Family cycling through the Wye Valley

Last month Talitha went for a weekend with all of her grandparents. It was her first time away for two nights (her request) and our first time having a whole day with just Ophelia. We racked our brains trying to think of something we could do with an eighteen-month-old that we couldn’t normally do with a four-year-old and finally decided to give cycling a go.

Cycling as a family isn’t something that’s possible for us at the moment because I can’t ride a bike and we only have one baby seat. So we went to the Wye Valley in Wales for me to practise cycling. Learning to cycle is one of my 30 things to do before I turn 30 in seven months’ time. It was also a chance for Ophelia to have her first ride with Laurence. I’ve put together a little video of the experience.

I still have a way to go before I can confidently cycle but it feels like a definite possibility now. More recently, Talitha has started learning to ride a bike so let’s see who gets there first!

Five ways to embrace an Autumn outdoors

With the nights drawing in and the days getting that bit colder, it’s definitely starting to feel Autumnal. A friend recently found a conker so that feels like proof that the new season is almost here. I didn’t grow up with Autumn. In Trinidad and Tobago, we have dry and wet season. But over the past ten years, I’ve grown surprisingly fond of this particular season. Here are a few ways I’m gearing up to face and embrace an Autumn outdoors. Join me if you like.

1. Take a photo every week
Choose a nature spot to observe the change in season. It could be your garden. It could be a park you work past on your way to work. Taking photographs can help you to take a closer look at and gain a deeper appreciation what’s happening at this time of year.

2. Make sure you’re properly geared up
This is one I’ve made mistakes with too many times in the past. Not having the proper attire means that I either prefer to hide indoors or head out feeling miserable and a bit frumpy. No one’s saying you have to unleash your inner fashionista but if having decent layers and boots that are up to the task of dealing with the wind and the rain while making you feel cheerful about your appearance helps you to take more autumnal walks then the investment is very much worth it, in my book.

3. Book in seasonal events
Commit to local outdoor events happening this season. It could mean signing up to a term at a local forest school with your kids or getting a date in the diary with friends to go to a bonfire and fireworks display for Guy Fawkes Night. Last year, we loved walking around Westonbirt Arboretum (pictured here) with my brother and his wife to see the Autumn colours.

4. Make the most of the elements
I’m told this is a great time of year to go for a swim in the sea as it’s at its warmest – I’m actually intrigued to give it a go. It’s also fairly windy, so if you get a day that’s windy but not wet, it could be a great time to take your kids out to fly a kite. We bought the girls a brilliant kite at Bristol Kite Festival this summer so I’m hoping to get some Autumnal kite flying sessions in before we need to be fiddling with winter gloves.

5. Commit to outdoor exercise

This is probably the ultimate in refusing to be holed up indoors this season. It’s probably the weirdest time of year to be taking up running but I’m getting started this Thursday with local friends and really hoping to make it through the season.

Five ways to embrace an Autumn outdoors

Will you be doing any of these? Do you have any ideas to add to the list?

Post made possible by Leona S. Green of Interactive Media

Making the most of our community farm

This Saturday we ended up having my parents and one of the girls’ friends with us so we decided to head over to Lawrence Weston Community Farm. It’s a space we visit frequently. Our visit there this weekend reminded me of why I love city farms in general and what’s so brilliant about this one in particular.

Lawrence Weston Community Farm-9-2

City farms and community gardens are community-managed projects run by volunteers for the benefit of local residents. They’re usually set up in socially deprived areas and there are often opportunities to get involved if you’re interested.

We started off by taking in a bit of the “secret garden” at the farm. There’s so much growing all about the farm and, whereas I would have bypassed it all before assuming the kids wouldn’t be that interested, now that I know a little more about gardening, we take a look and talk about what we see. I’m always surprised at how the way small details hold their attentions.

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Lawrence Weston Community Farm-2-2

Lawrence Weston Community Farm-10

Then, of course, we had to say “hello” to all the animals. We saw sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks and guinea pigs. My two can literally wile the hours away going around and around the animal village. We sometimes come along to an under 7s group on a Wednesday to feed the animals, collect the eggs and follow the sheep up into the fields.

Talitha always takes the opportunity to remind me that the chicken coop I bought still needs chickens. I’m still trying to get my head around that. Actually, the farm holds courses from wooden spoon making to beekeeping, so I really need to book onto one of their chicken keeping sessions as I’ve been meaning to do for ages.

Lawrence Weston Community Farm-5-2

Lawrence Weston Community Farm-8-2

Lawrence Weston Community Farm-7-2

Then we took a walk into the lush woodland trail across the bridge. Lots of session for kids are held here and you can see the evidence in tree stump circles and willow dens. There are lots of places to climb and a few bug hotels dotted around.

We didn’t make it up to the orchard and the bit with the climbing frame and picnic area because we decided to try out the farm’s new cafe that’s only just opened. It’s just what Lawrence Weston Community Farm needed, really.

Then, on our way out, we bought eggs from the office. I used to buy all our meat and eggs (plus some veg) from here but without a car for the last few months we just stopped eating meat much at all and started buying eggs from chicken and duck keeping neighbours. Now that I have have a car again, I’m going to build buying from the community farm back into our routine.

This really is such a calming, free place for us to go as a family. People are often surprised when I mention there’s a community farm in Lawrence Weston because, if you know the area, it’s not something you expect to find there. But surely that means it’s exactly where it should be.

Are there any community farming or gardening projects near you? Are you involved in any? I’m always intrigued to hear what’s happening in different towns and cities.

A few small steps to a greener family life

I’ve recently written a few posts for the Bristol 2015 European Green Capital website on how families can begin to engage with environmental issues. A lot of it has come out of changes we’ve been making over the past few years. Some of it was new to me as I researched for these posts but ended up affecting us quite a lot as a family. It’s an ongoing learning process. I’m sure I’m going to look back in a few years and wonder why I hadn’t made changes I may not have even considered yet sooner. The truth is, it can all feel pretty overwhelming, especially if you don’t know where to start. So I thought I’d share these posts here, in case you could use some inspiration too.

10 ways to reduce the footprint of your food shop
So many of the top 15 pledges in the #do15 in 15 campaign involve changing food shopping habits. It’s easy to see why. Buying is a small area where individuals can, collectively, make a big difference.

For ages, we knew we wanted to give our buying habits an overhaul. Yet it seemed utterly daunting. On one hand, the convenience and price tags of big supermarket-style retail comes with huge carbon cost, driving intensive industrial-scale farming and production practices.

On the other, we only have so much time and energy. Our choices realistically need to fit with our lifestyle.

Bit by bit, we’ve made changes. It’s taken a little research and made me wonder whether more of us would take the leap if we knew how.
Read more for a few steps to consider if you want to reduce the environmental footprint of your food shop.

Summer bucket list: 10 green activities for Bristol kids
Kids are naturally fascinated by nature, often more likely to spot and wonder at things that we miss in our rush to get to wherever we’re going. Hopefully, this bucket list will help families with little ones slow down and think creatively about how to care for our city.
Read more for ideas on how to get kids thinking green, even if you don’t live in Bristol.

5 easy ways to save water as a family
With changing weather patterns and increasing populations, we know our water supply isn’t endless. Throw in the energy spent cleaning waste water and saving water becomes a hot topic for any green family.

1. Talk with your kids about the importance of saving water
Even the littlest tooth brushers can learn to turn off taps between brushing — estimated to save six litres of water a minute
Children can easily grow up taking water for granted. It’s literally “on tap”, after all.
Chat with your kids about why caring for water is important. Even the littlest tooth brushers can learn to turn off taps between brushing — estimated to save six litres of water a minute!
The whole family can make a pact to turn off the shower while soaping and shorten showers.
Read more for a few more ideas that could save your household a surprising amount of water.

5 ways to reduce your household waste
“Recycle, recycle, we’re going to recycle!” My daughter sings this Peppa Pig tune when she puts something in the recycling bin.

At four, she still needs prompting to throw things away, but when she does she’s well aware of what goes which bin.

I’m sure she hasn’t wrapped her head around the concepts of landfill or biodegradability just yet, but she knows that our family is trying to put as little in the rubbish as we can.
Read more for a few steps you can take that will immediately reduce the rubbish you throw away.

Re-committing to the outdoors

Summer rains have seen my daughters do different things. The seventeen-month-old bangs the door, wordlessly pleading to get out into the garden. She runs around free, stomping puddles, pushing her little car around, generally whooping and enjoying the little piece of wilderness behind our house.

My four-year-old, on the other hand has taken to saying she doesn’t want to go out if it’s raining. This makes me a little sad because I don’t know if it’s nature or nurture. The fact is, I don’t want to go out if it’s raining.

And I’ve spent a lot of time putting obstacles in the way when it does, insisting she has to put on the boots and rainsuit (these days I sometimes let the younger one run outside as is, finding it easier to change her when she comes in if it’s not too cold and crazy out there). More times than not, I’ve suggested we do something other than go out in the rain. Because I don’t want to be out there myself.

Actually, when I have suited and booted them up and gone for a rainy stomp somewhere, we’ve all had a lovely time. So I’m inclined to think that my own attitude to the weather conditions has more of an impact than I want to admit.

Recommitting to the outdoors - Dinefwr-2

I find it easier to wait for the weekends when Laurence is around so he can lead us on a walk, take us camping or find some other reason for us to go outside. Meanwhile, I am so conscious that I am the one here most of the time, that a childhood outdoors was one of the reasons we chose to home educate and that I don’t want them to think of it as his “thing”.

So I’m finding myself needing to re-commit to the outdoors. Being out in nature is too important for their happiness, their health, their imaginations, their peace, their inner wilderness for me to allow my disconnect to become theirs. And it’s too important for mine.

Recommitting to the outdoors - Dinefwr

We took the photos in this post when we were at Dinefwr in Wales a few months ago. We stumbled upon it using the National Trust app and it turned out to be one of the most fascinating National Trust properties we’ve been to.

There’s a castle and a historic house, a pond (Talitha went pond dipping in it) and a medieval deer park. We did one of the tours and there is just so much history in that place. I love that it spans many eras and that the house is fully hands-on so you can sit in chairs and touch most objects. Do check it out if you’re ever over that way.

Recommitting to the outdoors - Dinefwr

Bumkins – Cloth Nappy Review

For the cloth nappy committed, converted and curious, and for those who just know something pretty when they see it, I present to you Bumkins nappies, which I’ve been putting to the test these past two weeks.

Bumkins nappy review

Born, an ethical retailer of natural, organic and fairtrade baby products, sent us a few Bumkins goodies to review. We’ve got the waterproof Diaper Cover (that green number), the two-pack contour soaker, fitted diapers in size 0 (5-12 lbs) and size 1 (6-22 lbs) and a Snap-in-One diaper (the one with the owl pattern).

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Bumkins review - fitted diaper.jpg

They’re obviously gorgeous but, as anyone who’s looked after a newborn poo machine knows, it’s function not fashion that ultimately counts when it comes to nappies, be they reusable or disposable.

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Bumkins Diaper Cover review.jpg

Having used both the soaker and the cover, and the fitted diaper and the cover, I’m impressed with how slim fit both options are. Cloth nappies can be quite bulky but this wasn’t the case with either combination. They also actually fit. There are nappies out there that claim to be birth to potty but blatantly aren’t but the snap design in this cover (there are a lot of poppers) really secures the nappy around tiny thighs.

This is good news because it’s contained what would have been a bonafide poosplosion twice now. So, yeah, it works.

I’ll admit that I’m more into velcro than poppers as I find the latter a bit of a faff. Snaps do look tidier though and I can see where people are coming from when they talk about babies pulling nappies off though I never had that problem with Talitha.

Bumkins Snap in One Diaper review.jpg

The Snap-in-One (7-32 lbs) is a little bulkier but still not very. It’s inside is deliciously soft and surprisingly absorbent. It, too, hasn’t let down on performance at all. All of these nappies wash well and everything (including the diaper cover and the outer of the Snap-in-One but I chose to hang them anyway) can be tumble dried on low. I hung them up overnight too and they were dry in the morning – something I couldn’t say for some of my other nappies.

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Could I be tempted to get more? I really could, actually.

These Bumkins nappies were sent to me by Born for the purpose of this review.

Natural Alternatives to Children’s Paracetamol

I had a bit of a Mummy fail yesterday. When Talitha woke up she was croaking like anything and a bit sensitive to my suggestions so I knew she was still unwell. She’d come down with a cold over the weekend. Still, she seemed bright enough and insisted that she wanted to go play at her childminder’s. So, even though a little part of me questioned whether I should be sending her when she wasn’t 100 per cent. I did. I then got a text from the childminder that afternoon to let me know she had a fever and was sitting on the sofa but that she was happy enough and she was just letting me know (because she knows I want to know about this stuff). I felt awful for having sent her even though I knew she was OK where she was in her second home.

We got into an interesting conversation about Calpol via text, though, which our childminder can’t give her and I started talking about natural remedies we’re using at home. It occurred to me that I have this conversation so often, I might as well write about it here in case any of you are interested too.

We are no strangers to Calpol. Talitha has had it for just about everything. But recently, we started questioning our reliance on it for all aches and fevers. Children’s paracetamol is useful, sure, but its efficacy just doesn’t convince us that it’s entirely harmless. And anyway, we both tend to err on the side of under-medicating ourselves so that our immune systems can do their work so it doesn’t make much sense for us to dose up our two-year-old.

Still, just leaving her to get on with it is not an option. So, I’ve gathered a few natural remedies for fevers and headaches, the two most common calls for analgesics. Mind you, if things were really dire and none of these go-tos were working, I’d reach for the paracetamol, truth be told. But they’re worth trying first because they’re surprisingly effective.

Natural alternatives to children's paracetamol

1. Rest
Talk about stating the obvious! Well, you could say that but it’s really easy to overschedule your life and assume that because your child doesn’t have to do much when out and about, it doesn’t have that much impact on them. Resist! Stay home. Do something quiet like read books or crack out the play dough or nap together. If there’s a headache involved, a quiet, darkened room may also be called for.

Chamomile tea for fever

2. Chamomile tea
I kid you not, this stuff is magic. I know others have said they need to sweeten a bit for their kids to have it but Talitha doesn’t mind it as is. She won’t drink masses all at once but can be encouraged to have a sip here and there. This is also really useful for headaches.

Basic food for fevers

3. Basic food
Keep food really basic. We’re talking fruit and vegetables kind of basic. Juice or puree may seem less daunting to a particularly unwell child.

Lavender for fevers

4. Cool lavender compresses
A cloth dipped in cool (not cold!) water with a drop of lavender and placed on the legs or feet works its magic.

5. Tea tree oil spray
A small spray bottle filled with water and two drops of tea trea oil can be surprisingly effective. Spray around the room every now and then.

Witch Hazel for Headaches

6. Witch hazel compress
For really bad headaches, a cold compress with a bit of witch hazel, left on the head is helpful.

I’m going to assume that if it’s headaches you’re looking alleviate that they’re not regular. If they are, it’s worth looking for a cause. Maybe a food trigger is to blame. Also, if your child has a high temperature, consult a doctor. This post does not constitute as medical advice, obviously. I’m just passing on some folk wisdom.

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