Days Out, Holidays and Travel

We are quite an active family and enjoy making the most of our weekends and school holidays to get out and about and spend time together as a family. On Muff and Teacake I aim to make recommendations for special places to visit, either for a day out, a weekend away or a holiday… I endeavour to ensure that all my recommendations are appropriate for family visits, with enough to do to keep both children and their parents happy!

We are based in Kent, so some of the places recommended will be close to use and perfect for those who live in the SE of England. We do venture further afield though to visit family and friends, and will share these adventures with you too!

Whatever you’re looking for there will be something on Muff and Teacake to inspire your choices for days out, holidays and travel!

Visiting Petersham Nurseries Richmond

Well, over the past couple of weeks I’ve been following my own advice, and embracing all the joy that a change of seasons brings with it! I’ve been out and about and we had a wonderful family visit to Petersham Nurseries last weekend!

Petersham Nurseries has long been on my ‘to visit’ list, as I’ve heard nothing but good things from friends! Their website is gloriously tempting, and any business with this quote has to be worth a visit…

“A PLACE OF BEAUTY, AN EMPORIUM OF GOODS AND A CELEBRATION OF THE SEASONS.”

Visiting Petersham Nurseries Richmond

Petersham Nurseries is perhaps most well-known to foodies for the Petersham Nurseries Cafe and Teahouse. The food, freshly grown and seasonal, speaks for itself – as do the sometimes super long queues to get into the cafe! The ambience is bustling but relaxed and truly eclectic. I loved the variety of wooden tables, reclaimed chairs and bamboo covered roof.

Despite the long queues, there are plenty of chairs and tables dotted around, both inside and outside the greenhouse. Many of these are cleverly placed amongst huge pots and urns brimming with gorgeous seasonal plants. The tables have smaller glass jars bursting with colour!

The Teahouse is adjacent to the Cafe, and provides a sophisticated yet casual restaurant dining experience.

Nursery and Garden Shop

At the heart of the business is the Nursery and Garden Shop, which stock both familiar and unusual specimens of plants and flowers, alongside beautiful artisan gardening tools and equipment. Everything flows seamlessly, as home and garden become entwined!

The Shop at Richmond is a truly unparalleled lifestyle and homewares shop, selling a diverse, unique and eclectic range of gifts, furniture and antiques. The shop is renowned for its ever-changing selection of chandeliers, glassware, mirrors and antique furniture, sourced locally and internationally.

The displays are truly breathtaking and inspirational too! There really is something for almost everyone!

Due to its’ popularity, Petersham Nurseries gets very busy. With the restaurant and cafe dominating the space, it’s easy to miss the hidden gems on view. Take your time, double check you’ve walked all around and enjoy a true feast for the eyes and the senses!

Finally, parking is very very limited, so use public transport unless you absolutely have to drive!

Happy shopping!

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A Blogging Break at Lake Annecy

I think one of the difficulties as a blogger is finding the right balance between life and blogging! As bloggers we do tend to feel guilty if we’re not blogging regularly, and always wonder what impact that will have on our followers and our ability to be noticed! Having said that life is often about balance, and as a blogger I constantly try to achieve the right balance between keeping an up-to-date blog and yet ensuring my posts are genuine and have something meaningful/relevant to say. I don’t want to write somewhat bland ‘time-filling’ pieces of possibly meaningless text.

A Blogging Break at Lake Annecy

I guess what I’m really saying is that this summer I have taken a rather spontaneous blogging break and feel so much more refreshed and focused for it! It’s surprising how when you stop trying too hard and simply relax you somehow become much clearer about your priorities and ideas for developing your blog and/or business and moving on! We have a family photography business and we have found the break has refocused us with this too, new ideas and aims seem to come naturally when you don’t try too hard! We’re even offering our wedding photography collections for Lake Annecy for 2017 and 2018!

So here are a few images from our summer holiday, it was short yet sweet and spent in one of the most beautiful areas of France – Lake Annecy. I also managed to tick something off last years birthday list too! We really were blessed with everything we wanted for a family holiday, opportunities to sightsee, time to relax by the pool, glorious hot sunny days and mountain cool mornings and evenings to refresh and re-energise! Needless to say, as two keen photographers we had to choose somewhere with lots of photo opportunities, and Lake Annecy provided them in abundance!

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We hope to return (for work and pleasure!) to what has become one of our all-time favourite holiday destinations!

If you are planning a visit to Lake Annecy we’ll happily provide some recommendations, please do get in touch!

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Visiting Penshurst Place

Penshurst Place is a beautiful and very historic building situated near Tonbridge in Kent. It is the ancestral home of the Sidney family (who still continue to live there), and was the birthplace of the great Elizabethan poet, courtier and soldier, Sir Philip Sidney.

A guide to visiting Penshurst Place in Kent

The original medieval house is one of the most complete surviving examples of 14th-century domestic architecture in England. Part of the house and its gardens are open for public viewing between March and October. During the winter months the gardens are open on select weekends and during the school half-term in February.

Penshurst Place for families The orchard at Penshurst Place

Visiting Penshurst Place

Penshurst Place was built in 1341 and described as “the grandest and most perfectly preserved example of a fortified manor house in all England”. Visitors are able to take a tour of the 10 rooms open to the public including the impressive medieval Baron’s Hall. There are extensive gardens, grounds and parkland to explore, with lots of public footpaths, walking trails and a regional cycle route open all year.

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Attractions for children include a huge Adventure Trail play area (very popular with my two children!), a woodland trail and a maize maze which is also a major attraction in the summer. Open in the school holidays and half terms, The Old Coach House hosts free children’s craft activities providing hours of fun for parents and children to make and create together. There is also a toy museum, where you can browse a collection of toys from Yootha Rose, stage designer, artist and royal toymaker, as well as toys from generations of the Sidney family.

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The Porcupine Pantry is located next to the main Visitor Entrance and Gift Shop, serving light refreshments, it is open daily all year and free to visit. Set within the Gardens of Penshurst Place and close to the House entrance, the Garden Restaurant also offers a selection of quality home-cooked style hot and cold lunch menus during their seasonal opening hours.

If you are planning on visiting Penshurst Place in Kent, please visit their website to check opening times and for a comprehensive guide on accessibility and admission prices.

It really is a lovely place to visit during the summer holidays!

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Bewl Water for Families

Bewl Water is well known to those of us living in Kent, as it is the largest stretch of open water in South East England. The 800 acre site is set in an area of outstanding natural beauty in the heart of the High Weald and is open all year round.

It is situated near the picturesque town of Lamberhurst close to beautiful Scotney Castle, and is within an hours drive of Tunbridge Wells, Hastings, Tonbridge, Maidstone, Ashford, Eastbourne and Sevenoaks via the adjacent A21.

Reservoir Bewl Water

The reservoir Bewl Water Bewl Water for Families

We were invited to spend a family day at Bewl Water, and were interested to see how it had changed since changing ownership at the beginning of the year. Phil, one of the Managers, was our host for part of the day and it was lovely to see his enthusiasm for such a stunning location with so much to offer families.

Bewl Water reservoir

Bewl Water reservoir Bewl Water is already well known for offering a fantastic range of leisure and recreational activities, including fishing, cycling and boating on and around the reservoir with a centre, conference venue, restaurant and café on the shoreline.

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Our children loved the lakeside walks (we completed a mini walk as there was so much to see and do!) and visiting the adventure playgrounds, one of which has an absolutely enormous slide – surely the longest slide in Kent!

Bewl Water adventure playground

Play area, Bewl Water Water Taxi Bewl Water We were lucky enough to have a great ride on the water taxi, and this was possibly the highlight of the day for our children! A trip out on the pedalloes next time might change their mind though!

Bewl Water pedalloes

Our children are especially excited that this summer visitors to Bewl Water Country Park will also be able to enjoy a relaxing cruise on the water aboard a 70 seater vessel, to be named Bewl Belle. There are two new jetties too, so you will be able to be picked up and dropped off at whichever point you want.

New jetty Bewl Water

New jetty Bewl Water We had lunch at the newly refurbished Waterfront Cafe, and were impressed by the quality of the food, friendly service and stunning lakeside views. We’re also considering a return visit (possibly without the children!) for a meal at the gorgeous Boat House Bistro – the freshly caught trout appeals!

Land train Bewl Water

There is also a new land train (always a winner with our son!) and a Kids Academy for learning basic driving skills. Bikes for adults and children are available to hire along with trailers and child seats, and free helmets. You can also learn to be a better biker with one-to-one Learn To Ride lessons, Mountain Bike Spin classes, Led Leisure Rides and Maintenance Courses for children and adults.

Bewl Water

A review of Bewl Water There is no doubt that Bewl Water is definitely on the map for us as a family, and with parking at £2 for a day it’s also amazing value for money for visitors of all ages!

Bewl Water visitors

Thank you Phil for a great day out and for introducing us to the infinite possibilities we have to enjoy Bewl Water in the coming weeks and months – we’ll be back and probably spend quite a lot of our summer there too!

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Visiting Whitstable in Kent

There’s nothing nicer than a family day out at the seaside, and we think that one of the nicest seaside’s to visit is Whitstable in Kent.

Visiting Whitstable in Kent

Whitstable harbour was built in 1832 by the Canterbury and Whitstable railway company in order to serve the ‘Crab and Winkle’ line, the world’s first passenger railway service. The Crab and Winkle line also carried coal, and linked Canterbury and London via a steam ship from Whitstable harbour. Today the harbour fish markets are popular with locals and tourists, and a couple of restaurants (including the famous and hugely popular The Crab and Winkle) are also situated in the harbour, ready to serve up the day’s catch. In the summer months, visitors flock to the stalls and restaurants, ready to enjoy superbly fresh sea food, including the famous Whitstable oysters.

Whitstable Oysters Whitstable Whitstable is well-known for its culinary delights, and these extend beyond the harbour to the town, where there are plenty of restaurants, bistros and coffee shops ready to serve the visitors who flock to this seaside town in the summer months. We were spoilt for choice when we visited! Whitstable High Street Whitstable Shops Whitstable Shops When visiting Whitstable you can also pay a visit to the RNLI shop and have a peek at their lifeboat station where you can see their newest lifeboat, Atlantic 85 ‘Lewisco’, active since 25th October 2014. In close proximity is the Whitstable Yacht Club, where racing yachts are parked along the beach, and the wooden launching jetty runs down into the water. Whitstable Beach Thumbs up for Whitstable Whitstable Beach The beach at Whitstable

The pebble beach at Whitstable is divided into sections by large wooden barriers known as ‘groynes’, these give the beach a more secluded and private feel, and it’s lovely when you find a section of beach which you can have to yourself, your own private beach!

The town of Whitstable grew from the main road to Canterbury, now known as the High Street (and awash with lots of pretty shops, boutiques and galleries), and the cobbled streets and alleyways developed as local residents wanted quick access to the beaches. The multitude of very narrow alleys also served as convenient escape routes for smugglers, as Whitstable was, like most Kentish coastal towns, awash with the illegal trade in tobacco and spirits.

Famous for its thriving culinary, arts, fishing and sailing communities, Whitstable has something to inspire and delight all tastes.

If you’re planning on visiting Whitstable, please share your experiences – I’d love to hear from you!

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Bluebell Heaven at Riverhill Gardens

One of the lovely things about blogging with Riverhill Himalayan Gardens is having an excuse to visit frequently and watch the seasons continually unfold! Riverhill is an amazing location, and having blogged about some of their forthcoming events I had to pop down and see their bluebell festival myself!

Bluebell Heaven at Riverhill Gardens

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A beautiful home…

 

My children had an extra day off from school last week (their school was closed as it was being used as a polling station), so we decided to head to Riverhill for a morning of fun! We arrived as the gardens were opening and it was peaceful, quiet and the early morning light was simply beautiful!

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Into the woods…
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Bluebell heaven…

 

After a quick drink and snack in their café we decided to head straight for the woodland walks and hoped we’d still be able to catch a little bluebell magic! We weren’t disappointed, and although the bluebells had probably been at their best a week or two before, we were quickly rewarded with glorious carpets of colour which were simply breath-taking!

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So much to see and do!

 

There is always so much to see at Riverhill, and there was also plenty of blossom to admire, an absolutely stunning magnolia by the walled garden, and a very tantalising glimpse of some of the many rhododendrons starting to come into flower! We’re already planning our next visit, which might involve a little Yeti spotting! We’re big fans of the yeti, ever since we read Yeti and the Bird!

The walled garden at Riverhill is one of our favourite areas, and during their season they have some wonderful performances there. The next one is Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and the ‘beautifully British and bonkers’ cycling Handlebards will be performing in The Walled Garden itself. Tickets are £15 for adults and £10 for children, you can purchase tickets here.

People possibly forget that Riverhill is a truly spectacular venue for theatre and music, possibly one of the most unique venues in Kent.

Have you visited Riverhill? If you have I’d love to hear from you! I’ll be sharing more Riverhill photos on my Instagram feed – Muff and Teacake.

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Comfortable and Stylish Moshulu Summer Sandals

It seems as if we’ve had every kind of weather during the last few weeks – sun, rain, wind, sleet and even some unexpected snow! Despite this I am still hoping we’ll see some lovely summer weather soon, and the new Moshulu summer sandals range is inspiring me to start planning my summer wardrobe! As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of Moshulu, whatever the season (or seasons!) we find ourselves in!

Comfortable and Stylish Moshulu Summer Sandals

I absolutely love the SS16 ranges of Moshulu sandals and wanted to introduce you to two particular ranges which I think are amazing!

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Gorgeous Fruit Punch!
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Captivating colours…
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Super soft!

 

The Moshulu Fruit Punch sandals are a hugely popular design from Moshulu, known for their comfort, style and quality. They have a natural cork footbed which makes them super comfortable and perfect to wear, whatever your foot shape. As someone who sometimes needs a wide fitting shoe, I never find it a problem getting a truly comfortable fit when I buy from Moshulu.

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Pretty shades for summer days…
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So tempting!
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One in every colour?

 

The only problem with the Fruit Punch range is their choice of lovely colours (navy, orange, pistachio and tan) – it makes it so hard to choose just one pair! These sandals are also multi-coloured with a distinctive colour palette for each sandal, but if you’d rather stick to one colour then have a look at the Ginger Ale range too!

Ginger Ale has the same flexible cork footbed and size heel, but comes in a range of single colours including chocolate, fuschia, orange, pistachio, sapphire, tan and turquoise.

If you’re in any doubt about how lovely these sandals are I’ve added a few lifestyle images to my post, from my super blogging friend Lucy …

Bring on the summer and happy sandal choosing!

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NB – This is not a paid for or sponsored post, and all opinions on the Moshulu summer sandals are my own.

Visiting The Ideal Home Show 2016

There is something quite special about the Ideal Home Show, it’s been around for decades (since 1908 to be precise!) and was for many years organised by The Daily Mail. I remember visiting it in the 1990’s with my Mum and being blown away by all the exhibitors! I also remember coming home with a bag full of ‘goodies’, it really was sample heaven! We seem to have a family tradition of visiting as I’ve since found out my Grandfather would take an afternoon off work and visit back in the 1950’s!

Visiting The Ideal Home Show 2016

This year was my first visit in over a decade, and I was astonished at how much had changed! The bags of ‘goodies’ and ‘samples’ have all but disappeared, but the sheer scale of it has to be seen to be believed! The exhibition venue is simply enormous, and I defy anyone to see it all in a day!

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It’s huge!
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Vast exhibition stands!

 

The size and scale of the exhibition isn’t for the faint hearted, and if you are thinking of attending next year I suggest you do some online research first and decide which areas or suppliers you want to visit. That way you are guaranteed to get what you want to get from your visit, rather than simply wandering around feeling a little lost!

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Familiar companies are well represented!

 

The one guarantee is that there is something for everyone, and whatever you are looking for you will find at least one supplier ready and willing to give advice, from blinds to bathrooms to barbecues – it’s all there! Established providers such as British Gas are there to give advice and guidance, alongside smaller bespoke companies.

The ‘real houses’ are well worth a visit, as are the Good Homes room sets – as these give a wealth of ideas and inspiration in one location and under one roof – pun intended! They look tiny when viewed from the upper balcony, but are completely to scale when you actually walk around or view them!

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Real houses to visit!
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Innovative ideas!
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Garden inspiration…
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Something for everyone!
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On trend!

 

The Ideal Home show will return next year from 24th March to 9th April 2017. You can follow on Twitter for your chance to get tickets when they are released.

If you’ve visited the Ideal Home Show 2016 I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments too!

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A Visit to Columbia Road Flower Market

This Easter I had to opportunity to tick another thing off my birthday list – a visit to Columbia Road Flower Market!

Columbia Road is completely transformed every Sunday morning into a bustling, vibrant and scented oasis of foliage and flowers. Everything from shrubs, bedding plants, cut flowers and even small trees are available to buy from the many stallholders who line the street.

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Crowds!

 

It is paradise for flower lovers, and there is so much to choose from you won’t want to leave empty handed! Mindful of the fact that I was spending a whole day walking around London, I treated myself to a bunch of ranunculus flowers, but could easily have come away with so much more!

A Visit to Columbia Road Flower Market

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Floral perfection!

 

Crowds flock to this market, and it’s easy to see why – the flowers and plants are of superb quality and there are some pretty amazing bargains to be had. The whole experience isn’t for the faint hearted though, the crowds can take a bit of getting used to, and our two small children found the whole experience a little daunting!

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Stalls packed with fresh flowers!

 

As well as the market itself, there are lots of independent shops, small art galleries, cup cake shops, vintage clothes stores, English and Italian delis, garden and antique shops – some of which are squeezed into the tiniest of spaces, but all of which have their own individuality, charm and street appeal.

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Street entertainment!
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Shopping!
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Decisions, decisions!

 

There are also a huge number of great pubs, cafes and restaurants, and a local park with a children’s play area if you want to grab a coffee and a slice of cake and get away from the hustle and bustle of Columbia Road itself.

Columbia Road Flower Market and the local shops are open on Sundays from 8am until 3pm  every Sunday of the year – even Easter Sunday!.

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Bargains…
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Or something special?
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Seasonal and fresh!

 

Columbia Road is in the East End of London, on the edge of the city with Shoreditch to the west and Brick Lane and Spitalfields nearby.

Have you been or are you planning a visit to Columbia Road Flower Market, I’d love to hear from you!

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Images – © 2016 Oakhouse Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Our Easter in Photos

Social media can be a strange phenomenon, and I know for many people it’s like marmite – you either love it or loathe it! I try to remain positive about the social media platforms I use, and to see them as a force for good, which they undoubtedly can be! There are occasions though, when social media has a tendency to put pressure on us by portraying and sharing images and posts which can leave some of us feeling less than adequate.

This is especially true when it comes to family life, and it is so easy to read and view what others are doing and all too quickly feel like a failure for not being as active or pro-active as other parents appear to be! Sometimes you have to take these posts with a pinch of salt, they portray a snapshot of family life but rarely tell the whole picture!

I thought long and hard about sharing this post, as I really didn’t want it to become a ‘look at us’ type post extolling the virtues of all the things we did at Easter and portraying a perfect and trouble free holiday season. Yes, we had lots of fun, and yes I hope this post will give people ideas and inspiration, but I do want to set it in context!

Our Easter in Photos

We had quite a few days where we did very little, the children played (and argued!) and we all somehow tried to juggle our various commitments, sometimes failing miserably. We battled the seasonal coughs and colds, and for most of the holiday our house looked like a bomb site! We had days out where we got stuck in traffic queues, where the weather was against us or where our energy levels simply left us uninspired and ready to head for home!

The weather proved unpredictable, and we always left home armed with clothes for every season and our wonderful wellies!

However, we made some lovely memories and certainly had some favourite trips! We visited Greenwich park, and were blown away by the breath taking carpets of daffodils!

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Greenwich Park

 

We met with family in Swansea, and enjoyed a catch-up before heading to beautiful Bath for a photo shoot at Prior Park. We visited Columbia Road Flower Market, The Ideal Home Exhibition, and Riverhill Himalayan Gardens in Kent. All of which provided us with joy and inspiration! We loved the Sweet Sculpture event at Riverhill! The children were asked to make their own dolly-mixture sculptures using a new sculpture installed in the grounds of Riverhill.

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Riverhill Sculpture
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Dolly mixture version!

 

Columbia Road was simply a feast for the eyes, and The Ideal Home Exhibition was an amazing experience, packed with suppliers offering everything you could imagine for your home and garden – from huge stands such as British Gas, to much smaller companies offering bespoke style inspiration.

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Columbia Road…
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Columbia Road tulips…
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A little treat!
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Ideal Home?!

 

We finished the holidays with a brief trip to beautiful Whitstable!

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Beautiful buttons, inspired by the sea…
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Cobbled streets of Whitstable…
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Whitstable Harbour
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Beach textures…

 

Above all we loved this Easter as it gave us a chance to unwind, forget routine and not clock-watch as much as we usually have to!

I hope your Easter was great too!

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Christmas Family Photos 2015

Hello, and Happy 2016! This is my first post of the new year, and I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and a very happy New Year! We had a very busy time, as we also have our wedding anniversary and our daughter’s birthday over the holiday season, so we have had very little time to relax! I know January can be a long and slightly dull month, but I’m already looking forward to a calmer month!

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I’m very excited about 2016, and I’ve already posted about using Vision Boards to help you achieve your goals and dreams for the year ahead, I hope you find it useful!

Christmas Family Photos 2015

Some time ago I met the lovely Lucy from Capture By Lucy, and she commented on the fact that although I post a lot on Instagram I rarely post photos of my children. She is absolutely right although I’m not entirely sure why that is! I suppose I’m wary of putting too many images of them online, and have a natural instinct to protect them a little…

Today, however, I thought I’d give you a glimpse into our family life during 2015 with a collection of images from our pre-Christmas trip to Ghent! I hope you enjoy them and forgive me a self-indulgent moment! Yes, there are a few of our children too!

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This post has served as a good reminder that I need to organise my 2015 images and make up some photo books to remember 2015, especially my Christmas family photos!

How do you store and share your images, are you a fan of photo books or do you have another system? I’d love to hear from you!

In the meantime, you can find my daily images on my Instagram feed, and this year I promise to upload a few more family images too!

Wishing you a happy, healthy and creative 2016!

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Why We’ve Stopped Feeding Bread to the Ducks

The highlight of many of our family trips to country parks has been feeding the ducks, something we all enjoy doing regularly as a family. We’ve routinely taken left-over bread with us, torn it into pieces and thrown it into the water as we watch the ducks swim towards us and fight each other for the crumbs! Little did we realise that we were doing far more harm than good!

Why We’ve Stopped Feeding Bread to the Ducks

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Time to rethink…

 

We feed six million loaves of bread a year to ducks in England and Wales. Research suggests we are causing damage to birds’ health and polluting waterways. Uneaten bread eventually sinks to the bottom of ponds and lakes and causes algal blooms, allows bacteria to breed and attracts rats and other vermin.

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Thinking responsibly about the wildlife…

 

Bread is also detrimental to the health of the birds, as it provides little or no nutrition, despite filling them up. A spokeswoman for the RSPB recently commented that making large quantities of bread easily available stops ducks from eating a natural, balanced diet.

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My daughter, deep in thought!

 

The answer is however simple, and we can still enjoy feeding the ducks, providing we consider portion control and look for sensible and healthier alternatives to bread. Oats, corn and defrosted frozen peas are much safer for the birds to eat, alongside special duck seed mixes which can now be purchased at many country parks.

It’s a simple change, but one which we can all implement and make all the difference!

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