Easy Vegan Honey

I’ve not posted in my blog for a few months. We’ve had a difficult start to the year and it’s been difficult to find words for anything. Then along came corona virus and lockdown. Schools are shut and we’re all forced into home educating our children. I don’t know about your house but mine is chaos. Kids aren’t doing nearly as much work as I’d like them to but I’m not in the best place to chow at them to make them do it right now.

As a result we’re still learning but just not always the stuff on the curriculum. It’s fun and impulsive and right now it’s exactly what we need.

We had a garden full of dandelions which led to some discussion with Toby (4) about the flowers and bees. He asked if people could eat them and that’s how we came to try dandelion honey!

Dandelions are really nutritious and versatile. They contain lots of vitamins and minerals. It is thought that they can help reduce inflammation and aid blood sugar control. It is also suggested that it could reduce cholesterol and blood pressure. There are lots of studies that have shown many positives of dandelion consumption but I’m not here to tell you they will or won’t help fight one disease or another.

Back to the honey, it’s delicious. It has a slight floral flavour but it’s not overpowering. It tastes surprisingly like regular honey.

The littlies love picking the flowers, it’s even better because we know where they’ve grown and that we’ve never exposed them to any chemicals so they’re completely chemical free. Toby is currently in foundation so we use activities like these to practise counting and to discuss the importance of flowers, nectar, bees etc.

Toby had great fun stirring the mixture and weighing out the many different items in the kitchen that he could find.

After we had made it (it took around 14 hours as you start it in the evening and then leave it to infuse overnight. But there’s nothing overly tricky. Toby had some honey on bread for his lunch and enjoyed every bite.

I didn’t realise how dry his bread looked but that’s how he likes it 🤣

I’ve added a recipe card that can be saved if you are interested in trying this recipe too.

Quick Easter/Spring Corner Bookmarks

We’re self isolating at the moment and also home educating all 3 school age children due to the schools closing down. I work in school and I’m now not rota’d in until June which gives me 12 weeks at home to stay away as far away from the rest of the world as I can.

We’re trying to keep it inexpensive, I’m fully aware that so many people are being completely financially destroyed by this virus and it’s made me appreciate even more what we have at the moment.

I like these bookmarks because they’re quick and easy, and hopefully will encourage the kids to read so they can use them.

Here’s how we made them!
Start with squares of paper – your main piece should be around 15cm squared!
Fold the first piece of paper in half bringing two corner points together.
Fold the top corner down to meet the bottom point.
Repeat with the other side.
Open the folds back out.
Fold the top piece of the bottom points up along the creases.
This is what you should have now.
Bring one of your sides back down and tuck inside the fold you just made.
Like this. I
Repeat with the other side. It should look like this.
This is the completed basic corner bookmark. Now you need to turn it into your chosen character, theme, etc.
This one is going to be a chick. We cut and rounded the edges.
Next we drew on the eyes and cut out the basic shapes to stick on to our chick.
Voila! Our finished chick!
A bit of a clearer picture since we made a yellow chick and have a yellow tablecloth 🤣

There are so many different things you could possibly make with yours. We spent about half an hour on this craft and made these.

Toby (4y) started out making a sunflower one. This turned into a monster sunflower. He is very proud and so am I! Of course some help/supervision is required for cutting out but he enjoyed letting his imagination run free.
Kaesey made an Easter bunny which was really simple..
And a spring flower. (Might be better on the other side but will still work this way too).

Fun Easy To Make Sensory Bottles

Sensory bottles are so easy to make and can also be super handy for calming down upset children! There’s something super mesmerising about watching the interaction between all the ingredients

The bottles are also really adaptable. Experiment with the amounts, put in plastic toys, feathers, glitters, buttons and so much more!

Here is how we made ours!

You will need:

  • Plastic bottles (you could recycle your own old pop bottles or amazon sell empty bottles reasonably cheap, we got 250ml bottles but you could go bigger).
  • Water beads (easily available on amazon or eBay).
  • Water
  • Baby oil
  • Glitter
Method:

Soak your beads, instructions generally say overnight but you can get away with 3-4 hours!

Pick your colour scheme – I went for an ordered rainbow theme, Zak went for clear beads, Kaesey used purple and blues and Toby just grabbed handfuls if any colour. They all looked amazing!

We filled ours to the brim, we then found you’re better off not filling up completely to allow movement which should increase the calming affect!

Once you’ve added your beads fill up the space that remains with baby oil.

Add any glitter you want and close and seal the lid! Hey presto, easy peasy sensory bottles.

If you wanted to add more interesting items such as buttons leave out some of the beads, or all the beads! There are so many different versions of these that would be effective! Fun to make and use!

Just one warning! Don’t take the tubs of beads into a carpeted room! Just don’t! 😂

Video – Sensory Bottles

Are You Fire Ready?

19 years ago today I suffered one of the most terrifying experiences I’ve ever lived through. I woke up and found myself in the midst of a building fire. I was 19 and lived in a pub with my mum and 2 of my younger siblings (aged 6 and 4).

The morning of January 13th, 2001 my mum was sat in her office whilst my brother and sister played in another room, she had smelled burning and asked my 6 year old brother to pop upstairs to wake my boyfriend at the time (Mark) to ask him if he could see where the burning smell was coming from. Little did she know she was sending him to end up trapped with us as the fire spread rapidly up the first lot of stairs and engulfed the first floor, then quickly up the second set of stairs to my floor. I tried to get down but was beaten back by smoke. Mark then tried to get down and quickly realised we were now trapped and fighting for our lives.

I phoned 999 and the operator assured me help was already on its way, they’d had several phone calls already. As I hung up the phone and stood at the window there was a man who’d stopped his van and was also on his phone. I’ll never forget his face as he looked up and saw me stood at the window, he tried warning me the pub was on fire, i told him I already knew and that we couldn’t get out. There was a panicked look on his face as he told the person on the other end of the phone. I believe a 999 operater.

Around this time I heard sirens racing up the road behind the pub, the smoke had started entering my bedroom under the door, and from the blown out window underneath mine. We were being choked by thick black acrid smoke. I was screaming and trying to catch a breath of fresh air through the window but I couldn’t. I saw my mum being comforted by a lady from the local corner shop. She was visibly distraught but thankfully had got my 4 year old sister out. She thought she lost us that day.

The fire brigade quickly got a ladder and put it up to the window, unfortunately as I looked out desperate for help I saw they’d gone to the wrong window, they were at the window next door. I could hear the flames licking my door so there was no way we could get into that room. I made eye contact with a firefighter in BA who quickly got back down the ladder and it was quickly moved across to my window. By this point I’d accepted my fate. I accepted that that was how I was going to die. I sat down on the floor and an overwhelming sense of calm came over me. This was it. Then out of nowhere I got one last burst of energy to pull myself up to the window sill, and there was a masked face looking at me telling me to climb out quick. I have never moved as fast as I shot out that window 2 floors up (not bad for someone with a fear of heights), and he carried me down the ladder back into the fresh air. My brother had already been passed out to the second firefighter on the ladder. Mark was still inside shouting me, I shouted I was out and he climbed down above us in bare feet. As soon as my smoke filled lungs started to inhale fresh air again I started to go dizzy, I felt severely nauseous, at that moment I think my body had no idea what was going on. The firefighter ran to a waiting ambulance where I was treated for severe smoke inhalation symptoms. As I looked out the back of the open ambulance doors I watched a ball of fire fly out of one window and get sucked into my window where I’d stood just minutes earlier. I cried out. That would’ve killed me. The fire continued to burn as I was rushed on blue lights and sirens to the hospital.

I was taken to resus where I had blood tests and treatment for smoke inhalation. I was fortunate to be discharged later that day with a warning that I must return if I had any further symptoms. We later found out that thankfully our rescue dog, Lizzy, managed to escape the back door somehow. The back door was open which aided the spread of the fire but also helped our pet escape.

We had a brand new fire alarm system installed the week previous to our fire after ours started with a ‘fault’ which caused it to keep going off. We had the fire brigade out then to check for any hotspots in the walls etc but they found nothing. The same crew came to our actual fire which was later put down to an electrical fault.

It angers me that nowadays we still hear of people that do not have smoke alarms in their homes, especially when most, if not all, fire services will put them in higher risk homes free of charge, and if you don’t qualify for a freebie you can pick them up cheaply.

Don’t put your families lives at risk, have a smoke alarm at least on each floor, more if you can. Make a plan – I couldn’t believe the number of people I knew with children who had never discussed with their family what to do in the event of a fire. Tell your kids what to do, drill into them the escape route, and what to do it that’s blocked, teach them to stay low for cleaner air, tell them not to hide as my 4 year old sister did. You can find lots of fire plan tips on any fire service website – knowledge saves lives.

Be safe and I pray you never have to go through the trauma we did on January 13th, 2001.

Quick and Easy Recipe: Sweet Potato & Chilli Soup

I absolutely love the taste and texture of sweet potatoes. They make a slightly lighter but far more flavourful alternative to the regular potato and for that reason I think they’re much more versatile.

The soup served with cheddar.

The sweet potato is high in fibre, nutritious and very filling, and they’re available year round.

This recipe is one of my favourite uses for sweet potato, it’s quick and easy and the result is a delicious and very filling soup.

It’s my go-to winter warmer in these cold Yorkshire winters, the chilli gives you a bit of a kick to help warm you from the inside. If you like spicy add a little more and if you’re not so keen then add less.

I serve mine with a sprinkling of grated cheese and a couple of slices of crusty bread with real butter.

Served with mozzarella cheese.

It doesn’t usually last long in my house but I have found it’s still okay to eat 3 days after it’s been made if stored in airtight container in the fridge (allow to cool first). You could also freeze in individual portions. To reheat pop it in the microwave for 1-2 minutes depending on your portion size, or warm over a low/medium heat on the hob.

Over to the recipe.

Quick Sweet Potato & Chilli Soup Recipe

1 onion

1 red chilli (or a pinch of dried)

1 tsb coriander

2 crushed garlic cloves (or a 2 tsp of garlic granules)

750g sweet potato, peeled and cubed (1-2 inch cubes are fine)

700ml of chicken stock (use vegetable stock for a vegetarian alternative)

Your favourite grated cheese (optional) – I used mozzarella in these pictures but I’ve also used cheddar and Gouda in the past, both of which were equally tasty.

Method

1. Over a medium heat, soften the onion, chilli, coriander and garlic in a little butter for 3-4 minutes.

2. Add the sweet potato followed by the stock and bring to the boil.

3. Cover and allow to simmer for around 20 minutes.

4. Blend, add a sprinkling of grated cheese, serve and enjoy.

Go make this right now, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Let me know what you think.

Living with a dog with MMM

Spirit, long before his diagnosis of MMM

Spirit is our 6 year old blue-eyed sibe, he’s a typical husky – vocal, does as he pleases, thinks he’s the boss, but he’s loving and against our original expectations has become an important part of our family.

First signs that something wasn’t right

We first began to notice something wasn’t right a couple of months ago, he appeared to yelp when yawning but we weren’t sure if he was just making a yawny noise (if you know you know), then one day when my other half went to stroke him he panicked and bit him then cried and yelped. We realised something wasn’t right. The following day we booked an appointment with the vet. All day he was depressed, laid and ignored us, he even snubbed freshly cooked chicken. We knew he wasn’t well. Once the time came we got his lead out and he seemed to transform miraculously into an excited dog again. The vet couldn’t see any obvious signs of anything wrong and gave us a weeks supply of medication to see if it made any difference. It didn’t, except for making him drink lots and pee lots.

We took him back a week later and explained he didn’t seem much different. The vets explained they suspected MMM – Masticatory Muscle Myositis. They wanted to put him under sedation to try open his mouth though and have a look inside, something he wouldn’t allow anyone to do whilst he was awake. This was important so they could rule out anything dental. We booked the appointment for the following week. Spirit was sedated and when his mouth was opened he yelped and cried, the sedation wasn’t enough, he’d have to be put under a general anaesthetic. Under GA they were only able to open his mouth 4cms. The muscles were so wasted and worn. How hadn’t we noticed he couldn’t open his mouth much? Hindsight is a wonderful thing I guess.

Feeling sorry for himself

Then came the diagnosis

The vets diagnosed Spirit with Masticatory Muscle Myositis that day, he was prescribed 60mgs of Prednisone/day, Tramadol and Omeprazole. We weren’t warned about the effect of Prednisone on his remaining muscle, but fortunately I’d found a Facebook group for other owners of dogs with MMM who told me that this would be likely, and boy did he just waste away in front of our eyes.

4th December – one day after diagnosis!

We started Spirit on his medication that very night (7 tablets on a night, 6 on a morning) – fortunately he’s a bit of a glutton who swallows certain snacks without even chewing so getting medication in isn’t a problem.

The following day I was already noticing improvement. We had gone out and on our return he was excited to see us, tail wagging, bum wagging, talking to us, and doing the funny excited run dogs so when they’re giddy! I realised I’d not seen him like that for a few weeks. The improvements came quick, he was back to stealing food from the table when you turned your back, stealing from bins given half a chance. Within 3 day’s he ate a crispy pizza crust, he had previously struggled to eat a slice of cheese which was why we originally suspected a dental issue. This was amazing. It’ll be 4 weeks in 2 day’s that he was diagnosed and he’s doing amazingly but the muscle wastage in his head, presumably as a result of the Prednisone, is very noticeable. He looks like a skeleton with skin on. He has noticeable dips in his skull area that weren’t obvious before. The vet said that had he not been a fluffy husky the damage would have been more obvious, but even now he is fluffy it’s very obvious. I hope that over time and with a good diet he will build some if not all of the muscle back up around his head and face, but if not as long as he can eat and is happy that’s all that really matters.

Before and after

Our Santa Special Experience With North Yorkshire Moors Railway

This year our littlest is 4. It’s his first year understanding the whole Santa/Christmas thing and so we wanted to make it a special one. We wanted an amazing experience that he/we would remember. He’s a typical boy – he loves all your stereotypical boy stuff including trains, so we just knew this would be perfect. We booked it at a price of £23pp. The eldest didn’t want to come, and he’s 17 so we didn’t force him.

The elves delivered this letter on the morning of our trip!

We started the day with a delivery from the elves telling Toby he was going on a train ride to meet Santa. This caused so much excitement, he was bouncing happy. We knew straight away this was going to be a good day. We got ready and left. Very early. We’re usually late for everything and we absolutely did not want to miss this.

We arrived an hour before our train was due to leave, we managed to watch the steam engines moving around the platforms getting into position and we saw another ride return that had been out for afternoon tea.

There were lots of staff (volunteers I believe) to help out at the station. We were greeted by several friendly faces who directed us to the refreshments area where we could have a complimentary hot drink, juice, fruit, mince pie and a shot of Irish cream (for the hot chocolate of course).

By the time we’d finished eating/drinking the other guests were starting to arrive, we decided to free up a table and made our way onto the platform to have a look around whilst we awaited our time to get on the train.

We found Santa!
We made orange lollipops – no idea why? When you’re 4 anything goes!

Eventually it was time to take our seats. I’m not going to lie, I was a little disappointed that we were on the back carriage, it was the only seats available by the time I had booked so we took them. I felt that it’d be a little rubbish as we’d be so far away from the engine pulling us. I needn’t have worried though as the train stops halfway through the journey and the engine is turned around to pull it back the other way. So we did the return journey as the first carriage! Winner!

I went off on a tangent there, on the train we were met by Crackers the elf. “Crackers by name , crackers by nature” he said. He wasn’t wrong. His Irish accent was the perfect addition to his character. He was genuinely happy, outgoing and funny, everyone loved him.

Don’t leave your phone lying on the table or Crackers the elf will take lots of selfies (or elfies?)

He had the entire carriage laughing, singing and taking part in games. He picked on our daughter who refused to shout something out after him (she’s 11, a little shy and too grown up now for Santa/Elves, or so she thinks). He named her the grinch for the rest of the journey much to her embarrassment.

The first games he played he chose my partner and another unfortunate dad to take part in a race in our half of the carriage, and two from the other half. They had to race to the middle where Crackers was waiting, doing funny runs and then run back. The whole carriage was in fits of laughter. The game was then repeated with ladies and then children. There was no opportunity to get bored.

The chosen ones!

Santa arrived on our carriage around halfway through our journey. He seemed a genuinely happy guy with friendly, smiley eyes. He happily chatted with the kids and didn’t seem rushed. It was at this point that Toby surprised us by asking for a robot. One thing he doesn’t have. Panic! He sat and posed for pictures before moving on to the next bay. Crackers the elf followed with gifts, which all seem well thought about. No generic selection boxes which you find all too often.

Toby got an emergency vehicle set which he was delighted with, Kaesey (11) got a make your own jewellery set – it came with clay and stampers to shape it and bake it. It was brilliant. Zak (12) got a science kit. It was almost as if the people that chose the gifts knew our kids. We were very pleasantly surprised.

Kaesey with her gift

Once the unwrapping was finished, Crackers came around with some activity packs – these contained things like colouring sheets, pencils etc. By this point we were on our return journey. We played a game of ‘finish the lyrics to the Christmas song’ and then sung along to lots of Christmas songs. It was over before we knew it.

We were all beaming and buzzing from our amazing experience and couldn’t thank the volunteers/staff enough. The attention to detail and event they put on was perfect in every way. I think Toby will talk about it for a long time.

Our journey lasted around 75 minutes altogether

It’s probably too late for any last minute bookings now but if you had considered going but wasn’t sure it would be worth it then I would say go for it! It’s not a cheap day out, but does represent excellent value for money in my opinion, and there’s plenty of time to save for next year!

Paper Plate Christmas Trees With Colour Changing Lights

It’s nearly Christmas (18 days), our favourite time of the year! We love getting crafty and messy. We’re in the middle of decorating the living room at the moment so the telly is off the wall, and everything is piled in the middle of the room meaning no Christmas movies together and no chilling on the sofa with a hot chocolate under a duvet.

Earlier this year we made some chameleons (I’ll do a post about those later) and I had the idea of using the same idea for a Christmas tree with colour changing lights.

I wanted to try it at the school I work in first but couldn’t get hold of paper plates believe it or not so we made them at home!

Here’s how we made them:

Draw a simple Christmas tree design

Poke holes in for lights

This can be done before or after colouring in your tree

Colour away

Colour the lights

We did lots of different colours all over a second paper plate. Toby’s colouring his is in every single colour we have. He also has a moustache and part glasses after the elves drew on him through the night!

Lots of bright colours!

Attach the lights to the back of the tree with a split pin

And spin!! Watch your Christmas tree lights change colour!

Toby was delighted with his tree 🥰

These took us around 20-30 minutes which was perfect for Toby, he’s 4 and hasn’t the greatest attention span so any longer and he’d have soon got bored. You could do much more intricate trees using the same idea which would take longer and be ideal for older kids.

We used double tipped pens – they’re brushes on one end and normal pen tips at the other. I use them for bullet journaling. Paint would probably be good, if not better, but we’re all out for the first time in years! Time to top up.

On that note I’m away shopping now, Merry Christmas 🎄

17 Elf On The Shelf Ideas

We’ve done elf on the shelf now for a couple of years, not the official one but the cheaper mischievous elves! I know only too well how hard it can be to come up with new ideas year after year.

We actually considered making last year the final time, Toby, our youngest, is only 4 and wouldn’t remember, and the older children are now “too grown up” for silly elves that mum and dad obviously move, but they asked if we could carry on for Toby and if they could help. They were very excited about helping to make it magical for him, so continue we have.

The elves arrived this morning with a North Pole breakfast.

We start with a North Pole breakfast and advent calendars. It’s a horrendous amount of sugar which our kids love the look of but in reality the majority of it ended up back in the cupboard to eat later as they couldn’t manage much! I have a few ideas up my sleeve for the next few weeks but here are some of my favourites from the past couple of years.

Chocolate covered Brussels sprouts!

Par boil your sprouts, allow to cool and cover with melted chocolate and sprinkles. You can do much tidier versions than I can but you get the idea!

Photocopier fun!

Make sure you have plenty of ink for this one! Elves having fun with the photocopier is highly entertaining for the kids. It brought giggles in our house.

Elf selfie cookies

How much time do you want to dedicate to elf on a shelf? Ours (over) cooked up some biscuits and decorated them to look like themselves. There are literally loads of recipes to choose from online and lots of tutorials for piping the icing. It’s the first time I’d done anything like this but I don’t think they turned out too horrendously.

Googley eyes!

I don’t think this needs any further explanation.

Target practice.

A packet of toilet rolls and a Nerf fun and you have a quick yet very effective result!

The Christmas tree is pants!

This had to have one of the best reactions from our children, cover your Christmas tree with their pants and socks, leave a note from the elves saying “your tree is pants, it really socks”, or similar.

One for the older ones!

Our elves stole a bottle of beer and they couldn’t handle it! This was the result. Vomit fest. Of course this isn’t for everyone and our kids didn’t really ‘get it’ so it’s probably one for the older ones.

Dry dog biscuits and bad jokes!

Dry dog food angels! Quick and easy.

Ketchup & Squirty cream Santas.

So so quick and easy!! Sure to make the children smile.

There’s snow place like home.

This took two cans of spray snow, I could definitely have used more. It’s one I’ll be repeating this year as we get very little snow here. There’s snow place like home, there’s snow place like home, there’s snow place like home.

Single and ready to Pringle.

Save those empty Pringles tubs for a quick and easy idea! You could also use cereal packets such as Rice Krispies – snap crackle and pop!

I moustache you a question.

There are so many options for this idea – the kids faces, parents faces, elves faces, pen, eyeliner. How far is too far? That depends how naughty your elves are I guess!

Elf smoothies.

This works well if you have a number of elves, failing that let the kids toys join in and help for an alternative.

Face swap!

Pose the elves in a similar style to your children’s photos and replace them. It’s fairly quick and easy and our kids found it hilarious when they realised what the elves had done! I realised after that the top photo wasn’t entirely accurate but it didn’t really matter all that much!

Green elf milk!

Food colouring and milk for a funny elf prank! Our children weren’t sure about green milk on their cereal though so was glad we only did a little bit.

Enviro-friendly elves.

We have tried to reduce our single-use plastic use and we made some eco bricks, the elves helped us one night by stuffing some bottles. Our daughter who had just taken part in a competition in which her and her team raised lots of awareness of the dangers of plastics in the sea was delighted by this.

I’d love to see your favourite elf antics too.