Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Belsay Hall A Guest Post By Unscripted Photograhy

Belsay is a firm favourite with many of my friends, you may remember a guest post from The Monkeyfooted Godmother talking about Belsay and English Heritage Membership. Well today we have the ridiculously talented Claire from Unscripted Photography who takes the most lovely photo's and is also Mum to Harry. Here she tells us about her day at Belsay

Last weekend NUFC played Sunderland. Faced with the prospect of being stuck at home alone with a slightly irritable toddler, whilst the hubby went to the derby, I thought the best thing to do would be: make the most of our English Heritage passes and head to Belsay Hall and Gardens.

Belsay is my favourite English Heritage site in Northumberland. It changes beautifully with the seasons. Sadly we were there slightly too early for the sea of yellow (is it me or are daffodils late this year?) but the place was still awash with snowdrops - ever so pretty.

Harry and I arrived just after 11.30. We grabbed our picnic, camera and Harry had his trusty binoculars and we headed off for the castle. Harry's got a thing for castles of late. Although I'm not entirely sure he knows what they are! He just likes the word.

I've decided that Harry is either well trained or the perfect photographer's child. In most cases you plonk him on step, he doesn't immediately run off or pull silly faces, instead he allows me to take the shot and then move on. Always shouting "hand" - I dread the day he doesn't want to hold my hand anymore.

So there we are wondering though the garden, it's rather magnificent as you walk through the old quarry. Harry loves all of the cubby holes and doors in which he thinks little people live behind.

We finally arrive at the castle and set up the picnic rug next to the gorgeous monkey tree. Luckily the rain holds off, but it turns chilly so we eat our grub as quickly as possible and head into the castle for some momentous games of peekaboo. The castle is rather lovely. The fact that the floors above have disappeared, but you can still see the fireplaces above, just suspended there, is rather quirky. Harry loves all of the interior windows that he can open and close. Then, I mention the word Hot Chocolate and like a flash he grabs my hand and we're off.

Wondering back through the quarry garden Harry's still going on about seeing a castle. See? Don't think he really knows what one is yet!

I marvel in the grandeur of the place and the trees perched precariously upon the tops of the ledges. Harry collects stones.

Harry decides he wants to have a nose in the Hall, which is beautiful, but sadly lacking furnishings, but that makes for the most excellent echo which Harry exploits to his upmost. Do Di Da - are his words of choice for shouting at the top of his lungs. Luckily we have the place to ourselves.

Following a small purchase of some gorgeous crocus bulbs, we head over to the little cafe. We are regulars here! The cakes are lovely, as are the hot beef sandwiches. Harry and I tuck into a slice of Victoria sponge and Harry enjoys a cheeky hot chocolate. As we talk about our adventures and all the stones he collected (what’s with that?) I notice that the boy looks decidedly exhausted and it’s time to head home.

I would highly recommend Belsay Hall and Gardens if you haven’t been already. The gardens both formal and the quarry are so lovely to explore - in any season. There’s also the woodland walk to enjoy, which we didn’t have time for on this occasion and in summer you can really appreciate the exotic plants in the quarry - it’s awash with colour.
You can follow Claire via Instagram , Facebook , Pinterest , Vimeo and Twitter

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Top 3 Fun Ways to Have an Awesome Family Holiday by Witty hoots

Todays guest post is by Helen you may have seen her writing from Peakle Pie earlier in the month, today she is back sharing tips from her lifestyle blog Witty Hoots on how to have an awesome family holiday  

Hi I’m Helen, a former primary school teacher and art historian.  I write for Witty Hoots which is a family, home and lifestyle focused blog and I have a passion for sharing top tips and frugal ideas!

As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer it means that our thoughts turn to spending more time away from school or work.  So we decided to share 3 fun ways to spend time together as a family during the holidays without having to go away!

What’s On for Free or Nearly Free!
You will be surprised what is on in your local area.  Most local museums or art galleries will have a holiday programme that is family friendly.  Some of the places we have visited will have a little quiz where you have to find certain objects or characters dotted about the displays.  These are great for keeping youngsters interested and engaged.  Sometimes there will be a small prize once they have completed the tasks.
If this is not available where you are visiting, why not take a notepad for each child and get them to find different things.  It could be to look for a certain colour, a certain object or to draw something interesting.  Once they have found five things each, then you can give them a small prize of their own, whatever your budget allows.
Even if the place you want to visit does not have a specific programme, you can have a great day out exploring and learning about all sorts of different things.  You will be amazed at what you can discover and you will be teaching your family the value of museums or galleries too.
Another great source is your local town council, park or library.  Often there may be a special themed day, with activities and entertainment for the whole family.  Often there are opportunities to find out new things, or to just have the space to kick a ball around and share a simple picnic.

Visit the Cinema or Have a Movie Day
Lots of cinemas will now have reduced price special viewings for kids during the holidays or on the weekends.  Often the film will be released a few years ago, but most kids will enjoy a visit to the big screen regardless of what is playing.
If this is too expensive or you don't have a cinema nearby that has a kid’s morning, why not have a movie day or night.  Add lots of cushions, some well-placed snacks and close the curtains to make it feel like a real cinema.  You can get lots of movies via your TV or splash out on a new DVD and don't forget to invite some friends over to share the day

Grab the Board Games and have a Games Tournament!
We all have board games tucked away in the attic or in a cupboard.  Games we used to play when we were kids, before 24 hour TV or computer games.  This is also a great way to have fun as a family, regardless of age and gender.
Choose some board games that have simple rules.  These are usually easier to set up and play, without having to refer to the rulebook all the time.  Familiar games also mean there is less chance of arguments too.  If you have the room, set up more than one board game and if you have a variety of ages and abilities then why not have teams instead of individual players.  
Set your rules before you begin.  Are you going to play the game to its end, think about how long each game takes to play or are you going to set a time limit?  
Set yourself off with three games to start with and play about an hour on each.  Remember snacks and breaks in between, this lets team members to discuss their tactics and sort out who will be the principal player for the next game.
Don't know which games to play?  Why not try mixing it up with kids games as well.  For example, you could play Trivia Pursuit, Chess and Kerplunk!  
We hope that this has given you some ideas on how you can have a fun family holiday without breaking the budget or having to leave your own town!

What fab ideas, Im especially a fan of Board Game Tournaments. although its gets rather heated with my rowdy bunch! You can follow Witty Hoots on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook

Other related posts:

Monday, 28 March 2016

A tale of 3 births by North East Family Fun

My lovely Blogging Bestie (yes that is a very real term ok!) Sam from North East Family Fun agreed to share her birth stories with me (and all of you obviously) after I read her husband, describe himself on his blog as 'deliverer of my own offspring' well you all know I love a good homebirth and a good birth story so I was straight on messenger to ask all about it, I shan't spoil things as you can read about Sam and Steve's 3 birth stories here.....

Harry - born in September 2006

I remember being pregnant with Harry and walking around in my own little bubble. It is soon exciting being pregnant for the first time. I bought every book and attended every course going, we even practised putting nappies on some of my old teddy bears to prepare us. I knew that every birth was different and was open to anything. In my own head though I hoped for a drug-free water birth,
34 weeks with Harry

At 42 weeks I was still pregnant and despite 3 x membrane sweeps, Harry wasn’t keen on making an appearance so we were booked in for an induction 16 days past my due date. I remember sitting on a ward and being hooked up to monitors……my natural water birth seemed like a dream now. As the midwives did the rounds examining our cervix and placing pessaries it all seemed so clinical but I didn’t mind, my baby would be here soon!

Unfortunately Steve had to go home at around 9pm and I tried to get some rest (yeah right).

In the middle of the night I remember my contractions getting stronger and stronger and didn’t really want to bother anyone but then suddenly I had a real overwhelming urge to push. I pressed my buzzer and was put in a wheelchair and taken to the delivery suite. As I hadn’t had any real medical intervention and baby was still ok I was able to attempt a water birth - yeah! I was by myself though which was pretty scary. The hospital had phoned Steve and he was on his way.

My midwife asked if I wanted some gas and air whilst she filled the pool and I tried it but hated the loss of control so preferred to just deal with the pain. I just kept thinking that every contraction was a step closer to meeting Harry. The pool seemed to take forever to fill but eventually it was time to get in. OMG I can’t tell you the relief - it really helped to take the pressure off my contractions and felt like a large, safe cocoon. I had a student midwife and a midwife with me at this point and medical intervention was kept to an absolute minimum. They used an underwater monitor to monitor baby’s heartbeat every once in a while and that was it.

Steve arrived shortly after and within about 20 minutes Harry was born. He was born inside his membranes which is apparently very rare the midwife popped them under the water and then he was brought up on my chest, keeping warm under the water. We stayed there for a while before he was taken for his checks and I got out of the pool to deliver the placenta, face the terror of stitches (the worst part I think!) and then shower ect…… Out of all my births, it’s mad that my first was probably my easiest and least terrifying.

Heidi - born in April 2009

My pregnancy with Heidi was a lot more traumatic. I suffered very badly from SPD and had to use crutches to walk around. Climbing the stairs to our upstairs flat was absolutely excruciating and no one can describe the pain until you experience it yourself - it is so much worse than child birth! I battled through though. I did consider a home birth with Heidi but then worried how it would work in our small flat so decided on a hospital pool birth again although I was still open to options. 

36 weeks with Heidi

Three days after Heidi’s due date I had my ‘show’ and started to feel contractions in the morning. Harry went off to Grannies house and I just stayed at home with Steve trying to make myself comfortable with baths ect….. I was having contractions from 7:30am but they weren’t regular - sometimes they would be 10 minutes apart, sometimes 7 and then up to 12 minutes apart. They were pretty painful but I was adamant I didn’t want pain relief. We phoned the hospital twice through the day but were told if I didn’t want pain relief and my contractions weren’t 3-5 minutes apart I should stay at home. At 6:30pm I phoned again - surely after 11 hours of contractions I should go in but the answer again was no because I didn’t want pain relief and they weren’t three minutes apart.

At 8pm I got up to go to the loo and this massive force just passed over my body. I needed to push and I needed to right now. I phoned the hospital and told them I was coming in. However I then realised I was absolutely rooted to the spot and couldn’t move, I could actually feel Heidi starting to deliver. I quickly pulled my PJ bottoms off and could feel Heidi’s head crowning. The midwife on the phone asked her colleague to phone an ambulance and tried to talk me onto the floor but I just couldn’t move. I managed to bend over our sofa and in one push Heidi was born. Luckily, Steve was there to catch! I then turned around and sat on the floor and Steve passed Heidi to me. A few minutes later the paramedics turned up. They cut the cord, wrapped us up and we were ‘blue lighted’ to hospital. Me lying on the bed in absolute shock which was the worst feeling ever and Steve holding Heidi on the chair. I delivered the placenta in hospital and we were discharged soon after. The midwife I spoke with on the phone came over to see us on the ward which was a nice touch. Everything was thankfully fine but I do often think how badly this could have ended. I honestly do believe I was failed by the RVI during this birth. 
Hours after Heidi's birth

Jack - born December 2010

25 weeks with Jack

Heidi wasn’t even a year old and I was pregnant again. This time the SPD was excruciating and I really struggled living in an upstairs flat with a toddler and a baby whilst being on crutches and not being able to drive a lot of the time. I used to cry with the pain, it truly was horrendous. Thank goodness for my mam and Steve who really were the most amazing support. SPD is the main reason I won’t have anymore babies, I simply couldn’t go through it again.

Being heavily pregnant in December is not fun, especially when we spent a lot of our time being snowed in. I will never forget the time when ASDA were supposed to deliver my shopping on 20th December for Christmas and just didn’t turn up, blaming the weather. I was 40 weeks pregnant at home with a baby and toddler and couldn’t walk or drive to the shop. Steve was working 12 hours too so I was pretty much stranded :-( That’s another story though.

Jack was again, three days late and on 22nd December I had my ‘show’ and started having contractions. I phoned the hospital after around 4 hours and told them I was coming in no matter what. I was only 3cm dilated but I refused to let them send me home. This was at around teatime on 21st.

My contractions were regular but again not close together. They were also the most painful contractions I’ve ever experienced! The midwives were keen to get things moving and said I should go for a walk around the hospital and pop to the hospital canteen. Were they having a laugh?? I felt like I was leaking water with every contraction and wasn’t dealing with the pain very well. I did want to get things moving though so did as I was told. It was embarrassing though and I felt mortified :-(

We were put into the same birthing suite where I had Heidi and the student that had been present at that birth was now my actual midwife which was nice. Steve had a sickness bug so spent most of the night in our en-suite loo and I remember listening to Mumford and Sons over and over again. The pain was ridiculous but I really didn’t want pain relief, it was then that I discovered Jack was back to back. I asked to get into the pool and they started filling it up. Meanwhile I started googling ‘back to back’ labour during contractions and wish I hadn’t - pain and forceps were mentioned far too many times!

Just like Heidi I all of a sudden had an overwhelming urge to push. The pool wasn’t ready for me yet but within about 30 seconds he was born. I didn’t even make it onto the bed.

What I loved about Jack’s birth was that we were given a super quick discharge and were sent home after a couple of hours - this is exactly what I wanted as I was traumatised by spending days being ignored on the post-labour ward after my first birth.

I won’t be having anymore children due to my SPD and I feel like my family is complete now. If I was going to have anymore I would definitely opt for a home birth now that we have a lovely house rather than an upstairs flat.

Thankyou Sam for sharing, and well caught Steve!!

If you have a birth story you would like to share, email

Friday, 25 March 2016

Fresh Flower Mask Making - By Peakle Pie

I'm very excited to have a guest post today from Helen at Peakle Pie, she has provided a fab activity perfect for springtime

Hello!  I’m Helen, Mum to Peakles my five year old daughter.  Peakles and I have been crafting, learning, playing for many years and I write about it on our blog called Peakle Pie.  We love playing and we love creating things from the books that have inspired us! 

I try to maintain that ‘hands on’ feel with our site and Peakles is involved with every craft and activity featured.  We aim to share our creative ideas for inspiring minds with Peakle Pie!

I try to maintain that ‘hands on’ feel with our site and Peakles is involved with every craft and activity featured.  We aim to share our creative ideas for inspiring minds with Peakle Pie!

 How to Make a Fresh Flower Mask
Fresh Flower Masks!  How about this idea for an Easter bonnet alternative or as a kid’s activity for a party?  Peakles loves going to craft shops with me and recently spotted some masks in one.  The masks were similar to the types that you would wear to a masquerade ball or as part of a costume.  Plus they were relatively cheap, so we purchased some for some extra special crafting!
We wanted to give the masks a flower theme and Peakles suggested picking some flowers out of our garden to help decorate them.  We selected a few flowers and then began to create our fresh flower masks!
 Materials and Equipment Needed
  • blank bought or homemade masquerade ball masks      
  • ribbon      
  • marker pens      
  • flowers      
  • stick on jewels      
  • sticky glue dots       
  • fresh flowers

How We Made Our Fresh Flower Masks
First Peakles chose some nice ribbon to tie her mask onto her head.  Next, she took some of the markers and coloured in the mask.  She chose some oranges and reds for autumn and some greens and yellows for summer.  We left these to dry whilst we picked some flowers from our garden.  
Once the mask was dry, Peakles added some stick on jewels and then added some of the sticky dots to the mask too.  She carefully selected some of the fresh flowers we had picked and pressed these onto the sticky dots.  Finally, Peakles asked me to tie her mask onto her head and she then danced about to some music in the garden!

Why not try other materials to use on your masks such as
  • buttons
  • coloured foil
  • glitter
  • feathers
  • rice or lentils
As you can see Peakles loved making and wearing these masks!  She has asked if we can do this again when her school friend visits for tea, we will have a great afternoon crafting and dressing up too!

You can find Peakle Pie on facebook , twitter  and pinterest  and why not have a look at some of Helens other posts here 

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Blaze and The Monster Machines STEM Party

So we recently helped Nick Jr and UkMumsTv celebrate the launch of daily Blaze episodes and the new amazing Fisher Price toys by hosting a Twitter Party alongside a STEM themed party at home. Blaze is a great animated TV show with roots in STEM helping children learn about Science Technology Engineering and Maths . We were sent an amazing selection of things to help us party Blaze stylee...

We started the party with the Science activity, now our age range was from 2-8 years old so we may not (totally didn't) have followed the instructions precisely but basically we were looking at density and why some things float and some things don't. we looked at some items a cork, a paper clip, toy car, a ball, some buttons and lego and discussed whether each would sink of float. Then we tested our theory's then we played guess what is in the egg based on what we had found and amazingly (to the children) all the eggs floated no mater what item was inside!

Technology task saw us looking at which parts of the car do which jobs and colour coding them appropriately, I'll be honest we have a bunch of free spirited children so this task soon turned into 'I'm gonna colour it the way I want' but they all enjoyed themselves

Next up Engineering, tasked with building an assault course we made self supporting 3d shapes from cocktail sticks and jelly tots, built ramps and chicanes from lolly sticks, cardboard tubes and card. Then we fired our card from the Blaze Launcher to see who could get furthest along the course. The kids loved building things and really let their imaginations run away, creating dramatic stories about how the cars would handle each part of the course

We were kindly provided snack by kiddylicious and these went down a treat as a little break time before our next activity.

For the maths we built a ramp using the toy launch pack and the Blaze launcher toy then set out a tape measure and took it in turns to see who could make their car go furthest (me obviously but I kept that quiet) and next up we moved on to a food activity before sitting down to watch a special feature length episode of Blaze on Nick Jnr

For the food activity we made wagon wheel biscuits (or oreos for my dairy fee termite) into Monster truck wheels, we cut the centre of the biscuit with a cookie cutter then decorated with icing and chocolate chips, kiddylicious wrigglers and sprinkles. At this point I committed a massive rookie error, realising I had left my camera in the hall i left to get it so i could take some pictures of our awesome creations and when I returned .....

The party guests were ready to settle down to watch Blaze and see who would win the Race to the Top of the World (I shan't spoil it) and then it was time to leave with our awesome goody bags. We had a fab time as you can see so thanks Nick Jr Uk MumsTV

and Fisher Price for providing all we needed for an amazing education and fun STEM themed Blaze and The Monster Machines Party

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Preparing Your Family For A Terrorist Attack

Today I cried. Again! Over the awful terrifying horror of yet another terrorist attack.

Last June, packed for our holidays (three days later) I saw the horrific news breaking of Tunisia's Terror Attack 38 people we're shot on the beach and throughout the hotel in June 2015, this was not the first attack in the popular tourist destination but sadly it brought an end to Tunisia's tourist trade. UK holiday company's have cancelled all flights until then end of the 2016 summer season. We had to tell our children that we couldn't go and give them a brief but honest ( we try not to tell fibs) reason why not.

That is when the fear started, we have 3 YOUNG children! How do you protect them through the chaos and the carnage, they don't run fast, they are kids they scare easily. How the hell would we have survived. But you try not to think too much about the fear , or honestly I may never leave the house!

Then this year we had to talk to them about terrorism when Peanut was worried that her wee pal had been in Paris when simultaneous co-ordinated terror attacks killed 130 and left hundreds wounded. She was scared that her pal had only gone to see the Disney people but something awful could have happened. I hate that I have to talk to my 7 year old about why someone would want to kill people!

And so the worry gets stronger, the world is an awful scary dangerous place and I don't want my baby's in danger.

Then yesterday in a country I love and have travelled to numerous times, a country with a special place in my heart because my Great Nana loved it too, more than 30 people were killed by multiple attacks at the airport and on the Metro. Now I've been to Brussels airport and I'll tell you security has always been tight. I'm always searched (yes I'm the one who always sets off the buzzer!) So for this to happen is shocking and the images of pushchairs standing amid the wreckage have had me in pieces.

I know I worry more than most and if I'm honest I could let fear take hold of me just leaving the house because there really is danger everywhere if you let your mind wander. But my husband and I decided that for our peace of mind we need to talk to the kids about public emergencies, what to do if there is a fire or (we didn't give them these examples) an explosion or gunfire

When I was chatting on Facebook to a friend about Brussels and I mentioned it sickens me that my husband and I had planned a chat about this with the kids, her pal from Paris said she had similar conversations with her child and that a video had been shown in schools there, it turns out our government has made one to with the key points for a weapons attack being RUN HIDE TELL. 

The husband and I talked about being aware of our surrounding, knowing where the exits are and the importamce of knowing whats normal for where you are, without being paranoid, are there unattended parcels or bags, are people blocking the exits are the exits clear and available.

For the kids we explained that in public spaces and when we are away from home we need them to be listening and staying nearby, if there is a commotion with loud noises and screaming they are to

  • Hold on to one of us (we in turn will shout to ensure the other knows that all children are accounted for) 
  • That they are to do what we say with no questions if we tell them we are in emergency evacuation, and (and this is the bit that tears me up) 
  • If Mammy and Daddy can not move to help them they must go immediately to the safety of a uniform. 

Don't get me wrong the idea of my kids fending for themselves makes me sick and I know they could get confused and awful things could happen but we needed some kind of plan in place so they and we know that we have to try to stick together and get out.

I will end by saying that as fearful as I am to travel any time soon, we must have trust that security will get tighter and tighter and that we can not live in fear we can't stop our lives because this is terrifying and there are families torn apart because of these attacks but we must just be cautious 

Monday, 21 March 2016

10 Super Snacks

My kids are big fans of snack time, in fact we have it at least twice a day when we aren't at school so I'm always on the look out for easy prep (preferably no cook) snack ideas. One thing we really love to use both in and out of the house is this snakeez.

I'm going to be truthful I didn't want to love it quite as much as I do, because lets face it with an rrp of £9.99 its a fairly expensive piece of kid kit. But I really do think its awesome and the kids fight over who gets to use it ( obviously I now have to buy another 2!) here's our vlog review...

OK so here are our 10 favourite go to snacks
  1. Cheereos with raisins - honestly I think the kids spend as much time inserting each raisin into a cheerio than they do eating but hey 30 minutes of quiet is not to be sniffed at, right?
  2. Apple, cheese grapes (cut lengthways to stop choking risk!) and ritz cakers
  3. Geo Bars from traidcraft 
    These are a new discovery for us, we were sent 3 boxes, one apricot, one berries and one chocolate. I love the ethics behind the bars, with responsibly sourced fair trade ingredients but I also loved that they are full of delicious mix of wholesome natural ingredients with  lots of fruit and seeds, taste awesome and my Termite can have the fruity ones as they are dairy and soya free you can read more about them here. But i promise they are really tasty a great breakfast quick fix if you are in a rush (ALWAYS) and they went down a storm here at Monkeyfeet HQ
  4. Flap Jacks - we make these in no time at all by mixing, oats, mixed dried fruit, a mashed banana, a dollop of peanut butter and a glug of choc shot a big squeeze of honey and some olive oil. I never measure but you just need a stiff sticky mixture, then spread it in a lined baking tray about 2 cm thick and bake on moderate for 15 minutes, allow to cool then chop and enjoy.
  5. Cheerio Tray Bake - I love this recipe from My Fussy Eater its so easy and tasty, although as I'm not a fan of sprinkles I leave them off for us (selfish mama) 
  6. Bread Sticks and Hummus or soft cheese for my dairy eaters
  7. Crustless Quiche- mix up 3 eggs some ham, cottage cheese , cheese and sweetcorn then bake in oiled muffin trays until cooked through. Totally gorgeous as a cold quick snack
  8. Hummus Snails - we spread humus on tortilla wraps, roll tightly then chop about 1cm thick slices so they look like swirl snails
  9. Strawberries and Apricots
  10. Soreen Squidgy Cakes
    We discovered the banana bar version of these lunch box friendly snacks a little while ago as we found out they were dairy and soya free for Termite so I was eager to try out the new Toffee and Chocolate flavours with the big kids (sadly these are not dairy free0 the kids liked them a lot but declared they were too small! I love that they are under 100 calories so I don't feel guilty snacking on them 

So tell me your favourite snack ideas, I'm always keen to try new ideas