Papery Peep August

It’s Papery Peep time! Yes, it’s that time in the month when I share a whole pile of papery pretties, and invite others to do the same.

It’s all part of my Bring Back Paper series, where I call for more books and reading to be going on, more snail mailing taking place, and an attempt to induce more stationery addictions worldwide..! If you’re new here, do check out the series, along with some of the more popular posts such as How Do You Read Yours?, Anna’s Wonderful PostCircle and be inspired by the creativity of making Book Flowers.

Onto this month’s Papery Peep, which is all about this month’s #BringBackPaper activity. It’s all been taking place over on Instagram, and it’s a photo a day challenge..

#31DaysOfPaper

I have been loving it! Browsing the hash tag has been a papery delight this month, as people have been sharing so many pretty and diverse interpretations of the daily prompts. It’s been a total pleasure to be involved with, let alone have introduced it, and I do hope that those who have dipped into it have enjoyed it, too? Do pop over and take a peek yourself, just search the hash tag #31DaysofPaper.

So I’ve been ‘#Papery Peeping’ all month, really, sharing various snaps from my books, stationery and more hoards, but I thought today I’d pick out a few of my favourites…

A selection of snail mail received for ‘S’

People were loving my family organiser, for ‘useful’ – I wouldn’t be without it!

Sharing this one for ‘favourite’, inspired me to then write a post all about Keeping a Book Journal

Loving my ‘cute’ washi tape, from my somewhat extensive and ever-growing washi collection…

And my most popular share was this one, for #precious’…

These are books that I keep for each of the kids, that I write in on the evening of their birthdays, telling them about the day and a little update on the past year. I love doing it, and I hope they’ll enjoy reading them when they’re older.

Now it’s your turn! Come link up and share any papery posts with us this month. Maybe a book you’re loving, a new stationery purchase, a letter stack, or perhaps your own #31DaysofPaper highlights? Just grab the badge in my sidebar there and link up :)


Linky is open until midnight 2nd September 2014 Hope you enjoyed peeping?! What do you think of #31DaysofPaper?

The Reading Residence

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The Blog Lowdown – Family Fever

Today on The Blog Lowdown, I’m really pleased to be bringing you the lovely Kate from Family Fever…

Please Introduce yourself:
Hi, I am Kate and I blog over at Family Fever. I am a mum to Gemma (8), Jacob (6) and Max (1) and we live in Devon.

When did you start blogging?
I started blogging about 18 months ago, when I was pregnant with my 3rd baby. I used it as an online memory bank, recording all the things we got up to, what my pregnancy was like and little things the children got up to.

Tell us a little about your blog
Family Fever is first and foremost a record of our lives. I try to think carefully about what I write, as I know that I want the children to be able to look back on it when they are older. There are lots of photos, days out and little personal things that have happened. That said, it is also MY corner of the web, so it has also become a place for me to write about things that are important to me, such as premature birth, postnatal depression, eczema and education.

Who designed your blog?
The idea came from me, and the whole design was put together by Zoe Corkhill from Mama Geek (who also helped me make the move from Blogger to self hosted WordPress), and the header was designed by Magic Feather Designs.

Which of your posts have been the most popular? Are there certain types that get more interest?
There are a few that get continual high hits:
Prematurity
Hyperemesis Gravidarum
Postnatal Depression
Personal posts seem to get the highest readership – ones that other people can relate to.

How do you promote your blog posts, and which methods do you find to be most successful?
I use Facebook and Twitter, and have recently started venturing into Google+. Pinterest and Instagram are great for sharing pictures and drawing people on to the blog too.

Which linkys do you most enjoy joining in with/reading?
I run Tried & Tested every Tuesday, which is a linky for sharing reviews. I also love joining in with Country Kids as we nearly always have an outdoor fun type post to share, as well as Magic Moments and Project 365, which I am really proud that I have managed to keep up with! I also take part in Silent Sunday and My Sunday photo every week, and have just come across the Black and White Photography project which I am enjoying too.

When are your busiest days on the blog, and why? (if you know why!)
Weekdays are much busier than weekends – I assume it is because most of my readers are parents, and weekends are family time.

Can you name 3 things that blogging has brought you?
Blogging has given me the chance to earn a small income and be able to stay at home with the children.
Blogging has brought me a whole new circle of friends.
Blogging has given me a place to be me – to talk openly and honestly about things such as postnatal depression without the fear of being judged.

My Top Tips for Bloggers:
1. Use Instagram, and include a link to your blog in your profile. If people like your photos, they are likely to visit your page.5 great tips for bloggers
2. Forget the stats and blog for you – rankings are just a number, what matters is that you are enjoying it, and are blogging about the things that matter to you.
3. Make an effort with linkys – I run my own, and I spend a lot of time visiting every site that links up, leaving a comment and tweeting their post. People really appreciate it, and not only do they keep coming back, but they spread the word too.
4. If you can afford to, invest in a good camera. A lot of my posts are quite photo heavy, and taking a good picture is important to me. I have had a lot of comments on pictures, and it seems that readers enjoy them. Not only that, they add life to your reviews, and they can also capture some priceless family memories much better than words can.
5. Find your niche. Have a purpose to your blog. Dont try and be everything – if you can find a voice for your blog, you will stand out a lot more. Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd.

My Social Media Links:
You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram

FamilyFeverBadge

Thanks very much, Kate. I can relate to so much of your blog journey and tips, even down to investing in a good camera, as blogging got me interested in photography, too.

If you’ve any questions for Kate, feel free to comment on this post, and she’ll pop by and check in. Next week, we will be hearing from Jeanette from AutismMumma so be sure to pop by for that on Tuesday morning. You can catch up the previous posts from other bloggers here, too, if you’ve missed them.

If you’d like to feature on The Blog Lowdown, just email me at jocelyn@thereadingresidence.com to get involved.

To ensure you don’t miss any blogger posts, you can now sign up for my newsletter, and I’ll always include The Blog Lowdown round up in those.

Other posts you might like:

My 20 Top Tips for Bloggers

A Blogger’s Guide to Pinterest

10 Tips to Get your Blogging Mojo Back

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#StayPlayExplore Family Fun

We’ve been enjoying our #StayPlayExplore Family Fun pass here, which has given us 3 brilliant days out, and an overnight stay at the lovely Hinckley Island Hotel.

Have you heard of these passes? I hadn’t, and so now I’m really shouting about them as I think they’re such great value. I was chatting to a friend the other day and she couldn’t believe how much you get for the money! There are a variety of options available, but as we have two little ones, we went for the Family Fun pass, at £109. This meant we could choose 3 days out from the following attractions – Conkers, National Space Centre, Twinlakes Theme Park, Snibston Discovery Museum and Twycross Zoo, AND have an overnight stay at a 4* hotel, including breakfast. How fab is that?!

We went to Twycross Zoo

Twycross Zoo animals

Then Conkers

conkers play area

Then finally Twinlakes Theme Park

Twinlakes sandpit

Click on the links to read about our days there.

We also then stayed at the Hinckley Island Hotel

Hinckley Island Hotel Stay

I was very impressed with the hotel. It’s easy to find and check in was efficient and the lady very friendly. We were advised that as we hadn’t prebooked the restaurant that it’d be an 8.45pm booking at the earliest – there’s no way the children would have lasted that long, or me for that matter! But, you can just pop and eat in the lounge area, which I preferred anyway as it was more informal and a little noisier, which I do like with the two little ones! They also received free kids activity packs, which went some way to keeping them entertained while we waited for our food, which was absolutely delicious! All portions were a good size and the food was just perfect. I had beer battered fish, chips and peas, which sounds so basic, but I do believe this was the best one I’ve ever had. And the elderflower and raspberry tart afterwards – yum! In fact, thinking about it now I’m starting to feel hungry.

All #StayPlayExplore bookings are automatically upgraded to an executive room, which as you can see, was lovely, with white fluffy towels, robes to use, toiletries for the kids as well as us, and the cot that we’d requested all set up and ready on arrival. The beds were comfortable, the room nice and warm and there’s Freeview, so when the children woke us at 6.30, we could all snuggle up for a bit watching CBeebies!

Breakfast was a serve yourself buffet, and there were bars for cereals, fruit, juices and drinks, pastries and toast, and full English, too. The food was all fresh, hot and we found a table easily enough on a Sunday morning. I do love a hotel breakfast, and it had been ages since we’d enjoyed one, so we were there for some time, indulging!

There is also a pool there, though we didn’t use that, along with free parking and free Wi-Fi.

On checking out, we decided to go into nearby Leicester to do some shopping, having never been there before. It’s great there! Highcross Shopping Centre was brilliant, packed with lots of big brands, the all-important Disney Store for the kids and a lovely John Lewis for us, as well as plenty more, and there were also lots of smaller independent shops just outside the centre, too. We barely scratched the surface with the children getting bored after a while, so we will return!

After our #StayPlayExplore experience, we’ll definitely be getting another pass to enjoy next year, and though I like to try out different places, I may just book at the Hinckley Island again as I know how good it is.

The Family Fun pass is perfect for us, and I cannot recommend it enough. I’m telling everyone! There are also other breaks, such as Family Adventure for those with older children, Theme Parks, Gourmet Taste, King Richard III Breaks, City Break – some are for families and some are adults only, so plenty to choose from. You can check them all out here.

What do you think? Something you’d enjoy?

Disclosure: We received a #StayPlayExplore pass FOC for the purposes of these reviews, but all words and opinions remain my own

We're going on an adventure

9 Bargain Activities For Kids (and they’re easy)

My children have plenty of toys. They’re very fortunate to have a family that treats them and this blog brings with it great opportunities to test out and review toys and products regularly. We’ve lots that they love, but do you know the things that I can guarantee will hold their attention are often the things you’d probably be able to find in a pound shop! So here’s my list of top activities for little ones that’ll cost you pennies rather than pounds…

9 Bargain Activities For Kids

1. Bubbles. A crowd pleaser every single time! Just a cheap little bottle of bubbles can keep my kids happy for ages. Now, add in the excitement of different shaped wands, or more people playing, and they’re in their elements!

2. Pavement chalk. A game of hopscotch, drawing pictures, scribbling, practising their letters and numbers. This is one that adults can join in with, too, as my husband will be quite content to sit there and draw with them for hours! There’s something really novel about being allowed to draw on the floor or fences, so just assign them an area and let them enjoy.

3. Balloons. What is it about a balloon that has children going mad for them?! You can normally pick up a decent sized pack of them for no more than a £1, and as long as you’ve the puff to keep on blowing them, they’ll keep on playing with them. Chasing just 1 balloon can burn off a lot of my children’s energy, and the laughter and giggles it can elicit is priceless.

4. Colouring In. If we could do with a little quiet time, I pop onto the computer and print them off whatever colouring in they’re most into at that time. Yes, we have stacks of colouring books, but they can’t compete with me grabbing them a picture of Elsa to colour in just after watching Frozen, or the Gruffalo just after we’ve read it. I keep a Pinterest board with the best I find, so can go straight there and print things off.

5. Recycling Materials. Have a rummage through your recycling box, or better still, search through it with the kids, and I can guarantee there’ll be things to create with in there. Kitchen roll holders are always popular here, as who can resist a pirate’s telescope?!

6. Sensory Play. Be it jelly, custard or cream, stick it in a box or on a tray and they’ll be delighted! Just buy the cheap stuff, as they’re only going to destroy it, not eat it! Just running their hands or toes through it is great fun, but for extra play, add in some other toys that won’t be destroyed by the food, such as little Happyland people or cars.

7. Music. Yes, just put that iPod on and the possibilities are endless! Musical Statues is very popular here, as is crazy dancing, Musical Chairs (proceed with caution, as small ones can get wild and dangerous with this one) and a personal favourite is to learn dance moves – my 4 year-old is a dab hand at the Time Warp!

8. Den Building. A sheet, a few chairs and you are set. I wrote a step by step guide to indoor den-building here for you, if you’re in need of inspiration.

9. A Cardboard Box. The ultimate treat. Interest in the box’s contents tends to be fleeting, but the desire for the box? Intense and can last for days!

Word to the wise – do not do all of these things on the same day – your kids may well spontaneously combust with excitement!

Which of these activities do your kids love to do?

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Our Day at Twinlakes Theme Park

Last weekend we used up our final #StayPlayExplore family pass for Twinlakes Theme Park (we also visited Twycross Zoo and Conkers). We’d never been before, and actually hadn’t even heard of it before we got our pass, so we were keen to find out what was there.

First up, we visited the Red Rooster Farm area, and I loved the idea of the bridge for the goats to trip trap over…

Twinlakes Red Rooster Farm Zone

Twinlakes farm animals

They also have pig racing there, but we’d just missed that when we arrived – would have been fun! Once the animals had all been checked out, the kids were off eager to explore elsewhere..

Twinlakes running off

They found a sandpit area with diggers, where they played for quite some time..

Twinlakes sandpit

Next up, it was Little Man’s first rollercoaster ride..

Twinlakes rollercoaster

He loved it, but only when it went fast and dipped! He is so like his sister, the pair of thrill-seekers, and as you can see from her face here, she was waiting for it to get more exciting and dip! Boo and I then went on the pirate ship, before we moved on to the train ride, which takes you round the park. It’s a few minutes journey, and has a recording sharing with you all abut Twinlakes and encouraging you to spot nature around you as you travel. The kids always love a train ride, and this one was comfortable and there was plenty of room for pushchairs.

There’s a fabulous splash play, though it was quite chilly when we were visiting, so we gave this one a miss! But how good does it look?! Boo enjoyed watching the bucket at the top there, as it fills with water and tips over splashing everywhere every few minutes.

Twinlakes Splash Play

Boo then found a zip-wire that she was reluctant to leave!

Twinlakes zipwire

We looked round at the Creepy Critters, a reptile house, had a pit stop for snacks, and then moved on to the Action USA Zone, where we stayed for quite some time. There are go-karts, bumper boats, an assault course, sand play and a fabulous play area called Prairie Pete’s City, full of little buildings to explore and play equipment. I loved it, let alone the kids!

Twinlakes Prairie Pete's City

Twinlakes Prairie Pete's City play

At the end of the day, there was just time for the falconry centre, where Little Man delighted in shouting ‘owl’ and ‘eagle’ at every bird! And we then fit in a few more rides over at the Excalibur Adventure Zone, which also included more play areas, indoor and out, and a big castle to play knights and princesses in.

So it turns out, that there’s a lot there to do there! It’s not a huge place, and it’s not like the big theme parks, but for younger children, there was plenty to do and more.

To be honest, I was less impressed with the facilities, as everything felt a little tired. The first food outlet that we went to didn’t take card payments (never popular with the kids after they’ve seen you pile their food up on the counter!), and in the second, the queues were long, the service not great, and for reasons I still haven’t fathomed the food that I ordered wasn’t available as it was no longer on the menu – despite it being on the menu! The children ended up with sandwich boxes there which were absolutely fine, though I’d say that if we went again, we’d take a picnic to avoid the whole meal situation! The toilets and baby change areas could also do with a facelift and checking more frequently, in my opinion.

Amenities aside, it is a really fun day out for families. The amount and range of play areas for the kids had them delighting, queues for the rides were short, which was impressive on a Saturday in August, and I think the variety of activities that they have on offer is brilliant. The kids literally ran from area to area (and all areas are quite close together, too, so no long walks with the children, and it’s all fairly flat so easy with a pushchair) giggling with glee and gasping as they discovered the next set of equipment or rides to make use of! We really enjoyed it, and it is definitely good value. Lots of fun!

We visited Twinlakes as part of our Stay Play Explore pass. For £109, a family of four can stay at a 4* hotel in Leicestershire (fabulous! I’ll share in the next few days), and choose to visit 3 great attractions from a list of 5. There are other breaks available, too, for family adventures, theme parks, and adults gourmet breaks, amongst others – take a look, they’re fab!

Disclosure: We received a Stay Play Explore Family Fun Break FOC for the purposes of this review, but as ever, all words and opinions remain my own. 

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Word of the Week – 22/8/14

Thank you so much for continuing to share and to link up, I do appreciate and enjoy reading every single WotW post.

If you’re new here, Word of the Week is a nice and simple weekly linky, with everyone welcome to pop by and share. You reflect back on the past week and sum it up in one word. Then share your word with us in a blog post, with as little or as much explanation as you like. I comment on and tweet out every post, and it’s a friendly place, so come join in! All that I ask is that if you link up, you link back to me, and visit as many of the other blogs as you can and comment on their words.

My word of the week this week is:

cuddles

How can I complain about that?! I have spent a lot of time this past week cuddling with my children. Boo has been under the weather for a few days, and when she’s unwell, she asks for lots of cuddles. She’s not an overly cuddly child, unlike Little Man, so it’s nice to feel needed sometimes! It’s meant I’ve not got much done other than cuddling for two or three days, but then what could be more important? As Boo’s been unwell, we’ve been lazing around at home more than we normally do, watching films and reading stories, and all seem to require the three of us snuggling up and cuddling under a blanket. If you read my #WotW post last week, you’ll appreciate why buying Little Man his very own Animal has resulted in heaps of cuddling, as he has barely let him go since he had him at the weekend, clutching him to him, cuddling him and doing his own little impressions of him! And I’ve also been enjoying those morning cuddles, when the kids clamber into our bed at 6ish, before we all get up just before 7. I’m very aware that with Boo about to start school in a little over a week’s time, that these lazy, cuddly mornings are drawing to a close, so I’m savouring every single one of them until then.

What about you? What one word sums up your week best? Please grab the badge, link up and share.

The Reading Residence



Linky opens at 6.30am Friday, to midnight on Sunday.

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My Garden in August

It’s about time I share what’s happening out in my garden this month.

With the weather turning cooler, we haven’t been out there as much, and I am missing it. I’m not as on top of it as I was, so I’ve also quite a lot more weeding to do, a daunting task! Flowers are continuing to bloom, and there’s still plenty of colour out there, mainly pinks and purples…

Garden Aug 14 pink

Garden Aug 14lillies

Garden Aug 14 clematis

Garden Aug 14 fuschia

Garden Aug 14 anemones

Garden Aug 14 Harlow Carr rose

Garden Aug 14 nemesia

Garden Aug 14 minarda

Garden Aug 14 rose

I also see signs of the season ending, with leaves turning orange and brown, and my flower patch all going over, too..

Garden Aug 14 acer

Garden Aug 14 cut flower patch

As well as documenting what’s been happening out in the garden each month here, I’m also keeping my gardening journal. It’s allowing me to chart the changes and make plans for this autumn. I’ve lots of replanting to do, as well as sowing seeds, finding homes for new plants that’ll be arriving soon, along with that mountain of weeding! The problem, I’m finding, is that I like going out there and tending to it when it’s sunny and warm, so these next couple of months I’ll have to adjust to gardening in the cooler, wetter weather, so I will be testing out my gardening mettle!

How’s your garden growing?

Manneskjur

The Colour Thief by Gabriel Alborozo

We were recently sent a new picture book to review…

The Colour Thief

The Colour Thief by Gabriel Alborozo 
Zot lives in a world without colour – no green grass, no blue sky, no yellow sun and no red flowers. From his lonely mountaintop, he gazes at Earth, sparkling with brilliant colour, and thinks it must be a very happy place. He sets off to steal some of that happiness for himself . . .

Visually stunning and thought-provoking, The Colour Thief is a heartwarming story set to become a firm favourite with fans of Oliver Jeffers and Jon Klassen.

It’s a beautifully illustrated book, and yes, it did put me in mind of Oliver Jeffers’ books. Zot is a cute and loveable little character, and the story is very sweet.

the colour thief pages

When this one arrived, I couldn’t decide which child it would be best for. Little Man’s interest tends to veer towards vehicles and animals, and brightly coloured books, whilst Boo reads any and all books avariciously, but has recently been working her way through chapter books at bedtimes. So, I decided to try it with Little Man. Initially, he wouldn’t even let me get past the first page! But, and that was only a couple of weeks back, he is now showing a real love for it, and has had it as his bedtime story (he chooses his own book each evening) for the past few days. It’s a good length bedtime book for him, just coming up to 2 years old, and it’s a really good book for exploring colours with little ones.

The Colour Thief at bedtime

It’s a lovely book, and we’ve developed a love for Zot!

Disclosure: We received a copy of this book FOC for the purposes of this review.

Keeping a Book Journal

I’ve been a reader my whole life. I remember having my nose buried in a book for much of my childhood and reading remains my retreat and my ‘me-time’ now, as a busy parent. My friends and family know I’m a bookworm, so I’m often treated to vouchers for Amazon or Waterstones or the like, or a nice pile of books for birthdays and Christmas, which brings me much joy. However, until my recent birthday, I’d never been bought one of these…

book journal

My life has been changed forever! This particular journal is from Paperchase, and there are two types of pages running through it, the majority are for book reviews,, and then there are others to keep a record of books borrowed/lent..

book journal pages

I had this for my birthday mid-June, so I’ve been keeping it ever since. I’m not too interested in the borrowed/lent section, but I am finding I enjoy the reviews. They aren’t reviews as you may read over on Goodreads or Amazon, as they’re just notes for me, so something along the lines of how much I enjoyed it, why, how it compares to other books by the same author/same genre and so on. Along with the title and author, I also note down the dates that I read it, as looking back, I’ll be able to tell how much I liked it by how quickly I read it, too.

When this journal ends, I’ll be using another, though it’ll probably be just one of my many still-blank notebooks. I can see this becoming a lifetime habit now, as there’s something almost cathartic about writing down my feelings after reading a book. I find myself finishing a book, and then pondering how I’ll sum it up, what I really thought about it. Making a few notes on it, however basic and for my eyes only, makes me actually stop and think about the book that little bit more. Some books I’ve loved, and scribbled furiously away, whilst others, I’ve had to think about and it’s only been through this process that I’ve sorted my thoughts more clearly. I read a fair bit, and often rush from book to book, so this now causes me to stop and reflect. I do appreciate the pause, and I like the idea of knowing what I’ve read, how many books I’ve read, and seeing the patterns in my reading, too, if that makes sense? If I read a book that disappoints, do I move to a complete genre change next, or attempt to erase it with another stronger candidate? Well, it’s all being recorded now for me to look back on.

I’ve often wondered how many books I’ve read, or even how many I read on average in a year, so now I’ll be able to keep a record, and then I’ll add a few thousand ore on for the other 30 odd years of life so far! Reading and books are such an important part of my life, my enjoyment, it now actually seems odd that I’ve not thought to do this before!

Do you keep a book journal? If so, what sort of things do you make a note of? Or if not, have I inspired you to do so?

You may also enjoy How Do You Read Yours?

The Reading Residence
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