How to Make a Floral Crown

When the lovely folk at the Flower Appreciation Society invited me along to their flower garland making session, I didn’t hesitate for a moment. I love anything flower-related, always enjoy rolling my sleeves up to do some DIY and live for accessories, so this sounded like a perfect way to spend a Tuesday evening. And when I arrived to find a bottle of wine waiting for the group, I knew this florist company was a little bit different (and a little bit awesome).

Roughly fifteen of us congregated around a huge wooden table which was laden with vases of beautiful fresh flowers. Once we had carefully chosen our stems, with our glass of wine in one hand we listened carefully as Ellie talked us through step by step how to build the garland and we followed along. The materials are fairly simple – all you need is wire, tape, scissors and the flowers – but the method can be a little tricky. We were taught how to wrap the tape down the wire and then how to attach each flower to make up the garland. It was slow, methodical and beautifully relaxing work.

Everyone was there for different reasons; many had upcoming weddings and wanted to make their own garland for the big day (tip: do it the morning of for best results and once done, pop it in the fridge), some were just flower fanatics, others were on a evening out with friends. The atmosphere in the studio was one of fuzzy, girly camaraderie. We were like a gaggle of girls, except we weren’t gaggling; we were carefully creating and learning in the process. I left the workshop buzzing, with a spring in my step and inspired to make more of these beauties in my own time. Nearly two weeks later, and I still have my garland – it’s too pretty to throw away so I’m going to dry it and hang it on the wall to preserve it for as long as possible. In the meantime, I have a feeling I have a new favourite hobby…

Here’s my 3 minute video from the day, take a look!

 

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Flower Appreciation Society is run by Ellie and Anna from a studio in Hackney. As well as running  workshops including many at UK Summer festivals, the bulk of their work is providing flowers for events. Oh, and they also have a book out. Pop over to their website for more info.

How To Have An Awesome Road Trip

Road trips are without a doubt my favourite type of holiday; yes, the inside of the car might look like we’ve been hit by a meteorite (I imagine we’ve lost a fair bit of our lives down the backs of various foreign car seats) but we’ve journeyed through some amazing places and had huge amounts of fun in the process. But a successful road trip takes some planning so here’s a post summarising everything we’ve learnt along the many miles we’ve driven and addressing some of the questions that I’ve been asked over the past few months.

Should you bring your own carseat away with you?
This is such a personal question and really depends on a few external factors: how many hands will you have when navigating airports? What country are you visiting ie. are there likely to be good, sturdy carseats available?  What’s your travel budget? How old is your child? How many of them are there?! Historically we’ve opted not to take our own car seats – the pro of this is that you don’t have so much stuff to lug around which is a real priority for us. However the cons are that you never quite know what you’re going to find the other end, they can be pricey to hire and difficult to fit – worth bearing in mind given that car hire companies aren’t legally allowed to help (Cue Sam trying desperately to work it out using his iphone torch in a darkly lit car park whilst an unfriendly man looks on and I wrangle various tired kids). If you do decide to take your own, I would definitely recommend phoning the car rental company ahead of your trip and doing some serious probing into what brand car seat they have and if someone is at least going to be available to advise you how to fit it. Better still, find out the type of car seat and do some research beforehand into how to fix it in the car. This inflatable booster seat looks pretty interesting, and some folk have recommended it to me.

How long is it possible to drive in one go with no breaks before everyone goes a little crazy?
Again, this is very personal and wildly differs from family to family. The key factor is of course the driver and how alert they are / how many children have kept them up in the night and how much your little ones can handle. We can drive 8 hours in one day (with a break) which is our absolute limit and we have to resort to using every single one of the aids I list below. Read on for some other tips..

We want to cover a lot of distance – should we just do a little bit every day?
I would suggest not making every day a driving day – gear yourself (and the kids!) up for one day of a lot of driving and then have a few days rest with ideally no driving at all. The last thing you want to do is make your kids dread getting in the car because they think it’ll just mean hours of driving again.

Where should we stop? I recommend doing some researching and looking ahead to find a nice spot to stop at for something to eat and to stretch everyones’ legs. There’s such a difference between making a deliberate, planned stop somewhere lovely as opposed to reaching breaking point and having to pull over at the nearest petrol station as everyone is just desperate to get out the car. Cafes with play areas are obviously ideal – it’s worth bearing in mind that chains often offer these. The kids had a great time in a McDonalds soft play in a tiny town driving through Arizona!

How do you keep the kids happy? First of all, unless your child really can’t nap in the car try to be driving for the portion of the day when you know they’ll be sleeping. When roadtripping it’s even more important to have loads of snacks, water and wet wipes on you before setting off. Avoid any food that is messy for little ones to eat – even food you don’t think is messy will be messy – that ice lolly above was not a good idea). That said, rather than stress about keeping the car clean, let the good times roll and consider keeping a bit of time and cash aside for popping to the car cleaners before returning your hire car. In terms of entertaining them, we go by the rule that so long as they are happy and quiet, leave them alone! There is so much going on out the window for older children to watch; Jack stares out the window for a good while and remember to bring some toys too – Jack loves just holding trains and for younger children remember to bring a few of the car toys you might use at home along. It’s also fun to tap into everyones’ imagination – we have recently entered the world of i spy which has been really sweet and I’m sure audiobooks are soon to follow. (Any recommendations?) Music is also a real help and when things are looking a bit wobbly, we use bluetooth to connect our Spotify to the car system to put on some nursery rhymes or lullabies. As a last resort we use technology – mainly because I want Jack looking out the window not at a phone but also to avoid any car sickness. If and when necessary though, we do have some apps loaded on Sam’s phone that he can use – he loves the Peppa Pig paintbox app. I love the fact that inside your car is your own space to do whatever you want away from the real world so I’d say embrace that and have some fun.

How do you adults stay sane? One of the main reasons I love roadtrips is that it gives Sam and I a proper opportunity to just chat and catch up in a way that we can’t always manage to do at home. We also load up some podcasts and playlists (Desert Island Discs is our favourite) and we make sure we have shed loads of coffee, water and snacks.

What about if it all gets too much? If shit hits the fan, be prepared for the non driver to clamber into the backseat and soothe children / drip feed them snacks / sing very out of tune lullabies. I’ve spent a fair few journeys doing all of the above and sometimes it just has to be done. Better still, if everyone’s hating it, pull over when you can, grab a coffee and some snacks, and take 30.

Any other quick tips? Don’t ever drive in the dark in an unknown place – we’ve been there, and it wasn’t entirely ideal (you can read more about that here) so set off early and allow plenty of time for traffic, getting lost and spontaneous stops. On the note of directions, do not always rely on Google maps or having signal – if you’re heading somewhere remote, Google Maps might not have it covered or even more likely, there won’t be signal so a good old fashioned map is really worth investing in. We always print directions off so we’re not at the mercy of technology. If you are using your phone for navigation, remember to pack a car adaptor and USB cable for charging phones. Sun shades for the car might be useful to invest in / fashion yourselves – this can really bother children (understandably so). Try to be vaguely organised – everything should have its place – this should avoid too much getting lost. Most of all, have fun!

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I hope you found this post useful – if you’re thinking about doing a roadtrip or have one coming up, just know that they are things might not always be plain sailing, but with a bit of planning I’m sure you’ll all have an awesome time. I find this kind of trip incredibly bonding for you and your family and we always create great memories in the process. If you have any questions, or experiences of your own around roadtripping, I’d love to hear them so pop me a comment below.

Thanks so much for reading and have a fab day,

Emma xxx

What Blogging Means To Me
I love writing blog posts but it doesn’t happen often that I’m actually counting down the minutes til Sonny goes for a nap so that I can get in front of my far too grubby laptop screen and get typing. You see, this is a blog post that I’ve been formulating in my mind for months but it was only when I happened to switch on BBC radio 4 this morning looking for Thought For the day but instead stumbling across an absolutely fascinating programme titled Post Truth and Revolution, that everything fell into place. As with most things in life, there are good sides and there are not so good sides and I battle with both of these when it comes to social media. For me, my blog, YouTube and Instagram are all spaces for me to share passions, ramblings, stories and opinions and which mainly centre on motherhood and travel but also cover everything from my obsession with coffee to how much I dislike scrubbing down a highchair; it’s where I go to find answers and inspiration on everything from why the leaves on my palm tree are turning brown to how to make tofu taste good; it’s where I have made genuine new friends and connected with old ones; it’s a place that has brought me solace when I just felt a bit lonely; where I can unleash some creativity and get excited by a new font and most recently, it’s a place that now earns me income. It’s mine to do whatever I want with, I have no idea where it will take me and I really, truly love it.
On the other hand, the online social media ‘world’ – and it really now is a world – comes with its own complex set of problems. ‘Keeping up with it’ requires effort and takes up a sizeable chunk of my time which I could be using to do any number of other things. On average, a blog post takes 2-3 hours to write and edit – and there are times when I feel real pangs of guilt that I should be doing something in the ‘real world’.
And then there’s the pressure: I often feel I should be posting content in line with what people expect and keep putting ‘something’ out there. This can feel a bit heavy and starts to make social media feel like a chore. It’s a constant balance that takes time to work out. Sam and I now have a rule that we don’t look at our phones whenever we’re around each other, for example, and I keep my phone out of the bedroom. We might glance at them but we don’t sit there, staring at them.
But these are all commonplace problems. What I really, really struggle with about the online world is its ability to destabilize the truth and put out a different reality. As Matthew D’Ancona says in this interview, it can proliferate falsehood – and that’s a really, really serious issue. On a good day, it can just be a different perspective; on a bad day it can spread lies and make people feel shit and affect their whole being.
So I want to make a promise. There are now over 15,000 of you on Instagram which I’m really grateful for and don’t take lightly. I want this space to be something that I’m proud of and that I can tell my kids about when they’re older. I owe it to them, I owe it to myself, I owe it to my patient husband who probably misses out on a bit of TLC because of it, and I owe it you. I commit to always putting out content that is truthful. Whether it’s feelings I’m experiencing, information I’m sharing, products I’m using, the truth matters – not just in a moral dimension but in a practical one too as its on this basis that we make decisions on everything we do in life. As a reader you are at the mercy of what you are scrolling on your screen which means anyone creating content has a responsibility to speak from the heart and not from their a*** and to put genuine information out into the ecosystem. And sometimes, in this age of Instagram filters and Facebook likes, this doesn’t always happen.

More than ever I want my content to be three things: I want it to be truthful, I want it to be useful and I want it to be beautiful.

So:

* If I don’t post in a few days it’s because I simply don’t feel like it. I want to relieve myself of the pressure to post.

* I want to ensure all the information I bring to you is well – researched

* And yes, if every once in a while I choose to spend 10 minutes of my life that I know I’ll never get back arranging a bunch of flowers around my coffee with the sole purpose of creating an aesthetically pleasing photo, I’m OK with that.

Thank you for reading and for helping my blog make me a better person and for helping me make this space one that I love and not somewhere that creeps me out. I sacrifice a lot to put content out there – and you sacrifice time to consume the content – which means I want everything about it to feel 100% right. And if you can’t handle the truth and are looking for what I often see as a white washed, dare I say it, fake approach for life, then you won’t find it here.

Love,
Emma x

COLLECTING MEMORIES

A picture paints a thousand words, so the saying goes. And it really does. Long after the memory fades, I can look back at a photo and remember that feeling of stumbling across an empty beach during our roadtrip in South Africa or how great that cocktail tasted in Cambodia celebrating the fact that both kids were simultaneously napping. Photos are beautiful memories of moments gone by that for one reason or other, we feel the urge to capture. For this reason, it’s important that they live on beyond just a black screen or a social media platform.

Once you actually get round to getting photos printed out, that is really only half the issue solved. I have piles of photos that have been developed that are either pretty shoddy quality or have not yet found their way into an album and are just gathering dust in our living room.

For all these reasons and more, I am absolutely chuffed to have found The Little Square Gallery who are all about creating pieces of art with photos (or drawings – they can also do amazing things with kids art). Forget photos hidden away in albums gathering dust, this a genuinely beautiful object that – in our home at least – holds prized position and is something we look at time and time again.

My piece is the ‘Thirty Little Squares’ – a collection of my favourite thirty styled photographs displayed in a series of little square giclee prints. I chose to have them mounted against a white backdrop and framed in a black solid wood frame. You can do forty eight little squares or just single squares (and many in between) – there’s a whole range of sizes available. You simply send the gallery your favourite photos – I sent a whole bunch through and Natalie, who runs the company, was amazing at helping me create a shortlist of my favourite thirty. The gallery then analyse the images, crop them into little square images and meticulously review, edit and style them. And we’re not talking one-tap picture editing filters here either: each photo is analysed and contrasted, corrected and balanced. (If working with childrens’ artwork, they’ll also smooth out any paper creases or remove any smudges). I have to add that I was pretty fussy with my design and had to make quite a few changes – Natalie was incredibly patient with me. We agreed a proof, and a few weeks later, the piece arrived. I could not have been happier with it.

If you’re looking to get all your photos printed out quickly, cheaply and in one go, then The Little Square Gallery are probably not for you. But if you’re looking to have some of your most treasured photos expertly curated and styled for a one-off display in your home, then you might just have found your next gift and new favourite possession.

Are you one for developing photos or do you just store them on your phone? Do you get them bulk printed out or would you prefer something a little more special?

Emma xxx

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The Little Square Gallery kindly gifted me one of their thirty little squares collection – it is genuinely one of my favourite things in our home.

Regular readers of my blog and followers of my Instagram will know that simple things make me happy so when it comes to kids parties, I like the idea of them being low key and relaxed affairs without all the gizmos (what a great word). I didn’t want to go overboard but there were a few small touches that I did that I thought I’d share with you all.

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Aside from a distinct lack of toys and hoping my friends’ children enjoy playing with tupperware (on a good day) and socks (on a bad day) as much as mine, deciding what I’m going to feed mini guests when I have Jack’s friends over for a playdate is always a bit of a worry, isn’t it mums. Below I’ve listed my top 3 snacks that I keep up my sleeve and that always go down well with other children. They are genuinely super easy to prepare or even better, to do as an activity with the kids. They’re all vegan but I’ve also given non vegan alternatives.

Cheesy kale chips

Switch the oven to 200 ‘C. Rinse the kale leaves and pat them dry with a dishcloth (this part is actually quite important as otherwise they don’t get as crispy). Choose the big looking leaves as they are going to shrink a lot and place them in a big bowl. If vegan use 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, otherwise sprinkle a big bowl of grated cheddar cheese into the bowl and mix well. Spread the kale onto an oven tray lined with baking paper. Now turn the oven OFF and put the kale in the oven for approximately 20 minutes until they get crispy. Enjoy :))

Power towers

Slice a banana thickly. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of almond butter, 1/2 teaspoon of cacao powder and drop of agave. Dab some of this mixture onto a slice of banana and place another slice of banana on top. Keep building until you have a banana tower. Alternatively, cut an apple horizontally into slices. Spread with a thin layer of almond butter or peanut butter. Place another slice of apple on top and keep building.

Home made pizza 

Pre-heat the oven to 180′ C. Spread tomato sauce on to the surface of a tortilla / pitta / chapati / whatever flat carb you can find. Sprinkle with cheese / nutritional yeast and load with whatever you happen to have in the fridge. We always use sweetcorn and broccoli. Cook for no more than 10 minutes, add some olive oil and any avocado or herbs if using.

Other easy tips:

  • Add beetroot to pretty much anything to make it pink and therefore automatically more fun for everyone. This works amazingly with cous cous and porridge
  • Keep a bag of frozen spinach in the fridge – it comes in small balls and I often just pop one into a dish (for example, a pasta sauce/ scrambled egg)
  • Hide vegetables in smoothies – hands down the best way to get greens down children
  • Make berry tea by dropping some goji berries into a small cup of hot water. It makes a super sweet lovely tea and Jack loves eating up the berries afterwards
  • Use coconut oil to ‘glue’ hemp seeds onto pretty much anything. Hemp seeds are super high in protein and contain all 9 essential amino acids. They also contain loads of omega-3 which is amazing for brain development
  • Make your own nut mixes by buying bulk big packets of raisins, nuts and seeds and mixing – also far cheaper than pre-mixed nuts
  • Make fruit skewers to wow the kids

I hope you enjoyed these quick snack ideas. If you want to see more food posts, it’s actually Jack’s third birthday coming up which I’ll be blogging about so keep an eye out for that. I’ve decided to make him a breakfast party largely to avoid a load of sugary cakes (though I have a feeling there’ll be a good few croissants to make up for it!) I don’t want to be a scrooge either and deny the children of any ‘treats’ so there’ll be some Organix Goodies cinnamon popcorn dotted around too.

Finally, this post is in conjunction with Organix who I will be collaborating with over the course of the next six months as one of their No Junk Mums working on their No Junk Journey project – an awesome initiative helping families make good food choices and avoid junk (which is totally possible when you realise how many tasty alternatives there are!) I’m super passionate about this concept and am really excited to be able to share my thoughts with you over the coming months.

I’d love to know what you give children when they come over for playdates? And do you worry what your little one will eat when they go over to someone else’s? What’s your number one rule when it comes to kids snacks?

Emma xx

P.S What’s Really In Our Kids Food and a Healthy Vegan Snack Idea

 

 

 

LIVING LIFE ON THE VEG

From the moment I opened my door to the bright cheery man bearing a huge cardboard box and a giant smile, I knew I was going to like Riverford. Once I’d bundled the box inside (which the kids later loved playing in = added bonus), we opened it up straight away. Packed inside were two gorgeous recipe cards and an explanation of the contents, a newsletter giving news about Riverford farm, and of course the most delicious looking veg, spices and carbs all neatly packaged and labeled with the exact amounts measured out. Everything looked so fresh and ever so slightly muddy, which I appreciated as it just confirmed what I already knew: these veg were not long ago in the ground.

I decided to really put Riverford to the test as both Sonny and Jack were pretty much attached to me as we cranked up the radio and set about starting to cook. Sure, the process may have taken a little longer than the suggested 30 minutes and the meal may not exactly have turned out Instagram perfect but on the whole it was so super simple even with two small kids in tow. Oh, and it tasted AH-MAZING. I’m not sure I can imagine a time when Jack will willingly eat brussel sprouts sprouts again so that alone was pretty special and I’m sure it was simply because they tasted so much fresher than any ones he’d previously tried.

For anyone that hasn’t heard of Riverford, they’re an organic farm based in Devon that run box schemes delivering super fresh, organic fruit, veg and meat to doors around the country with locally grown produce. There’s a whole range of different types of boxes to choose from ones specifically for juicing containing 11 varieties of fruit and veg which will make at least 3 litres of juice, 100% veg boxes packed with 8 varieties of freshly picked seasonal vegetables to ethically produced organic meat boxes containing fresh cuts of meat. The box we were sampling was one of their veg recipe boxes but again there are a whole host of different types of recipes boxes from low calorie meals to veg ones to mixed meat and veg ones.

What I love is that Riverford aren’t just a pretty (or delicious) face – not only are they competitively priced compared to organic supermarket food, they’re also extremely passionate about sustainability as well as reducing food waste and have systems in place whereby nothing goes to waste through donations to charity or simply giving free fruit and veg to their staff when a batch can’t go into the boxes for example, if it’s too ripe or partly damaged.

Using one of their recipe boxes really made cooking a joy – especially with the kids. Together with the fact they deliver straight to your door which is so mega convenient and exciting for Jack who loved looking through the box with me and naming everything, as well as the real difference in taste that I an genuinely vouch for, unless you have your own allotment and can get hold of such gorgeously fresh produce, I hugely recommend trying out a Riverford box and seeing what you make of it. I’d love to hear what you think if you do give it a go. Which box would you go for? What did you make?

Thanks for reading, as ever and do leave me a comment with your thoughts.

Emma xxx

 

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Disclaimer: Riverford kindly sent me one of their veg boxes to try out – we are huge fans 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

How To Book The Perfect Family Air B n B

Great news – you’ve sorted your dates, chosen a destination and booked your flights. But unless you’re heading to a resort, you’re still left with the hardest decision yet when it comes to a holiday …Where the heck are you and your brood going to rest your – and if yours are anything like ours, they really will be – weary heads at the end of a long day? View Post