A “not half term” flash camping trip

Laurence has a quiet time with work at the moment so we decided to take advantage of the ebb and flow of freelanc to fit a quick camping trip in to Wookey Farm, just forty minutes from where we live in Bristol. Packing the car in a record one and half hours, we reflected that once we got there that the campsite was just far away to feel like a change without being daunting.

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When Laurence emailed the farm to ask whether they had free pitches, they explained that there was lots of space since it was no longer half term. Half term. We hadn’t even thought of that. We felt incredibly grateful to be able to take advantage of both the freedom of home educating and the sunny weather.

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This is our family’s third year camping at Wookey Farm. Laurence took Talitha in March two years ago while I stayed home with newborn Ophelia. Then last year, we all went with another family. This year it was just the four of us (well, five with baby in utero) and it was wonderful seeing Ophelia experience the farm camping experience very differently as a two-year-old.

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From putting up the tent to building fires, toasting marshmallows to feeding the goats and donkey straw, swinging in a wildflower meadow to splashing in a river, both children loved every bit of being there.

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I was even surprised that the compost toilets – a bit of an issue for Talitha and I last time – didn’t phase any of us this time. Even Ophelia, newly out of nappies, was keen to use the compost loo though we’d brought the potty along.

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The experience proved a bit much for me, admittedly. I’ve been far more comfortable in this pregnancy than in either of my previous so I felt optimistic about camping but even with all our sleeping gear, pelvic girdle pain hit me in the night. I pushed through it for most of the next day but eventually had to sit in the field while the others went to the river. The change of scene and time outdoors together was well worth it, though.

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As it turned out, the weather was changeable (ah, Britain) so the girls got good use out of the wellies and a parka they were sent by Verbaudet. Both pairs of boots have handles which make them easy and fun to pull on and, better yet, their patterns change colour in water! Cue lots of splashing in puddles when it’s wet weather, which thankfully we didn’t have this time. Talitha’s 3-in-1 parka is lined with a detachable gilet on the inside which makes it perfect for all the in-between weather we’ve been having recently.

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I imagine that this will be our last camping trip all together until the baby is here. We’re planning to camp come September at The Good Life Experience festival which may be its own madness but in the meantime, Laurence plans to take Ophelia on her own some time then the two of them together. I’d like to get a solid bit of one-to-one time in with each of the children (and with Laurence!) before baby number three joins us next month.


Hooked on Lilliput – Classical concerts for small children

Children are naturally fascinated with musical instruments. Certainly, most who visit our house want to have a go with my guitars hanging on the wall. From early on, we’ve talked with Talitha about what instruments we can hear in any bit of music we’re listening to. She’s particularly fascinated if she can pick out a steelpan as she knows that comes from Trinidad and Tobago, where I’m from. Often, we’ll look for pictures of instruments or YouTube videos of musicians playing them so we can get a closer look.

We’ve been to a fair few gigs with the kids (one of the benefits of living in Bristol) but it’s been on the cards for a while to check out Lilliput Concerts, which offers classical music directed at the youngest of audiences and their grown ups. This Saturday we went along to their “Music for Cello with Jonathan Rees” at Redland Park United Reformed Church in Bristol.

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The audience consisted of babies in slings to four-year-olds and they were all welcome on stage to get up close and personal with the musician and his instrument. Brightly coloured mats were placed on and just off the stage, with stuffed notes lying about for little hands. Parents were in chairs or on the floor with their little ones and if the mood struck, children danced on their own or with friends and parents.

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Rees played selections from Bach, Britten, Barber and Cassado. A lovely mix of Hispanic melodies and dreamy tunes. He chatted with the children between pieces, engaging them with the music and the instrument and even letting them choose what he’d play next.

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Ophelia was very obviously taken with it from the start, moving with the music, clapping to the beat and drinking it all in. Talitha took a while to warm into things, not keen on dancing or even getting up close. By the end, though, she grabbed her little sister’s hand and planted them directly in front of the cellist and she cued up at the end to feel the back of the cello while he played a note.

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At the end, there was tea and cake and Talitha wanted to know what the instrument would be at the next Lilliput concert and whether we could buy tickets now! So I guess that’s June 12th sorted for us, then! It was well-timed too as she was off to her music class right after so I imagine she had a few things to tell her teacher.

Lilliput concerts-6 Shirt, skirt, top and coat courtesy Happyology

We’re delighted to have been guests of Lilliput Concerts and are officially hooked! Do check out their Facebook page. We’re especially taking our youngest listener to see them at Hoo Haa! Festival at Colston Hall this year.


The #EthicalFashionCollective – Six ways to make your baby purchases matter

When people find out we’re having a third girl, they often say, “At least you won’t have to buy anything.” Actually, we got rid of almost all our baby kit as quickly as Ophelia outgrew it as we were mostly expecting to be a family of four not five and we both hate having to store stuff and dig it out later to get rid.

Actually, that’s been fine because it’s quite fun sorting all the baby things and this time I’ve been in a privileged position to be able to think about what I like aesthetically a bit more. Yes it’s frivolous but I do like clothes and pretty things and this is the first time in my life that I feel allowed to admit that.

I’m also putting together our baby gear at a time of life where I’m thinking more about ethical purchasing and seeking simplicity. While I may not yet be where I want or need to be, I’ve been making little changes to the way I consume here and there over the past few years. My shopping haul for baby girl number three has been part of that.

1. Buy essentials
We buy too many things. This is triply true when it comes to baby purchases. Having a baby is exciting, shopping is lots of fun and the two combine to overwhelm our houses with stuff we don’t need that ends up in landfill. Do your research online (make sure it’s not just marketing material you’re reading), ask friends whose babies are now toddlers what they regret buying or better yet, wait. You can wait with a surprising number of purchases. Babies actually don’t need that much to begin with.

When I was pregnant with our first daughter, we chose a pram that our in-laws bought for us that we almost never used! I’ve daydreamed about the beautiful sling stash I could have funded instead. 😉 On a serious note, having used several pushchairs since, if we’d waited to work out what we needed and maybe gone to a store with more diverse options and personal expertise, I totally would have gone for something else.

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2. Shop second hand
OK, so I’m sorry if that first point was a little boring. When you know what you want, why not buy it second hand? Especially in the first year, many baby items don’t get worn out before they are passed on. I’ve bought lovely hand-knitted cardigans from local charity shops in the past, giving them more use at a price affordable to me.

Also, it surprises me how many people don’t know about nearly new sales. The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) run some fab ones and you’re looking at paying 20-50p on baby vests depending on where you go. We hit on in Portishead a couple of months ago and got some beautiful clothes for not very much at all. Some had been worn by two or three babies but still looked new. Some of that haul is in the picture above.

3. Go organic
This is something that’s been on my radar a lot recently. We’re not in a position to choose organic options all of the time but I feel doing what we can is still worthwhile. There needs to be major shift away from current intensive agricultural practices for the sake of wildlife, the environment and the health of the labour force and consumers. I know we don’t often think about organic purchases beyond food but it’s worth looking into.

A major obstacle to buying organic baby clothes for many of us is, undeniably, cost. While I managed picked up a few organic bits from that nearly new sale I mentioned before, I’ve mainly bought pre-loved organic clothes from Facebook selling groups. They aren’t always the more expensive option depending on what you’re looking for, though, so do have a look at brands like Frugi, Organics for Kids and Little Green Radicals if you usually buy clothes new.

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4. Make your own and upcycle
Buying something may offer an instant hit (I’ll admit to indulging in retail therapy when I’m not feeling great, even if it is just a pack of pens) but crafting has a slow burn delight all its own. Better yet if you can get your hands on reclaimed materials or upcycle an item you don’t need anymore. A man’s shirt could become a baby’s dress.

I’ve been crocheting a blanket for this baby. The wool isn’t second hand or reclaimed but it was knocking about from another project I never got around to. They could have sat there for years while I bought a blanket but instead they’re being repurposed. Even if they aren’t traditionally baby colours, I find the combination so pleasing. I’ve also crocheted a newborn hat.

The tie-dye baby grow is a creation by Recycled Rainbows. She’s a mum in Bath who sources second hand white clothes and tie dyes them. I couldn’t resist this item at a La Leche League workshop recently (she was donating profits to LLL).

5. Think reusable
Are there items on your list that you could think about in terms of the long game? Are they made to last? I mean, obviously, this is a little funny coming from someone who could have saved everything to kit out three girls with the same gear but I’m still trying to think about whether I’d be able to pass items on to another baby afterwards. Our cloth nappies are honestly knackered. I’ve mainly used terry squares with Motherease covers.

The covers are actually still fine after two babies but holding up the squares to the light reveals some thinning. I feel fine about that because I think they’ve been through a lot but while it would be tempting to just say we’ll just go disposable this time, I’ve started building a new cloth stash for this new baby.

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6. Donate to support other mothers
While it’s relatively easy enough for me to get things sorted for this baby, I’m conscious that there are many mothers in the UK for whom the joy of having a baby is accompanied by financial stress due to poverty. I’ve been following Baby Bank Network with interest. It’s a charity that collects pre-loved baby items and passes them on to families in need. They’re local to Bristol but you can find similar organisations around the country here.

For now I’ve made a cash donation but I will be looking for other ways to offer items (I do have bits I accidentally saved that I don’t need) or time. I reckon if you wound up with too many things because of generous friends or bought a pack of, say, babygrows but didn’t like all of them, looking for a place to donate could be a good option.

This post is meant to share ideas rather than prescribe. I do think that if all of us did what we realistically can even if that means, say, a charity shop purchase once in a while rather than a full-scale overhaul, it would make a difference.

I’m joining in with the online Ethical Fashion Collective started by Mel Wiggins and Owl and Accordion. On the first Friday of every month you can join in with a blog post, tweet, IG or Facebook status hashtagged #ethicalfashioncollective to share your ethical style and ideas.


What I wore – Ready for the rain

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I usually think of raincoats as being sad, shapeless, colourless affairs that in no way compensate for the misery of rainy weather. Not so with this Fayda waterproof parka coat sent to me by Lighthouse. This shade of green (they call it seagrass) is an instant pickmeup. The striped blue lining offers a classic feel and all the detailing makes for a structured piece I actually look forward to taking out into the rain or even just a windy day. It’s seen a few rainy outings now and done the job too. Sadly, whereas I could still zip it up three weeks ago when these pictures were taken, my bump now won’t even let me hold it together! Crazy how that’s happened so quickly. I’m looking forward to wearing it again once the baby is here.


Sharing the parenting and What he wore

Laurence hasn’t had as much work on this week so he’s been around a bit more. It’s something we always want to embrace with him working freelance. It’s annoying when he has to work away or longer hours but brilliant fun when he gets to spend more time with us.

The girls have loved having him around to “play chase”, do more gardening and even a spot of baking! Admittedly, the TV hasn’t been on as much because someone less burned out than I am is here to keep things going. I’ve been teasing him that he’s better at this home educating/parenting lark than I am and maybe I need to be the one out working.

The truth is, we are all a bit happier when we get to share the load, parenting and working. In an ideal scenario, we’d find a way to hit that sweet spot more so that both of us get to pursue careers part-time (ish) and be with the children. Realistically, that can’t happen right now so it’s about making the most of the flexibility we have been blessed with – and we do have more of that than many families.

Another great thing about having him around more is that I’ve been able to kick through a fair few things on my spring cleaning (nesting?) list, which has meant getting some stuff out of the shed, like our good ol’ indo board, as well as massively decluttering all of our wardrobes. It’s made space for the baby’s things, simplified the morning dressing process for the kids and generally decreased the mountain of washing.

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It’s also made way for adding fun new bits like a T-shirt from House of Fraser. This is the O’Neill O`Riginals Odyssey Print. It’s organic, with a solid big print and a sea reference, always welcome in these parts. Laurence has gone off most of the big surf brands but he respects O’Neill for keeping their focus and doing things well. And I quite like the colour!

Here’s to more Spring days, getting the balance right.

In association with House of Fraser


Funky Giraffe mini baby haul and giveaway

I’ve been collecting a few bits here and there for baby girl number three since we’d given most of our baby things away. Mostly it’s second hand and I’m hoping to make a few bits too (we’ll see!). It’s been quite fun as I didn’t go through this process the first couple of times. In fact, Talitha was dressed in my cousin’s son’s stereotypically “boy” baby clothes. While I really didn’t mind, it’s fun actually choosing things because I like them.

When Funky Giraffe asked if I’d take a look at their collection, I enjoyed picking a few bits and making it an opportunity to give one of you the opportunity to win some of their sweet bibs too.

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In the throes of Spring tulips are fully on my mind, some of ours have opened but many in the garden are just waiting. I’m willing them to be OK as we may have planted them in too shady a spot. Anyway, this tulip bandana bib was just the thing.

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They also do bigger bibs, perfect for when you’re out and about with food and need a bit more coverage. I couldn’t resist snapping up a pair of purple socks. Is there anything sweeter than tiny baby socks?

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I also chose a bib from their bamboo range because it’s such a great fabric for absorbency and is naturally antibacterial too. I like that Funky Giraffe steers away from the typical baby colours and isn’t afraid to go bold and brave.

To win 10 baby bibs* from Funky Giraffe, visit their website and tell me what your favourite print in the bandana bib range is, then enter the Rafflecopter below.

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*Bibs chosen by Funky Giraffe. The winner can ask for girls’, boys’ or gender neutral styles.
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What I’m loving lately and Win a copy of Modern Romance

It’s been a while since I shared some of the things I’ve been loving lately so I thought I’d welcome the weekend with a little roundup. Let me know anything you’ve been into lately that you think I should checkout.

More time outdoors
What I'm Loving Lately-2 This is such an obvious thing but we are so much happier and healthier when we’re outdoors, aren’t we? The trouble is, I hate winter. Even all bundled up (this was my best winter on the layers front) I think having grown up in a tropical climate makes me particularly susceptible to suffering under the dark and cold. I’ve also been finding that carrying Ophelia or pushing a pushchair leaves me in agony with my ligaments softening in pregnancy.

I’ve been pushing through recently and committing to taking the kids outside once a day and staying out with them, even if it’s just the garden or the park across from where our home ed co-op meets, and it’s really been helping me to cope a bit better with everything else. It helps that we’ve had some warmer, sunnier days recently but I’ve been appreciating that there’s something to be said for a walk through the rain or pushing through the wind too. Ophelia is walking so much now that getting out is far less daunting. She’s also making good strides with learning to ride her scooter.

Peaky Blinders, Vikings and Winter’s Bone
wintersbone We’ve been waiting – it feels like forever – to watch Series 2 of Peaky Blinders. Yes, I know Series 3 is out now but Season 2 only recently came to Netflix. I was repulsed by so much in this series and really went off Cillian Murphey’s character, Tommy Shelby, in the earlier episodes but it’s impossible to stop watching, so beautifully shot and really captures British city bleakness. I only wish we hadn’t flown through the whole series in about a week.

Over on Amazon Video, I’ve been making my way through Series 4 of Vikings. This is one of those shows Laurence and I really should watch together as it appeals to both of us but for some reason we keep catching it when we’re apart. He doesn’t seem to be as into the latest series (maybe not enough full-on battles?) but I continue to be intrigued by what’s happening with Lagertha, the shield maiden turned earl. I have no idea how historical the programme is despite being produced by The History Channel but even if it’s pure historical fantasy, I’m happy to be taken in.

Also, a few weeks ago I watched Winter’s Bone on Netflix while babysitting for a friend and it’s really stayed with me. It’s truly a sign of a quality movie when you can’t stop thinking about it, isn’t it? This is the film Jennifer Lawrence was nominated in the Oscars for a few years ago and I can definitely see why. It’s terrifying, shocking, bleak and reassuring in one hit. I keep recommending it anytime “what have you been watching lately” conversations come up.

All the rainbows
Frugi rainbows Rainbows seem to have taken over children’s clothing. Maybe I’m really suggestible with this sort of thing but I’m desperate to get a hold of some for my girls, especially for Ophelia who is rainbow-mad at the moment. I love this Frugi dress and almost bought it for her birthday but wound up being a bit skint at the time. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get around to making some rainbow clothes. Time to dust off those applique skills.

Creating over consuming
Crocheting baby blanket - Instagram On that note, I’ve felt really convicted recently that I want to make more than consume. There’s a lasting pleasure that comes from creating that the quick thrill of buying just can’t match up to, for me anyway. Crocheting a granny square baby blanket for our baby due in July has been nothing short of therapeutic. I’m really looking forward to wrapping her in it.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Modern Romance Instagram

Lastly, you might remember me going on about how Netflix’s Master of None was basically the funniest, most culturally literate TV series I’d seen in a long time and that I’d become an Aziz Ansari mega fan as a result. Well, on the back of that, Penguin asked me whether I’d like to check out his new book, Modern Romance and give away a copy. Well, yes I would. So here we go.

The book reads as a hilarious study of how technology, from sexting to online dating to social media, has complicated how people find love today. Ansari is astute in his understanding of people, open about his own experiences, thoughtful and laugh-out-loud funny in turn. He writes as he speaks and if you’ve ever seen his standup comedy, you’ll know that can only be a good thing.

To win a copy of Modern Romance, enter the Rafflecopter widget below.

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