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.

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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

Collaboration with Dinky Artist

What kind of parent are you when your child brings home an artistic masterpiece?

Do you frame it and hang it in the play room for all eternity. Or, is your style more, ‘put-it-on-the-fridge-then-sneakily-bin-it-when-no-one’s-looking…’!

A quick survey of my mum friends revealed that most of us are in the latter camp. It’s not that we don’t *love* the glitter & rainbows our little Picasso’s have thrown at the page-but we simply can’t store ALLLL of their creations!

Whilst studying the war, Ruby created a watercolour of Poppy fields. It was both beautiful & poignant-a wonderful memory-one to save. And of course, I’ve carefully stashed the first stick man family of the five of us Will drew at pre school. And then there’s Poppy, who spends hours sketching our dogs in beautiful art books, & I always keep my favourites.

At home, my whole family say I have a heart of stone-but just like Rachel in friends I ‘keep the things that matter’. (Well, some of them)

So, when I heard about Dinky Artist, I was A-a bit annoyed I didn’t come up with this great idea, and B-relieved I could shed some Mum guilt about my close relationship with the recycling bin.

You see, Rachel is the founder of a unique UK business, which takes your children’s drawings, and turns them into truly sentimental personalised gifts.

She told me ‘I kept all the homemade Mother’s Day cards and everything my children made, but they were just living in the loft getting a bit damp, wrinkly and ruined!’ Her mission Statement ‘say goodbye to the fridge door & hello to a new world of memories’ really struck a chord with me!

She asked me if I’d like to choose a couple of special drawings to have printed onto products of my choice. I found it really hard to narrow down my choices-but, settled on a particularly poignant drawing Will did after a recent road trip with his Dad to look at a new harvester! They were out until 11pm after driving halfway across the country. I wanted him to write down a few sentences about their day, and to draw a picture for his school handwriting practice book. I was surprised, but very endeared that what he chose to draw wasn’t the big shiny new harvester they drove-but Daddy’s van.

The place where banter & chat takes place, where sneaky snacks are consumed, and the smell of grease & dust is ingrained into your clothes & skin, but I guess, that’s what memories are made of? A feeling, rather than an event?

I chose to have the design printed onto a white t-shirt, & Will gave it Nigel for Father’s Day, he thought it was fantastic!

Poppy is the artist of the family, & her quirky little drawings are so heartwarming! She draws her passions, so animals-horses & dogs mainly…

But on this occasion, flicking through her sketchbook, I found a drawing of a guinea pig which I loved!! We kept Guineas when Poppy was a baby, they’re the sweetest little creatures so I decided I’d love one immortalised on a bag.

We thought the navy organic tote would show off her design beautifully, & I’ve used it to hang on my pushchair for shopping since it arrived, & received lots of compliments from other shoppers!!

Ain’t he cute?!

Both of the items I received are of a lovely quality, & I’m now going to be more careful with what I bin as I’d like to order a few more products.

If you need an affordable gift idea for a teacher, grandparent, parent, carer, neighbour, I think a special drawing, transferred to something which can be worn or used is such a lovely unique gift, which anyone would be proud to receive!

Check out the Dinky Artist website to see for yourself the full range of products!

Kirsty xx

This was a paid Advertisement in conjunction with Dinky Artist. However all thoughts & opinions are my own.

Beef traceability, at Marks & Spencer.

Do you shop at farmers markets? What do you love about them? I bet it’s the fact that you can stand face to face with the person who lovingly created that loaf of bread, block of cheese or chocolate brownie you’re going to buy? It makes us feel safe doesn’t it? The precise knowledge of where and how the product was made, whether that was on dairy farm in your local village, or at a kitchen table, cottage industry style.

What if you could walk into a supermarket & get that same, warm feeling as you handed over your hard earned cash? Well, Marks & Spencer are the only supermarket in the whole of the UK to be able to claim the crown when it comes to traceability of ALL of their beef. Every.Single.Product.

Steak & ale pie? Tick. Aberdeen Angus steak? Tick. Meatballs? Tick.

You see, marks & sparks(we’re mates you know!) take a DNA sample from every single animal on every single(British!)farm which supplies their beef. Not just a single sample, from one animal in the herd on one random farm. Oh no. Thousands of samples are being taken constantly, so that M&S KNOW for a FACT that their (very) strict welfare guidelines are being adhered to.

I don’t think it’s just the fact that we are are a farming family which makes this style of food production so exciting(we used to have a beef herd here on the farm in fact). Imagine how clear your conscience would be if you knew how every chicken you ever ate was reared, every joint of lamb you shared with family at easter? And-also crucially, how that animal moved through the supply chain. I know I would love it if that could become a reality in the future, & M&S are working hard to make this their reality!

Just look at the recent national ‘open farm Sunday’ event held across the country. The one we chose to go to on a local dairy farm was a huge success, with more than 2000 people visiting, that tells me that more so than ever before, people want to see what’s going on behind those shed doors, with their own eyes, and I believe that trust, should be earned, whether that’s in the farming industry or another integral part of our lives?

We were asked by Marks & Spencer if we’d like to try a couple of recipes using their beef(steak, to be precise).

The first, an amazing steak sandwich, which we ate al fresco on the evening of Nigel’s birthday. It was the perfect family meal, everyone digging in with their hands & chatting & laughing, a meal with all six of us together is rare, so it was lovely to make a real effort to enjoy these insanely good rib-eye steaks!!

(You’ll find the recipes for each dish at the bottom of this post)

Recipe 2 ‘Steak with salsa verde’was slightly more sophisticated, but still very tasty as a family meal for fussy kids!

I find where there’s a higher meat ratio in a recipe, the kids don’t seem to notice the veg sneaking in. So I served the steak with mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, new potatoes & green beans.

Well, you couldn’t miss these huge rib eye steaks, having said that, Will still managed to polish off one to himself! (Not bad for a seven year old, I’ve trained him well!)

The beef was beautifully tender-Mr P said he could have cut it with a spoon, & that they were amongst the best steaks he’d ever had(coming from a former beef farmer, I think that’s pretty good going!)

I really hope this post has made you think a little more deeply about the process your food goes through before it arrives on the supermarket shelves. If you think you might like to have a go at one of these simple recipes, you’ll find them here;

Recipe 1:

The Ultimate Steak Sandwich (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • A knob of butter
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 5 sprigs thyme, (leaves picked)
  • A pinch of sugar
  • 75ml ale, such as Yorkshire Gold Ale
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Thick-cut steak, approximately 400g
  • 1 ciabatta
  • 2 slices extra-mature Cornish Cheddar
  • A handful of rocket leaves

Method

1 Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onions, thyme and sugar. Season with salt. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring, until softened. Add the ale and mustard, cook for 5 minutes.

2 Heat the oil in another frying pan and heat the grill to high. Season the steak and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side.

3 Slice the ciabatta in half and top the bottom half with the onions and cheese. Cook under the grill until the cheese has melted. Slice the steak and layer on top of the cheese. Finish with the rocket and the top half of bread.

Recipe 2:

Steak with Salsa Verde (SERVES 2)

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pinch caster sugar
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 0.5 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp capers
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 15g fresh basil
  • 15g fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 British rib-eye steaks

PREPARATION

Pick and chop the fresh flat-leaf parsley. Pick and chop the fresh basil. Finely chop the garlic cloves. Finely chop the anchovy fillets. Drain and chop the capers.

METHOD

1 .To make the salsa verde, combine all the extra ingredients and season with black pepper(you might not need salt as the anchovies are salty). Set aside.

2 Heat a griddle pan until very hot. Meanwhile, pat the steaks dry with kitchen paper, brush them lightly with oil and season on both sides.

3 Remove the steaks from the pan and place them on a clean board. Cover loosely with foil and leave to rest for 5 minutes. Serve with a good spoonful of salsa verde.

Enjoy!

Kirsty x

*All of the ingredients mentioned were from our local Marks & Spencer store, do check out their summer ranges, everything was DELISH!

**Although this is not a paid campaign, we were kindly gifted the food featured in this post by Marks & Spencer. All of the opinions expressed are my own.

Three key pieces in my wardrobe. Spring/Summer 2018

I’m not a summer person. The other three seasons are definitely more my bag. With this in mind, the key pieces I’ve chosen, are firmly in my comfort zone.

Does anyone else above a size ten feel strong pangs of ‘my legs weren’t designed for shorts’ the minute the sun comes out? Like, it literally makes me feel a bit sick.

The ‘great’ British Summer is more often than not, a week of scorching heat, followed by three months of drizzle, so when choosing from the latest fatface collection, I was mindful of this, and the first thing that jumped out at me was this little cutie, a cotton jacket in a very ‘modern mama’ camo print! I’m planning on wearing it with most of my existing wardrobe, it seems to make any outfit look effortlessly cool. I’m wearing a size 12, I would say it’s a little oversized so I would try on instore to get the fit you prefer.

Next up, the trainers I never knew I needed! Crisp white, with the comfiest spongy soles, the ‘Weston’ leather trainers have pretty much stayed on my feet since they arrived! Cute summer dress? Trainers. School run in mom jeans? Trainers. You get the picture. The only days I’ve avoided wearing them have been when it’s been raining(don’t forget we live on the farm-unavoidable mud from the back door to the car), or Nige has just cut the grass, who wants bright green streaks on their fresh kicks? Not me. I think I should probably treat these with some sort of protection spray, kids don’t care if they stand all over your feet-neither do dogs for that matter, & im hoping these will stay as a wardrobe staple for some time to come!!

I definitely think accessories can make or break an outfit. I sound like a fashion blogger now don’t I? Of course-I’m not-I’m a busy working Mum & I need to go for practicality-but that doesn’t mean I should forgo style , those cute little round basket bags are high on my wish list, but that wouldn’t be any good on the windy castle ride at Peppa Pig world! I knew making the transition away from a changing bag would mean me carrying more ‘stuff’ but luckily Annie’s potty training journey has been swift. So although of COURSE I still carry baby wipes(lifesavers) I no longer require bulky nappies, bibs, or muslins. The Tara leather backpack has become my new best friend. She’s SO soft & well made, I’m in love.

I really wanted a backpack as my ‘handbag’ as most of the time, although I take the pushchair out with me, Miss independent has other ideas, & I spend most of my time running after her(chasing her out from under bushes and or clothing rails!) & a normal bag just wouldn’t be practical. My mum has also instilled in me an awareness of keeping your bag close by & zipped tight. As you can see from the photos, you’d have a job unzipping this bag, lifting the flap to the right angle & unzipping the internal pocket to grab any loot. I also take my Olympus Pen on days out & want it as close as possible!…And, with four pockets in total the squirrel in me is happy, the more places for me to loose lip balms & coins the better! I definitely think at £89 this is a bit of an investment piece. But I can fit my camera, diary, wallet, keys & more-and I just.love.it.!

Did I say you can wear this bag either as a backpack or as a traditional handbag style? Pretty cool!

I hope you enjoyed this post*!

Much love, K x

*Sponsored by Fatface, but all words and opinions are my own.

Three key pieces in Annie’s wardrobe…spring/summer 2018

I love buying clothes for my children way more than buying for myself. I can easily get swept away in choosing new seasonal pieces, take summer for instance ‘ooh she’ll need a straw bag, sunglasses, the sandals in three colours to go with each dress, five cardigans four swimming costumes and a unicorn lilo for good measure?’

Hmmm, I’m not sure when or where I think my toddler will be strutting out in these catalogue shoot style outfits, a few key pieces would probably be a lot more sensible! So in the interest of maintaining my mental health when I stare at her wardrobe trying to pull together a stylish yet practical(she’s 2.5, who am I kidding?) ensemble, I went for three classic wardrobe staples from the new Fatface summer range which i know will be A-comfortable, and B-really bloody practical!

Fatface have recently extended their children’s clothing range to offer age 2-3 and I am VERY happy about this!! Family twinning?…YES PLEASE.

First up, who doesn’t love a Breton? It’s such a classic ‘go with anything’ piece. Under dungarees, with shorts, or jeans. The fabric of this one Is super soft, almost fluffy cotton & it’s nicely fitted with a little button detail at the neck.

Breton top *pout, models own.

Nigel wears Grey Fatface cable crew from last years winter collection.

Annie loves to be cosy, so this reversible zip up jacket was a must have. It’s SO THICK, soft, & warm…even at the beach where it was pretty windy we noticed she was sweating & had to take it off!

I think it’ll be perfect all year round, as in summer(if we ever get one) you still need something warm for those chilly mornings & evenings ?

*Annie is wearing the reversible fleece in Slate blue, age 2-3, a similar one can be found here*

When I opened our parcel these fab shorts really stood out, such gorgeous fun colours, I’m really glad we have neutral sandals this year (classic tan Saltwaters) to go with them.

Annie is quite petite, she’s almost two and a half, and usually needs a size smaller than her actual age, but these have an adjustable waist, so I can just comfortably pull them in for a great fit. They also have pockets-which she loves, let’s see what I find in there when she’s been out exploring!

Alice circle ditsy shorts

The bright jewelled patterns & colours will bring sunshine to even a dreary day. Let’s hope in the next few weeks the sun pops out from it’s hiding place, we all need some warmth on our skin I think?

I hope you’ve all enjoyed your easter adventures, whatever the weather….

Look out for my next blog post, sharing my own three key wardrobe pieces!

Lots of love, Kirsty x

This was a paid campaign in collaboration with Fatface, but as always the opinions expressed are my own.

Investing in our memories. My Olympus Pen E-PL8.

I realised in the process of writing this blog post that my mum & dad were the original ‘vloggers/bloggers’ of their day!

As well as keeping a daily diary(every.single.day) my mum always had a camera to hand for every milestone, birthday, family event. And as my brother & I grew older our family invested in a ‘camcorder’ to capture those still moments as moving images.

(Cut me some slack on the fringe, I was only five & had no say in the matter okay?!)

At the time, my ten year old self just found her annoying, intrusive, a fun spoiler, making us wait before jumping into the Spanish sea so that she could ‘film’ us!!

But, now that I have precious memories captured by her of my babies, just minutes old, their first steps, words, cuddles, it all makes sense & I cherish those DVD’s.

We have albums full of photographs from as far back as when my mum was pregnant with me, each one with a note underneath in the neatest handwriting of where we were or what the occasion was, and the date.

My dad & uncle both had amazing cameras & the photographs are of fantastic quality.

Which leads me to the title of this blog post!

I’ve just got a new iPhone 8 Plus, and it has a fab camera, and huge memory space, but with 20,000 photos on it(I couldn’t bear to leave them on my old phone!), I needed to have a word with myself.

I can be terrible for snapping away ten of the same image & ‘loving’ then all too much to delete any. What’s the point in that? Will I ever print them? Nope. Will I share those memories with my family? Nope. I wanted a ‘proper’ camera, (not just to take pretty pictures for IG) so that I can have far fewer images, but ones I’ll want to cherish. That I’ll actually print out. Perhaps just a handful a month?

I chose the Olympus Pen E-PL8 as for me it sits somewhere between a basic digital camera & an SLR.

I wanted something smaller than a DSLR but with more functions than a regular digital camera.

I LOVE the fact that it has Wi-fi allowing me to connect it to my iPhone & instantly grab a few photos to add to my Instagram or send to my husband. And although it’s quite heavy, it fits nicely into my changing or handbag.

I received so many compliments on my recent ‘snowy’ pictures, so I must be doing something right, but at the moment I have a lot to learn, and have really only scratched the surface of the Pens functions! You’ll find me sat in bed from 8.30pm with my iPhone in one hand and camera in the other, using blog posts I’ve found explaining the most useful functions, trying to figure it all out.

I mainly have it set to auto for now, but I then use the functions within the touchscreen to lighten the image before I start snapping-or to blur the background. It’s pretty foolproof really.

The screen flips down for great selfies, although if you wanted to use it as a vlog camera & mount it on a tripod it wouldn’t be ideal as the tripod fits in front of the screen!! Something I wonder if Olympus will improve on in future models.

You can buy different lenses, which perhaps when I learn a little more I may do. But Poppy is about to embark on a GCSE photography course which we’ll be buying a DSLR for so I may just keep the Pen basic & use her camera for special occasions.

My camera came with a strap, but not all do. You can buy alternative ones which I will do soon, I also need to buy a proper case for it as I’ve already managed to scratch the rear screen & i’m really annoyed with myself!

I can’t yet give you any great tips on the Olympus Pen, but I’m really happy I’ve got it, & I love playing around with the functions & would recommend it!

Please do leave me a comment if you have any burning questions, and I’ll do my best to answer!

Much love,

K xx

Paultons Park

It’s a hoot hoot, at Paultons Park!..Showing my age there, that used to be their tag line you see. Having grown up living locally to the park my whole life, I have lovely memories of what must have been monthly visits, mainly with my mum, and or my Uncle, Steve, who was/is, a fireman so worked shifts, and took me & my cousin Ali as often as possible & we absolutely loved it!! (There were even dinosaurs there back then!)

Of course, the park(let’s call it that to save time shall we?) has come a loooong way since the 80’s, and is now most famous as being the home of Peppa Pig!

After recently buying season tickets for myself & Will, I thought I’d write a little blog post to give a bit more info in case any of you are also planning a visit?

I wanted to firstly say that although PP world is fantastic, the park as a whole has SO much more than just that to offer.

Many local hotels & B&B’s do a deal with Paultons where by if you book a night with them, you get a second days entry into the park for free! If you go on the Paultons website, it has all the links there for you. Personally if I didn’t live so close(the farm is actually part of the Paultons ‘estate’) i’d definitely do it over two days. (You can just buy a two day ticket if for example you are staying locally with family).

Please please do your research via the app & website before you visit-there is just SO much to see & do, you will benefit most if you plan your way around before you visit.

I’m speaking with experience of visiting with a two & six year old, so you may want to adapt the info to suit your kids. But at the moment Annie still sleeps from 12.30-2.30, and won’t just fall asleep in the pushchair-well, she will, but not till 5pm after a full day out-and as we all know that’s serious danger nap territory! So now that we have a pass, we can arrive for the minute the park opens(around ten or ten thirty, check the website for the opening time on your chosen day) have fun for a few hours & then head home to bed…her not me!

There’s a huge car park, but even if you parked on the farthest side of it you’re still a very short stroll into the park entrance(arrive at 9.30 for 10am opening is my advice…you really don’t want to queue for three miles with kids in the car!) On entering the park you’re greeted with a beautiful tree fountain display and instantly notice how immaculately clean the area is-a theme i’m happy to say is continued throughout the park!!

Once you’ve purchased your tickets you can either eat breakfast in the Rainforest cafe, or head straight for the fun.

Most people with under fives will go straight to Peppa Pig world, not strictly necessary at some points in the year-but if you’re visiting on a weekend, or during the holidays & want to avoid thirty minute queues on the main rides in PP world, this would be my plan of action.

Download the Paultons app-it has a map so that you can carefully plan your route;which I strongly advise, and a queue time tracker which I think it brill at peak times!

Peppa Pig world is really beautifully laid out, with Madame Gazelle’s school house, and , Ducks, rainbows on the floor, (plus Peppas house of course) they’ve thought of all the little details & I actually really like it despite never being a fan of the TV show!

You need to check the website for height restrictions if you want your older child to go on rides in PP World alone but I think they have to be a metre tall for George’s dinosaur ride, the rest are fine as long as you’re accompanying your little one.

Georges spaceship indoor play zone(soft play) can get a little cramped but it’s well catered for all ages with separate bits for toddlers & older ones. And is always spotlessly clean. There is also a phone charger station and small cafe within the soft play area.

I should mention here about food. If you’ve spent the morning in PP World, your little one may now be flagging. The cafe inside George’s soft play sells things like sandwiches,crisps, pizza bread, fruit, and teas and coffees, but, expect to pay ‘theme park’ prices! Personally, I’d take lots of picnic food, or stop at the petrol station very near by which has a Co-Op shop selling lovely sandwiches as well as all the usual stuff. I just can’t justify spending money on expensive take away food with such a big family. The main ‘Wild forest’ cafe at the entrance is again expensive in my opinion. Expect to pay around £60 for lunch for a family of four?

(There is a McDonald’s restaurant located at the afore mentioned petrol station, plus two pubs within about 100 yards of the park, so you may want to end your day there with a good meal if you have a long journey back home?)

Moving on from food, you’ve visited Peppa, so where now? You could ride the carousel, watch a penguin show, or head to new attraction ‘Little Africa’ which has some unusual animals as well as Meerkats which are so close you can practically touch them! Annie absolutely LOVES little Africa and although it’s quite small we can easily spend 40 minutes strolling through talking about all the animals!

Will loves the train which departs from the station cafe, you get a lovely look round from a slightly different view! He also loves the parks, of which there are a few dotted around(some have brilliant fountains for the summer, Muddy puddles and water kingdom!) and would happily spend a couple of hours in the sand pit!

The Dinosaur theme park world ‘Lost Kingdom’ is also fairly new & offers close encounters with amazing(slightly scary) animatronic Dinos, as well as thrill rides for a range of ages.

There are a few big, fast rides which I’m way too chicken to go on, Cobra, Velociraptor & flight of the Pterosaur will satisfy the healthiest of appetites for speed!!!

But if, like me you prefer a gentler approach to fun, there are rides such as the sky swinger, Dino chase and Viking boats to enjoy.

Obviously there are too many rides to list them all but the website has the whole map for you to study & a key to show whether each is for family, thrill, or kids.

There are beautiful animals, and carefully tended gardens throughout the park, Annie particularly loved the tropical birds.

As a Mum, things like clean loos & good changing facilities are very important to me, and I found them to be immaculate, the toilets even have a toddler seat which you can put down, they’ve thought of everything!

(Adult changing facilities are also available, which I’m very happy to report-I wish more places could offer this!!)

There are small kiosks throughout the park selling sweets, drinks & ice creams(I had to sample one to write this-a tough job but someone had to do it, plus season ticket holders get 20% off food so..?)…in the summer it’s a lovely treat to grab a cold lolly!

Lots of rides have photos you can buy afterwards, you know, the ones where you look windswept & terrified… And there is a chance to meet Peppa & George at certain times of day so you can even get a photo with the pig herself! (100% recommend the Paultons app to be able to see times & create a ‘plan’ of action for your visit).

In May two new rides are opening within PP World, the Queens flying coach ride & Grampy rabbits sailing club which both look brilliant, I think ticket prices are fair given how well kept the whole place is & the investment in new rides & attractions.

I’m sure I could go on, but in summary, I love Paultons Park & other than expensive food & overpriced gift shop toys(just as you’d expect of a theme park) I can’t fault it, my kids absolutely love it! This isn’t a sponsored post, & we paid the £118 per season ticket ourselves, but I think it’s a great investment as it lasts for a whole year & I won’t feel guilty about popping in for an hour after school in the summer!

If you’re thinking of visiting-do book your tickets in advance as they’re slightly cheaper. And if you have any questions about any aspect feel free to leave me a comment, email or DM & I’ll do my best to answer!

I’m sorry this was so long, there was a LOT of info, but I hope it’s helpful to some of you!

Lots of love, Kirsty x

Ergobaby OMNI 360

I’m definitely one of those people who, as soon as they find out they’re pregnant, writes a list as long as their arm of all the things they *need*; A bottle warmer (I breastfed all my babies) a swinging, vibrating, musical, colour changing, bouncy chair (which she hated) & which I had to remortgage the house for, the latest trendy changing bag(with so many compartments I could never find the dummy/keys/teether when i needed them)….you get the picture. But if I had a pound for every time i’ve told someone ‘IF YOU ONLY BUY ONE THING FOR YOUR NEW BABY’…make it an Ergo carrier…i’d be rich!

Aside from the obvious practicalities of wearing your baby(two hands free?YES PLEASE) i find it hard to describe how having them so close actually makes me feel? I just love how cosy it is-Annie likes to tickle me, or play with my hair & stroke my face, we have little chats about where we’re heading & what we’re doing, & she loves being up high enough to take in exactly whats going on! Did you know that babywearing aids in a baby’s development, both physically and emotionally, and also promotes early language development?! (so that’s why she never shuts up!)

I started using my current Ergobaby(360) carrier when Annie was six months old, preferring a wrap style carrier up to that point over the ergo’s newborn insert which neither of us could quite get the hang of. Since then, we haven’t looked back. Whilst the 360 model has been fantastic, I was so excited to try the new kid on the ergo block, the OMNI 360 (omni meaning all, or every) that I practically ripped open the box when it arrived last week! Ergo have taken all the best bits & incorporated them into this carrier, plus they’ve added a handy pouch to the design-something which, for me was really lacking in the past when i wanted to leave the house with just my phone, keys and bank card!

Living on an arable farm with two dogs, there are places a pushchair simply can’t go. But I wear the ergo at home as often as I wear it out & about. You know those days when your baby is NOT going to be put down to allow you to hang the washing out or cook dinner?…

I opted for the midnight blue OMNI for no reason other than I love the colour, but for me personally, comfort is more important than style when choosing a baby carrier(although the OMNI is gorgeous). On a shoot day i can be carrying Annie for four or five hours non stop. At two years old and 11kg she’s not a tiny baby anymore, so I need something with lumbar support and strong shoulder straps for me-but one which is also ergonomically safe & comfortable for her too? The OMNI ticks those boxes for us both. In this new style, the shoulder straps can be crossed over at the back which is great and the switch from inward carry position to outward couldn’t be simpler, just move the velcro tabs et voila. Along with the cushioned and foldable head & neck support, the tuck away hood is great for times you know your baby will want to sleep in the ergo as it perfectly supports their head from flopping once they’ve drifted off to sleep(just use the poppered tabs to fix it to your shoulder/s). It can also shade against the sun or be used for privacy when feeding.

I love the fact that either myself or Nigel can wear this carrier-he finds it as comfortable as me, its SO easy to extend the straps to make it big enough for him-it can swiftly and simply be done one handed…Plus i think he likes the closeness-they have little private chats which i’m not privy too whilst she’s on his back!

Did i say its machine washable too? We all know what mucky little creatures kids are, and i can vouch for the fact that despite numerous washes, my original Ergo looks as good as the day i bought it. Despite a days beating last Saturday I haven’t yet had to wash the OMNI but I’m confident it’ll be just as tough!

The OMNI is suitable from 0-36 months(or up to 15kg), and offers four different carry positions. Although the OMNI was a gift from ERGOBABY, all thoughts and opinions in this post are my own…I absolutely LOVE IT!

lots of love,

Kirsty (and Annie) xxx

P.s (I just wanted to add, the positions I carry Annie in are what work for me & my body shape. So don’t panic if you’ve been doing things a little differently. If you’d like more info on any style of ergo carrier, there are some fantastic videos on their YouTube channel which have taught me methods & features I wasn’t aware of in the past)

Star Baker

I’m not ashamed to admit that trying to keep my children alive by way of feeding them healthy nutritious meals is a battle im constantly fighting,,,and loosing.

Not one to give up, I tirelessly argue, coax, encourage, force(?!) two of my little darlings to eat the food i’ve lovingly prepared. If your kids are fussy too(two of mine are, two are not) you’ll know how gut wrenchingly upsetting it can be to run this gauntlet on a daily/weekly/yearly basis. We’re all just trying to do our best for them yet they continually rebuff our best efforts of making food enticing enough for them to at least TRY some of it?

So i thought id write this post to possibly help out another parent who may be upset and frustrated, possibly just to confirm ‘yep, we’re all going through the same shit’.

In my mind, i feel like if the kids can be involved in what you’re making for them there’s a teeny tiny chance that they may be more up for trying it! Quite often now ruby helps me to prepare tea. of course there are still things which she’ll point blank refuse to eat(pasta!). At age 12 she is obviously a lot more capable than a younger child, but you’ll know what your child can & cant get involved with.

In the winter its far easier to make meals with ‘hidden’ veg i think? They can be blended into bolognaise, soup, shepherds pie, stews. This week though, i wanted to try making a pie, which i hoped most of the family would enjoy. Having a family as big as ours, i have to keep to a budget when planning meals, and often adapt recipes i find online to make them more affordable for us!

For our pie, we used a bag of Iceland frozen chicken breasts, there’s no difference in flavour to fresh ones & the’ye far cheaper(if you’ve never tried them, trust me on this one!) I also wanted to add some leeks-a vegetable none of us ever eat, mushrooms, & onions. We also had a big chunk of an Aldi gammon joint leftover from earlier in the week so i added an equal amount of ham to chicken(yep, we’re big meat eaters if you haven’t already guessed!).

(Gorgeous pie dishes available from Sophia Victoria Joy)

As this is a made up recipe you can pretty much wing it as i did and add whatever you like, the basic principle will still be the same.

Fry off half a bag of frozen chopped onions(ain’t no mother-of-four-farmers-wife got time to stand around chopping onions), two large leeks, we chopped these up TINY to be more child friendly (read as unrecognisable) and a punnet of mushrooms. If you have a toddler-they can easily chop mushrooms!. In a separate pan i gently fried the chopped up chicken pieces.

Now you need to make up some stock, we used two oxo chicken stock pots, with 1000ml of water. Once all of your ingredients are cooked through, its onto the next stage, mixing it altogether!

Firstly, sprinkle three tablespoons of plain flour over the chicken pieces and slowly add the stock, stirring all the time, once its all gently blended bung in the veg. Hopefully you wont get any flour lumps, but for a definite lump free mixture you could make this in a separate pan with a sieve on hand to rescue any disasters(i speak from experience here!).

I then gently let all the flavours swish about in the pan for five minutes, you can add also add in some garlic, or bay leaves, whatever you fancy really at this stage. Then its onto the pie construction.

We used one pack of Aldi puff pastry, which was just enough for the two dishes we used. I think in future, i’ll buy two packs, but, you live and learn.

Having never written a recipe blog post before, things are coming to me as i go along, so i’m just gonna add, before you fill your pie dish, turn it upside down on top of the laid out sheet of pastry to make sure its going to cover it!…

Then transfer your meaty, veggie mixture into your chosen receptacle, whack the pastry on top, brush the pastry with egg wash(one whole egg, whipped up with a fork in a mug) so that it goes golden as it bakes…..ET VOILA! I have an electric oven, so i baked it on 180 for about twenty five minutes, just take it out when the pastry is golden brown.

Now, if you’re lucky, you will all have survived with your sanity.  Before setting out to create the chicken pie of dreams, i thought my main problem was actually getting everyone to eat the sodding thing. But if you’ve come here via my Instagram page, you’ll know, that that was the least of my worries.

you may have noticed that there are no carefully staged, beautifully shot photos of me & Ruby baking this meal, my reality is i don’t have an insta husband stashed away who can take those kind of photos for me, i was a sweaty sweary mess, poppy was too busy trying to keep Annie alive to take any, and the kitchen was a non insta friendly shit hole, so please accept my apologies.

Despite the above, i can confirm that five out of six of us ate (& ENJOYED) the chicken pie of dreams!

So if you do give it a go, & by this stage you’re not too pissed/its not midnight/you actually remembered to buy some as well as the other ingredients on this list, you could opt to serve some vegetables with ‘the pie’, just, ya know, thought i’d add that in there for sarcastic effect.

Much love,

Kirsty xxx