Marwell Zoo Lego Brickosaur Exhibition

Living in Hampshire we’re so lucky to have a multitude of options when it comes to days out!

I’ve been visiting Marwell Zoo since I was little, so it’s somewhere I love to take my own children for yearly visits, there’s always something new to see, & this year is no exception with the arrival of 36 Lego Brickosaurs!!!

In April we were invited along one evening to meet the first few of the new arrivals.

We listened as we were given a tour round, & learned all about the hundreds of hours it took the small team from bright bricks to build the dinosaurs. From little Compsognathus to the showstopping eight metre long T-Rex on display outside the great house! It took the team an estimated 969 days, using over two million bricks to complete the amazing structures which are built entirely by hand!

Last week we went back to see the dinos which had arrived since our trip earlier this year & we weren’t disappointed!

The brightly coloured dinosaurs really are an incredible sight. We each had our favourites & marvelled at how intricate each of the designs were.

Venture round to the back of the great house & you’ll find the Lego brickosaur ‘base camp’.

Two huge pits filled with thousands of Lego bricks(duplo for the little uns’), where kids can have a go at building their own model, it really fired up their imaginations after seeing the Dino creations all round the zoo!

Of course, the Brickosaur displays were all amazing, but equally enchanting were the beautiful animals at the zoo-many, such as the snow leopards, are endangered species.

We learned a lot as we went round, about the work Marwell do with conservation programmes in both the UK & Africa. Marwell Zoo is owned by the charity Marwell Wildlife, & the Zoo aims to educate people as well as raising vital funds to support these projects. When paying your zoo entry fee you can choose to purchase tickets which include a donation to further support this work.

We were blessed with a beautiful sunny day when we visited, & although there were lots of visitors, the zoo never felt overcrowded.

We took a picnic, & ate it inside a dedicated sheltered lunch area so as to avoid wasps, but there were lots of lovely grassy spots to stop off, & wide flat pathways perfect for pushchairs & wheelchairs.

I can’t recommend Marwell Zoo enough as a family day out, as we’re lucky enough to live so close, I’m even considering day yearly passes so that we can pop back at any time!!

There’s lots of info on the free Marwell app, website, & Facebook & Instagram pages if you’d like to find out more on any aspect of planning your visit.

The dinos will be on display until the 1st of September!!

Thanks for reading,

Kirsty x

{Our visit to Marwell Zoo was an unpaid press trip, all opinions given in this post are my own}

Spring/Summer wardrobe

I’ve been adding to my spring(and mainly summer) wardrobe since February, as if you recall last year, the weather got warm in May, then really fucking hot until, hmmm October?!

Not one to be caught out(scrap that, I’ve been grief shopping, it’s a thing, I’m calling it) I’ve picked up a few bits here and there & just thought you might like to see them? I don’t have the budget-nor the lifestyle, of a fashion blogger, but a new item every few weeks is affordable for me. I try to stick to what I know suits me, a few failsafes, plus a few ‘new’ bits here and there depending on the years trends.

I’m loving H&M more & more these days, having shunned it in previous years. I’ve discovered a small local branch which feels more manageable to me than the massive one in town. Plus they have a shit load of sale bargains regularly as it’s not a very busy store! I bought a pair of stunning silky looking shorts in January for £8 which I’ve stashed until the sun comes out(or until my Tanya Whitebits game is more on point😉)

This little dress suits my figure, small(ish?)waist & boobs, big hips, long body, short legs. I can still run around after Annie in it & at £12.99 it’s very affordable & it’s made of viscose, so good for the environment!

I also bought the same style of dress in New Look & Asos!! (Once I find something I like, I like to play it safe!) I bought the Asos dress in a 10 as the 12 was big.

So, Asos. Its another brand which is new to me this year.

There always seems to be a free delivery code & once you get the hang of narrowing down exactly what it is you’re looking for you can quickly discover some real gems!

My ‘saved items’ tab is always full of bits I love, bits I’m not daring enough to wear, and even things I can’t afford, a little virtual wishlist.

My most recent purchase-& I think this dress is my favourite so far, will be perfect with converse before the weather warms up, again I sized down to a 10 as the 12 was huge.

Since I chatted about this one on my stories SO many of you have messaged to say you bought it too!

You probably wouldn’t have Center Parcs down as the fashion capital of Wiltshire but I actually picked up five new things from the clothes shop there!! My silver Superdry trainers which you may have seen on Instagram, plus a few bits by Vero Moda.

My ‘haul’ consisted of two t-shirts, a pair of shorts & a lightweight cardigan(mine is beige but it’s the same as this pink one. The best place to buy Vero Moda is on Asos, as the postage is cheaper than on their actual website!

I bought the shorts to an XL, I’m a 12/14 on the bottom & wanted them to be comfortable. They’re really soft, & not too short! What I also like about this brand in comparison to, say, new look, is that the pieces are more classic, they don’t sell out instantly because an ‘influencer’ has worn something. I think it’s nice to have a brand in your wardrobe as a go to which maybe isn’t quite so popular, there’s less chance of every other girl wearing the same

I hope you enjoyed that little wardrobe tour. As usual I’ll show you any other new bits as I buy them. I’m tending to find the supermarkets have some brilliant bits lately, I’ve picked up shoes from Sainsbury’s, swimwear in Tesco, & some really lovely bits for Annie in Morrisons! So watch this space!

K xxx

Gunwharf Quays designer outlet ~ PR trip.

We’re very lucky here on the south coast to have a multitude of options when it comes to days out, or weekends away.

We live just outside the new forest & 45 minutes up the road is Gunwharf Quays.

To call it just an outlet shopping centre doesn’t do it justice. Yes it boasts more than 90 stores with massive discounts, but it also has over 30 restaurants, coffee shops and bars, a cinema complex, hotel, bowling alley, art gallery, night club, casino, & you can even take boat trips from the marina.

As if that wasn’t enough, in 2005 the 180 metre tall Emirates Spinnaker Tower was built. A huge structure, Initially created to celebrate the new millennium, it has become an icon of the city of Portsmouth, visible from 23 miles away! As part of our trip we were invited to take a tour up the tower-more about that later on.

We had a plan for our day trip. As a family of six we like to know when and where we’re going to eat/shop/entertain the kids-but you could definitely rock up and just explore for yourselves. The centre maps are clear & concise-as is the website if you need to delve a little deeper into any details.

On arrival you are guided into the 24 hour 1500+ space car park. Parking is priced from £2.90 up to £20 (for a full 24 hour stay). But if you don’t drive, or would like a to have a few drinks the Portsmouth Harbour train station is just a few minutes walk away.

Our plan was to shop for a couple of hours-we were given a gift card by Gunwharf with which to shop, an amazing idea for a gift for a birthday-or perhaps an anniversary?!

First on my list was The White Company. Hit with the most beautiful aroma the moment we walked in, I had to treat myself to a candle, I went for the ‘Seville’ scented one.

I also picked up a gift for a friends baby, everything is so beautifully packaged, I can’t wait to hand the stylish little black & white bag over!

I like the mix of ‘high street’ & designer stores, it means there’s something for everyone. Joules & Gap are both wardrobe staples for us, & I was surprised at the vast selection of items in both stores-I wondered if ‘outlet’ meant that just the odd sizes or least popular colours would be on offer-but not so-there was actually a BETTER selection in many of the shops we visited in comparison to their high street family. In Joules I picked up a really cute summer outfit for Annie-her first little pair of flip flops, she hasn’t taken them off yet! There’s a great mix of different stores, from beauty- L’occitane being one of my favourites-to homewears such as Denby & Christy.

We couldn’t resist popping into Cadbury & Lint stores as well, we stocked up on Easter gifts & of course some treats to eat on the day!

Gap is perfect for us as you can shop for the whole family in one store. Everything from pj’s to babygrows. Personally I’m always drawn to their basics-their cotton tee’s are really good quality. Not to mention the fact that the whole store had an extra 20%-30% off of the (already slashed) ticket prices, so they were brilliant value. I now can’t wait for summer as I absolutely love their 100% cotton dresses!

When we visited the queue for the tills was right round the store(testament to the bargains!), we chose not to pick anything up as it was the end of the day & I didn’t want to make the kids stand around any longer than necessary for fear of meltdowns(theirs or mine!)-I was on my own with them & just know when to draw the line!

I was on the lookout for a shirt for Nigel in Ralph Lauren and it would have been easy to compile and entire outfit-as everything is so stylish & classic. (It’s a huge store with everything from towels to handbags!) Will helped me pick out a few things he thought Daddy would like so we could show him when we got home!

Nigel has a stag weekend next month & needs a wardrobe update, but as he couldn’t make it with us on this occasion we’re going to pop back together sans children he can spend some time trying everything on everything they have to offer.

Shopping makes you hungry, & Gunwharf kindly arranged a complimentary lunch for us at Brasserie Blanc. A beautiful, fresh modern restaurant with cuisine to match!

The staff were so attentive-especially to the children-sometimes it can be a little nerve wracking taking them to anywhere other than a burger bar, but we needn’t have worried, they gave them crayons to keep them occupied & talked us through the menu so we could select foods we knew they’d enjoy. I went for the traditional roast lamb, It was so tasty, the puddings were out of this world, we were presented with their signature soufflé-a pistachio one..not what I’d usually go for but it was delicious-we’ll definitely be back!

We broke up the day with a bit of fun. Firstly we had a ride on the ‘mini ports’ the cutest little boats, the kids all argued over who was going to be captain, but Will had it under control and didn’t want to get off!

Next, we headed to the Spinnaker tower, it didn’t disappoint, it was a fairly clear day and the views across the solent were breathtaking! Admission is very reasonably priced for a family, there is even a cafe at the top of you want to sit for a while and take in the view.

It was such an incredible structure, and the girls stepped into the glass floor in trepidation, but Annie was soon skipping across it, stopping briefly to watch the shoppers below.

Staff were really friendly and knowledgeable and we learned a lot about the tower. Poppy & Will even had a go with a VR Headset, apparently it was very realistic(Will was NOT keen!)

Whether you’re a couple looking to dine and shop or a family planning a great day out, Gunwharf has it all. We could have done with another whole day to do and see everything, Nigel & I have stayed in the on site hotel in the past which is a brilliant idea if you’re a family(or have lots of heavy shopping bags you want to deposit!!). We’ll be back very soon to see what bargains we can pick up, stock changes constantly so there’s always something new to catch your eye!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our little day trip!

Lots of love,

Kirsty x

As previously mentioned, we were given a gift card to enjoy our day at Gunwharf Quays, but all words & opinions are my own and a true reflection of our experience there.

Fifi & Friends {article contains gifted products}

Knowing we would spend the majority of our week at the pool on holiday this collaboration came along at just the right time!

We have been using the Fifi & friends range of products every day this week and they’ve been a godsend.

Formulated by Mum of one Tamara Ecclestone, the range of Fifi & friends products have been created to be as gentle as possible on a child’s skin. The whole collection of products are hypoallergenic, dermatologically tested, and free from parabens, sulphates, silicones and wheat.

I do worry that there are SO many products out there right now, with bright colours & cute characters specifically made to appeal to children which don’t take into consideration the delicate nature of baby soft skin-& so this range is a winner for me as the core aim is gentle cleansing.

As a visits to the pancake house & ice creams by the pool were a daily theme for us the wipes came in really handy, they’re the thickest softest wipes I’ve ever used-I even borrowed a couple to take off my make up! The pack is quite slim-which I love as it makes them easier to slip into a handbag or even hand luggage if you’re going abroad.

I don’t tend to wash Annie’s hair everyday usually, but on holiday we swam daily & I didn’t want the chlorine sat in her hair, so I used the gentle swimmers shampoo on her. It’s a huge bottle, so perhaps a little heavy to lug around everyday, we decanted it into smaller travel sized bottles which was perfect as a little goes a long way, even on her rapunzel-esque mane! We followed the shampoo with a spritz of the conditioning detangling spray which sorted out any tangles!

The one thing I’d prefer the products to have is a light scent. The product range is said to include organic aloe vera, organic coconut oil, avocado oil and sweet almond oil. But personally I didn’t detect that in the sense of a smell to any of the products-but some people would probably prefer that!

We all found that the pool water/chemicals in it, left our skin hugely dry & itchy, so after a couple of days I applied the rescue cream, an intensive nourishing barrier cream to the kids torsos before the got in the pool & it made a huge difference. I’ll definitely slip this little tube of wonder stuff in my bag from now on!

The full range of Fifi & friends products can be bought here. I spotted a daily essentials gift box on the website which looks like the perfect thing to give a new family.

I’ll definitely continue using this range as I love the simple purity at its heart.

Much love,

K x

{gifted collaboration-for shoppinglinks & fifi & friends, article written is my honest opinion of the products received}

HarBar on 6th

Ad~Gifted

Very happy to report that we’ve had some brighter days since my last blog post. I’ve been trying to plan one ‘nice’ thing each month, to ensure I always have something to look forward to.

Last week we were invited along to sample the new spring menu at the rooftop restaurant of a local hotel. HarBar on 6th is located at the top of our local *Harbour hotel & Spa*, located in Southampton. We’re very privileged to live on the south coast, & this restaurant bar takes full advantage of its position on the edge of the Ocean village complex with stunning views across the solent.

Boasting both indoor & outdoor seating, this place feels cool but with a relaxed vibe, I noted that whilst we were there, families were sat alongside couples & all looked to be having a great time.

(This swanky end of HarBar on 6th is the entertaining space where a resident DJ plays!)

It’s very rare that we go out as a couple, to be honest we probably do it once or twice a year? We prioritise spending money on the kids, make excuses that we’re too tired & feel guilty that we’re relying on family to babysit.

But do you know what, I’m so glad we were invited out for this evening, we had such a lovely time, sharing each other’s company, the dim lighting was very flattering on my eye bags (& if you squint you can’t even see Nigels grease stained hands!).

We were shown to a table next to a panel of huge glass windows, looking out over rows of boats bobbing in the harbour, with the ocean in the distance behind the twinkling lights of the apartments lining the edge of the water. We definitely had the ‘if we win the lottery….’ chat!

Feeling immediately relaxed I ordered one of the ‘Crews Cocktails’ the ‘all on board’, consisting of Plymouth Sloe Gin, lemon juice & sugar syrup. It was absolutely delicious & a bit too easy to drink, I decided to try to remain sophisticated & ordered a bottle of Rosé to go with our meals!

As well as bites & starters, the menu had a good range of mains, with meat, fish &grains all covered. Prices started at £8, but none of the mains included a side, which were priced separately. I found this a little odd, once you added one or two of those, the price totalled around £14, which I think is very reasonable, I just would have preferred an ‘all in’ price, personally.

For starters we went for Giant Tempura prawns & whitebait, both were good sized portions & very tasty. I should also mention that the staff were very courteous & helpful-I’ve had feedback from friends that on occasion this was lacking during their visit, but I’m very happy to report we found quite the opposite. We don’t go out much, & when we do I really appreciate good service.

I was very tempted to go for a pizza as the outdoor pizza oven is renowned for its beautiful creations, but in the end I went for the pulled pork burger with Monterey Jack cheese. It was huge, & the coleslaw inside the burger was so tasty, it really finished it off perfectly.

Nige went for the flat iron chicken, not really knowing what to expect, I think the fancy shoestring fries it was garnished with were wasted on him to be honest, but he enjoyed it!

If I’m honest, our puddings were probably the part of the meal I was most looking forward to! I definitely have a sweet tooth & always look at the dessert menu before I choose a starter or main course!!

We chose to share the mascarpone passion fruit cheesecake & chocolate brownie with cherry compote. Now, I fancy myself as a bit of a brownie connoisseur, this one was good, but the cheesecake was AMAZING, so so tasty, the perfect end to a really lovely meal.

I really want to go back during the day to see HarBar on 6th in a different light, & to sample more of their menu(I think I’ll take the girls for afternoon tea as it’s been highly recommended to me!). We had such a lovely evening, I’ve already been googling the drinks menu ready to choose my next cocktail, do you think I can persuade Nigel to take me out again?!

We were gifted this meal in return for an honest review here on the blog, so as usual-all opinions are my own.

Many thanks to HarBar for hosting us!

Kirsty x x x

Where I’m at.

This blog post is certainly not how I wanted to start 2019. But these thoughts swirl constantly in my mind & so I thought it may be cathartic to get them out there. I’m not sure if I’m writing this for me or for you- if I’m honest.

If you haven’t experienced profound loss in your life yet, I’m so, so happy for you, & you won’t know that right now, you’re walking on air, bouncing from fluffy cloud to beautiful rainbow without even realising it. Sounds like a crock of shit doesn’t it. One day you’ll say ‘she was right’.

Sure, that £500 car bill is hugely inconvenient, & you may be facing redundancy from the job which pays your mortgage. But neither of those hiccups could possibly come close to the white hot burning pain of loss you feel in your heart & mind when a(very much) loved one is ripped away from you. Like an avengers movie, my life feels like it been smashed up by a huge robot, rampaging through every street, buildings burning, people running, screaming, crying, huge craters opening up in the ground as I try to walk through each day.

I definitely didn’t ‘appreciate’ grief(at least, not this kind)before now. Sure, my heart broke when I learned friends had lost a partner, when one of my best friends died in a car crash. Or when I read stories in the paper of mothers diagnosed with terminal cancer at 30.

But this? This is different.

This grief controls every moment-of every day as I live and breathe. I find it hard to quantify in words the pain I feel-all of the time. Sure, some days are sunny(metaphorically speaking) Some days, it pisses it down, & it feels like a lightening bolt will strike me at any moment.

I don’t just miss the little things, the ‘I saw your stories, your haircut looks gorgeous!’ Txt from her. Or the ‘shall I just clean your windows, you’ll never get round to it..’ (she was right).

But the fact that, she was like, a half of me? My children are all a little living breathing piece of me, but as my mother- she was a mirror image, inextricably intertwined. We shared the same thoughts, opinions, loved each other fiercely & would do anything for one another.

As you know, Nigel works very long hours on the farm-so in his absence she took the place of a partner. From the life changing-helping me make financial decisions, to the mundane, an extra pair of hands after swimming lessons or at the weekly food shop. She would stay here at least a couple of times a month, slating the stars of love island & helping me to keep Pringles in business in the process. It was so lovely to have another adult in the house with me.

So it’s almost as though I’m grieving a partner-In the sense I’ve described. And getting my head around the loneliness of those situations is immense. I’m not sure I ever really will. I just really fucking miss her.

My days are a constant battle to keep my head above water. ‘Don’t think about her, don’t think about her, don’t think about her’ I’ll tell myself when I look out of the window & see her car on the drive, hear her dog bark, catch a glimpse of her name on my iPhone ‘favourites’ list.

Not because I don’t want to give myself time to think about her, but because I don’t want to sink.

I’m a mother to four(needy!)kids, a housewife, a friend. And I still want to be all of those things, even though I’m carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. I don’t want to cry everyday (because it’s physically exhausting). I don’t want to binge eat on crap because I’m sad then regret it afterwards. I’m not saying this is the ‘correct’ course of action to take-it’s just the one which works for me.

Even though I was there, weekly, daily, watching her deteriorate over three months. Most days I still question ‘did that REALLY happen, have I ACTUALLY lost her??…’ I cannot make sense of it-I don’t feel like I ever will.

Those few months weren’t what you would expect after a cancer diagnosis. We didn’t talk about death, how much we’d miss each other, how mum felt about dying, because from the moment she knew-she became a different person. So delicate, probably terrified, perhaps in denial? She was very sad, but not in a selfish way-just with great dignity.

She didn’t plan ahead & buy me a Christmas card, a birthday card, take extra photos of us together because maybe, just maybe, they’d got it wrong, it happens doesn’t it? ‘…Man eats pineapple every day for a year & his cancer disappears…’ I can see the headline now.

But that didn’t happen, and now all I have left is memories, photos, videos, precious possessions.

I hear her voice in my own when i speak & it hurts so much. I ask myself questions which had never entered my head before. Should I have had children if they’ll have to go through this pain one day? Is this it-is this life?, you cruise along having a great time then suddenly, catastrophically-its over?

Should I not bother with opinions, to try to earn money, to look nice, because none of it counts in the end. Should I try to live differently, or just be grateful for everything I have & never strive for better??

I have no answers to these questions. I’m just writing down my thoughts so that some of you-who may sadly have asked yourself the same might feel some comfort that you’re not alone.

At the moment I don’t want to have counselling, I don’t want to speak to my best friends in depth about my mum.

The only people I really speak to are Poppy, Ruby & Nigel. They always say the right things, or nothing at all & just hold me, or listen to me, & once the floodgates are open, i do always feel better afterwards.

I realise this is just the start of a very long journey. I can’t promise to share every path I take, but I hope by reading this you take something away, whether that be to appreciate what you have today in a way you haven’t before, or the comfort of feeling you’re not alone.

Thank you for reading.

Lots of love, Kirsty x

Marwell at xmas, with Hants days out.

We were incredibly lucky to be invited along to experience Christmas at Marwell-our local zoo!

Having not visited the zoo myself for a few years I was really excited to go back, & show it off to my younger children who had never been! It’s safe to say they weren’t disappointed.

With its stunning medieval ‘Hall’ dating back to 1320, you couldn’t fail to be enthralled by the history of this fantastic building-welcoming you in with blue sky above & a beautiful Christmas tree standing proud at the entrance. We chose to meet Father Christmas at the start of our day(why save the best bit till last?!) & im so glad we did!

We waited patiently at the doors with a few other families & were met by elves Jingle & Belle, right on time.

We were welcomed into a magical land transformed with frosted trees, signs to never land & a huge ‘naughty or nice’ list on a screen surrounded by chairs, the children were fascinated to search for their names.

Whilst we waited to start the enchanted journey through the house we were offered Xmas tree shaped shortbread biscuits & juice, or mince pies & mulled wine for the grown ups(most welcome!) Beautiful light shows danced round the ceiling, of Peter Pan flying through the sky, the scene was set perfectly for a wonderful adventure.

Soon the time came for Belle to call us through to the most magical room. A huge chair sat by the fireside, where Mother Christmas took her place to tell us a festive story of never land. The children sat enthralled on log shaped cushions watching one of Santa’s elves act out the story with the help of a few trusty teddies!

After the story, a huge wooden door lead through to a workshop where our own little elves could set to work decorating a drawstring bag with Xmas tree motif. With fabric pens & glittery sticky shapes laid out on two long tables, their creativity could go wild, with plenty of time to decorate each of their bags, or write a letter to Santa to pop in the post box in the corner.

Having never met Father Christmas before, Annie & Will were so excited, that they didn’t quite know what to say when we were welcomed in to meet him. Sat by the fireside in a throne-like chair he looked just as the perfect Santa should. With a long bead, red suit & shiny black boots, & spectacles perched on the end of his nose!

Each child was given & gift & had a quick chat with the big man, a professional photographer was on hand to take a photo of them all & we were then on our way to the last room of our experience at Marwell Hall.

……With presents stacked high & a few more elves to greet us, it was the perfect end to our experience. We bought the photo you see above-Will was keen to show off his artist talents as you can see! Kids!

We let the children open their gifts outside. Sat on the huge stone steps in the sunshine it was just the perfect scene. Annie & Will received play dough & a magic set, & the older girls wooden puzzle sets-quite the brain teasers-perfect to watch Gramps struggle with round the table on Xmas day!

The rest of the zoo was just as brilliant as our experience with Santa-Will literally hasn’t stopped asking me when we can go back!

We were blessed with the most beautiful winter sunshine, so we strolled round for the next few hours, learning about snow leopards, Rhino & Sloths, with our favourite animal being crowned as the giraffe! The kids couldn’t believe how close up we were to these majestic giants!

At the top of Ruby’s must see list was the sloth in the new tropical house, but due to their uncanny knack to blend in perfectly with their surroundings we only caught a glimpse of one, so no great photo opportunity I’m afraid. However the rhino put on a full show for us, it must have been feeding time as one by one they trudged slowly down to their pen, up close they really are incredible creatures.

I think the sunshine really helped us to get a good look at lots of the animals, they seemed to be enjoying the warmth on their faces just as much as we were & as the park wasn’t at all crowded we got some amazing photos which we’ll print & put in a scrapbook so the kids can look back on our day with fond memories!

I’ve been recommending Marwell(at Christmas or any other time of year!) to my friends since our visit, we had the best time. Isn’t it funny you sometimes forget the gems right on your doorstep?! If you’re ever visiting Hampshire-perhaps staying in the new forest, you must plan a trip into your stay, it was so much fun!

‘Prep for Pup’ campaign. In collaboration with Forthglade.

When I’m asked by a brand to work with them, the first thing I consider is ‘is it relevant to me?’

And the fact that we’ve loved & used the Forthglade brand of dog food for years meant it was a no brainier for us to spread the word of their latest campaign!

As you know, we were lucky enough to welcome a litter of beautiful sprocker puppies during the summer! It’s safe to say that they were a huge part of our lives for the eight weeks we nurtured them, treating them with as much love & care as any other member of the family.

We knew that we wanted each of them to lead happy fulfilled lives, with the right families for the breed. Sprockers(working cocker/springer cross) have a lot of energy, & require mental & physical stimulation-‘work’. So we were careful to take the process of finding them new homes, slowly.

We met with potential owners lots of times, met each member of their families-the two legged & four legged kinds, & asked lots of questions until we were satisfied that they could offer just what our pups would need over the course of their lifetime.

Because-it’s a huge responsibility taking on a puppy, or a dog of any age for that matter.

It makes me sad, & angry in equal measure when I see dogs for sale on Facebook which start ‘through no fault of his own….’ & I truly believe that is the case-it’s not a bad animal that’s led to a dog being rehomed, it’s an unprepared owner. Many just don’t have the time, the energy, or the money, to meet the needs of a dog(which has been bought because it’s ‘in fashion’ nine times out of ten).

Forthglade recently launched their puppy care awareness campaign; aimed at helping would-be puppy owners decide if a puppy is the best choice for them, and to help future puppy owners prepare for their new arrival. Which in my opinion is a bloody brilliant(& responsible)initiative for a dog food company to put forward. They even have the support of Tv Vet Steve Leonard, & farmer Adam Henson-who also is helping them to raise awareness of the ‘junk’ in many dog foods!

We were honest with the new owners of our pups when explaining, just how much exercise they would need in the future, whether or not they might chew, how long it could take to toilet train them, & just how much they would need to be fed-all that exercise builds up QUITE an appetite!

Luckily for us, Flo did the bulk of the hard work for the first five weeks or so, but after that it was time to start weaning the pups onto solid food! Having used Forthglade for the adult dogs, there was no question what brand we would choose for the puppies.

Forthglade literally smells like a roast dinner has been cooked in your kitchen-it doesn’t have that awful artificial meat smell that some foods have!! It’s rich & well balanced with just the right vitamins & minerals to nourish growing dogs. I think the pups could smell it a mile of as there were lots of noses in the air as they scrabbled up the side of their crate to be first in line for breakfast(and lunch, and dinner!!)

We gave each new owner a little puppy pack to take away with them, which comprised of a blanket with Flo’s scent on it for comfort. A small toy. a pack of flea treatment? an information pack of the important dates so far in their short lives. And a supply of Forthglade wet puppy food.

The fantastic new ‘prep for puppy’ pack, also includes Flo’s favourite training treats-which I highly recommend for a ‘food driven’ breed such as sprockers!

We’re happy to report that so far-all of the puppies are doing brilliantly, adored by their new families & definitely ‘living their best lives’!

You can read a bit more about the prep for pup campaign here on the Forthglade website.

Lots of love, Kirsty,

(& Flo & Ted! Xx)

***

We were gifted a selection of Forthglade products in exchange for a written piece on our personal views of them. We have in the past-& will continue to buy it as we feel it’s perfect for our dogs!

M&S fruit farm visit.

I don’t think it’s just because I’m the wife of an arable farmer that I appreciate locally grown produce.

I basically just love good food!

And what could be MORE perfect than juicy, ripe seasonal berries??

I was asked by Marks & Spencer if we’d like to visit one of their suppliers’ farms to learn more about how Strawberries, Raspberries & Blueberries are grown. We eat A LOT of soft fruit in our family, so I jumped at the chance to learn more about them.

We popped down to Hall Hunter Partnership’s 500 acre fruit farm around an hour from us in Chichester on a sunny September Friday.

We were welcomed with a smile by Executive Assistant Anna Christian who introduced us to Harvest Manager Alana Deacon.

Both ladies were so friendly & eager to show us round. We set off for a tour of the farm, firstly stopping off at the vast strawberry tunnels. I’ve only ever been to pick your own strawberry farms, where fruit is grown on the ground surrounded by a ‘bed’ of straw, but this was completely different. The fruit was shoulder height(for easy picking) with a ‘fertigate’ tube system running the length of the tunnel in order to deliver the plants the perfect balance of nutrition or moisture as required.

When offered the opportunity to try a strawberry fresh from the plant(unwashed) I was surprised…but Alana reassured me that their fruit isn’t constantly sprayed with nasty chemicals(quite the opposite), & so I went ahead. Well, I can honestly say, it was the sweetest, tastiest strawberry I’ve ever eaten!!

The variety we sampled is grown especially for M&S, right here in England. As we walked along the rows & chatted, Annie was encouraged to pick her own strawberries, she soon got the knack of it & had a very pink face in no time!

Hall hunter partnership are able to grow soft fruit all year round. In the warm English summer months fruit is grown in polytunnels, where air can freely circulate. In winter, glasshouses ensure the crop is protected from frost & heavy rain. Alana told me that this summer, the UK’s record breaking temperatures have created the perfect growing conditions for the fruit, resulting in a bumper crop!

A dedicated team of ‘pickers’ work constantly throughout each day to harvest fruit, row by row, their speed was astounding! It takes some skill to pick efficiency without damaging the fruit, & the team had it down to a fine art. We watched them picking the best berries & leaving any which didn’t quite make the mark – on the plant – to me they all looked beautiful though!!

The fruit is then taken by trailer straight to a chiller to ensure optimum freshness, it’s then sealed in punnets, before it makes it way, within hours to the shelves of your local M&S food hall.

I asked Anna about how Blueberries are grown.

She told me ‘Blueberries differ from the other soft fruit that grows on our farms, because they grow on a bush that could live for up to 20 years’(who knew?!)

‘During the first year we don’t pick any berries, instead we pick all of the flowers off. We do this so that all of the energy that the sun gives the plants can go into the generation of a strong plant, with the specific structure we want.

Once the plants have grown to 50cm tall they are pruned back to 20cm to create a strong base for future years. In the second year, we allow some flowers to set and harvest about 800 grams of blueberries per plant. After fruiting, they are pruned again – whilst trying to maintain the shape of a wine glass.

Going forward, it is the same routine year after year, flowering, fruit, picking and pruning. As the plants get bigger and more mature, they produce larger, more flavourful berries’.

Our experience at the farm has definitely made me think more carefully about my choices in the future. I’d rather not be eating produce which has clocked up thousands of air miles & left a heavy carbon footprint. Whether it’s flowers from an honestly stand you’re buying, or veg from your local farmers market, we’re so lucky to have the best of every season here in the uk. And wonderful flavoursome produce to prove it!

Read on for recipe inspiration!

We were asked if we’d like to make a couple of recipes using M&S ingredients. I chose blueberry & lemon muffins, and a raspberry & white chocolate tart. The blueberries were incredible-I mean, I hate to admit it, but I’ve always thought blueberries were kind of a pointless fruit, they’ve never tasted of much?-but these were on another level. Firstly they were huge, like, bigger than my thumb nail, secondly they were full of flavour and not one of the ones I sampled was sour. I’m a blueberry convert!

{Blueberry & Lemon Curd muffins}

Ruby & Annie have always baked together, so I thought the muffins might be a great treat for them to work on. What I didn’t realise was just how simple the process would be!! A real ‘chuck it all in’ recipe, perfect for the novice baker, with a super tasty end result.

These delicious muffins are best served warm and fresh from the oven(ie I can’t wait for them to cool)…perfect for a breakfast or a teatime treat(or both!).

Makes: approx 10

Prep time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes

What you will need:

100g butter

200g blueberries

250g self rasing flour

1 tbp bicarbonate of soda

100g caster sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

2 free range eggs

150 ml semi skimmed milk

10 tsp lemon curd

6 tsps Demerara sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 220c/200c fan/gas 6. 2. Line a deep muffin tin with paper cases.

3. Place the butter in a small pan and melt, allow to cool for a few minutes.

4. Wash the blueberries and pat dry, toss in a little flour.

5. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. Stir in the caster sugar, blueberries and lemon zest.

6. Beat the eggs, add the milk and melted butter, mix together and pour into the flour mixture. Mix together quickly and lightly, the mixture should still look a bit lumpy.

7. Divide between the muffin cases, make a little indent and place a teaspoon of lemon curd on the top of each one, sprinkle with the demerara sugar.

Bake for approx 20 mins until risen and golden. Cool for at least a few minutes before enjoying.

{Raspberry & White chocolate tart }

If you fancy a dessert which looks a million dollars but is quick and actually really easy, this ones for you…

White chocolate lends itself perfectly to raspberries, and the M&S Swiss white chocolate had a caramel like quality to it, which tasted so luxurious, one slice was definitely not enough-it was so moorish!

Serves: 6-8

Prep time: 20 minutes (plus 30 minutes resting time for the pastry and 1 hour for dessert to set in the fridge)

Cooking time: 20 minutes

What you will need For the pastry:

110g plain flour

55g unsalted butter, cut into 1cm cubes

For the filling:

400g white chocolate

200ml double cream

50g unsalted butter

1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract

400g raspberries.

1. Make the pastry by whizzing the flour and butter in a food processor to form fine crumbs. Add just enough cold water to bring it together, just two or three tablespoons should do it. Wrap in cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5.

3. Lightly grease a 23cm tart tin and roll the pastry into a circle big enough to line it. Don’t worry if it cracks a little, just patch it up in the tin using a little water if you need to stick it together. Prick the base all over with a fork, line with baking paper and baking beans and bake blind in the oven for 20 minutes until crisp. Remove the pastry case from the oven, take out the baking beans and allow to cool completely while you make the filling.

4. Make the filling by breaking up 350g of the white chocolate and adding to a heatproof bowl, along with the double cream, butter and vanilla. Set the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and allow the chocolate and butter to melt, stirring frequently until you have a thick shiny sauce. Pour into the baked and cooled pastry case and put in the fridge to set firm, about an hour.

5. Once set, remove from the fridge and decorate the surface of the tart with the fresh raspberries, either in a pretty pattern or randomly, as you like. Melt the remaining white chocolate in a small heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Using a teaspoon drizzle the melted chocolate over the raspberries.

Serving suggestion: a best friend & a fork each.

I hope you enjoyed this post, thank you for reading.

I love to read your comments so please do feel free to chat, either here or on instagram!

Love Kirsty xxx

*this post is sponsored by Marks & Spencer but all words and opinions are my own.

Got my shit together!

As the last couple of days of the summer holidays rumble along, I wanted to address something which people regularly comment on with regards to my family. And that is that I always have my shit together. I can promise you that however it my look from the pretty squares in my grid, 99% of the time, i most certainly do not!

I work, I also do all of the housework, childcare, cooking, banking, etc etc and the most I can hope for is a loose sense of capability that everyone has been fed, arrived at school on time, and is clean. This is not always the case, we’re definitely late sometimes, clothes are plucked from the dirty laundry basket & reworn, and many a slice of toast has been consumed on the five minute drive to school. I think it’s a case of figuring out your priorities, and doing first what’s at the top of the list-what’s most important to you and your way of life. For me, I wouldn’t go out without make-up on, or making my bed. Other things lower down the list are making the kids beds, & picking up toys-i do of course pick up toys, but if Annie is really into Barbies & has ten of them strewn across the floor, i’ll pick them up so that i can hoover(hooving is at the top of my ‘must do’ list) but i’ll leave them for her to resume dressing them in their teeny tiny shoes as & when she wants to.

Living in a farmhouse isn’t like living in a ‘normal’ house-I won’t bore you with the details as i’ve mentioned it lots of times before, but it does mean that i’m at home a lot. Everything takes longer, and is messier, and dirtier. During the holidays we haven’t been on picnics, or made trips to the park or cinema daily, because everything would, quite literally turn to shit within days. I can’t just pop as wash load on now and again, the baskets are full daily, clean clothes need to be put away daily, and let’s not talk about how often the fridge needs topping up.

But i don’t think the kids suffer for it. We’re lucky enough to have a big garden, the dogs can be walked at home, we have a trampoline, toys, cousins next door, and every gadget imaginable.

I also think it’s worth mentioning that if you stay at home with your baby or toddler a few days a week, you won’t necessarily be climbing the walls in desperation for adult company. In my experience kids get a better quality of sleep in their own beds. They also enjoy rediscovering their old toys-i like to put a few away and rotate them, or use pinterest for inspirational activities i can set up in minutes.

And Teenagers NEED more sleep than the rest of us, it’s a fact, So maybe during the holidays, don’t drag them out for that leisurely 9am dog walk, leave them to snooze till lunchtime & perhaps they’ll be less grouchy/argumentative/vile?! They’ll tell you I’m ‘stressed’ all the time, & shout a lot. But if they did what I asked the first time, I probably wouldn’t need to shout, or get stressed. I’m only human, and some days, my patience is a lot thinner than on others!

Having said that, the older kids are expected to help out, whether that’s keeping Annie entertained whilst i cook tea, walking the dogs, or just changing the loo roll when they notice its empty(still working on that one!) every little thing helps, its one less job I need to add to my day. I try to make their lives a little easier in return ,we have separate washing baskets for whites & darks, they have sky tv in their room so they can escape the madness if needs be. We’re a pretty average houseful I think?

So how do I limit the craziness a little? I try to implement small things which add up to less stressful situations occurring. I like to have spares, extras of important things. Like loo rolls, or bread, and milk, plus ready meals in the freezer- for those days when we have been out for the day and got a mcDonalds on the way home. That way my farmer still gets a decent meal at the end of the day & I don’t have to cook late at night. Dishwasher tablets, washing detergent, dog food & bin liners are all really good things to have extra of, who wants to go out to the local shop for them and end up paying twice the price?! School clothes are another think I like to have spares of, the amount of times Will comes out of school minus his jumper/lunch box/a shoe(yep!) are too frequent to recall! I also make sure that every evening, I get him to leave a pile of clean uniform next to his bed, so he doesn’t have to scramble around in the morning looking for the heap he stepped out of the night before!

This might all seem like really obvious life ‘hacks’ but maybe they’re not, so i’m just going to share what i do, & if anything is useful for you, then great!

Other things i try to be strict about include meal planning-nothing extreme, just knowing i’m making a meal out of chicken on a monday, mincemeat on a tuesday, something quick for swimming on a weds etc, makes me feel a bit more in control. I’ll sit down on a sunday evening and loosely plan what we want to eat that week. Monday is usually my ‘get the house straight after the weekend’ day, so we’ll have freezer tapas that evening, then I do a food shop on a tuesday & we eat like kings that night, literally gorging ourselves on our newly stocked fridge full of treat food!

I hate being the parent who forgot it was ‘superhero/bring a bottle/wear stripes’ day at school, there seems to be so many things happening every week that once you have multiple children(or even if you have one!) it can be hard to keep up with it all! My system is that anything which immediately needs to be actioned-gets put on the fridge. So letters for trips and that sort of thing. Anything which is just for info, dates, times etc, I write in my diary straight away, it’s always nearby in the kitchen, so between emptying the lunchboxes and chopping carrots i’ll scribble things down, then throw the letter away if i don’t need to look at it again, or I file it. I have a lever arch file, with a section with plastic wallets for each child, so i can quickly locate that leaflet about the daylight robbery school library visit i’ll need to remember to take my purse to!

This year i’m definitely feeling the ‘less is more’ mantra creeping further & further into my daily life, so if i get five minutes to empty a drawer, I do it. If im looking for something and can’t find it straight it away i make a conscious effort to group those kinds of things together to save time in the future-batteries & permanent pens seem to be the current things on my hit list!

I wanted some really low hooks in the entrance porch, so that in September, Annie & Will can return from nursery & hang up their own bags & coats.

It’s too easy to spend ten, twenty minutes scrolling instagram when you could be replying to an important email or paying a bill online. I’d love to be one of those super organised people who gets things done instantly but i’m definitely not and I love my sleep, so getting up earlier to get more done is just NOT and option for me, but I do need to work on my time management, and often use the timer on my phone to set myself mini time challenges!!(I mean like, really mini, to put away a drawerful of washing, or to empty my car of rubbish whilst I wait at the petrol pump!)

I hope that this post has given you a better understanding of how we do things in our house. A lot of the time it’s not tidy, but i like to think its clean at least. Maybe you’re running yourself ragged because you’re just trying to do it ALL…try prioritising and see if it gives you a bit of breathing space at the end of a busy day/week/month??

Much love,

Kirsty xxx