Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Junior Grew Up

Morning! I know I should probably write about my lovely trip to Bubble yesterday but something else got my attention so I wanted to see what you all thought too.  Whilst travelling on the train yesterday I caught up with reading last months Junior when I realised that there was not a glossy magazine for parents of teenagers, or children beyond the age of 8 or 9! I love Junior and have read it since Connor was born in 1998 but yesterday I realised that most of my children were beyond the age Junior is aimed for.  There is a gaping hole at the newstands for a magazine for parents of children beyond the age of 8!

Whilst at Bubble I realised that alot of childrenswear brands are for smaller children and even display samples in the tiniest sizes to make them even cuter.  Although I know there are some brands that offer chidlrens clothes for ages 11 or 12 years.  Later on whilst killing time between train and bus journeys I wandered around GAP who offer childrens clothes up to age 13, which comfortably fits Connor and Jack.  Debenhams also offer clothes in the 'designers' collections in ages 15 and 16.  But where else can teenagers shop without succumbing to adult ranges which also bear 20% vat in their price tags.  Well it is generally the parents footing the bill, so paying vat on clothes for children is a bugbear.

Yesterday evening I pondered a little more and realised that there are some beautiful and fun interiors collections for children but what happens when these children grow into teenagers?  I know teenagers are renowned for their messy bedrooms, interesting fashion adventures and grumpy moods but surely they and their parents deserve a magazine that offers fashion, interiors, parenting advice and even product, game and book reviews aimed at this age range.  I think it is about time Junior grew up!

Jack Wills clothes are popular with Connor and Jacks friends

I know I can't just start a glossy magazine as fantastic as Junior but I can share ideas and brands that offer ideas for teenagers.  Over the coming weeks I will try and do this and I may even share some parenting ideas for dealing with teenage angst or just trying to choose GCSE options! So move over Junior, here comes 'Junior Grew Up'!

I would really love to know what you think, is there a gap for a glossy magazine aimed at parents who have outgrown Junior?  What would you want from such a magazine?  Please share your ideas and thoughts in the comments or send me an email, I'm really interested in what you all think about this.  I would also love to be proven wrong and that there is actually a magazine for parents of chidlren over the age of 8!

Have a fab day

Monday, 30 January 2012

Chocolate Cake

Morning! Hope you all had a fab weekend.  We had a bit of a gastronomic feast, well not quite but we ate very well this weekend.  All of our children love to bake and take turns each weekend. This weekend was Ambers turn and she chose to bake a chocolate cake that she could ice using Drew's rather cool piping tool.  After getting through several piping bags I invested in a really good set for Drew's birthday last year, which is proving a great buy.  If I remember who it is made by I will let you know!

Anyway I digress, chocolate cake.  I have made sponge cake so many times over the years that a fab all-in-one recipe is firmly etched into my memory  and is versatile enough to be used for fairy cakes or victoria sponge cakes.  It can also be flavoured really easily and can be iced or filled with buttercream or fresh cream and strawberries or....the list goes on.  Anyway I thought I would share this recipe with you today and also share Ambers rather yummy choccy cake for the photos!

180g Self Raising Flour
180g Caster Sugar
  50g Cocoa Powder
180g Soft Magerine or butter (I use Stork magerine)
3 eggs

This would make a 7" victoria sandwich or about 18 fairy cakes.

1. Preheat the oven to 180C or 160C fan oven for sponge cake or 200C or 180c for fairy cakes.

2. Grease your sandwich cake tins or place fairy cake cases into trays.

3. Weigh all ingredients and place together in to a large mixing bowl.

4. Mix ingredients together until combined, using either a wooden spoon or electric mixer.

5. Share mixture equally into two sandwich tins or spoon into cake cases.

6. Bake in the oven for 20 mins for sandwich cake or 15 mins for fairy cakes.  Cakes should spring back if lightly pushed in middle.

7. Leave to cool in tins for 15 mins then place on a wire rack to cool completly.

Amber chose to spread strawberry jam in between the two sponges and use vanilla buttercream to ice the top of the cake. 

Try other flavours

Add the zest of an orange or lemon or both!
Add a tablespoon of strong coffee.
Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
Add a teaspoon of almond extract and then make a thick glace icing for the top and pop glace cherries on for a cherry bakewell cake!
Add a teaspoon of ground ginger or cinnamon.
Add chopped glace cherries or chocolate chips.

The list is endless. Let me know what you try, I also love to try new flavours.

Have a yummy day

Friday, 27 January 2012

Family Holidays - Camp Bestival

Morning! I've got that Friday feeling and am getting excited about my trip to London on Monday to visit the trade show, Bubble.  I will be meeting Katie of Les Enfants for some plotting, scheming and inspiring finds.  Now back to work, time for this weeks family holiday post.  Today I want to ask you all, have you ever taken your child to a festival? We haven't but I want to! For the past three years I have suggested to Drew that we pack up the car and head to Camp Bestival.  Sadly he is not so keen and I am still trying to convince him.

Camp Bestival is a family friendly festival in Lulworth Castle, Dorset at the end of July.  For us it has everything we love, music, art, stories, food, comedy and probably much more besides.  I had the email this morning confirming the line up for this years festival and I am impressed.  Where else can you find Kool & The Gang, Mr Tumble, The Gruffalo and the River Cottage all in the same field?  There is also the Young British Foodie Tent for my little and not so little foodies, jousting, a sewing tent, a wall of death, a farmers market and a WI tea tent. I'm there! And so much more besides. 

Obviously this is a festival so camping is compulsory but fear not you can also 'rent' tents of many descriptions for your stay.  I quite fancy a yurt or an airstream caravan for the weekend!  And don't worry if the chidlren get caked in mud there are loads of 'Posh Wash' gas powered shower cubicles.

Early booking offers are available and they even offer a payment paln to help spread out the cost.  Aren't they just fantabulous!


So I'm off now to perusade my reluctant husband, he's already said no when he saw what I was busy writing! This may take some time........

Have a fab weekend everyone

NB This is NOT a sponsored post, just another great idea for a family break.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Family Trees

Morning! Hope you're all well.  Today I wanted to share with you some beautiful ways of capturing your family tree. I still have a large scroll of paper I drew my family tree onto when I was about ten years old!

This is a beautiful papercut family tree, perfect if you just wanted your names and your childrens names.

I love this idea of adding photos of family members to make your own family tree.

I love this print, room for all of my childrens names!

Not sure you could squeeze in all the great aunts & uncles but I do like this print.

This is a fun print & I love the motto of Growing Together.

This is just a small selection of great ways to share your family trees but I'm sure you'll agree it is a great project for a winter afternoon, but be carfeul you don't miss anyone off your tree!

Have a wonderful day,

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Review - White Rabbit England

Good morning, I hope you are all well and nobody is snowed in.  Thankfully we escaped the snow here in Suffolk, just cold and wet, yuk. Anyway today I have something very cute to share with you.  Last week we were very lucky ro receive a delivery from White Rabbit England.  After several weeks of disturbed nights as Kitty keeps waking after bad dreams I was keen to see if a white rabbit shaped night light would solve the problem.

I remember reading about White Rabbit England several years ago and have always thought how cute their lamps are.  The business was started ten years ago by two sisters looking for a product reminiscent of their own childhood for their children.  Having slept with a little ceramic toadstool lamp between their beds in the rural Lancashire home, Charlotte and Victoria were keen to add a piece of nostalgia to their own childrens bedrooms.  But like so many things from our childhood the lamp was no longer available.  This sparked an idea to find craftsmen to recreate the lamps so in May 2002 White Rabbit England was launched.  Initially the sisters had just one lamp design, Dewdrop, a ceramic lamp glazed and had painted in the famed Staffordshire potteries.  The lamp was well received when launched into the childrens interiors market.

Ten years later and Charlotte and Victoria have an established business now offering far more selection than just a toadstool lamp.  White Rabbit England now has a full range of nightlight, bedding, crockery, soft furnishing, gifts, toys and books.  These beautiful and classic designs would all make fabulous heirlooms to be cherished for many years to come.

Kitty was very excited by the arrival of her Rabbit lamp and we soon had it set up in her bedroom ready for scaring away monsters.  Kitty and Amber share a bedroom and Amber likes to sleep with the light off so I was a little worried that she would not like having this lamp in her room.  Yet  the Rabbit lamp offers a soft glow that did not disturb Amber and helped Kitty sleep more soundly.  The girls are aware that they must be careful with their White Rabbit lamp as it is made from china but they have still named it!  Nibbles, as their lamp is now fondly known, is a beautiful addition to their bedroom but more importantly has saved me more sleepless nights. 

I believe White Rabbit England lamps are a wonderful gift for young children and new parents will be thankful of such a beautiful gift for many years to come. 

Be sure to visit White Rabbit England's website to see their full collection of beautiful products.

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

PS This is a sponsored post/review

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Blog Hopping - Child Style

Morning! I have just spent the morning blog hopping after Scandinavian Mum tweeted links to several blogs.  You can find her own blog at Little Scandinavian, which is on my reading list.  This has just reminded me I must update the blogroll here on Zoe & Drew!  So I  thought I would share some of my finds with you. 

I had discovered Babyccino Kids before but not had time to sit and browse properly.  This is an amazing website full of beautiful and stylish products from online boutiques worldwide.  The Babyccino Kids blog is also full of fabulous design led posts and makes for a great read.  I find both the website and blog very inspiring and will now be receiving updates to my inbox.

A new discovery this morning was a childrens fashion blog from the fashion director for Junior Magazine.  Smudgetikka offers beautiful images of childrens fashion and I was thrilled to see the new marni kids collection that offers great design but looks comfortable enough to play in too.

Another new discovery in my little tour of childrens style blogs and online magazines was Bubble Mag.  This is a french magazine but feeling lazy I clicked on google translate and found some great articles and have now added Bubble Mag to my reading list.

I discovered tiny & little last year.  It is an Australian online magazine and blog sharing beautiful images and great articles for a stylish family lifestyle. 

This is just a snapshot of my finds this morning. I will update my blogroll later today with lots of other great blogs and I think I need to add an online magazine list too!

Happy reading,

Sunday, 22 January 2012


Hello lovelies, I hope you are all having a fun weekend.  Ealier this week a new Anglo-French interiors and lifestyle brand launched and I just wanted to share with you as it is gorgeous.  I am a bit of a francophile and would happily live in the Loire Valley or in a beautiful apartment in Paris so I was excited to hear about Cachette

ceramic dipping bowl

After living and working in London for ten years Anglo-French couple, Stephen and Delphine, moved to the South of France to start a new adventure and launched Cachette.  With 90% of the products on their website being made in Europe their choices reflect a passion for great design, food and a stylish lifestyle but affordable lifestyle. 

paper lamps

So go and grab a cup of coffee and take a look at some gorgeous products to feed your franophile love.


Enjoy your Sunday

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Review - Carddies

Morning! I hope you got a bit of a lie in this morning or are you up early colouring and building lego before breakfast?  This week there has been lots of colouring being done in our house as Lucy, Amber nad Kitty have been very lucky to review the fantastic new creative toy, Carddies.  I was lucky enough to meet Esther and Raquel on Monday at Top Drawer having read a press release for Carddies a couple of days before.  Esther and Raquel are the designers behind this great new idea and with seven children between them understand what children want and love to do.  After a wet summer holiday of drawing people on the back of cereal packs to keep their chidlren amused the idea for Carddies began.  Before long the two sisters had created several hand drawn sets which they soon turned into Carddies

In a world where children are swamped with hi-tech gadgets and toys Carddies offer them hours of fun through imaginative play and the toys can easily be packed away and taken to grans or out to a restaurant.  Carddies are made from high quality card here in the UK and have eight different sets available. Although Lucy, Amber and Kitty have already made a list of other ideas for future Carddies!  So it all sounds fabulous but the true test comes with the appeal to children.  My daughters love making, colouring and creating, having spent hours recently making houses and clothes for peg dolls, which I promise to share here very soon. Honestly my daughters could give Kevin McCloud a run for his money with their house design skills!

I will now share what my three daughters thought of Carddies.

"I liked colouring them in the best.  I want a vet set and the ballerinas next please. I really like playing with the fairies now I've finished colouring them in."    
Kitty, aged 5, tested the Faries set

"I liked colouring in the background the best and love the little babies in my set!  I would really like more backgrounds for the house and family set, or maybe a nursery school or a farm.  I would also really like a duckpond and forses with jumps!"
Amber, aged 9, tested the Family set.

"I think they are fun and a great idea. I would definately like more sets, especially a space set with a rocket and aliens and a backdrop of the moon.  Or maybe a beach holiday, a circus or a snowy day.  Overall I love Carddies and recommend them to anyone who likes colouring!"
Lucy, aged 10, tested the School set

So as you can see Carddies are a great new toy that are perfect for children aged four to ten years and can be taken anywhere, even on a plane. 

To see the full range of Carddies sets visit their website

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Family Holidays - Country House Hideouts

Morning and thank goodness it's Friday! It's been a busy week with exciting projects in the pipeline and I'm still giddy from my trip to London and Top Drawer, so many ideas & so much inspiration!  Today I am going to continue my family holiday series with Country House Hideouts.  I discovered this little treasure last year but I can't remember where.  There has been a surge in holidays allowing us to get back to basics and be part of nature and I think Country House Hideouts has done this perfectly and at an affordable price too. It's not often you can have a weeks holiday for upto 8 people in August for less than £1200!

So what makes Country House Hideouts different to other camping style holidays?  Firstly you get your own encampment complete with a main tent, which sleeps up to 6 people, a hot tub, a shower tent, a cooking cart and a discovery tent, which sleeps two more people.  Ok so that all seems quite standard but the Discovery Tent is kitted out with a microscope and specimen slides, telescope to look at the stars, binoculars for nature watching, field telephones for tent to tent communications, artist paper, paints and an easel and a library with books for flora and fauna.  How perfect for letting your children explore and learn about their surroundings.  I know my children would absolutely love this, even Connor and Jack, infact especially Connor and Jack.  Although they are older they still love being outside, exploring just as if they were little again and a telescope, a microscope and books to explain their finds would add to the fun, every boy loves a bit of kit! 

Another thing that makes a holiday at Country House Hideouts different is that it is eco-friendly with a dynamo bike powering the battery that will then power the lighting in the tent when it gets dark.  Here you can be green and stay fit as I imagine it takes a fair amount of pedal power to keep the lights on all evening!  Wood fuels your stove and water heating ensuring that your holiday energy is carbon neutral. 

Set in the grounds of four country estates dotted around the country there is plenty to explore and if you prefer your pedal power to be used to explore rather than making the lights work you can hire bikes for a reasonable charge for the whole family. 

To order a brochure, check availabilty or to book your holiday with Country House Hideouts visit their website www.countryhousehideout.co.uk or telephone 01420 549150.

Hope you all have a fab weekend and I'm hoping that the rain makes way for some sunshine.

PS This is NOT a sponsored post, just another great idea for a family holiday.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Days Out - The Gruffalo Live

Morning! I'm just heading to school to listen to children in Years 4 and 1 read.  I love taking time out to sit and listen to these children read and it is such a vital part of their learning. Often schools are so busy meeting targets that having volunteer parents pop in to listen to the children read is a huge help to the teaching staff.  For several years The Gruffalo has been a firm favourite in our house and when I heard that The Gruffalo Live is set for a UK tour, starting next month, I was excited to find out that they would even be visiting Suffolk!  However this is not until March, so I was pleased to see that Emily Quinton, a fabulous photographer, blogger and twitter friend was taking her children to watch the show in London. Emily has recently started writing a new blog and I was keen to hear what a mummy I know & trust really thought about the show before booking tickets.   Emily has very kindly written a review to share with you all today.

Earlier this month I took two of my children (age 5 and almost 3) to see The Gruffalo at the Lyric Theatre in London. The production and adaptation was by Tall Stories and it was absolutely brilliant.

The production is about an hour long, which was just the right amount of time for little ones. My little boy (almost 3) was just beginning to get wriggly towards the end but he was completely captivated by it, as was my daughter who is just 5. Tall Stories have cleverly turned a 5 minute book into an hour long musical version of the Gruffalo. The songs are really fun and catchy. I've found myself and my children still singing the songs at home. We all loved it. In addition to the great songs there are also plenty of opportunities for the children to join in with the words they know from the book. The whole production really engages the children...and the grown-ups too!

The set was beautiful and gave a great sense of being in a forestwithout it being too dark and scary for the little ones. My daughter was fascinated by one actor playing three different characters; the
fox, the owl and the snake. She has role-played the Gruffalo over the past few days with her brother, and she always plays the fox, the owl and the snake. The characterization of the animals was super and so much fun. And the Gruffalo himself was simply fabulous. I was a little worried that the children might get frightened. But he was so funny and silly that they just thought he was great. "A bit scary!". And my little boy hasn't stopped telling people about the Gruffalo coming into the audience to sit with the boys and girls. They both thought that was brilliant fun.

I always have a little fear about going to watch adaptations of much loved books but there was absolutely no need to worry about this one. It is adorable, fun and engaging. And, I'm very glad I will be able to take my youngest to see it when he is older and I will definitely be looking out for more Tall Stories productions in the future.

photo credits : Alastair Muir
Cast : The Gruffalo - Owen Guerin  Mouse - Josie Cerise  The Predators - Tim Richey

Thank you Emily for sharing this review today, it sounds like a fantastic show and I know we will be going to see if there is such a thing as a Gruffalo when he visits Ipswich in March.  To find out if The Gruffalo is coming to a theatre near you visit the website http://www.gruffalolive.com
Right off to school I go then maybe some scrambled snake for lunch!!
See you soon,

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Laura Ashley - Spring Collections for Girls

Morning! Still chilly here but the rain kept the frost away so not quite so cold today.  I always find it hard at this time of year as we wrap up warm in coats and big jumpers to even think about summer dresses but the shops are starting to fill their racks with the shades and styles of spring.  Also lots of brands are busy launching their Spring collections online and whislt I am not quite ready to shop for summer dresses I do love looking to see what is available when we're ready to leave our coats at home! 

images courtesy of Laura Ashley

Laura Ashley will be launching two new collections this month for little girls that are fun and wearable.  'Wish You Were Here' and 'Sunshine & Showers' are perfect for warmer Spring days and Summer outings to the seaside. 

Are you looking forward to Spring yet or quiet happy wrapped up in big jumpers and coats for a little while longer?  I think I am happy to wait a little longer before I pack away my coats!

Have a fab day

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Top Drawer London

Morning! I hope you are all warm and well, it's freezing here.  Yesterday I had a fantastic time visiting Top Drawer in London.  After a few problems getting there I finally arrived with my lovely friend Ruth, of Duke & The Duchess.  The first mission was to find some of my fab twitter friends you had stands there.  Slighty sidetracked by the bold colours that greeted us at the Rice stand we soon moved on to find Jane of Snapdragon and Becky of Dots & Spots.  Janes stand looked fab and you would never have guessed everything had been squeezed in to a suitcase as she travelled down from Scotland! Becky's stand was also amazing and whilst I knew she had a lot of products, seeing them all on her stand and then later looking at her catologue, I realised just how many designs Becky now has.  I was also excited to see her new mugs which will be available very soon on Becky's website.

dots & spots stand

As we had arrived close to lunchtime, next stop was some lunch! Also a quick check on my phone and a call to Fiona Humberstone of Flourish Studios as she was also visiting and we had prearranged to meet up.  Fiona is an incredibly inspiring lady who understands small creative businesses and I am very excited to be starting the Branding Masterclass with her next month.  Once lunch was eaten we went to meet Charlotte of Charlotte Macey Textiles, Gabrielle of The Green Gables and Katie of What Katie Did Next who were all exhibiting at Top Drawer for the first time.  Their stands looked gorgeous and I especially loved Katie's stand with great display props, of white washed ladders and wooden shelves.  They all were having a good first show and enjoying the feedback they received from visitors and I am sure you will be seeing their products in many more retail outlets very soon.

what katie did next stand

After saying goodbye to Fiona, Ruth & I continued exploring the vast exhibtion as we looked at the Gift and Fashion sections.  So many fantastic products to see and lots of lovely people to meet and chat to.  After a coffee break we returned to Top Drawer to look at the childrens products and also Spotlight area.  It was lovely to meet the ladies behind the new brand, Carddies.  I received their press release last week and loved the whole concept of their toys and will be sharing more later this week.  I also had a quick chat with Dom from Cutture whose designs I love.  He works with his wife creating beautiful laser and handcut stationery.  I also spotted Caroline, of Warbeck & Cox and stopped for a quick chat! 

Next we visited the HOME exhibition in the hall next door to Top Drawer.  Whilst this felt like a more open, less crowded exhibtion I found alot of the people on the stands were less friendly,apart from the lovely lady on the Donna Wilson stand.  Unfortunately both times I passed the Mini Moderns stand they were busy so didn't get to say hello in person after chatting on twitter previously. 

Now starting to flag a little we headed back to Top Drawer for much needed cake and managed to get a table to sit and enjoy a sweet treat.  It was lovely to have a rest and I didn't envy the designers manning their stands for three days.  Having realised I hadn't seen all the of the Children's section we had one last wander round and loved the little Maileg bunnies and mice. I also met Karen, of Blueberry Park whose craft kits are perfect for children. 

Heading home, tired but filled with inspiration and ideas I realised how many of the people I had spoken to today I had never met before, yet to me they are old friends.  We have chatted on twitter and email for many, many months and know each others childrens names, husbands names the highs and lows each has experienced in their business and even their personal lives.  Whilst it may have been the first time we met it wasn't strange to chat happily with them as I already know them.  Twitter is an amazing part of my life, without it I wouldn't know so many wonderful people. 

I wish everyone at Top Drawer a great last today and am sure many of my friends are going home with busy order books. 

Have a great day everyone,

PS Just wanted to say sorry to Ruth as I stopped and chatted to so many people.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Family Holidays - Coombe Mill

Morning! Friday already I hear you cry, nevermind at least it's almost the weekend.  Are you spending the weekend researching your family holiday or have you already booked? With five children a little extra research is normally required in our house!  However we do seem to fit in some holiday cottages, usually a million miles from anywhere.  Last year whilst I stood on my soapbox about holidays always being for families with 2.4 chidlren I got chatting to Fiona of Coombe Mill on Twitter.  She has six children and understood where I was coming from.  But more importantly Fiona owns and runs, with her husband, Coombe Mill, which has holiday accomadation for small and large families alike. 

image courtesy of Coombe Mill

Coombe Mill was originally a 16th century water mill but is now a beautiful hamlet set admist a 30 acre private estate between Bodmin Moor and the beach.  With a selection on Scandinavian and riverside lodges and picturesque holiday cottages I am sure Coombe Mill have a little piece of holiday heaven available for you and your family.

image courtesy of Coombe Mill

Farmers Nick and Ted offer children the chance to help feed the animals and ride on tractors six days a week.  The river Camel travels through the estate and the private fishing lake offers anglers the chance to relax and enjoy some holiday fishing.  Coombe Mill offers plenty of opportunity for outdoor play, whether in the outdoor playground or around the estate, but should it rain there is also an indoor play area. 
image courtesy of Coombe Mill

As Coombe Mill is owned and run by parents you can be sure your childrens safety and home from home needs have been catered for.  All of their properties include free bedlinen, teatowels, fridge with freezer compartment to store your ice lollies, electric cooker with oven and hob, microwave, crockery, cutlery and cooking utensils, digital tv, DVD player and free Wi-Fi access to cover the most important things.  The Scandinavian lodges also have a washing machine and dryer, hairdryer, iron and ironing board and one of them even has a playroom, now that is an added luxury for a holiday with young children.

image courtesy of Coombe Mill

I am sure you will have so much fun exploring the estate that you may not even think about exploring the surrounding area, but being a beach person I could not visit Coombe Mill and Cornwall without several trips to the beach.  The thing I love most about Cornwall is that you never seem very far from a gorgeous beach.  Our favourite beaches include Perranporth, where Jack took some of his first steps in the outside world and Fistral Bay to watch the surfers.  I am reguarly found on our local beach mesmerised by the kite surfers and have captured some fab tricks on my camera, so I would have to do the same when we visit Cornwall again. There are also lots of other great places for family days out in Cornwall. Fiona and her team at Coombe Mill have a great page on their website with lots of ideas for things to do that are all within forty five minutes of the estate.  This shows further that they understand the issue of travelling around with young children, as we all know too many long car journeys make children cranky. 

For full details of accomadation, availability and prices please visit Coombe Mill's website.

Have fun planning you holidays.

P.S. This is NOT a sponsored post, just me sharing a great idea for a family holiday!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Smart Meter - Energy Efficency of the Future

Morning! A little warmer here in Suffolk this morning and the sun even made a brief appearance.  Strangely it feels almost like Spring is on the way, but I am sure we are going to have our hopes dashed and temperatures will drop and the thermostat will be turned up.  As we all worry more about rising energy costs it’s important to look at ways we can save energy and be a little greener too.  Today I am pleased to be working with Britmums and British Gas on a campaign to help educate about energy conservation.

In a drive to improve our energy use and to aid energy reduction the UK government and others around the world have plans for a Smart Meter to be installed in homes.  By 2019 every household in the UK will have to ensure that they have a Smart Meter installed.  These Smart Meters will allow the government to forecast daily energy usage more accurately and enable better planning and efficiency in generating the nations power, which hopefully will mean producing cleaner, greener electricity. To find out more about Smart Meters, visit the British Gas website.

I know, 2019 is yonks away and should we be doing anything to help reduce our energy bills now?  Yes, of course we should.  There are many ways we can reduce our household energy consumption and live a greener life.  I am quite strict about putting the heating on and regularly make the children put on a jumper if they are cold.  I also set the dial to 20 and rarely is it turned up any higher.  Although this winter has been a lot milder and the heating has only been on first thing in the morning for a couple of hours and in the evening.  I am sure in colder weather we would have it on a little longer.  Aswell as layering up to keep warm during the day, winter duvets are a great idea to reduce the need to turn the heating on overnight. 

Earlier this year my tumble dryer finally gave up after seven years good service and very regular use.  Instead of replacing it I decided to make the use of the whirligig in the garden and the clothes horse in the hall! Already I have seen a reduction in my electricity bill.  Maybe you are not quite ready to be as bold so instead look at how often you use your tumble dryer.  Perhaps you could just use it to dry sheets, duvet covers and towels and the occasional load of washing you need dried quickly?  I have washing out on the line today, in January.  Well I did say it was milder this winter.

It is also important to consider the energy efficiency of other household appliances.  I will need to replace my washing machine very, very soon and whilst cost is the main factor in my choice of machine I will also be choosing a product that is energy efficient.  Maybe my money won’t stretch to a triple A rated machine but I will get as close as I can.  With five children I have a lot of washing to do every day and am very conscious of the amount of water I must use.

More and more councils are providing different bins to ensure recycling is separated and that more of us recycle.  We have three bins where we live and the only recycling we still have to take to a nearby recycling centre is glass, otherwise it is all separated at home and put in the correct bin.  Putting out the recycling is meant to be part of our childrens weekly chores, taking it in turn each day to do this, which helps them earn their pocket money! However with darker evenings after school this chore seems to have fallen with Drew.  I guess the trick is to buy products with less packaging to ensure less needs to be sorted and recycled. 

I know there are many ways we can live a greener life and I hope todays ideas have helped a little.  Just remember it is not just about saving a few pounds but helping to teach the next generation to make better energy choices.  So next time Lucy leaves the light on I might just have to dock 2p off her pocket money or when any of my children leave the television on and leave the room I will stop them playing to come back to switch it off.  Maybe that’s being tough but surely the next time they will remember to switch things off when they leave a room!
Do you have any top tips for saving energy? I would love you to share them below.
Have a fab day

I'm participating in the British Gas Smart Meter campaign. Smart meters work with an in-home display to show how much energy you're using in pounds and pence. You can see how much you're spending by leaving your phone charger plugged in all the time, or the heating on at night. And when you can really see how much you're using, you can start to make small changes to become more efficient. Smart Meters automatically send British Gas readings so they represent the end of estimated bills! British Gas is committed to install 1.5 million smart meters by the end of 2012.

Vintage Wedding Fair

Morning! I hope you are all warm and well.  Today I am just taking a little detour from my usual posts to share details of a wonderful event coming up next month in Milton Keynes, Bucks.  My wonderful Twitter friend Hayley, known as Mrs Scoops to the tweeting world is organising a fabulous vintage wedding fair.  Hayley is the owner of Vintage Scoops, who I first read about in Country Homes and Interiors over a year ago, when she won their annual country business competition.  I have to admit I am very envious of Hayley as she spends her summers tootling around country houses and beautiful locations in Betty, her vintage ice cream van, serving up delicious locally made ice cream to wedding and party guests. 

The Vintage Wedding Fair is on Sunday 26th February from 11am to 4pm at a beautiful 14th centuary barn, Cruck Barn, Bradwell Abbey, Milton Keynes.  Along with Little Miss G, Hayley has booked several fabulous wedding suppliers who offer beautifully vintage inspired designs and wares, including a Zoe & Drew favourite, Poppy Children.

The fabulous Betty

Hayley says of the Vintage Wedding Fair - "Along my journey of owning and running Vintage Scoops I have met some amazing and very talented people within the wedding industry.  I really want to show them off to the people of Milton Keynes!

We have an amazing line up ... To mention a few we have Vicky Trainor, Nevie-pie cakes, Calico moon, Rosewarne Cox Photography, Gormet Trotter, Rose and Aster, Poppy Children, Magpie Crockery, Angelina Cupcake, Vintage Caravan , 1940's singers and of course Betty the vintage ice cream van will be there x the list goes on and on. We are also really lucky to have the London based designer Johanna Hehir attending."

So if you are lucky enough to live near enough to visit the Vintage Wedding Fair I am sure you will have a wonderful time, even if you are not getting married soon or are already married, but just a vintage lover. 

Have fun!

PS Stay up to date with all the latest info from Hayley about the fair on their Facebook page.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Wrap Up Warm & Play Outside

Morning! I hope you all had a fab weekend.  I would like to say ours was nice and relaxing but sadly not as the children are back at school the running around begins again, with Hockey practices and school musical rehersals this weekend.  I had hoped to fit in a walk in the forest, maybe next weekend? Thankfully the weather has been fairly mild so far this year, I know I've tempted fate and six inches of snow will now fall overnight!  But how many of us still take our children to the park or for a walk across the fields or along the beach in these chilly winter months? I know it's all to easy to stay indoors, watch a movie, play Scrabble and drink tea, or hot chocolate piled high with marshmallows if you are one of my chidlren. 

Owl Hats from Totally Rad Crafts

When Connor and Jack were little I spent hours freezing in the garden as they dug for worms, rode around on their pedal tractor or we played tag or 'What's The Time Mr Wolf?'.  These were such fun times and the boys loved being outside, even if it was cold.  We would go for walks to the park where they had the slide and swings to themselves as other mummy's weren't quite so brave in the winter months.  Even when we were joined by the girls I made sure they all got to play outside and also made sure they wrapped up warm. 

Now they are all at school, so outside play is limited and obviously Connor and Jack are too old and too cool to dig for worms but they still like being outside.  Jack is miserable when it rains and he can't go and play on the trampoline or that it's too dark when he gets home from school but thankfully he often has sports training after school to ensure he gets to be outside.  As a family we reguarly wrap up warm and head out for a walk in the forest or on the beach, even if it is cold.  You learn to wear more layers! 

Great waterproofs from children from Muddy Puddles

We are very lucky that we have both a forest and a beach very near and also we have big open fields just across the road. Even if you live in  a flat with no garden or a city far from a beach you can still get outside and play.  Parks are great, especially at this time of year, as many people avoid them as the equipment is cold and damp.  Take a small towel with you to dry the swings and  slide and if need be invest in a pair of waterproof trousers to keep little bottoms warm and dry as they play and explore.  A pair of wellies are essential too, what better way to spend an afternoon when the rain stops than splashing in puddles!

Being outside has huge health benefits for you and your children.  Fresh air will clear the cobwebs and break the routine for a while. Rosy cheeks and big smiles all round! Collect conkers or leaves and go home and make pictures, draw on the patio with big chalks, spell names or make pictures with twigs, leaves and other garden treasure on the lawn.  Playing outside opens up so many more adventures and it will also help your little ones sleep and any parent is glad of a better nights sleep.

So wrap up warm and get outside, it's not really as cold as you think!
Have fun,
Related Posts with Thumbnails