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Be Proud Right Now

I can’t really remember when it all began. All I know is that for as long as I can remember I have felt self conscious in front of the camera and if anyone ever managed to snap a picture of me, I was bound to feel unhappy with the result. It’s kind of the same with receiving compliments, i’ve never been good at that to be honest! I remember at college a friend said I looked nice that day, to which I laughed and scoffed, as if it were some sort of backhanded compliment. He remarked how strange it was that I was unable to accept a well intentioned compliment. Twenty years has gone by, and to be honest, not much has changed.

Living in a digital age, surrounded by images of stereotyped ‘perfection’ and ‘beauty’, makes the struggle to accept yourself even more challenging than ever before. All around us, are messages telling us who to be and what to buy. Sometimes it becomes difficult to know who you are, and what you want.

I want to be me.

I want to be proud of who I am.

I want to not care what other people think.

I want to look back at my photographs and remember precious moments with my family and friends.

This is why I got together with two of my amazing Instagram friends, Jo @TeamWorrall and Sarah @SnowdropsAndRainbows to create the hashtag #BeProudRightNow. We wanted to encourage all the amazing mums we know to get in front of the lens, and be present in their photographs, now and for years to come.

Be Mindful and be Present

Mindfulness can help us gain control and perspective on anxieties and fears. This results in a healthier, happier you and a happier parent. Mindful behaviour can keep your thoughts in a more positive place instead of them travelling in a direction you so not wish them to go. With a little practice, mindfulness can help us live in the moment and be thankful for our everyday and precious moments.

If you want to know some of my top tips for being a more mindful mum you can read about it on my blog post: How to find your pause button.

Be Mindful With Your Language

This is a tough one. It is such a challenge to get a balance with the language we use around peoples appearance. As someone that has struggled with their weight all their life, I have heard a multitude of phrases over the years that don’t sit quite right. When you lose weight, people start to tell you “you look amazing”, “I didn’t even recognise you” or the classic phrases that become synonymous with being overweight “she’s just bubbly, it suits her” or the reverse “she’s not as much fun since she lost weight”. Some people will be reading this and rolling their eyes, wondering what exactly my point is.

The point is that when you are overweight, society treats you in a certain way, and when you loose weight the perception is that you are a more acceptable and attractive person. If you don’t believe me, perhaps you’ve never been through it. Or perhaps it’s just me. I can tell you from bitter experience that people treat you differently when you lose weight.

I am me.

I am me if I am fat.

I am me if I am thin.

I am who I am, no matter what you think of me.

#BeProudRightNow

Be proud right now is to challenge us all to get in front of the camera as often as we can. Don’t just post pics of you kids, or your kids with family and friends. Be present in those pictures and celebrate who you are at this point in time. This is me, right here, right now. If you find yourself picking holes in the picture, take a deep breath, pause and look again at all the beauty and happiness you see.

I am a mum.

I am wife.

I am a nurse.

I am beautiful inside and out.

This is my mantra and I want our amazing community to support each other in knowing how amazing each and every one of us is. Celebrate our small (and big) everyday achievements, and document them in photographs to remember those precious moments for years to come.

I hope you will join us.

H xx

A More Eco Kids Party

A little while ago, my oldest boy, Arthur turned five. All he wanted was to have a party at our house. In years gone by, I would be searching for appropriately ‘themed’ paraphernalia, all destined for landfill immediately on finishing said event. This year I wanted to do things differently. So i’m going to share with you how we went about making positive changes and some of the (probably irrational) emotions I felt along the way.

What were they all going to do?

I’m not gonna lie, the notion of 20 pumped up five year olds going crazy in our front room, did slightly fill me with dread. I am many things to many people, but I am definitely no children’s entertainer.  In the lead up to Arthur’s birthday we have been to several amazing parties with entertainment of some kind or another. Each one brilliant for its own individual reason. Each time, me feeling a little pang of angst wondering how I was going to cope with all these small humans going wild in our house.

Oh and another thing, no one prepares you for this when your kid starts school. The sheer volume of parties that your child will be invited to attend. At first it feels totally awesome that your child has been accepted by his peers and enthused by the idea of attending these somewhat chaotic, but fun nevertheless, events. Well that wear off after about party number 4 and you start to wonder “is this how my weekends are spent for the next 10 years?”. I am yet to answer so please enlighten me with your coping strategies in the comments below.

I digress. So 20 kids, one room, loads of parents (most of whom I don’t really know that well) what were we going to do for TWO WHOLE HOURS?

What Arthur really wanted was a “disco party and party games”, so that he should have I thought to myself. Mmmm what next? My mum, who basically dedicates her whole life to making her children and grandchildren happy (yes she is totally awesome), appeared one day with a disco light she found discounted in the Christmas sales. Basically the thing plugs into the light socket like a light bulb and spins around creating a disco ball type effect. Yes, it really is that good. Alas, yes it is made of plastic. But you know what, it has and will provided hours of entertainment for my unruly bunch and I think that’s ok.

Cue lights, enter 20 smalls, give carte blanche to run wild and voila, party sorted. Almost. No kids party is complete without pass the parcel right? Well that was Arthur’s main request anyway. We used old newspaper for the layers to avoid any wrap.

*Confession* each layer contained a small pack of haribo. I can hear all the screams of “that’s not very blooming eco”. Well no, your 100% right. It’s not. It went against every bone in my vegetarian come aspiring vegan body, but it was a compromise. Arthur made lots of really positive sacrifices for his party (which I’m coming to, so be patient), but he wanted hairibo for his friends. I’m not here to greenwash you all into thinking i’m perfect, because i’m not. Far from it in fact. Equally these were not ‘choices’ I made easily so try not to give me too much of a hard time about it.

Food and Drink

A very important element to all parties, no? Well yes, if you are an adult, or perhaps even a teenager. Not when you’re five. They really don’t care.

We kept it nice and simple. Made pizzas, and my trusty sidekick (aka my mum) made tonnes of sausage and cheese rolls in advance. A few crudities and we were done. Simples.

One thing I really wanted to avoid was any single use plastic cups or bottles. I gave this a lot of thought and came up with the idea to give each child a glass bottle (which I bought from hobbycraft) and a Klean Kanteen reusable straw (from Babipur). Obviously I didn’t want the straws to be used for the party and then end up with 20+ straws to find homes for.

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I love making cakes and my mum had a load of random icing colours she had left over from another party. We rolled it all together and it came out like this…

A kind of crazy paving marble effect dragon cake!! It was great to know we’d used up a load of old icing that was otherwise destined to be food waste.

So this brings me to…

The Party Bag

A customary addition to all children’s parties. No kid’s party is complete without one, yes? Well, actually…no. Party bags are often (not always) plastic, so that’s a no no for a start. Full of very small items that will get lost, broken or just chucked within about 24 hours of them reaching the child’s home (if they even make it that far). But, it’s what we expect. It’s what our kid’s expect.

It’s time to challenge these ideas that have become social norms over time. I can guarantee you that our parents generation would not have ever been given a party bag. In fact, in most cases, they wouldn’t have even had a party. So yes, it is entirely possible to have both a birthday, and a party, without having a party bag.

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We decided to give each child the bottle and straw they had used at the party in place of a party bag. It was the perfect way to spread the word about reusable straws and reducing plastic consumption. We talked to Arthur about this in advance. He is pretty good now at recognising that single use plastic is not good on many levels. It was difficult for him to understand initially, but he soon came round to the idea and gladly shared his love for KK straws with all his friends.

Decoration

Balloons. I really wanted to avoid balloons. I know they are terrible for the environment and certainly if released can have a devastating impact on wildlife. I really wanted to avoid balloons. Did I say that already? If you want to know more about the negative impact of balloon releases, you should check out Balloons blow who campaign about the destructive effects released balloons have on animals, people, and the environment.

There are so many amazing alternatives to decorating with balloons. Paper poms, paper lanterns, paper streamers and the list goes on. So I spent many an hour researching what might be a happy alternative. I looked at biodegradable balloons but that somehow didn’t feel right either. So I decide to go with my trusty fabric bunting. I made this for my wedding (all 100 meters of it!) and it has been the best thing we could have done. It comes out at every party or celebration, and if anyone I know is having a get together I offer it out to them. It gets a lot of love and that makes me happy. So cue the bunting and ta-dah!!

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Perfect! Absolutely. Until a day before his party and I had some massive and totally irrational surge of emotion. I was denying my five year old happiness by not ‘letting him have’ balloons at his party. So *confession* number two. I drove to the party shop and bought a (massive) helium balloon in the shape of a five. I felt happy for a moment, feeling I was now a better mum for providing this amazing gift for my child. Wrong. I then spent the remainder of the time with it in my house feeling guilt ridden every time I looked at the thing. Yes, Arthur was pleased with his balloon, why would’t he be. Would he have noticed if I hadn’t produced one? I doubt it. Guess I will never know now.

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The Mass of Gifts

So along with your child being invited to an whole host of parties you never really accounted for, you also have to find a huge number of age appropriate ‘quality’ gifts for a bargain price. The likelihood is these are not going to be ethically produced, non plastic, sustainable gifts. I get that. You can’t as a parent spend £££ every time you go to a kid’s party. Sometimes we have three in one weekend. YES THREE. Personally, I buy small ethically sourced gifts from Babipur to take to Arthur’s friends parties and I spent between £5-7 usually. Some people clearly spend way more and others…don’t.

So you end up with 20-30 gifts that you have no space for and leave you with a guilty feeling. I know people might think this is ungrateful. Please don’t think this, it’s the opposite, we are thankful for all we have every day and we are much more fortunate than many. But my principles are strong and I can’t just put them aside because I might risk hurting someones feelings.

So Arthur did an amazing thing. He requested that instead of gifts at his party, small donations be made to our local Children’s Hospice, Chestnut Tree House. Of course, there were questions. “So, I won’t get any presents at my party” he might ask randomly as he thought about it. We spent time talking about this and explaining that the money is much more needed by the hospice. In December our kindness elves asked Arthur and Eli to deliver some gifts to the hospice. I arranged in advance to pick up a collection pot for his party which helped him have a more tangible understanding of where the money was going.

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Not Perfect But it’s a Start

All in all i’m pretty happy with what Arthur achieved at his party this year. Not perfect by any stretch and i’ve tried to as honest as I can about the reality of making difficult decision and challenging what we have become to understand as our norm. Often it is our own emotions that prevent us from making changes that could really make a difference.

I’d love to hear your ethical party ideas!

Heather x

 

Vegan Christmas Treats

Christmas is just around the corner. Supermarkets will be stacked to the rafters with plastic tubs brimming with chocolate at what seems to be a total bargain. Is it too good to be true, or is someone, somewhere paying the price? Firstly, in the name of transparency, I am not a vegan. I became vegetarian at the beginning of this year as a result of my concerns around the impact of intensive farming on the environment. Since making that decision, day by day, week by week I become increasingly aware of the food products I choose to bring into my home. I am not perfect by any stretch, I will never claim to be but I am learning a little bit each day.

What’s the alternative?

With supermarkets abundant in over packaged chocolate that has questionable ethics, I decided to go on the search for a better option. I decided to bring to you a small selection of the most amazing treats I could find.  I have hand selected each and every product for either their ethos or their thoughtful packaging, in many cases both!

I’m not gonna lie, I have an EXTREMELY sweet tooth. I blame my grandfather as apparently he always had a pack of boiled sweets on his person at any given moment. So there you go folks, I am absolved of responsibility, it’s in the genes 🙂 So, in no particular order…

Brontie & Co

Brontie is an inspiring and motivated woman who made a big change in her life, in order to make her dreams of producing raw chocolate a reality. She knew she wanted to make a difference with every purchase. Brontie created her company to help people feel healthy and happy, which I personally think is pretty awesome. The entire range of her products is ‘free-from’ and only contains natural sweeteners such as lucuma, coconut palm or carob. Their cacao is fair trade and organic.

CC64BE57-35B8-4021-92CE-480CF4FDEE1AThe Hot milk Chocolate No. 3 is completely free from dairy, gluten, nuts and soya and of course it is Vegan. This is the perfect drink for a chilly winter day, around the campfire or if you just if you need a little boost from the Cacao and lucuma. Its intensely  indulgent and creamy flavour will be a real treat for the senses. I am a hot chocolate lover and this is pretty special. It can be mixed with water, or for a creamy version, whatever milk you fancy.

9B9C0100-BBBE-450C-91A1-68B2ECB2E091I’m totally addicted to the whole sweet and salty thing, so when I saw the coconut & pink salt bar I was pretty sure that was the one for me. It doesn’t disappoint. Beautifully creamy, slightly bitter, with a subtle hint of salt that isn’t overpowering and I was onto a real winner. Not too bitter, just right. This is artisan chocolate at its very best.

325A8293-6D3B-4538-AB05-F13F7A823806I was a little more apprehensive over the sweet orange & cardamom bars I have to say, but I really needn’t have worried! The bar contains 85% cacao and being raw (not cooked above 42 degrees), it’s just about the closest to heaven in a chocolate bar you’re going to get. When I opened the packet I was immediately hit by a glorious scent of orange,  which made me want to try it that instant!

As a company, they are completely committed to their environmental values. All packaging is recycled and compostable across the whole range. Brontie & Co donates a large percentage of its net profits to charities close to their hearts.

Sweet Lounge

I’ve already mentioned my sweet tooth downfall. Stopping eating meat was the easy bit to be honest. The slightly harder part was finding out all the food that contained meat by-products. Now, if you’ve been vegetarian or vegan a long time this will be second nature to you. To me, it’s been a learning curve. One thing that I *had* to find, was something to satisfy my sugary desires. Along the way I’ve found a few lovely treats but when I was researching companies for this blog post, I came across Sweet Lounge. If you are looking for some vegan / vegetarian / free from delights for the sugar obsessed in your life then look no further.

16797D5B-9AEE-4FB4-9B60-9DF47821560FI tried two of their vegan products. The first was the ‘Fiesta’ chocolate. These are a yummy little mix of hazelnuts and almonds, coated in dark or white vegan chocolate and coated in a crispy coating of colourful sugar. Perfect for having on the side in a little bowl for your guests to nibble on through the day.

0CF6C0B7-2A33-48D1-A04A-C780B2102301The second treats I chose were the divine vegan ‘fruity pillows’ flavoured with Calabria organge & lemon. I literally have no words for how amazing these are!! Gelatine free and complete heaven for my penchant for sugariness. I was so excited that I pretty much ate them one after the other until they were…gone (with a little help from my husband).

FBD5C7DC-23AD-4413-B585-A4826B21E7DCThe Sweet Lounge are a really lovely treat if you were looking for something extra special. The packaging is luxurious, and initially I was a little concerned about whether it was a bit excessive and not particularly eco friendly. In actual fact they are doing what they can to make thoughtful packaging whilst maintaining the glamorous look they are going for. The outer cardboard is made from 100% recycled cardboard and is recyclable. The plastic boxes that the sweets are packaged in can be recycled or repurposed around the home. You might also challenge the fact their sweet treats are imported from ‘around the globe’, and this is something I question myself. It is the only product in this blog post that is not manufactured in the UK. I can tell you now, it is not easy to find high quality confectionary produced here in the UK so I made an exception for these lovelies.

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Nutty Cacao

The one thing that struck me when I came across Nutty Cacao was how fun the products appeared to be. They didn’t take themselves too seriously, but at the same time were passionate about bringing you treats that were vegan, gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free and contain 100% all natural ingredients. Oh, and of course they are lovingly made here in the uk.

C812D944-4547-43AF-AB93-73BECA28E0AC The lovely Claire behind the genius of Nutty Cacao set out to create amazing treats, that everyone can enjoy in a healthy and balanced way. Guilt free sweet treats? Hand them my way. The chocolate cups are made from raw chocolate so they are the healthiest version of a chocolate treat you are going to meet.

F1CC2D8C-B517-48AA-84EE-A2681E7A3C1EI tested three different flavours of ‘cups’ that come in packs of two. The first is rocky road, a tasty mix of apricots, almonds, cashews and coconut which also come in a box of bitesize nibbles as well. These are quite a solid chocolate compared to the others and have a lovely crunch to them. The second are the coconut cups. Think of standing under a waterfall in tropical heat, sipping directly from the shell of a freshly picked coconut. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but if you are a fan of coconut then these are the jokers (as my husbands nan would always explain if anything hit the spot). I love the squishy coconut against the crunchy chocolate. They really are a little bit lovely. Finally, if you are a nut butter lover, then the the peanut butter cups are definitely number one on your list. These were my favourites as I am totally sucker for all things peanut! With a hard chocolate outer and yummy peanut filling you will really enjoy this treat, and guilt free too!

498BB8E1-EDB2-4FAC-8D88-2751983D616EI really love the simple packaging. It is fun and colourful, made from recycled card and in turn, can be recycled. The fun little faces really make me smile, and I love ‘one for you, or two for me’!

Ananda’s Marshmallows

If you enjoy camping like me, marshmallows are a staple part of woodland and campfire life. The thought of sitting round the fire whilst other people were toasting marshmallows and chewing on s’mores is pretty much unthinkable (#firstworldproblems).

IMG_1199I had come across Ananda’s a few times out ‘in the wild’ at craft and Christmas shows. Made in Derbyshire, Ananda’s Marshmallows are suitable for Vegetarians, Vegans & Coeliacs. Made in the UK by hand, in small batches and contain completely genuine and natural flavours. The business was established in 2008 when Ananda had the same plight as me, but was unable to find good quality marshmallows available here in the UK. Ananda’s was born thereafter. They are a small family run business and are true to their values of producing treats that are cruelty free and totally awesome.

2048071C-9599-47DB-A79A-4CD07E642286As it’s Christmas, it seemed only right to try out some of their lavish Marc de Champagne & Strawberry marshmallows. I have to be honest, I always looked at ‘vegetarian’  marshmallows as some sort of substandard affair *ducks for cover*, when I had seen them in the past. I honestly (honestly) could not have been more wrong! I am totally in love with these little pillows of loveliness. They have so much more substance and ‘bite’ than (non vegan) marshmallows I have tried in the past. They don’t have that ridiculous sickly sweetness either. They were lovely enjoyed just as is, and we enjoyed them toasting them on the open fire too. It’s a win win!

7BFFFAE8-DF8D-4313-9328-BC9840429BDAI also tried their totally amazing ‘Rockin’ Round ups’. Basically a gourmet wagon wheel. Again (I’m clearly quite a sceptic when it comes to sweet things) I was soooooo impressed with how tasty these were. In fact, having finished the ones I had, almost immediately ordered more to appease my new found addiction. The biscuit is crunchy, the marshmallow is squidgy, the texture is yummy. So basically its totally delicious! I would be more than happy to give these as a gift as they are a little bit special, and you guessed it, would love yo receive them too 😉

931EAA0F-EB4B-4863-9A5E-964D72856F70The packaging at Ananda’s is recycled and recyclable. They recycle 90% of our waste and reuse outer packaging whenever possible.

Mummy Makes Fudge

Crumbly fudge is my downfall. Sweet & delicious and I can’t resist it! I have been buying fudge from Liz of Mummy makes fudge for a few years at local craft events in Sussex. So to my absolute delight, that this summer Liz had been experimenting due of popular demand, and now makes a vegan version too. The fudge is hand-made in small batches and they believe in the old fashioned way. It’s definitely a no fuss, meltingly delicious  kinda treat which definitely appeals to my rustic nature.

0F4C808F-7931-4DE9-A61A-534447671654I tried three flavours. Salted caramel, chocolate and Vanilla. This fudge is A.mazing! I totally love all things salted caramel, I know it’s a bit of a thing of the moment right now but I can’t resist it. The salty sweetness has me in a spin. The vanilla has a lovely simple flavour and the chocolate has a rich, depth that leaves you wanting for more (and more). If you like fudge that tastes home made, melts in the mouth and satisfies a buttery craving, this is definitely the one for you.

79C465B4-AD38-422C-BF80-C4817455376FYou can buy from Yumbles and find Liz all over Surrey and Sussex with her amazing fudge!

That’s my lot! I hope you enjoyed reading about all these yummy treats as much as i’ve enjoyed tasting them. I would love to hear what treats satisfy your cravings so drop me a comment below if you can share something delicious with me.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas xx

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This is a collaborative post. All opinions are my own.

Christmas Gifts: Bloom & Nora

The Gift of fluff this Christmas

If you are anything like me, then the thought of someone giving you some muff fluff for Christmas will fill you with joy! I really don’t need more ‘stuff’ in my life (or my house) so something practical, and most importantly, a reusable is the gift that keeps on giving. Perhaps you have a friend relative who has thought about giving cloth menstrual pads a try, but yet to take the leap. Perfect gift I hear you say?!

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Make the switch

A while back, I had never really heard of reusable menstrual products), until I saw a post about them in the Babipur Hangout. I was already very passionate about cloth nappies and to me it seemed like a natural move to start using cloth for myself. Well, I can honestly say it was one of the best things I’ve changed towards being a greener household. They are comfortable, absorbent and of course super pretty too!

It is becoming much more widely recognised, that disposable pads and tampons are not just terrible for the environment, but also pretty much one of the worst things you can put directly against porous and sensitive areas of your body. Many studies have found toxins, dioxins and carcinogens in tampons.

Bloom & Nora

I’m huge fan of Tots Bots, which you can read about here. When I heard that they were launching a sister brand of reusable cloth pads I was very excited to test them out! I was instantly impressed with both the quality and design. They soon became a firm favourite and I have been using them ever since so thought I would share a bit more about why I love them. Inspired by America feminist Amelia Bloomer who revolutionised women’s undergarments and was an advocate for practicality.

With Bloom & Nora, you can say ‘bye-bye’ to nasties and speak up as a consumer about what you want next to your private parts! All their pads are Oekotex certified which means no harmful chemicals. The end.

Ethically made in the UK, no nasties, comfy and stylish…whats not to love?!

Bloom

Bloom are one of my all time favourite cloth pads. They are a great choice if you prefer natural fibres. With a super absorbent bamboo core they give great coverage for a heavier flow and I love the Maxi for security at night. The colours are super bright and vibrant and they are so soft against your skin.

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  • More absorbent than disposable pads
  • Super soft, natural and absorbent bamboo interior
  • Waterproof exterior (underside of pad)
  • Stay-dry edges to stop leaks
  • Popper tabs to keep in place
  • Contoured slim fit
Nora

Nora are an excellent choice if you want fast drying pads and they stay dry core keeps you feeling really fresh. The prints are beautifully classic with a white inner that repels stains and pretty fresh floral prints on the outside.

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  • More absorbent than disposable pads
  • Super soft, natural and absorbent bamboo interior
  • Stay dry interior – can also be used for stress incontinence
  • Stain repellent – easy to keep them just like new
  • Stay dry edges to prevent leaking
  • Popper tabs to keep in place
  • Quick drying
  • Contoured slim fit

Both styles of pads have a popper that fastens round your underwear. The binding around the edge gives a real feeling of security and they stay nicely in place even at night. When it comes to washing simply cold rinse to avoid setting in any stains then put in with your normal wash at 40 degrees. Give them a little stretch when they come out of the washing machine and line dry wherever possible. If you happen to use cloth nappies then you can throw them in the wash with those!

The gift Pack

Personally, I would love to receive anything reusable for Christmas and I think most of my family and friends know that I would (hint hint!). The Bloom & Nora gift packs are such a lovely gift for anyone who is already a fully fledged fluff fanatic or someone just wanting to give cloth a go. You can choose either Bloom or Nora, and if you like variety, you can have a mix of both! I think they are an absolute bargain at £19.99 too. The box contains:

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2 x Mini Reusable Pad

2 x Nora Midi Reusable Pad

1 x Out & About Reusable Bag

I think they are an absolute bargain at £19.99 too!

As always I would love to hear what you think so drop me a comment below and tell me what you love about muff fluff!

Wishing you all a fluffy Christmas,

Heather x

The products in this post were provided by Bloom & Nora. All opinions are my own.

How to Find Your Pause button: Being a Mindful Mum

Sometimes you just need to let yourself ‘be’

Do you sometimes feel that life is just rushing by in this fast paced, hectic world we live, where we are constantly striving to be ‘the good enough’ parent? I know I certainly do. Life is so full of distractions and worry about what the future might hold for any of us, but in particular our children. Mindfulness has been practiced for many years with roots in Buddhist traditions but has become a popular method modern society to help a person be present in their everyday lives.

Mindfulness can be hugely beneficial to parents. It supports them to gain control and perspective on anxieties and fears and results in a healthier, happier you. Mindfulness will enable you to control your thoughts and prevent them from going in a direction you do not wish them to, whilst feeling grounded in the moment. It is a well used resource in mental health, cancer care and for healthcare professionals in general. There is a plethora of knowledge and information available out there on Mindfulness but I want to share with you some of the tools I have found helpful in both my work and home life.

  1. Focus on the now. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Think for a moment. When you are doing the washing up are you thinking about that or are you thinking about what shopping you might do later? When you walk the kids to school are you thinking about what you are going to cook for dinner? Try to be present. Feel the bubbles in the sink and the warmth of the water on your hands, sense how you feet feel as they touch the ground beneath them. As you walk with your children, feel the breeze on your face, listen to the sounds around you, the touch of their hand holding yours. Be present.
  2. Breathe. Practicing simple breathing exercises to use in more stressful life situations is one of the biggest tools you can have by your side. Breathing is a natural relaxant, it reduces heart rate and calms the mind. Breathing is always best practiced when you feel calm and relaxed so that you can retrieve the skill any time you need it. Try this; breathe in from your mouth and out through your nose, each breath cycle should last 6 seconds, so in for 3 and out for 3. Focus on the breath, it should be effortless after a little while. Let your thoughts go and simply focus on your breath, focus on how it feels as air enters your body and fills you with life.
  3. Think positively. I don’t know about you but I am constantly under the attack of mum guilt. Whether it be how much time I spend at work vs at home with the kids or the fact my house looks like I have been under siege for a decade or the constant social media comparison we feel the need to be that ‘perfect person’. So stop beating yourself with a massive stick (that your child has just dragged in over your freshly hoovered carpet) and give yourself a break. Is your house a tip but your kids are happy because you spent time doing something they love? Did you serve up processed food for dinner because you were at the park or working late? Well give yourselves a massive pat on the back. You are an amazing mum. You prioritised life and happiness over housework. Blooming good job I reckon.
  4. Let them eat cake’. That’s you by the way, yep a lovely big piece of cake. Women Most people have things about their body they are not happy with. Even that person you perceive as having the perfect figure is likely to have things about them they wish were different. Personally this is a biggie for me. I have always struggled with my weight and it is something that will always be a part of me but I learn to not let it rule my life. So you know what, if you want a piece of cake or chop chip cookie, then have it. However…enjoy it, savour it, make it last. Don’t scoff a half eaten bit of chocolate cake that your kid didn’t eat half hanging over the bin so as not to be caught out, or stop crumbs all over the place. Take a plate (a pretty one if you have it), put the kettle on, place said treat on chosen receptacle, pour tea…then sit. Enjoy every mouthful, in peace, without a child on your lap or tugging at your clothes. Sit and enjoy that treat because you deserve it.
  5. Love your body. Mindfulness believes that loving your body leads to a more confident, happy you and I have to say, I agree. This is something that will take time if it is a lifetime of self doubt you are trying to escape from (like me). Appreciate you body for what it is. Stretch marks? Well they are the proof that you brought life into this world. Grey hair? A sign that you are older and wiser than you once were and your experience is of great value to those around you. This year I had an epiphany of some sort. I have never liked to show my legs in public so always wear tights with skirts or trousers, even in the height of summer (yes I know, I know). This year I just thought, I don’t actually care any more. I wore shorts (don’t worry not arse cheek kinda shorts but shorts nonetheless) and it felt amazing! It was totally liberating to just not care what other people thought of me and my body. So go for it.
  6. Get outdoors. Never underestimate the power of fresh air and sunshine on your face. It is a really powerful tool in mindfulness. Breeze blowing on your face is a really effective tool when you feel your thought spiralling out of control and are feeling anxious. Sometimes the feeling of that breeze across your skin is enough to break that cycle of anxiety. Some people find carrying a hand held fan works really nicely.
  7. Carry a pause button. Do you ever say to family or friends “I wish time would just slow down”? I hear and say it all the time. So I give you…the ‘pause’ button. Every day at least once but maybe three times, just hit that button and STOP:
    • Stop
    • Take a breath
    • Observe
    • Proceed

This is one of the most valuable tools you can have to help you stay in the moment. So even if you don’t think anything else is for you, take the STOP button and use it in which ever way suits you. Mindfulness gives you the opportunity to be fully present in this moment, aware of what you are doing, where you are and who you are with without feeling overwhelmed but what life throws at you.

H x

Ps. I would love to hear from you so drop me a comment below 🙂

Cloth Nappy Myths Busted!

Since starting out with cloth I have heard a plethora of wild and bizarre statements so I thought I would quash a few of the right here, right now.  The one true fact about cloth that can be a bit scary is that there is so much choice but really that’s like one of those ‘positive negatives’ that you have ready to wheel out at an interview, like ‘I’m a perfectionist’! I’ve used cloth for two children now and it’s easy, fun and gives you a sense of community with other cloth users, you wouldn’t hear that said about disposables now would you? If you are thinking of starting out with cloth or old hat, some of these may resonate with you.

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Cloth nappies are difficult to wash

I picked this one first because it is a passion of mine to spread the word about easy wash routines. You will so often hear people talking about strip washing, bleaching, special laundry detergent and buckets full of smelly nappies. Nope. It’s really is super easy. In a nutshell, cold rinse, long wash and line dry if you can. That’s the abridged version but that’s pretty much it. If you start out with a good wash routine all will be well.

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Your nappies will leak

Wrong again. In my experience disposables cannot contain newborn Poonami. It squirts up the back and boom, every time you need a change of outfit. Because of the elastic around the thighs and back waistband, cloth nappies contain the poo much more reliably than disposables. As for changing times, I change Eli’s nappy every 3-4 hours just as I would a disposable.

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It costs a fortune

Ok, you got me on this one. With cute prints like the Tots Bots ones featured in this post it’s hard to not add to your stash when new ones are released. It’s generally acknowledged that if you stock up with an adequate supply of cloth nappies (around 25 for full time cloth) then you could save £££ compared to disposables. That’s even with the impact of washing on your household bills. If you are on a stricter budget, often two part system using a wrap and insert (like peanut wraps and pads) are a good economical option. If you go on to use your stash for future children you are definitely quids in!

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It’s Gross

As someone once said to me. Sorry, have to disagree with you there. You know what is ‘gross’? A nappy sitting in landfill for 200-500 year. Waist should be channeled in the appropriate way, and poo should go down the loo! In the UK, over 8 disposable nappies are sent to landfill EVERY SINGLE DAY. There are lots of ways to removed waste from cloth nappies without ever having to get your hands dirty. I personally put mine under the water as the toilet flushes and never have an issue.

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Wetness in cloth causes nappy rash

With my first son, Arthur we used cloth part time at certain points and he was always getting nappy rash in disposables. I have used cloth exclusively with Eli since about two weeks old and we NEVER get any sort of rash! If i’m ever worried about his skin I use the lovely Weleda nappy cream which is gentle and mild.

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Cloth nappies with make your child bandy legged (wide gait) and delay development

Really? Is that the best you could come up with? Wrong again. My own personal experience is quite the contrary as is the experience of many other cloth bum mums. Modern cloth nappies are not bulky. We have a wide range of nappies and brands. All in one nappies like the Tots Bots easy fit stars are super easy to use and nice and trim so no bulky cloth between the legs. I give Eli nappy free time every day, just as I would do if he was wearing a disposable. There is absolutely no evidence that cloth nappies will cause any physical or developmental problems / delay.

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Cloth nappies are hard work

Cloth nappies do indeed involve more thought. You probably need an extra wash every two to three days. But hey, to be honest the washing machine is permanently on in my house so it really makes no odds to me! You will never run out and its not a monthly expense you have to account for if you already have your stash and are on a tight household budget. If you follow me on social media, you will know I believe in being a conscious consumer and that we should give thought to all our purchases and speak out with your pennies. The slightly odd thing is, I actually love washing and folding my *ahem*, Eli’s cloth nappies 🙂

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Cloth nappies are fun!

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The nappies featured in this post are the brand new Tots Bots elements prints released today. You can get these prints in Easyfit star, Teenyfit, Peanut wraps, wet bags and happy mats too! If you want to know what I think of the easyfit star you can read my review here.

As always, I love to hear what you think and answer any questions so drop me a line…

The nappies in this post were provided by Tots Bots. All opinions are my own.

In Focus: Milovia

The Brand

Milovia are a Polish company that have an ever rapidly growing fan base in the UK over the past three or so years since they started out in 2013. They sell a range of beautiful and functional fluffy goodness. I have been a fan ever since I came across their brand but in the last six months or so have really fallen in love with them. I have a big range of their pocket nappies and these are a firm favourite with both me and my husband (queue shouting “where are the Milovia honey” in the background). This month we’ve been trying out their wrap system and so thought i’d share a bit about how we got on!

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Features
  • One Size – birth to potty (9-35lbs)
  • The outer fabric is the waterproof,  PUL fabric with a micro fleece section at each end to protect babies skin
  • Simple to use
  • Can be used 2-3 times with only a change of insert if wrap clean
  • Snap closure and rise setting
  • Can use with a variety of inserts, boosters or fitted nappies of all sizes
  • Super fast drying times
  • Bright, vibrant patterns

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The Nappy System

This is a nappy wrap system. For those of your not familiar with these terms it simply means it is a waterproof cover that you can use an insert with or alternatively use a fitted nappy (like a bamboozle) underneath. You can opt for the Milovia microfleece inserts which come in small, medium and large and have their own lovely fleecy top layer than can go directly next to babies skin (and is the softest thing you have ever seen!). You can also use a muslin, prefold or a terry square as you would with any other wrap. This makes it a really versatile and affordable system as you can reuse the wraps and choose boosters / inserts to suits your budget and preference. You buy as just a wrap which is great as you can genuinely choose whatever inserts you fancy.

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Absorbency is excellent if you use the Milovia micro fleece inserts, I never have an issue with leaks. I usually change routinely ever 3-4 hours in the day and this seems to work well with no wicking (leaks around the leg fabric).

This wrap is a birth to potty and it does therefore what it says on the proverbial tin. I would say that it is not as generous in sizing as some other nappy wraps on the market so if you have a real chubby thighed baby it may not hold out as long as alternatives. However, saying that, Eli is 16 months / 20lbs and on the middle rise snaps with no signs of needing to go up any time soon. They have an excellent fit around his legs and I never have any issues with marking on the thighs / tummy. The waist and rise snaps are easy to use and not fiddly like some brands I’ve come across. If you’ve followed me for a while you will know my love for poppers!

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I use these wraps over a fitted nappy at night such as a bamboozle and they are super comfy and have no issues with leaks. I have also used with a large and medium insert and that works just as well.

The prints are some of the most vibrant and colourful I’ve seen and they are really popular. The print featured is ‘noisy animals’ and I love the funky pattern on white background. In my experience they also hold their value very well so when you come to a point of not needing nappies any more *sobs* then you know you will get a good return on your investment. These wraps retail at around £14.50 and inserts are £3-4 depending on size. Of course you can pick up terry squares or muslins super cheap!

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Caring for your nappy

You will hear lots of wild ideas about how to wash your nappies, but let me tell you, it really is very simple! If you start well with a good wash routine you will be fine and unlikely to encounter any issues. Here is what I would recommend:

  • Always wash your nappy before first use
  • Keep nappies in a bucket for a maximum of three days (no need to soak)
  • Put in washing machine and place washing powder in a separate drawer (not in the drum with your nappies)
  • Avoid fabric softener, baking soda, vinegar and optical brightness (I use persil non bio and live in a hard water area)
  • I add a scoop of violets mineral bleach but that is purely preference
  • Wash on a cold rinse first
  • Set to a longish cycle, I use the cotton one which is about 2 hours (avoid eco cycle as this does not use enough water to get your nappies clean and rinsed)
  • Wraps should only be line dried or on an airer but other nappies can be tumbled on low

Voila! It really is simple.

Pros
  • Really versatile system
  • Cost effective
  • Easy to transport / use on days out / holidays
  • Amazing prints
  • Easy popper system
  • Excellent fit around the leg
  • Can be used for both day and night
  • Super fast drying time
Cons
  • Only available in popper so not for any velcro lovers out there (poppers really are amazing!)
  • Slightly smaller than other wraps on the market so not ideal for really chunky bubs
  • Made from microfibre / fleece so not suitable if your preference is natural fibre
Other lovely Things

Milovia also make matching blankets and pillows which are also super cute. I’ve got the matching blanket and lion pillow and they look gorgeous in my boys animal themed bedroom. The inside of the blanket is a thick terry cloth with lovely soft fabric on the outside. I use it for a bedspread but the boys like to tuck up underneath it for stories at night too. It doesn’t have a waterproof layer but we still use it for a picnic blanket when out and about. We were at an outdoor performance of Wind in the Willows the other day and I lost count of the amount of people that tapped me on the shoulder to ask where to buy one! I love things that have multiple functions but are also really beautiful and this fits the bill nicely.

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And the dog…

Well it seems Bella is giving it the seal of approval! So the only issue is how to get her to give it up…

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I love talking all things cloth and fluffy so do get in touch if with your questions…

 

The products in these photos were provided by Milovia in exchange for review but all opinions are honest and my own 

Tots Bots: Something for everyone…

I’m a massive fan of Tots Bots and have been from the word go. I first discovered cloth nappies when I was pregnant with Arthur. Me and hubby were at the national baby show and stumbled across the Tots Bots stand. They were super helpful and we got so excited by the idea that we made the investment there and then in a birth to potty kit made up of factory seconds so it was an absolute bargain! It’s one of the best decisions we made as expectant parents and its now become part of family life.

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Earlier in the year, Tots Bots released their new ‘playtime prints‘ which have proven to be real popular especially the Kaleidoscope print. So popular in fact they decided to release a wet bag and happy mat in the same print as limited edition! I love this print. Its bold, stylish and funky. We already have the nappy in the Easyfit Star and it’s gorgeous on the bum. If you are new to cloth or Tots Bots and want to know more about their Easyfit Star all in one nappy you can find my blog post here.

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The happy mat is one of my go to parenting essentials. I have one in the ‘dazzle’ print and it has been one of the most useful things I have, both at home and out and about. The top layer is super fluffy and absorbent, the type of fabric you want to just stroke or rub on your cheek (ok maybe thats just me then). It has a padded core and the waterproof patterned underside. It rolls up really neatly with a little tie and packs into any change bag nicely. When Eli was little I also used to double it up as a play mat or for tummy time. I’ve since bought for lots of friends who equally love it. It would be in my top ten go to essentials for parents I think (yes I love it that much). Of course its not only for cloth bums but perfect for any baby regardless of what nappy system you choose, especially sensitive little bums.

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I’m a bit of a wet bag fanatic, which probably goes hand in hand with being a crazy nappy lady. A bit like the happy mat, all parents (in fact all people) can make use of a wet bag. They are so multifunctional. We use ours for nappies and wipes (both clean and soiled), swim kits, wet clothes, beach stuff and food. Someone recently also told me they used it to protect their camera on the beach which I thought was an excellent idea! They feature a waterproof fabric and zip, and have a useful snap on handle that can be used for hanging in the house if you’re limited for space and don’t want a bucket, or can attach to your buggy.

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I recently wrote a guest blog post for Tots Bots with my top tips for getting out and about with cloth nappies which you can find here.

Thanks for stopping by, I’d love to hear your favourite go to nappy essentials…

Disclosure: The featured products were provided to facilitate this review but all opinions are honest and my own.

 

Babygrow Veg Bag

This month I’ve been joining in with plastic free July and have been talking about reducing our single use plastic waste. Although the ultimate goal is to live ‘plastic free’, the most important thing is to cut down on plastics that have a life span of a few minutes. Coffee cups, straws, carrier bags and water bottles are four of the main offenders. Something used for a moment then chucked in the bin. I think a lot of people are on board with reusable bags these days, it just takes a little planning ahead. So why not go one step further and think of ways around stopping using those little flimsy veg bags you get in the supermarket? Can I hear you all shouting “count me in”?! Of course, glad you can join me.

So i’ve got a super easy hack for you to turn unwanted babygrows into pretty little produce bags! If you’ve got some old babygrows / vests, scissors, cotton and can vaguely navigate a sewing machine (or have a willing friend who can) you’re in with a fighting chance of getting these spot on.

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If I was a more efficient sewer I would tell you to wash and iron your babygrow before starting this project, but hey let’s face it, I haven’t washed my kitchen floor in about six months so let’s assume my iron hasn’t seen the light of day for quite a while.

Start by cutting a straight edge along the bottom removing the popper section (don’t throw away as that may come in handy later).

Turn the babygrow inside out so the right sides of the fabric are touching  and you can see the seams. Again, if I was a more organised person I would probably pin along the edge I’m about to sew to keep it nice and neat, but hey I’m lazy.

Use a zig zag stitch as that tends to be better for stretchy fabric. I always double over my first and last few stitches so they stay nice and tight. Try to stay quite near to the edge as you don’t really want a big hem.

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Turn inside out, and…voila!!

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Cute huh?!

The downside to these is that the cotton weighs more than say a muslin or fabric which is virtually weightless. One of these weighs about 30g (a small apple is 150g) so you need to be mindful of that when deciding what you will use them for. I weight my veg first then stick them in the bag after. The nice thing about these is they are 100% cotton and and because the fabric is that little bit thicker it protects delicate fruit. I just love looking at them and thinking of my little squish wearing it once upon a time!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and I love hearing your comments so drop me a note below! I’m going to be sharing my other produce bag hacks soon so let me know if there is anything you would like to see!

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Camping with Kids: Why we love Wowo

Rob and I discovered our love for camping not long after we met. It was a natural progression to  take the boys and it has now become part of family life. We love campsites that offer freedom and adventure. We first came across Wapsbourne Manor Farm or Wowo (as it is affectionally known) about six years  years ago before we were married. It is a very family orientated site it but certainly isn’t exclusive to families and we felt very comfortable. In fact, I think everyone feels welcome at Wowo. They have created a culture or micro community that feels like home the moment you arrive. It is a place for proper old school fun with an emphasis on allowing your kids to be ‘free range’ in their 150 acres of natural playground. So if mud pies, rope swings, camp fires and den building send you into a panic, it’s probably not going to be your thing.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetCamping is split into five fields which all have a slightly different feel and aspect. Best thing to do is try it out, have a wander and see which you prefer for future trips. We love wandering round the site and checking out where we might pitch up next time! This trip we were in ‘Upper Moat’ (reserved for large group bookings) as we had over ten pitches on this occasion. We requested to be at the North end near the trees and rope swings, and Wowo were helpful as always and had allocated us more than enough space for our group to be comfortable and happy.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetWe arrived a day ahead of the group to get ourselves settled. The campsite was quiet even though it was half term as weekends are busiest. There is some sort of magic about this place. I mean camping in general does give you an opportunity to escape the urban life we are used to, with screen free time and hours in the day to while away, just pottering about in a contented kind of way. But Wowo is just all kinds of special. You arrive and are immediately transported into a calmer, better version of yourself. Children are just running free all around. Within an hour Arthur had made friends with a nearby family and the older boys took him under their wing. Once our other friends arrived, the kids played ALL DAY LONG from rope swings, digging in the dirt to role-playing their favourite tv heroes, they are more contended than ever. We allow them freedom to explore and the confidence they feel is evident.

Processed with VSCO with b5 presetIf you are looking for something more secluded, you can camp along the ‘Tipi trail’ where pitches are nestled in the woodland, or if you are more a glamping kind of family you can opt for one their very cool yurts or shepherds huts. One of our group didn’t have any camping equipment so they hired one of the bell tents arranged via Wowo which came fully kitted up with everything you could possibly need for the weekend. To be honest, it was the envy of the whole group! These can be pitched anywhere so a really flexible option.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetYou can do as little or as much as you like here. If your kids want some more structured activity (or you really want to finish them off for bedtime so you can have a glass of vino), theres plenty of options. You can book onto different workshops depending on the time of year but examples are; circus workshops, bushcraft, foraging or woodland walk. I personally love the fairy preservation society workshop! On Friday night there is a pizza and fish & chip van, so if you want to just come for the weekend, pitch up and relax this is perfect. Now don’t be misled, this makes it sounds a bit commercial but it really isn’t. It is just a perfect solution for people wanted total and utter relaxation! They have some breakfast options including waffles and pancakes too. At the weekend the were also supporting a local brownie group with a bake sale so we go some delicious cake too!

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetOne of the best bits of the weekend is the Saturday night soup. Grab a bowl, rock up to the village where the giant Teepee stands and you will find freely flowing (and yummy) soup, bread and butter. How much do they charge for this? Nothing, absolutely nothing. The sceptical of you might say “well thats just included in the price of your weekend”. Well no, camping is cheap, very cheap compared to a lot of other family holidays or days out. I’ve never known anywhere else that does anything like it. So why do they do it? To build a sense of community, to bring strangers together to enjoy acoustic music, a natter and hearty food. It’s awesome.

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Processed with VSCO with f2 presetCampfires. What can I say? It’s just not camping without a real fire to toast marshmallows (vegetarian ones available on site) and keep you warm of an evening as you sup on your cider and catch up with family and friends. We’ve done quite a bit of fire building at forest school and its a fantastic kids activity. Arthur loves making ‘dragon sneezes’ which we learnt at Sussex Wildlife Trust when using our flint and steel to create sparks. The kids really enjoyed joining in to make their contribution to the fire. Logs are delivered every evening around the campsite so it couldn’t be easier.

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Processed with VSCO with f2 presetThere are plenty of facilities with showers and toilet blocks, including family showers. You will find compost ‘pump’ toilets in all fields. At the entrance, you will find a large barn that houses  not only fridges and freezers but sofas, toys and ping pong if you fancy a break from the sun (or rain). There is also a small shop at reception selling milk, local eggs, apple juice, sausages and various other camping essentials.

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Processed with VSCO with f2 presetWe tend to stay on site as thats the kind of camping we like. We hang out, we relax and we enjoy our surroundings. If you did want more from your trip there is loads near by. The Bluebell railway is just down the road (walking distance) which is amazing for all your little (and big) train obsessed people. Sheffield park gardens and Wakehurst place are a short drive away and also well worth a visit.

So if you are looking for some off-grid, screen free time where nature is your playground, then you might have found your perfect spot.

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Please note: I have not been asked or paid to provide this review. All opinions are genuine and my own. I just love this place x

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The Helpful Hiker