Crikey, I haven’t posted for two months. There’s a lot to say, just no time to say it. I’m not going anywhere any time soon, just slowing down with life because there’s too much to fit in.
I’ve renewed the Mum Friendly domain for another three years. Not going anywhere – okay?
I have things lined up to be reviewed – books, clothes and more.
I took out an Art Pass subscription this year to replace our Historic Houses Association one which lapsed, so we’ve already visited places I want to share.
We have books and clothes to review and we’re still working with the lovely Stamptastic. I’ll be doing a review on their blog; seven years in and I finally had to buy a new ink pad (but I made sure H’s school was signed up in their PTA deal).
Then there’s Brexit. We went to the Put it to the People march, I’ve written about it and posted it retrospectively today. That seems to be my pattern so far this year, writing but not posting.
There’s also all the extra activities we do every night. Brownies, obviously. As H heads into her last term at Brownies, she earned her Gold badge; the highest Brownie award you can get. She was the first girl in our Division to do so – she was really proud, as was I. She already attends a Guide unit locally (which I help at, of course) where she’s a mini-Guide until she moves up in September. Oh, and I gained my Brownie Leader Qualification too.
We’re still going to football on a Saturday at Whyteleafe FC. Crystal Palace pulled our local girls Wildcats group. They opened a new one but it was too far; navigating the A23 on a Saturday morning is never fun so we gave up. Whyteleafe is only ten minutes up the road, not far from where our old Caterham sessions were. It goes without saying we’ve bought tickets for the Women’s FA Cup Final for the fifth year running; this time in a group with parents from our football group.
So yes, still here. Still doing everything in the few hours we have to do stuff. Just checking in.
On 23rd March 2019 we marched in Central London for the People’s Vote.
The People’s Vote is a campaign behind getting the Government to break themselves out of the deadlock they find themselves in (read : stubborn Prime Minister who doesn’t seem to listen to anyone), and put the final vote about Brexit back to the people.
The area we live in voted for Remain by a fairly large margin. We’re represented by a backbench Conservative MP who votes with the Government. Already politics is not speaking to or representing me. In turn, this means he’s not representing H either.
So we marched. Well, we walked at a slow, steady pace from Green Park to Downing Street.
We ended up right outside Downing Street in time to hear Sandi Toksvig introduce Anna Soubry (who we couldn’t hear). We were in time to hear David Lammy, Nicola Sturgeon, Jess Phillips and so many others. So many great speakers. The politician who resonated the most with H was Jo Swinson (with her baby) who thanked all the children for being there. Because it’s their future and they can’t do anything about it.
It was a good, safe place for a nine year old to be and to be a part of something. It might all come to nothing, but it might make a difference. Already the Prime Minister has made remarks about the march which are putting it down, saying it doesn’t matter. Two million people would disagree, Theresa.
Everyone was so friendly. So many older folks saying they were marching “for her” (H) because they know it’s her future too.
So we did something. We were a part of something, we saw brilliant placards, we heard brilliant speeches, we were there.
If it doesn’t make a difference we tried our best. But if it does make a difference we were a part of it.
I voted to remain, I didn’t vote for the mess this country is currently in. It seems to me this is more about holding a political party I could never vote for together, than the interests of the people living in the country. The EU isn’t perfect, but changes come from within – not outside.
We were sent a code to review Dragons : Dawn of New Riders Nintendo Switch game, a game from the How to Train Your Dragon franchise.
Dragons : Dawn of New Riders is a new game from Outright Games, based on the popular How to Train Your Dragon series. We haven’t seen the new film yet, though H knows the series well.
The game was easy to set up and install; once we got started it was learning what each button on the console does. There’s a lot to think about, although H picked it up way faster than I did!
You control two new characters, Patch and Scribbler. Scribbler is a scholar who cannot remember his past, and Patch is a different kind of dragon, a ‘chimeragon’ who has powers which are different to that of the average dragon.
They have new islands to explore, battles to fight and things to find to complete the adventure. Using their skills they pick up treasures along the way such as armour and herbs to make potions; so they’re well again after a particularly brutal attack or two.
There’s also the ability to swap between characters. There are some things that Scribbler can’t do, but with Patch having different powers, there are things which solve problems. Think along the lines of there being an obstacle and a bit of team work in resolving what needs doing and you’re getting close to the feel of Dragons : Dawn of New Riders.
The ultimate goal is to recover Scribbler’s lost memories.
The battles are quite fierce too and quite take it out of you! Fortunately as you go along you can smash barrels and plants which allow you to pick up herbs which can be made into potions. However, some battles are difficult, so you need to think about what you have and whether you might need help from Patch.
The game features familiar locations such as Havenholme, Blood Briar Island and Valka’s Mountain. There’s a lot to cover, so plenty to play with.
If you lose all your lives you restart in the area you lost your life with a newly replenished supply of ‘life up’ potion (H’s name). We’re currently in battle trying to defeat and outwit a giant dragon which isn’t easy. We can’t seem to defeat him though H is the closest. We like a challenge!
Overall we’ve found Dragons : Dawn of New Riders a fun game to play. It has enough challenges to keep nine year old H happy; she’s not frustrated when things don’t go her way (usually battles).
Dragons : Dawn of New Riders comes from Outright Games. It is out now on Nintendo Switch, XBox, PS4 and PC. Amazon link here (affiliate link). We were sent a code for the purpose of review, all opinions are our own.
I suspect if you visit Shrek’s Adventure there may be lots of Dragons themed characters on display there to tie in with this too.
Who Gives a Crap Toilet Paper is 100% recycled toilet paper that builds toilets. Every box you buy benefits someone somewhere in need. 50% of the profits go straight into this scheme. They’ve already donated over a million pounds.
Who Gives a Crap toilet paper is a mail order toilet paper company. Now, you could ask what the point is of that, I mean, we can all buy toilet paper from the supermarkets and it’s really nice and cheap. May I present Exhibit A – my favourite Aldi coconut toilet paper vs Who Gives a Crap paper.
So okay, here’s the thing. You get a smaller cardboard roll with Who Gives a Crap vs your supermarket specials, and you also get a lot more pieces of toilet paper on the roll. Look at the difference. To compare by cost, Aldi is £3.09 for nine rolls, Who Gives a Crap is £36 for 48 rolls. So already Aldi looks the more cost-effective. However, break that down a bit. Let’s do the per-sheet calculation.
Aldi works out at 20.2p per 100 sheets. Who Gives a Crap works out at a spectacular 18.8p per 100 sheets. Now, Who Gives a Crap does have slightly smaller sheets than usual, but on saying that, most people don’t use less than three when wiping their bums, right? I’ve found I’ll still use three sheets and it does as required.
So I’ve taken out a subscription. Every 12 weeks I get 48 rolls sent to me. That means we need to make sure our supply lasts us three months. Across two toilets between three of us it could, we’re only a month in right now. On average I’m finding a Who Gives a Crap roll lasts a week in the toilet, rather than two in a week when we had Aldi ones.
Oh and I forgot to mention. Each loo roll is wrapped in paper. There is no plastic present. Just a gigantic box filled with loo roll. They even have a limited edition colouring in paper for sale at the moment.
There’s always a dilemma though, what if you run out? How will you know you’ve run out? Who Gives a Crap have got it covered. There are two emergency rolls at the bottom of your box. Genius!
I should really finish this going into the good stuff Who Gives a Crap does, but I think this page explains it way better than I could.
All I can say is that alongside my Smol and Splosh subscriptions, my Who Gives a Crap toilet paper deliveries are making me feel a whole lot better about things I do in this world, especially when most things going on fill me with despair.
If you’re thinking about taking out a subscription, this is my referral link. You get £5 and I do as well. So it’s a bonus! You can wipe your bum and feel great about everything, it’s a winner.
Splosh have a solution for our plastics problem, and it’s one that works for us. You still use plastics, but what if those bottles are refillable ones? So you only need the one bottle, and order in refills which can fill them up a few more times.
Splosh are a mail order UK based company who offer many different types of cleaning solutions. From laundry to general cleaning, toilets to dishwashing. Maybe not in that order.
Allow me to explain. You order in your initial bottles. We live in a two bedroomed house with two toilets; that’s two toilet cleaners, one washing up liquid, one kitchen cleaner, one bathroom cleaner, one glass cleaner. We already have our Smol subscription so we don’t need laundry cleaner, although I’m considering getting the stain remover spray.
I think that’s probably all we need. If I was to buy these from say, Waitrose, I’d be buying new plastic bottles with the liquid in every time. I get that, you can’t generally transport the liquid inside easily. However, Splosh have a solution! Quite literally.
It’s letterbox sized, a solution in a pouch. Save the pouches as when you have eight you can send them back to Splosh who recycle them. To use the solution, you generally have to fill your bottle with water to the line on the bottle then top it up from the pouch. Give it a good shake and you’re ready to go. Oh, and the refills work out cost-wise about the same as you’d buy in a supermarket – and with free delivery.
Oh, and by doing it this way you could be reducing your plastic use by up to 90%.
It really is that easy. All Splosh products aren’t tested on animals and are vegan-friendly. They proudly display the jumping bunny on their site.
There’s a handwash which is imminent. I’ve recently switched to soap bars at home, although we were big handwash users – all that plastic though. Urgh.
I haven’t been paid in any way to write about Splosh, I’m spending my hard earned cash. If you fancy trying it out, then my unique code is WDECMRLM96 which will give you £3 off a Starter Box (you need to spend over £15). I wish I had bought a Starter Box, as I’m still adding random bottles to my orders as I need them – so I’d definitely recommend looking into this option. While it seems like a lot of money up-front it works out more cost effective over time.
I have a selection of vegetarian cook books sent to me by The Book People. I’ve been vegetarian since 1983 and of late I’ve been stuck in a rut with my food choices. Anything which gives me a cookery-style kick up the backside is a good thing, so I happily took delivery of a selection of books.
There are a wide selection of Vegetarian Cook books from The Book People, with lots of choice. I chose books based on things which I’d like to try out in the hope it broadens my cooking repertoire, but I still need to be able to make it in less than half an hour.
With veganuary in full swing I was hoping to broaden my limited vegan recipes, or at least make my vegetarian options a bit more interesting. I found that all of these books are helpful, read my summary at the end for my final thoughts.
Our first stop was the Deliciously Ella cookbook. I have to admit, I haven’t really followed Ella’s blog though I was aware of it and knew her recipes were plant based and vegan.
We started with a pea, broad bean and basil dip. It also has avocado, one of H’s pet hates. However, having the three main ingredients meant she really enjoyed it, and she pretty much scoffed the lot. The dip worked really well with some lime crisps too. We might have gone through two packs in the one session…
The only downside of the Deliciously Ella cookbook was that most recipes substitute with a nut of some kind, and when you’re baking a vegan cake for outside of the house (for example, bake sales), they have to be nut-free. Some recipes or alternatives that don’t use nuts would be good – what we’ve made we’ve enjoyed, and have just had to eat it all ourselves rather than share!
The Accidental Vegetarian cookbook has a chocolate cake recipe called ‘More Chocolate Than is Good For You’ which immediately appeals to me. This is of course a fabulous idea, as we move away from vegan cooking and into vegetarian options. We haven’t made it yet – that’s to come, probably to celebrate the end of February. We have the baking tins ready… keep an eye on my Instagram.
The Accidental Vegetarian is by Simon Rimmer, and has recipes that have been developed over time. He’s a meat eater and owns a restaurant. These aren’t quick recipes but they’re ones I want to have a go at.
I’ve often wondered if I could be vegan, but I enjoy cheese too much plus the occasional egg. We’ve recently started using yeast flakes in cooking which is a great substitute for parmesan, but have never found a good vegan cheese. Shaun – who eats meat – has occasional issues with dairy, so we often have to opt for vegan options with food. I feel like these Vegetarian Cook Books from The Book People bring the best of both worlds.
Maria Elia’s The Modern Vegetarian has the kind of recipes that make me feel hungry just reading them. Everything inside sounds delicious, but don’t include my regular food cupboard supplies so I’d need to plan in advance to make sure I have the right food in. This is another one I intend to do so keep an eye on Instagram.
As a suggesion, Rosemary Popcorn is one that jumps out. We always have popcorn in our cupboard, but never rosemary. This will be put to rights and very soon. I’m also liking the Cardamom Flatbread. There are a good selection of recipes in here and some incredible sounding desserts too. Orange, Lavender and Almond Syrup Cake? Yes please! Although Shaun isn’t so keen on lavender in food.
When I first became vegetarian it was difficult. My only meat substitute was Sosmix, so I lived on that for several years. My biggest saviour in the world of not eating meat was when Linda McCartney started creating food in 1991. Oh my word, the world opened up when it came to not eating meat.
The Meat Free Monday campaign has a Cookbook to accompany it. The front of the book has an Independent quote saying ‘for meat eaters who can’t think how to cook without it, this will help and inspire’. I think they should probably add vegetarians who have forgotten how to branch out and cook different things; like me.
There are also vegan substitute suggestions – an excellent idea for someone like me.
The Meat Free Monday Cookbook breaks your year into seasons and plans your meals for every Monday. It’s great too – simple instructions though I haven’t followed any yet. It’s all basic cupboard ingredients too. The sort of book you can pick up and follow without buying anything you wouldn’t already have.
There are so many different types of cookbooks to choose from out there, these are just four. They cover so many different types of vegetarian food, and have recipes that inspire us. There is a great selection of Vegetarian Cook Books from The Book People – definitely check out their choice.
As for which book I’ll refer to the most, I think it will be a mixture of Deliciously Ella and the Meat Free Monday books – the other two are a bit more specialised and the kind of thing I would get out if we had friends over for dinner, for example. We’ve got lots of Deliciously Ella recipes bookmarked to make over the coming months.
I wish I had more photos of the dishes we’ve cooked, this means I need to make more!
We were sent these Vegetarian Cook Books from The Book People. The Vegetarian recipe books are here. All opinions are our own.
Choose Love – Help Refugees have a pop up store in London’s Carnaby Street this Christmas, and it’s the second year they’ve done this. I volunteered for a morning, and I thought it was worthy of a blog post because it’s such a brilliant Charity and cause.
Choose Love – Help Refugees grew from a group of people taking supplies to refugees to this; a worldwide organisation which provides essentials. With two pop up stores in London and New York, and a lot of celebrity endorsements, it’s difficult to miss the Choose Love logo on a t-shirt. But this is more than a logo, this is something really important and heartwarming.
Yesterday I volunteered at the Choose Love in Carnaby Street, turning up at 9.30am full of nerves. I’m not very good at going into places on my own unless I know there will be friendly faces there. Within seconds I was with the team for the morning, with my borrowed Choose Love sweatshirt, learning about each section of the shop. I immediately felt at ease and ready.
Downstairs is the area where you buy a specific gift for someone in need. It is broken into three sections: Arrival – Which has basics like food, clothes and things to keep warm. The second section is Shelter. People can often spend years in camps, so this offers tents, sleeping bags, supplies like toiletries and nappies – it provides humanity. The final section is Future. Helping groups who help refugees so they can start again. From medical needs to schooling, it is all covered. When you see everything laid out as it was makes it feel so much more real. You see the pictures in the press, but most of us haven’t lived what these poor refugees have gone through so can only imagine it.
Upstairs has the Choose Love – Help Refugees t-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, tote bags, posters and more. I can highly recommend the sweatshirt as being super warm too – so much that I bought one for myself.
The great thing about the Choose Love – Help Refugees store is that there’s something to suit every price range.
Prices range from £5 to £599 for the whole shop. You buy the whole shop, you’re buying essential supplies for everyone, you don’t walk out with everything. People were buying gifts for Secret Santa presents, people were coming in and spending Christmas present money and doubling it when they saw what was there.
I’ve never worked in a shop but know I can speak to strangers fairly easy once I know what I’m doing. It was quick and easy to get your head around. People wanted to know more, and everything on show explained it really well. By the door are gift cards so you’re able to mark up what you’ve bought for someone else.
It was heartwarming. A shop people come into and come away with nothing but a fuzzy sense of having helped someone else. It felt like the true spirit of Christmas, and one which so many people got behind.
Within the store is a Banksy sculpture, one from Dismaland. He has donated it to Choose Love – Help Refugees. If you wanted to try and win it you need to guess its weight. At £2 a time, you could end up with it before Christmas if you guess the weight correctly.
We had a busy day at the Choose Love – Help Refugees store in Carnaby Street. People coming to get their last minute Christmas shopping before it all gets too busy. We stood out in on Carnaby Street street calling out and holding up boards. I stayed on my feet the entire time – oh boy my back felt it by the time I got home! It was great, I had a lovely festive fuzzy feeling. I did something to help and helped make a difference. You can too – just pop over to their site.
Choose Love – Help Refugees Pop up Store is at 30-32 Fouberts Place, W1F 7PS, open until Christmas Eve. It is run entirely by volunteers and is open from 10am daily. Please check the website for exact opening hours.
A special mention for the most amazing falafels around the corner too (over the road from Liberty), at the Choose Love linked Imad’s Syrian Kitchen. The perfect place to stop after a busy morning – make sure you visit!
Sherlock and the Baker Street Curse by Sam Hearn is the second book in the Sherlock series. The books are written from the perspective of John Watson’s diary, following him and Sherlock Holmes through school and any mysteries or cases they need to solve.
In this book, they go to Baker Street Academy, where the caretaker says he spotted a ghost. They try to solve the mystery, which involves finding out what the curse is and working out what was happening. Was it a ghost or not? Sherlock Holmes and John Watson have to find out.
The book has plenty of pictures and is laid out in a comic strip style, which is fun to read. H really enjoyed it, she says it felt like it made the story fun to follow and got her thinking about the plot and things that were going on a bit more than if it was a straightforward story.
There are also journal entries, letters, newspaper clippings and a detective dossier. Essentially it is Dr Watson’s casebook in junior form – ideal for younger readers who need an introduction to the world of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson and of course Martha Hudson.
It gets yet another thumbs up in this house!
Sherlock and the Baker Street Curse by Sam Hearn is published by Scholastic. It is suitable for age 8+ and is available now from all good bookstores. You can also buy it online here – but please support your local bookstores if you can.
We were sent this book for the purpose of review, all opinions are our own. Thank you to Scholastic for sending us a copy!
It has been a while since we’ve done a book review and H has had her head firmly stuck into all of my Harry Potter books! We have a new book to read and review, so here’s H’s opinion about Cyberhawks Versus Stormtroopers by Mark Logie.
Cyberhawks Versus Stormtroopers by Mark Logie is a cyber thriller for children age 12+. Knowing how well H does with her reading, I knew it would be okay – and it was. She really enjoyed reading the book, but don’t take my word for it, this is what she had to say.
“It was a good book, my only problem is that it wasn’t long enough!” she tells me. So I’m wondering what makes it a good book.
“It’s an enjoyable read! The story was exciting and I couldn’t put the book down”. Sounds fair.
So what is the story about?
“Cyberhawks are a group of three friends, the Stormtroopers are an organisation for brain damaged children. The Cyberhawks are Ty, Kess and Corey. One day Ty receives an email written in code. Luckily he knows about computers and Ty cracks the code. He finds out that terrorists are going to attack the London Underground and it will be the worst attack the world has known.”
So what do the Cyberhawks do about it and do they tell anyone?
“Nobody listened to them, so they had to do it all themselves. I’m not going to say any more as I don’t want to give away the plot!”
H hopes there will be more books in the series as she really enjoyed reading it.
Cyberhawks Versus Stormtroopers by Mark Logie is available now from all good booksellers – order a copy here! (affiliate link). Mark Logie has a YouTube channel with songs that inspired the book here.
We were sent this book for the purpose of review, all opinions are our own.
This October we stayed in Cumbria, in the Yorkshire Dales. We booked a lovely AirBnb place which was situated close enough to the Lake District we could get to most places within an hour. While I knew she had lived in the Lake District, I had no idea how much Beatrix Potter and the Lake District were linked.
Beatrix Potter and the Lake District are so closely linked, with plenty of places to visit. Around the age of sixteen she visited the Lake District, staying at Wray Castle. As she started to make money from her Peter Rabbit books she bought land. She wanted to make sure the Lake District remained unspoilt and stayed the way she knew it. Often she would buy land with the National Trust, and on her death gave it all to them fully. This is the Lake District as we know it today.
Around Windermere are several National Trust car parks. We made our first stop at Fell Foot Park; situated at the bottom of the lake going towards Windermere itself. Windermere is so long you can’t see from end to end and Fell Foot Park is a good place to stop and wander around. There’s also an outdoor children’s play area which H enjoyed.
Mid-way up Windermere is Hill Top, the first house Beatrix Potter bought. She lived here before she married, afterwards as a writing retreat. She had bought farmland up the road and eventually lived with her husband there.
Hill Top is decorated in the style it would have been when Beatrix lived there. Changes have been made to the house, but in a good way. There is still a lot there from her time living there – it’s somewhere that comes alive in her books. Window ledges appear in some illustrations, and you can picture Beatrix sitting creating in that very room.
The dolls house on show within the house dates back to the 1800s though isn’t the one featured in The Tale of Two Bad Mice. Inside you can see wonderful decorations and furnishings if you have a peep through the windows. Now I’m curious, do those furnishings date back to the time of the book?
The National Trust describe Hill Top as a house for someone who ‘never grew up’ (Beatrix’s own words). Brought up in isolation with her brother Bertram, Beatrix sought solace in art and nature.
Around the grounds of Hill Top are Beatrix’s gardens – it feels like a house you would hide away from the world, yet still be very close to. You can see her vegetable garden as well as the rhubarb patch where Jemima Puddleduck tried to hide her eggs.
Outside Hill Top in Near Sawrey itself are houses which feature in the books, and indeed the area around the Stones Lane junction has several shops which feature in her books. Peter Rabbit by the red post box? It’s just around the corner from Hill Top.
Entry is free for National Trust members. On arrival you get a map of the grounds with a timed entry slot for the house, where you’re free to wander around.
Up the road is Hawkshead which is worth a wander in its own right. You need to park up (paid, think it was about £4ish for two hours) and walk to the centre of the town. You will arrive at an office where you get your tickets for a few doors down where there’s a Beatrix Potter exhibition and more interactive things to do.
The office in question used to house the solicitor’s office where William Heelis, her future husband, worked. Low wooden ceilings and a really interesting exhibition ‘The Right Sort Of Woman‘ were yet another fascinating insight. There was also an original Peter Rabbit letter that she had written on show.
The exhibition features contributions from workers – for example, Beatrix never paid the men for their work, always their wives.
Beatrix set up local health care, making sure there was a doctor in the area, fully paid for by her so that locals had access to medical care. She sounded like a great employer and one who seemed in touch with what her workers needed.
The exhibition is coming to an end, so don’t miss out.
Moving away slightly from Beatrix Potter, up the road is Wray Castle. It’s not a traditional castle, more a Victorian gothic mansion, but nonetheless it’s a great place to visit with lots of child-friendly things to do inside. There’s also a Beatrix Potter exhibition, ‘The Women of Wray Castle’ which also features Margaret Dawson.
Beatrix and her family came to stay at Wray Castle one summer when she was sixteen. Maybe this is what made her love for the Lake District grow?
While at Wray, Beatrix drew lots of images of mushrooms growing there, making a name for herself in the mycology field. As she was female, her views and opinions were rejected. These days her work has been revisited and has been acknowledged as having great value.
If you’re looking for somewhere for your child to burn off some energy, Wray Castle is that place. As well as the inside of the castle, there is a big natural play area outside.
Close to Hawkshead and Hill Top is Esthwaite Water, another inspiration for Beatrix Potter’s books. It’s an unspoilt area where yet more of the books featured.
Tarn Hows is also nearby, a large man-made Tarn which has wonderful views, though was somewhere we didn’t have the time to visit.
I think we need to go back – three days wasn’t long enough to do everything we wanted to!