Wednesday, 27 April 2016

A trip to Pennywell Farm

Last week I was lucky enough to win four tickets for breakfast with Pippa The Pig and a day out at Pennywell Farm.

It's been a while since we last visited Pennywell, although the three older children have been on school trips for the Nativity they run at Christmas.

We arrived before the Farm opened and enjoyed a range of breakfast cereals, pain au chocolats, croissants and fresh bread with jam. But the icing on the cake was the opportunity to meet the Pennywell mascot Pippa. After breakfast there was time for a quick photo with Pippa before the Farm opened to the general public and we were able to enjoy all the activities on offer.

Elliot did enjoy the breakfast, despite his miserable face in this photo.

One of the great things about Pennywell is that they run interactive activities pretty much every half hour through the day. But there are other things for you to do if you don't fancy the planned option.

We took part in:
  • egg collecting from the hens

    Counting the eggs we'd all collected.

  • worm charming
  • pond dipping
  • a hedgehog talk, where the children were able to stroke one of the hedgehogs 

  • a show by children's entertainer and magician Mr Phil. Both Elliot and Beatrix were invited to take part in the show, which they thoroughly enjoyed. 

  • goat milking
  • pig racing
But we also took time out from the schedule to play mini-golf, play on the bouncy castle, go on the rocket ride and go-karts, explore the willow maze and play on the obstacle course.

The children and I had a brilliant day and best of all, for each of the activities the children were able to collect a stamp on a card and when we filled the card with stamps (six activities) we qualified for a free child with a paying adult. So it looks like we'll be returning to Pennywell Farm later this year.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Family portraits to mark my mother-in-law's 70th

Yesterday, the Queen released three family portraits to mark her 90th birthday.

Not to be outdone, we also marked my mother-in-law's 70th birthday with a family photo session. After all, in today's busy life, with family spread around the country, it's not often we all get together, so it seemed a brilliant idea for a birthday present as well as providing us all with a reminder of the event.

We commissioned Eastbourne-based Sarah Carmody to take some informal family shots in the cottage we had rented for the weekend.

Here are some of my favourites:

This shot features the whole family with my mother-in-law lying across the middle.

My grandmother-in-law was also able to join us for the photo shoot and we got a lovely photo of her with all six of her great grandchildren.

We also got this lovely shot of great grandma with Elliot.

Of course, we had to get a picture of the four generations of girls: my grandmother-in-law, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law and my daughter.

And here is a close-up of Bea. She is just so photogenic it's untrue (obviously I am completely biased)!

OK – so maybe she's not always photogenic.

She adores her baby brother and this image just captures the love between them so well!

The props were really popular. Wilf tried to look as serious as he could, but I'm not sure he pulled the moody look off particularly well in these glasses.

There was plenty of action during the shoot too with the boys playing football (again). Like father, like son!

We had a wonderful weekend together, which I'll blog about soon, and the pictures provide a lasting memory of such a special family time. The hardest decision is to decide which photos get pride of place on the mantlepiece.

How to make a reusable nappy wipe solution

Today is National Tea Day and we're in Real Nappy Week, so here's a post combining the two.

I'm a big fan of real nappies and have used them on all four of my children. One of the reasons I opted for real nappies was for the environmental benefits. And as I looked more closely at the effects of disposable nappies on landfill, I became aware that it was maybe a little hypocritical to be using reusable nappies while still throwing away wet wipes. So I invested in a pile of reusable wipes. You can make them yourself, and I have also used cut up old flannels to add to my stash.

To make my reusable wipes more like wet wipes, I make up a solution that not only smells divine, but  the oils also helps shift some of the more stubborn soiling.

It's really simple. All you need are:

  • Dried camomile flowers (available from most health stores). I buy mine from a local shop called Poppadums.
  • Boiling water
  • A couple of drops of lavender oil
  • A couple of drops of vegetable oil


  • Simply make up a pot of camomile tea, using 2-3 teaspoons of dried camomile flowers infused in boiling water.
  • Pour the tea into a plastic pot and add a couple of drops of both the vegetable and lavender oil
  • Add the wipes and let them soak
Glass jar containing dried camomile flowers

You could use any essential oil, but I use lavender because it is soothing and has disinfectant properties. I use camomile tea because it is soothing.

Be careful not to use the wipes while they are still too hot or you could risk burning baby's skin.

Do you have any reusable wipe solution recipes? Please share them as I'd love to try some more.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

How to set up a prayer spaces project in a primary school

Over the past few months I've been involved in a project at my children's primary school to set up a prayer spaces project.

Prayer Spaces in Schools is an initiative aimed at enabling young people of all faiths and none to explore their spirituality in a safe and interactive way. The idea is that an area of the school is transformed for a few days with several prayer stations set up for the children to explore and reflect.

My children attend a Roman Catholic school and prayer is part of daily life, but the prayer stations give all the children an opportunity to experience the many different ways you can interact with God. And for those of no faith, the prayer stations provide a valuable place to reflect (vital in today's busy world).

Involve the community

Unlike most school-based activities, developing the prayer spaces project has been a real community effort. To start with, we thought about who we could invite from the local community to help develop, set up and facilitate the various prayer stations. Although it is a catholic school, children from many different denominations attend, so we invited members of local churches to our preparation meetings as well as some parents, members of the parish, staff and governors.

Once we'd agreed a date, we explored the school to decide where we would set up the prayer spaces. Then we all brought different ideas of prayer spaces we could create.

We decided a loose theme (the five senses) and agreed on the prayer station activities. Once we'd finalised each prayer station we divided up into teams to source the materials we would need and agreed a timetable so we had helpers to guide the children through the activities.

Prayer station activities

Some of the prayer station activities we came up with were:

  • Jelly Bean Prayers: the children are invited to pick a jelly bean from a jar and say a prayer depending on its colour while the eat the sweet.
  • Taste And See: The children are invited to experience different tastes (sweet, bitter, hot, sour etc). Each taste relates to a different prayer: something they are thankful for, something they are sorry for, a time when they may have lost their temper, a time when they have held a grudge. They then pick a prayer and write it on a post it note and stick it to the wall.
  • Refugee Boat: The children are invited into a boat covered in tarpaulin and asked to think about how it must feel to be a refugee and to pray for refugees around the world who are fleeing for their lives across the sea.
  • Bubble Tube: The children are invited to focus on a bubble in a bubble tube and to pray for someone or something as they watch their prayer bubble rise up (to heaven).
  • Smelly Prayers: The children are invited to experience different smells (lavender, lemon, cut grass, coffee etc) and asked to consider what the smells make them think of. They are then asked to pray about the diversity of God's world.
  • The Empty Chair: The children are asked to think of someone they have lost (and thus no longer occupies a chair) and to write their name on a post it note and to pray for that person.
  • Music Makers: The children are asked to play on drums and tambourines and instead of praying they are asked to just live in the moment and perhaps repeat a mantra that they come up with. This is about introducing children to the idea that you don't always need words to pray and be close to God.

Introducing prayer stations

To introduce the children to the idea of prayer stations, the head teacher held a special assembly where she explained what would be happening and then asked the children what they thought prayer is and where they pray.


The reaction from all involved in the prayer spaces project has been phenomenal. The children have been really enthusiastic about participating in the project and have thoroughly enjoyed exploring the many different ways there are of being close to God. They have also enjoyed the opportunity to have some space to reflect and to experience mindfulness. The adults have also been moved, some quite emotionally, by the activities (particularly the empty chair) and found it a cathartic and refreshing project.

While the school already has numerous permanent prayer spaces, the installation of temporary prayer spaces refreshes the idea of praying and has been hugely beneficial to all involved.

There are many more resources about prayer spaces on the Prayer Spaces In Schools website and there are plenty of ideas for interactive prayer activities on Pinterest.

It's been such a success, we plan on repeating the project. Please do share any prayer activity ideas and let me know if you are involved in prayer spaces.