food · health · Just for fun · Seasonal

Brussels Sprouts: A Festive Safety Warning

Now, there are apparently some people in this world who actually enjoy Brussels sprouts, and they will insist on saying things like “it’s not Christmas without sprouts!” and “they’re incredibly good for you, you know!” BUT ARE THEY? I have always believed that Brussels sprouts are the work of the devil, and now it turns out I may well be justified in that belief. So I’m sharing this festive Brussels sprouts safety warning with you: these little green vegetables are dangerous…

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Brussels Sprouts: A Festive Safety Warning

Brussels Sprouts Overdose: The Facts

Back in 2011, a man was hospitalised at Christmas after overdosing on Brussels sprouts. Yes, really. You see, sprouts contain vitamin K, which the body uses to help with blood clotting. This can be a problem if you’re on medication to stop your blood clotting (a.k.a. blood thinners or ‘anticoagulants’ – like warfarin, which you may have heard of). All the vitamin K counteracts the effect of this medication.

The man in question suffered from chronic heart failure, and had been fitted with an artificial pump in his heart, while he was awaiting a heart transplant. It’s normal for patients in this situation to take blood thinners, and he was prescribed warfarin and his blood was monitored to check it wasn’t clotting too easily. All was well for four months, when the festive season approached. Suddenly, blood tests indicated that the man’s blood was clotting much too quickly. The doctors increased his warfarin, but it kept getting worse and worse. They told him not to eat too many leafy green vegetables due to the vitamin K content. But nothing seemed to help. Three days after Christmas, he was admitted to hospital.

While in hospital – eating hospital food – things started to improve. Eventually, under (presumably) intensive questioning from his doctors, he finally admitted that he’d been eating Brussels sprouts three or four times a week during the festive period. But not just that. Oh no. He’d been eating 15 – 20 Brussels sprouts at a time. That means he was munching down around 45 – 80 sprouts PER WEEK.

Now, I have some sprout fans in my immediate family, and they’ve long tried to convert me to eating this appalling vegetable. But I have never met anyone who loves them so much they’re guzzling down 20 sprouts a day (unless they’re so rightly ashamed of this sick behaviour that they’re hiding it from me, I guess). Anyway, the point is: not only are sprouts gross, they’re also potentially little green balls of death, so heed my festive Brussels sprouts safety warning and steer well clear.

Why do I hate sprouts so much?

Random side note: the the hatred of Brussels sprouts is, in fact, genetic (or at least, probably genetic). Those people who have this gene can taste the bitter and hideous taste of a chemical called phenylthiocarbamide, which is extremely similar to a chemical found in brassicas, like Brussels sprouts. And cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower… pretty much all the vegetables I and so many other sensible people hate. So if you’ve ever been sat around the Christmas dinner table, watching your family guzzling down sprouts and wondering: why do I hate Brussels sprouts so much? Now you know!

food · Seasonal · tea

Best Christmas Gifts For Tea Lovers

It’s no secret that I love tea. That’s why my Instagram account has a regular ‘Tea O’Clock’ feature, where I photograph and review various teas. You’ll also occasionally find tea round-ups and reviews making their way onto this blog. So as Christmas approaches, it seems logical for me to write a post with some great ideas for gifts for tea lovers. And no… They’re not all just different types of tea!

I’ve especially tried to focus on finding tea gifts that are sold by smaller independent UK businesses, and ones that try to be eco-friendly, so you know that your gifts are ethical as well as awesome. If you’re not based in the UK, you may want to double check shipping charges.

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Best Christmas Gifts For Tea Lovers

1. Bath Tea by the Samovar Tea House

If you really love tea, you’re probably familiar with that sinking feeling when you get to the end of a cuppa. There’s just never quite enough tea in one cup (no matter how ridiculously oversized your mugs are). Well, now you can combat that feeling by quite literally bathing in an entire bathtub of tea, thanks to the Samovar Tea House’s Bath Tea. They offer two blends for your bath – a relaxation blend with camomile, lavender and rose buds, or an invigoration blend with green tea, peppermint and lemongrass. Just don’t try to drink it afterwards…

2. Self Fill Eco Teabags and Tea Scoop by VeryCraftea

An ideal gift for the eco-conscious tea lover. Put loose-leaf tea into these eco-friendly teabags for convenient infusing without a teapot or infuser. They contain zero plastic (did you know that loads of big-brand teabags contain plastic and may leach microplastics into your cuppa?) and are fully biodegradable and home compostable. And make filling your self-fill teabags that bit easier with a beautiful wooden tea scoop.

3. The Tea Test Kit Gift Set by Arthur Dove Tea Co.

Okay, I know that at the start of this post I said that this gift list wouldn’t just be a list of different kinds of tea. And this gift is… a bunch of different kinds of tea. But bear with me! This gift set is by Arthur Dove Tea Co., who often stock some really lovely and creative tea blends, and it’s a set of five incredibly Christmassy loose leaf teas: their Mince Pie Chai, Yule Log, Mulled Wine, After Eight and Fairytale of New York blends. All of which sound amazing. They’re also presented really nicely: each tea is presented in its own test tube, and the set includes a reusable muslin tea bag, so it’s eco-friendly as well. I think this is a fab gift for the voracious tea lover who enjoys trying lots of new blends of tea, or for any tea lover who’s nuts about Christmas!

top gifts for tea lovers tea subscription loose leaf teabags and scoops the sickly mama blog

4. Tea and Book Club Subscription by Bookishly

If your tea lover is also a book lover, you’re in luck! Bookishly offer an awesome Tea and Book Club subscription, where you receive a vintage book, pack of tea, and stationery every month. You can select a 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, or 12 month subscription – so there are plenty of options! I’ve actually been given this gift previously as a present, and I can testify it’s super. The teas are by Jenier Teas, and include some fantastic flavours you probably wouldn’t try anywhere else. And the books are awesome and very varied – everything from classics of literature, to vintage sci-fi, and more.

5. Alcoholic Tea by NovelTea

Full disclosure: I’ve never bought anything from NovelTea, so I don’t have experience of this company directly – but I love the idea! NovelTea make a range of alcoholic teas (or, let’s be honest, teaholic alcohols) – green mint tea with rum, oolong tea with whisky, earl grey tea with gin – and for Christmas, spiced tea with whisky. Sounds like a great idea for any tea lover who also likes a tipple!

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Your ideas: best Christmas gifts for tea lovers

Do you have any great ideas for Christmas gifts for tea lovers? Are you a tea fanatic who’s received an amazing gift? I’d love to hear all about it (especially if the gifts are from small UK businesses and/or have an eco-friendly vibe)! Let me know in the comments.

baking · celebrations · food · recipes · Seasonal

Christmas Round-Up: Fun Ideas For Christmas 2020

It’s that happy season where everyone is posting about Christmas, Christmas, Christmas… In my house, the Christmas season doesn’t start properly until the 7th December, as my husband’s birthday is the 6th December and clearly takes precedence over the other festive season! But that doesn’t mean the preparations haven’t started, so I thought I’d share my Christmas round-up post, including ideas for festive baking, food and drink, gift ideas and family activities…

Christmas Round Up: Fun Ideas For Christmas 2020

Festive Food & Drink

Christmas is, of course, the season of food – and for those of us who love baking, it’s an opportunity to get into the kitchen and get creative! I’m planning on trying out this festive white chocolate rocky road traybake (complete with candy canes!) and this sticky gingerbread recipe. Of course, in our house gluten free baking is pretty important, so I was also excited to find this recipe for gluten free mince pies. Let’s be honest… It’s not Christmas without mince pies!

Baking with kids at Christmas

If you have young children, the festive season is a lovely opportunity to get them involved in baking (and eating, of course!). These easy no bake sweet treats are just the right kind of safe and fun recipes to make with your kids at Christmas. Slightly older will love this Mars Bar fudge recipe for slow cookers, which is also a lovely, simple recipe that they can get involved in creating.

Christmas drinks and cocktails

Cranberries are one of those ingredients that I really associate with Christmas, but other than cranberry sauce with your Christmas dinner, it’s hard to come up with much to do with them… I’m planning on using cranberry juice and orange juice to make some tasty morning mocktails over the festive season – just what you want to wake up to!

On the alcoholic side of things, earlier this year I made some delicious hawthorn gin which should be ready for Christmas – I can’t wait to enjoy it in some prosecco in a festive hawthorn fizz. You can find my recipe for hawthorn gin here. I’ve also tried making some Christmas pudding vodka – so I’m pretty excited to see how that turns out!

Christmas Gift Guides

Buying presents can be so tricky, and especially this year when lockdown and the Covid tiers system means it’s not easy to get out to the shops and just browse.

If you’re buying gifts for kids, there are some great ideas in this Christmas gift guide for children, or why not consider a magazine subscription so they get a new gift every month?

In our house, we’re very much aware that food intolerances and dietary requirements can make Christmas gifting challenging – so I love this guide to buying gifts for vegans!

Moving away from food and drink gifts, this guide has some lovely homeware gift ideas, to or this weird and wonderful gift guide gives some quirky and different ideas for gifts your loved ones won’t be expecting. If you’re looking for super-specific gifts, I even found this gift guide for fans of the TV show Friends (I actually re-watched the entirety of Friends over maternity leave so it’s kind of perfect…)

If you’re buying gifts for a tea lover in your life, I have a guide coming soon on the blog – keep your eyes peeled!

Fun Christmas Activities

Christmas is definitely time for relaxing in front of the television… But it’s nice to use your time off over Christmas to do some other fun activities – and as we’re all going to be staying indoors this Christmas, I’m trying to plan some fun activities in advance.

Christmas Crafts & More

I’ve always vaguely wanted to try making my own decorative Christmas wreath for our house, so I was excited to find this guide to making your own natural foliage wreath – hoping to get the chance to give it a go this year!

I’m also planning to use the time to do some home improvements; we’ve got some old furniture that we’re hoping to paint and upcycle, and we want to put up a mural in Little Man’s room.

Your Ideas For Christmas

What will you be getting up to for Christmas this year? Let me know your ideas for Christmas and the festive season!

Just for fun · lifestyle · reviews · Seasonal · tea

Top Teas For Autumn

Well, we’re well and truly into autumn now, and if you’re anything like me you’re spending your evenings bundled up in cosy jumpers and slippers (and sometimes a snuggly woollen blanket as well!), and enjoying some tasty autumnal treats. But what tea should accompany them? As you know, I’m a total tea fiend – so I’ve pulled together my recommendations for the best teas which reflect the flavours of the season – warming, cosy, spiced teas with hints of delicious autumn fruits. So if you’re looking for your next tea purchase, read on!

my top teas for autumn article the sickly mama blog - warming cosy spiced teas with autumn fruits

My Top Teas For Autumn

Apple Spiced Fruit Tea – Jenifer Teas

When the summer starts fading into autumn, one of the things I’m always excited about for this season is making spiced apple crumbles and pies, so for me this apple spiced fruit tea from Jenifer Teas really encapsulates the spirit of autumn. This tea is made with real dried apple pieces, along with classic seasonal spices – cinnamon, clove, cardamom and pepper. Unusually, it’s available as a loose leaf tea or as pyramid teabags, so you can make tea your preferred way.

apple spiced fruit tea jenier world of teas review the sickly mama blog top teas for autumn

Liquorice Mint Toffee Tea – Very Craftea

This unusual loose-leaf blend by Very Craftea is made with peppermint leaves, vanilla extract and liquorice root. The first taste of this tea is a beautiful fresh peppermint, which fades away into the liquorice flavour, with a very light hint of vanilla. It’s nowhere near as sweet as you might expect from the name, and I’d say it’s just about perfect for curling up with a book on chilly autumn evenings…

very craftea liquorice mint toffee tea - the sickly mama blog

Pumpkin Spice Tea – Arthur Dove Tea Company

It doesn’t get much more autumnal than pumpkin spice, so this loose leaf tea by Arthur Dove Tea Co. is a perfect choice for the season. It’s a sweet, spiced tea not dissimilar to a chai, with a lovely hit of sweet ginger and a gentle, peppery aftertaste. I’d say it’s an ideal after-dinner drink.

It’s recommended to drink this pumpkin spice tea with milk, but I think it’s great with or without depending on your preference – with milk it mellows down into a perfect drink for snuggling up on the sofa on a rainy afternoon.

pumpkin spice tea arthur dove tea company review the sickly mama blog

Cherry and Cinammon Tea – Twinings

This tea bag offering from Twinings is another lovely warning tea that’s great for the autumn season. It has a really bright, fresh cherry flavour that hits you straightaway, then gently melts into the comforting taste of cinnamon. It’s a tea for crisp autumn mornings and warning up after a walk out in the frost. Plus, it’s a fabulous colour – check out the picture below!

cherry and cinnamon tea twinings teabag review the sickly mama blog autumn

Those are my top picks for autumn teas this year! Do you have any favourite teas that always make a reappearance at this time of year? Let me know in the comments!

craft · days out · Just for fun · lifestyle · Seasonal

Window Wanderland: Making An Illuminated Window Display

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve used pretty much all my spare time when Little Man was sleeping or doing his settling-in sessions at nursery to work on creating an illuminated window display for Window Wanderland 2020. I themed the display around the Studio Ghibli film My Neighbour Totoro, because a) it’s one of my favourites, b) I assumed there would be lots of families out and about with kids, and c) honestly the characters have nice simple designs that should be easy to recreate in a papercut.

I was really happy with the final result!

The front view

In this blog post, I’ll talk about how I created my window display, and also share some photos of some of my favourite illuminated window displays from my local Window Wanderland event this year. Hopefully others will find it useful for information, ideas and inspiration if you’re planning on creating a illuminated window displays yourself. But first things first…

What Is Window Wanderland?

Window Wanderland is a scheme encouraging communities to set up “fun, local, all-people-friendly, window-display-based walking trails then share them with the world.”¬†Illuminated window displays are set up by individuals or families in their homes over a couple of days, and then you can look up a map of your local area showing you where to find displays. It’s a really fun scheme, and obviously it’s especially great this year with the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, because it’s all outdoors and compliant with Covid-19 restrictions.

How Do You Make Illuminated Window Displays?

The flippant answer is: however you want to! As I walked around the illuminated window displays in my local area, I would say that it looked like most people (like me!) did displays using coloured crepe paper and black card. I did spot what looked like a display that had been painted onto tracing paper (?) so that it illuminated beautifully, which I thought was a great effect and allowed for a lot of detail:

How Did I Create My Window Wanderland Display?

By taking over the dining room table for about two weeks! Apologies to my very patient husband. I’ll outline exactly how I approached it and some of my top tips for how to make an illuminated window display with paper and card…

Step 1: Measure your windows

We have quite a complicated downstairs front window set-up, with 10 panels of varying shapes and sizes, so the first thing was to measure them up. I did a really bad job of this and actually got the measurements for six of the panels wrong, which I only discovered on the night when I went to put my display up in the window… Oops. They were only about 1cm out, but still! I recommend measuring everything twice…

Step 2: Buy your supplies

For my display, I bought a pack of 10 sheets of A2 black card, and a mixed pack of 20 sheets of coloured crepe paper (I already had a lot of the dark blue crepe paper that I used for the background colour). I didn’t use tracing paper as a backing, but lots of people do, especially if you’re going for a more collage-style effect.

My dining room table is in there somewhere…

I already had a craft scalpel in the house, which was essential for the finer lines, and a cutting mat. I also already had Pritt Stick glue in the house, but I ran out on the last day and had to run to the shops to get more – so make sure you have enough glue, as if you have large windows you can end up using a LOT. I also used blu-tack to stick the panels to the windows.

Step 3: Plan your design

I had a vague idea in my head of what I wanted to do, but I first cut my panels of black card into the right sizes for all the window panels – in some cases I also had to stick extra bits of card together to get the right size and shape for my windows. Then I outlined a reasonably thick border around the outer edge of each panel, and then started designing.

I did this as an iterative process, working panel by panel and outlining a design in pencil – rather than designing every panel from the start, before beginning to cut and paste, and I’m glad I did, because the first panel I did was way too complicated and took forever! After that, I simplified my designs a little, and also learned what shapes were easy/difficult to cut etc. as I went. You can see my excessively complicated first panel here – the top one with all the leaves:

I definitely think that when coming up with your design, less is more! I saw some amazing illuminated window displays around town that were just done with two colours – black card and a white background (for instance, see the Halloween themed Window Wanderland display below!). I think the simpler panels of my design have more impact as well.

Spooky…

Step 4: Cutting and sticking

My method was to cut a design out of black card, using a craft scalpel, and then stick coloured crepe paper in the gaps. For a few features, such as the eyes, I then glued more bits of black card on top of the crepe. It was quite fiddly, but I definitely got faster as I went along.

Actually one of the trickiest things was just finding somewhere I could put the panels while the glue was drying!

From indoors, you can see the construction more

How To Illuminate Your Window Display

I simply used blu-tack to attach my pieces of card to our front room windows. We then put the lights on in the front room. To make the display brighter, I also placed a lamp on a table by the window. If you’re wondering how to make your Window Wanderland display brighter, using extra lamps or even a projector will help light up the windows perfectly.

Window Wanderland Ideas and Inspiration

Before I started making my Window Wanderland display, I really wanted to see other people’s displays, for inspiration! So I thought I’d share a few more illuminated window displays that I particularly liked from my local area. Perhaps they will give you ideas for your own window display. Personally, I think windows work best when they have a strong theme – I really liked some of the Halloween themed windows we saw, and those themed around literature or music. As we get closer to Christmas, I imagine that Christmas themed Window Wanderland displays could be really awesome as well. Anyway, here are a few photos of displays from my local event… and my thoughts on how to make something similar.

Koi carp and irises window:

This beautiful display looks like it was made in a similar way to my display: cutting the design out of black card, and backing it with crepe paper.

Abstract colours window:

This abstract design is so beautiful and I think something like this would be easily achievable if you’re not feeling confident about making your window display. Again, it looks like it’s made with black card backed with crepe paper.

Prehistoric ocean window:

This lovely prehistoric ocean display looks like it was made by glueing strips of crepe paper onto tracing paper, and then sticking black cut outs on top.

Your Experience of Window Wanderland Events

I hope this post has been helpful if you’re looking for some inspiration and ideas for a Window Wanderland illuminated display!

Are you taking part in Window Wanderland in your local area? I’d love to see your designs and ideas! Let me know in the comments or tag me on social media for a share.

how to make an illuminated window display for window wanderland pictures and inspiration the sickly mama blog art and crafts
lifestyle · sport

Running 22 Miles For The British Red Cross Miles For Refugees

So in September, I took on the challenge of doing Miles For Refugees, a fundraising event for the British Red Cross. I committed to running 22 miles during September – that’s the length of the English Channel. And as of today, I’ve clocked in at 23.28 miles run in total across 17 runs in 30 days! Whoop whoop!

My fundraising page is here if you’d like to donate – or read on to find out more about the challenge and why I did it.

22 miles in a month for the Red Cross

Now, I know that doesn’t sound like much, considering some people run 26 miles in a day (and some absolute nutters apparently run 188 miles in a day… Seriously guys, you make the rest of us look bad). But I’ve never been a runner by any stretch of the imagination, so this is a big deal for me and by far the most running I’ve ever done in my life! Plus since having Little Man and being in lockdown, the most exercise I’ve done has been the odd half hour of yoga, so I’m definitely out of shape.

My experience with the Miles For Refugees challenge

Before I started doing Miles For Refugees, I had no idea how I’d manage with all the running. My hypermobility spectrum disorder means I have to be careful of high-impact exercise because it’s harsh on the joints. Plus, my undiagnosed asthma was the reason I never did any running at school or in my twenties – I couldn’t work out why I seemed so unfit that I was out of breath almost instantly when I started running. Surprise – I finally got diagnosed with asthma a few years ago and it explained so much!

I took due precautions, bought new running shoes, and was careful to take my inhalers religiously. I picked a distance that I hoped I could do within a month while allowing myself days off when my body just wasn’t feeling up to it. And I did okay! My very first run was 0.91 miles (1.5km) according to MapMyFitness, the app I’m using to track my runs. I was absolutely knackered by the end. My final run today was 2.15 miles (3.5km) and I was nowhere near as exhausted when I finished.

Plus, I increased my average pace from 12.55 minutes per mile on my first run to 11.54 on my final run (actually more impressive than it sounds, because on my final run I stopped for a quick chat with a lady who complimented my Studio Ghibli t-shirt). Don’t get me wrong, I’m still sloooooow, but I’ve definitely improved my ability to pace myself as I go and not end up totally exhausted after the first few minutes.

I discovered some new routes around my town, and found myself running at all times of day and all weathers (obligatory photo of me looking awful after getting absolutely drenched on a run, in the official Miles For Refugees t-shirt, is provided below). Sometimes it was fun, sometimes I absolutely hated it, but I’m proud I managed to complete it!

Why am I doing Miles For Refugees?

There’s been so much negative press about refugees and asylum seekers recently. A lot of the news coverage is pretty hysterical and completely loses sight of the fact that refugees and asylum seekers are human beings who are trying to find a better life for themselves and their families in a safe place. Isn’t that what all of us would do, when faced with conflict, poverty, persecution or unsafe conditions? Many refugees are fleeing war and conflict, have lost family members or been split up from them on the way. They are unlucky enough to find themselves in situations that most of us hope never to have to face.

The British Red Cross provides support to refugees in the UK and abroad, and also campaigns for a fair, effective and efficient asylum system in this country. That’s what Miles For Refugees is all about supporting! You can read more about the work of the British Red Cross here.

How can you help?

If you’d like to donate, my Miles For Refugees fundraising page is here. Alternatively, you can donate on the British Red Cross homepage here.

Thank you so much to everyone who’s already donated. It really means a lot to me. This has been a great experience, and I’m so glad to have raised this money for the Red Cross and for refugees who really need support and understanding right now!

running miles for refugees 22 miles for the british red cross fundraising the sickly mama
days out · Just for fun · lifestyle · parenting · reviews

Review : Lavender Picnic at Castle Farm Kent

Queen Victoria allegedly loved lavender, even eating lavender jelly with her roast mutton, rather than the more traditional mint. When my mother plans a picnic, it’s typically on a similarly extravagant scale, and to be honest you’re guaranteed a grand feast even if you end up eating it in a car park. So when we set off for a ‘lavender picnic’ at Castle Farm, the UK’s largest lavender farm, we knew we had the ‘picnic’ part covered. It was up to Castle Farm, Kent to provide the lavender.

Booking Your Lavender Picnic

I had booked our picnic at the last minute, thinking it would be something fun and a bit different to do after months spent in lockdown, while remaining safely outdoors and socially distanced. Tickets were ¬£10.25 per adult, which to be honest is pretty darn steep for the privilege of spending two hours in a field. In fairness, the price does include access to a porta-potty. I’m charitably assuming that Castle Farm need to make a bit of extra cash after the impact of coronavirus.

Our Evening At Castle Farm Kent

But if the ticket price matched the rather steep gradient of the lavender fields themselves, we were far from the only ones prepared to pay up. Although the event was definitely busy, the field we were in was so large that there was more than enough space for everyone to set up their picnic rugs at a safe distance from each other, but right up close to the rows of lavender plants. This was no mean feat when some of the picnics were as lavish as ours (for context, the meat selection alone included roast beef, corned beef, salami, ham, chicken drumsticks and scotch eggs).

lavender fields at castle farm kent during sunset

Of course, it’s possible that we actually had no need to worry about coronavirus transmission, as the ancient Greek surgeon Dioscorides noted lavender’s protective effect against the plague, and centuries later during the Black Death, plague doctors stuffed their masks with lavender to try to prevent themselves from catching the disease. Castle Farm make no such claims about their lavender. Perhaps their gift shop is missing a trick, given the new requirement for face masks to be worn in shops.

Instead Castle Farm, Kent emphasize the relaxing properties of lavender, even marketing their own range of natural sleep products. Relaxation was certainly in the air as we sat and enjoyed our picnic in the gently cooling breeze. Little Man had a very cosy nap in my arms, meaning I had to ask Martin to cut my food up for me so that I could eat it with one hand. Before we knew it, an hour and a half had slipped by and we had barely stepped beyond the first two metres of lavender.

mum and baby in the lavender fields at castle farm kent

So, with a newly-awake Little Man, we set off up into the heart of the fields. If the scent of lavender on the breeze was beautiful at the site of our picnic, it was incredible when you were right in the middle of the field. Along the rows of purple flowers, there were hundreds of bumblebees and honey bees hard at work; when you stood still, you could hear a gentle buzzing in the air. Little Man was fascinated by the flowers and the bees, and he enjoyed smelling the lavender as well. Older children from other parties were having a wonderful time running up and down the neat rows of plants.

baby close up in the lavender fields at castle farm kent

The views across the purple hillsides were stunning with the sun just starting to set, and the bullocks in a field nearby were in a playful mood, treating us to the sight of them gallivanting about and going for a swim in the river. It seemed only fair that they enjoy life before achieving their ultimate destiny as Castle Farm Beef. I haven’t tried the beef myself, but I can attest that it does indeed seem to come from happy cows.

Picnicking on a slightly overcast evening, amongst cascades of British lavender, felt like an experience that was at once very English (the weather), very French (a la Provence’s purple fields of lavender*), and somewhat Japanese (a la hanami, the celebration of the transient beauty of flowers).

Overall, it was a wonderful, memorable experience that was more than just the opportunity to get some instagramable photos. I’d be interested in the future to try one of the Castle Farm lavender walks, and learn a little more about the farm and how they produce their lavender and essential oils.

enjoying a family picnic in the lavender fields at castle farm kent review

Accessibility at Castle Farm, Kent

The car park was nice and close to the field, so if you have reduced mobility, it would still be possible to access the site – although the ground is uneven and flinty, which may be a challenge for wheelchairs or anyone very unsteady on their feet. There are no designated car park spaces for disabled vehicles although you could park away from other cars if you needed the space. We put Little Man in his carrier rather than test the pram’s off-roading capabilities.

Toilets and baby change facilities were provided, albeit as temporary portaloos with steps up to the door, which again could prove challenging if you have mobility issues.

* Actually the “lavender” in Provence is lavandin, which is distinct from British lavender. Both are grown at Castle Farm, so let’s not quibble too much…

More ideas for days out in Kent

Check out this list of other family days out in Kent for inspiration for your next day trip!

baby · lifestyle · parenting · pop culture · sport

Surviving Lockdown With A Baby Through SPORTS SPORTS SPORTS

When I found out I was pregnant and worked out when my maternity leave would be, I was super excited. And not just about the baby. While on maternity leave there would be an Olympics and the Euros, two major sporting events that I normally only get to watch bits of, and I would get to watch it all – or, you know, have it on in the background while wrangling a small baby.

And then – coronavirus! Which has conspired to ruin literally every plan I had for my maternity leave, including the more minor plans regarding televisual entertainment (although in fairness, BT also had a good stab at ruining those plans before coronavirus even really arrived on these shores).

Coupled with this, over the last six to eight weeks or so, Little Man has gone from a baby who often fusses with a bad tummy, to a Mega Fuss Machine 3.0, who is just so grumpy and fussy that it’s basically impossible to follow anything happening on TV when he’s in the room. Even when he’s in a good mood he now just shrieks. Apparently, he enjoys shrieking. So, given that he’s also not sleeping well, we are really struggling to watch anything other than nature documentaries. And, honestly, if you can’t actually hear the dulcet tones of Sir David Attenborough, is it even worth it?

So – how to survive lockdown with a baby?

Well, recently the Bundesliga returned! Actual real-life football, the perfect entertainment for looking after a grumpy baby, where you don’t need to hear the commentary to follow the plot. Except, obviously, we couldn’t watch it because the days of football betting available on terrestrial TV are long since gone.

So, we’ve cracked and got a subscription to BT Sport, and I’m now rapidly becoming aquatinted with the various teams and players of the Bundesliga. Thank God we have something we can watch (but not hear) while endlessly bouncing the wee man on one knee. It’s the perfect solution for lockdown with a baby.

You can read more about my experiences in lockdown with a baby here!

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environment · lifestyle · top tips

Easy Swaps We’ve Made To Reduce Our Plastic Waste (And What We Have Left To Do!)

So over the last year or two we’ve been really trying to be more conscious of our plastic waste output and to reduce plastic waste where we can. For the most part this has been through small swaps of products, done one at a time. It can feel like it’s not making much of a difference, but actually when I sat down and started working out how much plastic we were saving over the course of a year or more, suddenly even the small swaps started to look significant.

So, I thought I’d share what we’ve done to reduce plastic use in our house, and also some of my thoughts on what we still need to do to make more of a difference. There’s still a long way to go – it’s just amazing how much plastic we use every day without even thinking about it.

Simple Swaps to Reduce Plastic Waste

1. Soap and Shower Gel

We’ve stopped using liquid soap from a plastic dispenser in the bathroom and started using bars of soap instead. I was slightly sad because I love love love the smell of Bayliss and Harding’s Ginseng and Black Pepper handwash, but it’s not environmentally sustainable! We’ve also stopped buying bottles of shower gel and switched to soap in the shower. We were buying our soap from the local packaging-free shop (which we’re lucky to have!), but since the coronavirus lockdown I’ve purchased online from andkeep.com.

Plastic saving: I estimate that we used to get through 2 bottles of hand wash per year, and maybe 12 bottles of shower gel, as me and my husband would have a bottle each. So that’s a saving of 14 plastic bottles each year. And yes, that might be modest, but it still adds up to 280 bottles over 20 years!

Yet to do: We’re still using Fairy liquid dish soap though, so the next step is to find an eco-friendly dish soap that I like using.

2. Shampoo and Conditioner

Actually one of the first swaps I made to reduce plastic use was starting to use solid shampoo bars from Lush. I really like the solid shampoo and a bonus is that it lasts ages – way longer than a bottle of shampoo would. So if solid shampoo seems more expensive on the face of it, trust me – it lasts so long that it works out cheaper overall

However, I have still been using conditioner from a bottle because I couldn’t find a solid alternative I liked. I’ve just bought a new solid conditioner bar from andkeep.com, so I’m planning to ditch the plastic bottles from here on out.

Plastic saving: I estimate I used to use about 6 bottles of shampoo per year and the same of conditioner – perhaps a little more. So it’s a 12 bottle saving per year, or 240 bottles over 20 years.

Yet to do: I guess the next step is finding plastic free hair styling products as well!

3. Toothbrushes

We’ve just switched to using bamboo toothbrushes. They’re about the same price as plastic toothbrushes and you can get them in soft/medium/hard bristles as well. We’re using brushes from Truthbrush.

Plastic saving: You’re supposed to change toothbrush every three months, but I probably only remember to swap them three times a year. For me and my husband that’s six toothbrushes per year, or 120 in 20 years.

Yet to do: You can buy plastic-free toothpaste in jars or tablet form. But I have quite sensitive teeth and currently rely on using Sensodyne regularly, so until I can find a plastic-free option that is formulated for sensitive teeth, I will probably stick with tube toothpaste.

4. Plasters

Did you know you can get plasters made out of bamboo? I sure didn’t! We’ve bought these bamboo plasters from Patch. They’re 100% biodegradable, including the packaging, with no plastic content at all. A small but simple way to reduce plastic waste.

Plastic saving: Okay, realistically we get through a few plasters a year, so the saving is negligible. But perhaps as Little Man gets older it will make more of a difference!

Yet to do: I’m not really sure where else we can take this one. Plastic-free antiseptic cream maybe?

5. Nappies and Nappy Bags

We’re using Kit & Kin nappies. They’re not quite 100% biodegradable but they are much more eco-friendly than a standard nappy and they aim to use sustainable and plant based materials. The packaging etc. is all biodegradable as well. Plus, if you’re a Spice Girls fan – the company is owned by Emma Bunton! Then for nappy bags we use Naty nappy sacks, which are made from corn starch and are 100% biodegradable.

Plastic saving: I won’t count the nappies, as they’re not 100% biodegradable – even though they’re a massive improvement on most nappies. But we get through probably a minimum of 7 nappy bags per day, so over the course of the year that’s 2,555 plastic nappy bags that we’re not adding to the planet’s plastic waste problem.

Yet to do: The most eco-friendly option is reusable nappies, but I have to admit I’ve not been brave enough to try them yet. Especially as our washing machine is on its last legs.

6. Baby Wipes

According to Friends of the Earth, not only do non-biodegradable wet wipes contribute to our marine plastic problems, but they also make up more than 90% of the material causing sewer blockages in the UK. We use Mum & You biodegradable baby wipes, which are great. The last time I bought a box, the plastic wrapper they came in was not recyclable, but writing this article I’ve just checked – and they have changed their packaging material, so it’s now recyclable and I can give them an unambiguously glowing review if you’re looking to reduce plastic waste in your household!

Plastic saving: We get through probably a minimum of five wipes a day, although usually I would say it’s probably more. At five a day though, that’s a saving of 1,825 plastic-containing wipes per year.

Yet to do: Friends of the Earth still say that it’s best not to use single-use wipes at all, even biodegradable ones. They recommend making your own wet wipes out of flannels. To be honest, that sounds like a mission, you’d probably still need to store them in plastic tubs, and if you left them too long they’d probably go mouldy, so not sure how I feel about that one…

Your Ideas To Reduce Plastic Waste:

Have you made any swaps to reduce plastic that have worked well for you? I’d love to hear what other people are doing and share ideas! Leave me a comment below.

I’ve also written about how to reduce plastic waste during the weaning process, as it’s so easy to end up creating lots of additional waste when weaning. Why not take a look?

 

coronavirus · food · Just for fun · lifestyle · recipes · top tips

Dalgona Coffee – Fun Korean Coffee Drink You Can Make During Lockdown!

So my awesome husband came across this great recipe for an awesome chilled coffee drink you can make at home. It’s called Dalgona coffee, it’s Korean, you can make it with ingredients you already have, and it feels like something super fancy you need to go to a coffee shop for!

He got the recipe from this website and I’ll direct you there as well for the full details. Essentially you make a meringue-style coffee foam by whisking equal quantities of good-quality instant coffee and sugar with a little bit of water, until it forms stiff peaks just like a meringue. Then you dollop it into cold milk. You can either mix it in with the milk or leave the foam on top and drink the milk through the coffee foam – I recommend the latter option because not only does it taste great, but the velvety texture is very satisfying.

It’s very quick and easy, and you can make a large amount of coffee foam and refrigerate it for a couple of days to use later. We made dalgona coffee over lunch one day and it was a great afternoon treat and something a bit different to do during quarantine.

A picture of our dalgona coffees is below…