Cornwall – Why We Chose To Take Our Pandemic Holiday

Everyone has been affected by the worldwide pandemic this year, whether its directly by Covid-19 or indirectly. It hasn’t been an easy year, lots of people died, survivors lives changed forever, other people had to work from home, shops closed, kids told not to go to school and people panic bought toilet roll. Nobody would have predicted the events that were to unfold in 2020 this time last year.

At the beginning of the year we lost our beloved Grandad, he was one of the most important people in my life, housebound disabled we visited regularly to help him and my Nan who was his full time carer. We took her shopping every week and our eldest would sit with his Great-Grandad – Grandad-sitting. He never once complained. It hit us terribly, I’m in my late 30s and it’s the first death I’ve experienced of somebody close to me, and they didn’t come much closer. We weren’t even a week in to 2020 and I wondered how this year could possibly get any worse (I definitely tempted fate there!).

Me (in my mid teens) and my Grandad

Things spiralled again in February, our beautiful Siberian Husky – Spirit, who had been diagnosed just before christmas with Masticatory Muscle Myositis (MMM) was going downhill. Either his diagnosis was wrong, or the steroid medication he was on had allowed a pre-existing tumour behind his eye to grow uncontrollably. It put so much pressure on the back of his eye that it began protruding from the socket, I was terrified it would pop or come out (probably wouldn’t happen but you just never know). He eventually became blind in that eye. By the mid-end of February the tumour was starting to push past the eye ball and grow onto his face. He was obviously in discomfort and unhappy, it broke our hearts to have him put to sleep. To try give ourselves something to look forward to we booked a holiday to Newquay, Cornwall for the summer. We definitely deserved it.

Spirit before he got sick.

Unfortunately 2020 wasn’t finished with us just yet. We went into March still recovering from the loss of my Grandad and Spirit when my Dad was admitted into hospital, he was like a super-fighter. He’d been in hospital so many times and we’d had ‘the conversation’ about his chances, and every time he’d pull through. I believed this would be the same. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and I’d missed out on the last possible time I could’ve visited as I had a sore throat and had lost my voice. This was at the time we were being told that if you had a sore throat you should isolate for 14 days as we were learning how serious Covid-19 could be. I couldn’t risk passing it on if thats what I had so I stayed away, planning on going the following day if the ward allowed. Unfortunately he passed away the next morning. A week later we went into lockdown, the measures put in place meant we were robbed of giving our Dad a proper funeral. He was cremated alone, with a late service in August when it was safer. My anxiety was through the roof, I couldn’t imagine every leaving the house again, I ordered garden furniture ready for the summer, we planted fruit and veg and sorted the garden, we bought numerous pools, a swing set, and goodness knows what else. Everything that came through the door was washed to within an inch of its life. Luckily, working in school meant I was home most of the time now. I wasn’t timetabled to return until June, I believe a very nice thought from my senior management who knew I’d need time to recover. The time I spent at home gave me much needed family time, it was a difficult time but seeing my children whenever I needed to helped me to heal, they kept me busy. I would have nightmares, I was sure I was going to lose somebody else, especially going into April. So far we’d had a death a month.

An old pic of myself (aged around 1) and my Dad

Thankfully we’ve had no more deaths, I’m still terribly sad but I’m learning to deal with my losses. I returned to work, leading my own bubble in school, in June. I was terrified on my first day but once I’d done that day I was raring to go. That also helped me, it gave me other things to think about. We began to talk about our upcoming holiday. There’d been articles that some Cornish folk hadn’t wanted holidaymakers descending on them as they were rightly concerned about Covid. I get it, I really do, I live in a coastal town myself which quickly found itself in the same boat. We were fed up, we needed to get away and we’d done the right things up to that point, for everyone’s sanity we needed to take our holiday, Dad should’ve joined us on holiday which made things a little sad but he’d have wanted us to go, afterall he was looking forward to it himself. We social distanced as much as possible, we wore masks, we booked our slots in the pool, but most of all we relaxed and took in the beautiful sights of the Newquay coastline. It was good for the soul and my only regret was only booking for a week.

Some of my favourite pictures from Cornwall. There are more on my Instagram if you want to look.

This post was mostly for my own benefit but if you manage to read it all and don’t turn into a depressive mess I salute you. I hope it gives you a little insight into why it was important for us to take our holiday, everybody has an opinion on the right and wrong thing to do but we had to do what was best for us and we have no regrets. I’d be interested to hear from anyone else who took a holiday during the pandemic, or if you didn’t why not? Keep it nice. Wishing everyone a wonderful end to 2020

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.

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 🎄

Bullet journaling and home education

Last week we didn’t get much done. I had so many ideas swimming around in my head that I overwhelmed myself with them and I decided that if our home education journey was to be a success then we needed a plan going forward. So I decided to return to bullet journaling. It’s a hobby I previously had and enjoyed and I hope that I will use it going forward now I have a real purpose for it. Bullet journaling is basically a DIY journal with no limits whatsoever. You can have anything in it that helps you, just unleash your creative side! Some popular pages in a bullet journal are weekly/monthly spreads, to do lists, mood trackers, exercise trackers and so much more.

I bought the Leuchtturm 1917 Slim which is an A4 journal and perfect for what I need it for. I previously had the same but in A5 instead.

November 2019

My journal is obviously a work in progress but will be used to show our home education plan to officials, it will be used to organise ourselves and every aspect of our busy lives. It is a source of self-motivation.

I chose a double page monthly layout for my main plans, as you can see we don’t have a particularly busy November planned so far although it’s not complete. This style offers me plenty of room to add in plans for our family of 6. The little dragon in the bottom was added at the insistence of my daughter who was desperate for me to try draw one! I feel he ruins the page in one respect but then when I see him I think of her so he actually makes me smile :).

This is my plan for this week, in no particular order. The beauty of home education is there is no set timetable, if he wants to look at energy today that’s fine, if he doesn’t that’s also ok, as long as he does it this week. Monday we did some work on algebra, and the history of Christmas with History.com. His life revolves around coding so it’s a bit of a given that he’ll do that daily.

I found a great Christmas stocking pattern and tutorial at Bags of Love which we have printed off. The material is on order and we’ll make a start soon. The objectives for this will be to see that he can read and follow the pattern, use a number of different stitches (perhaps not on the sticking but certainly some practise pieces first), safely use a sewing machine, complete the stocking, and finally write up about the project.

We have lots of sources and resources for the other subjects, books, websites and materials. Home education doesn’t have to cost much, in fact many of ours were free or very cheap second hand!