, but who doesn't have a real passion for anything particular. 

I am still all that. 

It is not all perfect, and it is not all pretty, but it is what makes me, warts and all, me. 

What took me by surprise was the anxiety. As soon as pregnancy became something more tangible than just a thought, I got anxious. What if I didn't eat the right things? What if I accidentally consumed something harmful? What if I fell on my stomach? What if I lifted something too heavy? Gradually, the anxiety just increased and increased. It reached it fever point not long after my daughter was born. Amongst many other things, I spent hours and hours worrying over our impending death in a car crash, and of course me being me, learning also all about the best types of car seats and car seat placements to protect our precious cargo. They are rear-facing until four years old, and back middle, back passenger side, back driver side and front passenger in descending order of safety by the way. 

Perhaps it is part of being a new parent. This thinking of all kinds of possible but highly unlikely scenarios, and how to steer clear of them. But can you ever be totally relaxed as a parent? Probably not. I cannot think there will ever be a time when I won't worry over what my child is doing or if she is safe. 

Other ways it has changed me is that I finally have a real reason to try and be better than I was before. One word describes it the best. Motivation. 

I am more motivated to try more. I am more motivated to push myself more because it is not just for me. It is for us. It is not just about trying to do something for myself, but it is about choosing things that I know are better for us as a family, and things that I want to do for us. It is not so much about thinking purely about what I want to achieve, and how I want to achieve it, but how it will benefit us as well. The simple life sometimes feels like, well, it would be a bit more fun. To relax. To not take everything so seriously. Watch a bit more TV. Laze around a bit more. And at the same time, I know that if I don't do the right things at work, at the gym, at home, it won't be just me who won't be going anywhere. It is all of us. 

And perhaps the biggest thing of all... Before having my child I never really knew what it meant when people would say they would lay their life for someone. It was an abstract concept. After giving birth I finally knew what that meant. The willingness to lay your life down in a heart beat, with no questions asked. That is what really makes me a mother.  

dad and mum cradling a newborn daughter

So what was born then that day, nearly four years ago? A tiny little daughter, growing cheekier day by day. And a mother, much the same as before, but also more anxious and more tenacious, and one who loves her child more than life itself.  

How did you change when becoming a parent? 

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