Bring Up A Butterfly …

As far as summer’s go, ours fizzled out a bit towards the end as our plans for the future began to unfold,  work took up a lot of my time, and life in general just had a bit of meh going on, especially once our friends packed up their lives and moved to Australia. One aspect of our summer that did lift me out of my funk a little, was the 50things campaign, which gave me a bit of time and focus on the children. If you find yourself struggling with getting outdoors, do have a look at the campaign. It helps focus otherwise busy mother’s mind on their children. It did for me, at least.

One of the things on the 50things list is Bring Up A Butterfly. It’s one we embraced with gusto, because my girls (4 & 2) really want a pet, but we can’t have one where we live. Of course, a butterfly isn’t a pet, so much, but it was quite the learning experience for them.

We bought a butterfly kit from Amazonwhich came with a net and a pot with caterpillars in it. The pot contains the worms, and the food they need till they transform.



It was really quite amazing for all of us, watching the teeny tiny caterpillars turn very quickly into large caterpillars and almost overnight go into their cocoons. They stay in Chrysalis form for almost two weeks, then, before you know it, there’s a cocoon shaking and rattling as the butterfly writhes its way out. Soon a beautiful Painted Lady joins the world, and like a deer finds it’s feet unsteadily at first. Bring Up A Butterfly

Before you know it, the butterfly has a sip of nectar, and so the cycle is complete.

We kept them in their basket until they were all steady and ready, and on a sunny afternoon went into the garden to let them go. Butterflies are incredibly low maintenance. You really just have to look at them, and once they are hatched, give them some nectar on a saucer. It’s even easier than a gold fish.

To turn this into a true learning experience, we also used Twinkl’s Butterfly Life Cycle resource.

*If you buy the kit any time other than the Spring, they will send you everything you need, except for the caterpillars. Those will be sent to you in the Spring. It makes a lovely gift though, which is what Ameli’s was, and consequent years you can just buy caterpillar refill packs. It’s also worth noting that you can also buy a Ladybird Kit.

We’re completing  the National Trust’s #50Things campaign because, well, it’s great. This was number 38: Bring up a butterfly  on their list. You can see the full list here.

Catch A Falling Leaf

The end of the summer is coming, and pretending it’s not so doesn’t do anything to stop the impending doom winter. I think we may have some exciting plans up our sleeves for this winter, but I’ll have to see how it all pans out before I start sharing. In the meantime, we’re carrying on with our #50things and well on target to get through a lot, if not all of it, this year.

Earlier this year we went to the Whipsnade Zoo for a family day out. It was an early spring day, and the air was thick with cherry blossom scent. Yes, cherry blossoms aren’t leaves, I know, but hey ho, the skills are the same. Catch A Falling Leaf

There’s something about standing waiting in anticipation, spotting a leaf – blossom – jumping into action, grabbing, missing, catching that can’t but make you feel 5 years old. There’s nothing you can do but laugh, and giggle, and shout as you wait and act. The feeling of success as you finally clutch that foliage in your hand.

It’s a great way to burn energy, and to laugh together, play together.

It also costs nothing!

And while catching spring blossoms is imbued with the hope of warmer days, catching autumn leaves are indicative of chestnut roasting, mushroom foraging, and berry picking – there’s nothing not to love.

And while you’re having fun, the kids are learning hand-eye coordination, action and reaction and that mama can run and laugh and play too.

Get out there this autumn, and chase the leaves.


We’re completing  the National Trust’s #50Things campaign because, well, it’s great. This was number 33: Catch a Falling Leaf on their list. You can see the full list here.

Wave Jumping And Other Seafront Pastimes

I love the ocean. It is to me, human emotion in water form. It gives you calm, and beauty, and peace, serenity, power, anger… every human emotion, the ocean can reflect onto us and from us. There’s little that can calm, center and focus me as much as a morning spent on the beach, my toes in the sand, just listening to the rhythm and song of the waves. Something in the water speaks to my soul, always has and always will.

So it’s only natural that I would want to share a little of that passion with my children. wave jumping I also have beautiful memories of holidays with my family in Gordon’s Bay, South Africa, bobbing for hours in the freezing water of the Indian ocean. Once your legs and arms were numb you could spend hours popping up and down in the water. Bliss. Pure and simple. Or the see-through waters of Malaysia where you can see through to the coral and tropical fish swimming below. Memories of my childhood, and early adulthood.

I hope my children can say the same one day… even if the early memories are of jumping the waves on the Isle of Wight. wave jumping - #50things What a brilliant way to learn coordination, overcome fears, manage risk. All the while squealing, peals of laughter working up a huge appetite, absorbing vitamin D and gearing yourself up for the best night’s sleep ever.  Although, bear in mind that wave jumping at ages 4 and 2 may look a little different to how you or I may do it 😉

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wave book

We’re completing  the National Trust’s #50Things campaign because, well, it’s great. This was number 20: Jump over waves on their list. You can see the full list here.

Pooh Sticks Have A Special Place In My Heart

Pooh Sticks is a really special game to me. My mother loved Winnie the Pooh, and after our discovery of the House at Pooh Corner and the original Pooh Sticks bridge in Ashdown Forest last year, I knew we had to take her there when they came to visit us last December.

Pooh Sticks3Unfortunately she became aggressively ill and died two weeks after arriving on their holiday and she never made it to Pooh Sticks Bridge. Instead we went as what was left of our family a few days later, we played Pooh Sticks, we sat waiting to see if Pooh and his friends were coming back, but alas, they were off on an adventure, and we lit a Chinese lantern and sent it up into the sky.

So, yes, the game that Pooh invented and played with pine cones has a very special place in my heart.

One day, when Pooh bear was just walking along the bridge with a fir cone in his paw, in his own world, not looking where he was going (probably thinking about honey), he tripped over something. This made the fir-cone jerk out of his paw into the river. 

“Bother”, said Pooh, as it floated slowly under the bridge. So Pooh went to get another fir cone, but then thought that he would just look at the river instead, because it was a peaceful sort of day. So, he lay down and looked at it, and it slipped slowly away beneath him, and suddenly, there was his fir-cone slipping away too. ‘That’s funny,’ said Pooh. ‘I dropped it on the other side,’ said Pooh, ‘and it came out on this side! I wonder if it would do it again?’ 

And he went back for some more fir-cones. It did. It kept on doing it. Then he dropped two in at once, and leant over the bridge to see which of them would come out first; and one of them did; but as they were both the same size, he didn’t know if it was the one which he wanted to win, or the other one. So the next time he dropped one big one and one little one, and the big one came out first, which was what he had said it would do, and the little one came out last, which was what he had said it would do, so he had won twice … and then he went home for tea.

And that was the beginning of the game called Poohsticks, which Pooh invented, and which he and his friends used to play on the edge of the Forest. But they played with sticks instead of fir-cones, because they were easier to mark.’

Pooh Sticks4

If you were that way inclined, this would make a pretty good physics lesson too – something about speed and weight, trajectory, force and a whole lot of other factors too.  Or you could just have fun. The kids certainly love it.

Pooh Sticks

We’re completing  the National Trust’s #50Things campaign because, well, it’s great. This was number 19: Play Pooh Sticks on their list. You can see the full list here.


Making Daisy Chains Like Alice In Wonderland

I’d never really known that a daisy chain was a ‘thing’ until I came to England, and it was really only here that I understood what the ‘garland’ really was. The first time Ameli asked me to make her a daisy chain, I had absolutely no idea how, but fortunately, it’s pretty intuitive!

Make a daisy chain

To make a daisy chain, simply pick a daisy or other flower low down, then using your nail, pierce a hole in the stem. Thread the next flower through the hole, and repeat in that flower’s stem and so you go on until you get to the size you want. These days I actually really enjoy sitting making daisy chains. It’s slow, and quiet and rather therapeutic.

Make a daisy chainI mean, if it was good enough for Alice, it’s good enough for me.  And look what happened to Alice when she took time out to be still and lie under a tree. When she started thinking about Daisy Chains, she went on a great adventure…

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, `and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice `without pictures or conversation?’

So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland


Make a daisy chain

We’re completing  the National Trust’s #50Things campaign because, well, it’s great. This was number 16: Make a daisy chain on their list. You can see the full list here.

50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 And 3/4

A few years ago Ameli and I joined up with the 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 and 3/4 campaign from the National Trust because, well, I didn’t really know what to do to keep a toddler occupied!  We ticked off maybe 10 things that first year, and last year another 20 or so. Ameli is now a little older and able to do a lot of the ‘things’ without my guidance or help, so I decided that we should start over again this year, and keep a proper record of it.

The National Trust have really gone to a lot of effort to encourage people outside and if I compare my first ever visit to a National Trust property back in 2003 to what they offer families today. Every visit to a property these days is fantastic, and we have a few favourites.

If you haven’t signed up to do 50 things  yet, you can do so online, or you can pick up the free paper booklet and stickers at most properties. If you want a proper ‘memento’ you can also buy a hardback version of ‘My Adventure Scrapbook‘ for £6.99.

A particular thing I love about the 5o things is that you can make it what you want. It can be educational or fun, you can make a day, or a weekend out of it, or tick ten things off in a morning. It really can be whatever works for you. It certainly is for us!

There’s so much fun in these 50 things, I can’t wait to share them with you (the linked ones are ones we’ve done):
50 Things To Do Before you're 11 3/4 book

For Adventurers:

  1. Climb a tree
  2. Roll down a really big hill
  3. Camp out in the wild
  4. Build a den
  5. Skim a stone
  6. Run around in the rain
  7. Fly a kite
  8. Catch a fish with a net
  9. Eat an apple straight from a tree
  10. Play conkers

For Discoverers:

  1. Go on a really long bike ride
  2. Make a trail with sticks
  3. Make a mud pie
  4. Dam a stream
  5. Play in the snow
  6. Make a daisy chain
  7. Set up a snail race
  8. Create some wild art
  9. Play Pooh-sticks
  10. Jump over waves

For Rangers:

  1. Untitled2Pick blackberries growing in the wild
  2. Explore inside a tree
  3. Visit a farm
  4. Go on a walk barefoot
  5. Make a grass trumpet
  6. Hunt for fossils and bones
  7. Go star gazing
  8. Climb a huge hill
  9. Explore a cave
  10. Hold a scary beast

For Trackers:

  1. Hunt for bugs
  2. Find some frogspawn
  3. Catch a falling leaf
  4. Track wild animals
  5. Discover what’s in a pond
  6. Make a home for a wild animal
  7. Check out the creatures in a rock pool
  8. Bring up a butterfly
  9. Catch a crab
  10. Go on a nature walk at night50 things

For Explorers:

  1. Plant it, grow it, eat it
  2. Go swimming in the sea
  3. Build a raft
  4. Go bird watching
  5. Find your way with a map ad compass
  6. Try rock climbing
  7. Cook on a camp fire
  8. Learn to ride a horse
  9. Find a geocache
  10. Canoe down a river

So, it’s summer time, we have no schedules, we have no agendas and we’re going to see how far we can get in our #50things. Why not join us?


Feast in the Woods Festival Ashford, Kent

I don’t want to tell you about the weekend we just had. I don’t want to share the awesomeness that was our Feast in the Woods experience. I really don’t want to tell you how my children connected with nature, how strangers became friends and how we spent the weekend resting in the beauty of the outdoors. I don’t want to tell you anything about it at all – at least not till I’ve bought my tickets for next year.

A few months ago I was searching for events to populate my UK Festivals Pinterest board when I came across a festival called Feast in the Woods.

Well – I love feasting and I love woods. I had to check it out. I swapped a few emails with the organiser, Rebecca Cork of Honeywoods Camping and the rest, as they say, is history.

We arrived on the campsite on Saturday afternoon, just as the rain stopped. I was feeling apprehensive and not really in the mood for cold, wet, and mud. But we went on, as the sun peaked out, and set up our tent. I didn’t know anyone and I was worried we’d spend the weekend standing outside looking in on other people’s friendships, conversations and fun. Festival Kids

The rest of this review has moved. You can see it here

Honeywoods Feast in the Woods

The Vyne National Trust, Basingstoke

A few years ago the National Trust started a campaign aimed at getting children outdoors – 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 3/4. We started working our way through the fifty things when Ameli was just two, using the online system. Last year we carried on with it and by the time she was four, she had ticked off 37 things! This year we decided to start from scratch and see how we could get on with it through the summer.

One of the benefits of following the #50things program is that as National Trust members, we get to visit a lot of properties around the area and find what they have earmarked that can be ticked off in their grounds – things like explore the inside of a tree, play Pooh sticks and so on, so it’s really useful, actually, and a cheap day out.


The rest of this review has moved. Please find it hereThe Vyne Basingstoke Hampshire

If you’re following along with the #50things project, here’s a list of things you can tick off at The Vyne:

1. Climb a Tree

2. Roll down a really big hill (Hidden Realm)

4. Build a den

5. Skim a stone

6. Run around in the rain

9. Eat an apple straight from a tree (on selected days, I think!)

10. Play conkers

11. Make a trail with sticks

13. Make a mud pie (Hidden Realm)

14. Dam a stream (Hidden Realm)

16. Make a daisy chain

18. Create some wild art

19. Play pooh sticks

25. Make a grass trumpet

28. Climb a huge hill

31. Hunt for bugs

33. Catch a Falling leaf

44. Go bird watching

45. Find your way with a map and compass

National Trust #50Things And Yeo Valley Organic Garden, North Somerset

My girls and I have been working our way down the list of #50things from the National Trust campaign since it started, really, but looking back through the blog, I realise  now I’ve barely even mentioned it! We racked up quite a few ticks on our online box over the summer, so when we were invited to Yeo Valley to enjoy the fruits of their partnership with the National Trust, we jumped at the opportunity.

For a start it meant a three hour trip to Somerset, which first thing in the morning with no time for breakfast was not my smartest move, but never mind – as we descended into Yeo Valley terrain in Blagdon, North Somerset, it became instantly worth the journey. It was not dissimilar to driving down the mountains into the north of Italy. Just catch-your-breath-beautiful. But the roads were made for single track ponies, not cars, so I didn’t dare stop to take a picture.

Upon arrival at Yeo Valley’s Holt Family Farm, we discovered the Organic Garden – again, just stunning. A beautiful landscaped maze of fountains, shrubs and a large vegetable garden, flanked by a field that apparently turns blue with bluebells in the spring and a crabapple grove groaning under beautiful, plump fruit. The family who own the business also live on the property, and their house is not far from what I dream about, with floor to ceiling windows that must offer an incredible view over the country side, and the fields dotted with cows – cows who all have names, and are milked twice a day before being let out to nibble on the grass at their leisure. Honestly, I could almost breathe in the wholesomeness of it all, and will definitely be returning for a visit when they open again in the Spring. (When they are open on Thursdays and Fridays to the public. Check the website before you go.)

We started the day with coffee, smoothies and flapjacks , before setting off on the National Trust #50 things part of the day.

Around the property they had set up a variety of activities – we started with a pumpkin hunt in long grass – the pumpkins were later decorated and filled with soil and cress seeds, so that they ticked the ‘plant,grow,eat’ part of the challenge.

Next the girls built mini-dens for bug houses, before scampering over to the ‘catch a falling leaf’ activity before running around for a while, collecting nature items for crafts, and bug hunting and ending our morning’s fun and games with a (relatively flawed) attempt to blow a grass trumpet.

A beautiful lunch in the eclectically decorated Organic Garden cafe later, we sat back lazily watching the children play on the balcony. The autumn sun shining through the glass fronted building was enough to send me into a deep sleep, but fortunately, the team organising the event had loads planned for the afternoon.

We moved into the workshop where the children decorated pumpkins and made their pumpkin cress heads, before sticking and gluing and having fun getting crafty with nature. Aviya had a ball with the buttons, totally disinterested in what we were supposed to be doing, but she had fun in her one year old way.

As if the day hadn’t been filled with enough excitement and exuberance, two calves made an appearance in the courtyard, and my girls were beside themselves! You’d think they were city dwellers or something the way they laughed and (Aviya) danced with glee!

As every good day should, our afternoon ended with coffee and cakes while we watched the sun drop over the hills around the Yeo Valley Farm.  We were sent on our way laden with yoghurt and cream tea vouchers for National Trust properties, pumpkins, crafts and fabulous memories from a magical day out in an incredible venue.

You can pick up your own #50things scrapbooks at participating National Trust properties and until January special packs of Yeo Valley yogurt give you the chance to win free family passes for National Trust properties. Also up for grabs is a National Trust Cottage break worth £1000.

To find out more about our day out and hear what others thought, visit:

Slummy Single Mummy

76 sunflowers

Knitty Mummy

(I’ll add more as I find them!)