My Dream Garden

Oh, to dream. I meander around lots of beautiful gardens these days, with our National Trust days out, as well as enjoying my own and my mum’s. They lead me to daydream about my perfect garden. You know, the one you’d have if you won the lottery? If money and time were no barrier.

So, my dream garden? It’d look a little something like this…

I’d best start with the kids. They’re pretty small, but there’s nothing more that they love than to have huge amounts of space to run about in! So, I’ll need a very big lawn (the Husband can have one of those ride-on mowers as a treat here) and on and around it, they’ll have one of those great wooden playhouse structures, with climbing frames, swings, a slide, tunnels, lookout tower – the works! They’ll also have a trampoline, sandpit and plenty of garden games…

Dream Garden Gunby Hall 7

I’m thinking they might actually never come back inside!

So with one part neat lawn and crazy play area, then I can create the magical place that I want. It would start with archways, doorways and gateways, all covered in greenery and colour…

Dream Garden Gunby Hall

It would be walled. That’s a given, right?

Dream Garden Gunby Hall 5

And on entering, you’d be assailed by scents and blooms. It’d have an overgrown look, cottage garden at it’s best, with flowers drawing your eye at every single turn…

Dream Garden Gunby Hall 1

Dream Garden Gunby Hall 2

It would have winding pathways, secret areas and archways, taking you on a journey through, and for the kids to enjoy running around..

Dream Garden Gunby Hall 3

Dream Garden Gunby Hall 4

Dream Garden Gunby Hall 6

And central to it all, with a little bench for me, I think, I’d have to have a rose garden. You were waiting for me to mention, that, weren’t you?!

Dream Garden Gunby Hall 8

And then, add in a summer house for me to read, relax and write in, with a beautiful writing bureau in the corner, and I do believe I’m set.

Photos taken at National Trust’s Gunby Hall. Yes, I’d happily live there!

What would your dream garden be like? I’d love to know, so I’ve added a little linky to this post and am inviting you to come share with me. Linky is open until the end of this year, so you’ve a fair bit of time to daydream and blog it!

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The Letter-Writing Box

For this month’s Papery Peep, I’m sharing with you my letter-writing box.

the letter-writing box

I send and receive lots of lovely snailmail here. I love being a part of #PostCircle, and I’ve also found other lovely ladies that I write to via Twitter and Instagram, too. I keep every letter, note and card received…

Letters received

It would clearly be remiss of me if I didn’t have plenty of writing paper and note-cards to use to reply with…

writing sets

So I have the paper, now I need a nice range of pens….


And then to the envelope, well, that’ll clearly need washi tape and stickers to pretty it up, won’t it?

washi tape collection

stickers for snail mail

I just feel that I need more, though….! Enjoy the Papery Peep? What do you think I need next?

You can find out more about #BringBackPaper here and do come join in with ‘31 Days of Paper’ over on Instagram throughout August.

The Reading Residence

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Papery Peep – July

Yes, it’s that time again where I ask you share your papery loveliness with me! I so love this linky! Well, to be honest, I love the whole #BringBackPaper campaign and series. We’ve been book swapping again this month, so here’s a little reminder that all books need to be received this month, so if you’ve yet to post yours off, do it today! And I’m very excited to announce that for the month of August, I’m launching #BringBackPaper’s ‘31 Days of Paper‘ over on Instagram. If you’ve not got an account over there yet, go join it is fabulous, and if you have, make sure you’re following me ready to join in! It begins on Friday, and we’ll have a month of sharing papery goodness with each other!

Here are the daily prompts so that you can get thinking!


I’d love it if you can tag in other papery fans and get them sharing, too. I’ll have the prompts up on Instagram today, so do share and spread the #BringBackPaper #31DaysOfPaper word. I’m so looking forward to seeing what you all come up with each day!

This month’s Papery Peep linky is now open. It’ll be open until next Tuesday night, the 5th August, and it’s a place to share anything papery that you want to share! Simply write the blog post, which can be anything from a single photo with a caption to stacks of shots with plenty of explanations, add the #BringBackPaper badge which you’ll find in my sidebar over there, and link up. It’d be lovely if you could then pop by my post and as many of the others as you can for a peep. I’m sharing my letter-writing box this month..

Looking forward to reading and peeping! Oh, I can often be found over on Pinterest, pinning pics of various letters, stationery and washi tape beauties, too, so if you’re on Pinterest, come follow!

The Reading Residence

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Dear Shop

Dear Shop,

I’m writing this through a haze of tears and exhaustion, so forgive me if I ramble on a little. I’ll be as clear as I can be.

Why, oh why, do you torture me so?

You’ve heard of toddlers, yes? They are fun-loving, gorgeous little scamps, but they are also stubborn, fiercely independent and have a definite leaning towards unreasonable behaviour.

So, when I need to just nip in and grab a couple of bits and bobs from you, I beg of you, don’t have one of these in your entrance….(I refer to the ride-on, not the boy, you understand)

Little Man on Thomas

Have you any idea at all how immoveable small people can become when confronted with such vehicular delights? Yes, you probably have, and so you aim to please them and tend to their every whim with these little treats. But Shop, when did you last see a toddler paying for your wares? If I’m your consumer, shouldn’t it be me that you’re aiming to please? And believe me when I say that these do not please me.

Who even uses them? I think I’ve only ever seen them actually moving around 5 times in my entire life. I cannot be the only parent advising my children that they are broken every single time they attempt to inveigle a coin from me?

Please, I’m begging you, remove them. They serve no purpose. They are not going to persuade me to enter your premises. They will only ensure a huge commotion and scuffle as I attempt to wrestle said tot off the thing, literally kicking and screaming. No-one needs that, least of all me. And no, I won’t give in and part with my £1. That is one precedent I am determined not to set.

Yours Hopefully,

Harassed Mum.

P.S. while you’re removing these ‘fun rides’ can you please refrain from putting playhouses outside your shops, too. A toddler and a playhouse can only equal an exasperated mum luring said child out – eventually – with a bourbon cream. True story.

The Blog Lowdown – Over there to Here

Today on The Blog Lowdown, I’m delighted to be hosting Kriss from Over there to Here….

Please Introduce yourself:
I’m Kriss from OvertheretoHere. Until I had my twins – Luce and Theo – I worked as an international television news journalist. When I was younger I covered everything from conflict zones to royal scandals and then was the regional editor in charge of the Middle East and Asia for the world’s largest news agency.
I’m a dual national – British and American. Two years ago we moved from London to the US and then a month ago we moved back to the UK. We’re now living in the countryside in Sussex. Two years ago my children called me Mummy but now they call me Mommy!

When did you start blogging?
I started blogging just over a year ago when we were based in the Hamptons, NY, USA.

Tell us a little about your blog
I now mainly focus on outdoors fun with kids as well as photography. I want to inspire my children and others to explore and discover nature no matter what the season. In the Hamptons I wrote about the amazing trails, nature reserves, beaches and outdoor activities available to children year round. I plan to do similar posts here in Sussex. I love watching my children turn into young naturalists as we observe and learn together about nature and wildlife.
Yes, I’m a Google+ evangelist! I was pleasantly surprised to discover my G+ profile is now ranked in the top 300 in the UK. I’ve written a series of Google Plus posts with tips from how to optimize your profile to how to manage your circles. More to come soon…
Originally I predominantly published posts on British kids’ lifestyles and brands primarily for expats. With my perspective as a Mum and a Mom, I enjoy writing on topics which are helpful for families moving to or visiting Britain.

Who designed your blog?
I went down the ‘teach yourself route’ and designed my blog myself. I wanted to keep control on how it looks as well as be able to make changes whenever I wanted.

Which of your posts have been the most popular? Are there certain types that get more interest?
I actually receive regular organic search traffic for many of my British kids lifestyle posts. My top post is Mum or Mom or Ma or Mam – what do you say?
My photo based nature posts are popular with regular readers. I like to find different ways to enjoy the outdoors with kids such as ‘Would you like to watch the sunset?
Some of my creative posts are also a big hit such as Two Fab Ways to Teach Kids How to Compare Planet Sizes.

How do you promote your blog posts, and which methods do you find to be most successful?
I share mainly on Google+, Twitter and Pinterest. Google+ is Google so it’s a way of telling the search engines who you are and what you write about. I really need to focus more on Pinterest as I’m amazed at how it can regularly refer traffic to your blog.
Google+ is also a perfect place to share photography. You’d be shocked how many big photographers are active there and have huge followings.

Which linkys do you most enjoy joining in with/reading?
One of my favourites is Country Kids on Coombe Mill as it encourages outdoors fun with kids. PoCoLo on Vevivos is fantastic, but I think it’s important to only join in with linkys when you have time to visit and comment on other blogs. If I’ve written a post that I think will work with a great linky, then I try to join up as well. There are some great posts to read every week on Mumturnedmom’s The Prompt.
I’m also a huge fan of photography linkys such as on PodcastDove or TheBoyandMe’s Project 365 or Love All Blogs Better Photo Project.

When are your busiest days on the blog, and why? (if you know why!)
I need to organize my time better as often I end up way too busy at the weekends or late at night.

Can you name 3 things that blogging has brought you?
Rawakening my passion for photography.
Learning about social media.
Watching my children turn into young naturalists.

My Top 5 Tips for Bloggers:
1. Be inspired by others but find your own voice and style.5 great social sharing tips for bloggers
2. Be active on Google Plus! Like, reshare, comment and engage. Write a few sentences explaining why you’re sharing your own post or resharing someone else’s. If you just link dump then many on G+ consider this as spam. Google+ is a great platform to find the top experts on blogging and social media. It’s also very visual (like Pinterest) and you’ll find more interaction if you upload large images.
3. Make sure your social buttons are easy to find on your blog. Also customize your Twitter share button on your posts in order that your Twitter name/handle is automatically included. Tarana at Sand in My Toes has a great post explaining how to do this.
4. Include large and interesting images in your blog posts – or even graphics – particularly if you want your post to be shared in social media and encourage interaction.
5. Support bloggers you like by reading, commenting, sharing and subscribing to their posts.

My Social Media Links:
You can find me on Google+Twitter, PinterestFacebook

Thanks very much, Kriss. Lovely to know more about you and your blog. You’ve definitely been my G+ guru and inspiration, and I know I must make more effort there – you’ve reminded me to do so!

If you’ve any questions for Kriss, feel free to comment on this post, and she’ll pop by and check in. Next week, we will be hearing from Louise at At Home With Mrs H, 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 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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In the light of the moon…

…a little egg lay on a leaf. Sound familiar? Oh, it does to me! I’ve been reading Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar for a few years now. It was the first book that we read to Boo as a baby, and it quickly became a favourite, so, among many others, she had this one read to her every single day. Little Man still has it sometimes now, too. It’d be fair to say that we’re familiar with it here! Which makes it appropriate as the basis for this month’s picture book related activity, following on from last month’s Zoe and Beans post.

the very hungry caterpillar

We read stacks and stacks of books here. I like to think that as well as enjoying them, the kids are learning from them. But then I like to build on any learning by actually experiencing and seeing it, wherever possible. And so, if little eggs turn into caterpillars, then turn into butterflies, then off to a butterfly house we will go…

butterfly house 4butterfly house 2

butterfly house 1

butterfly house

butterfly house 3

Boo and I talked about the life cycle and the beautiful butterflies all the way round. There were plenty of gasps coming from her, as they flew around us, and she spotted different ones landing all over the pretty flowers and shrubs. Of course, she’s seen butterflies before, but never this many, and we saw the little chrysalis’ as we went in, so it worked perfectly for our chat.

It was a lovely trip. Oh, apart from Little Man freaking out about the swooping creatures – yep, that part wasn’t as good, so daddy whisked him out of there pretty quickly!

Is this a popular read in your house?

Visit The Reading Residence’s profile on Pinterest.

 photo 93142f35-6d39-479f-b3de-d94dbca68162_zps58499252.jpg

Our Day At Twycross Zoo

Today I’m sharing our day out at Twycross Zoo…

I’ve always loved zoos. They were my favourite choice of birthday outing all throughout my twenties, let alone when I was a kid. My love of Twycross Zoo began when I was at primary school, as our headmaster had affiliations with them and so we often visited, adopted a Colubus monkey, and he gave presentations in assembly sometimes all about primates! And so I was keen to take my pair to Twycross Zoo, and see what they made of it…

First up, were lots and lots of monkeys and apes. It was such a hot day, most were just chilling outside in the sunshine, though a few were running about making the kids giggle…


Twycross Zoo

And there was plenty of information dotted around, particularly about endangered species that they’re trying to protect..

Twycross Zoo siamang

Then we were off exploring the many other animals they have there…

Twycross Zoo animals

And I love seeing elephants, especially when there is a baby! This one stayed safely between it’s mother’s legs but hopefully you can just see it, peeping out…

Twycross Zoo elephants

They have a lovely lemur walk-through enclosure, but unfortunately, all of the lemurs were hiding in the trees when we went through, which was rather disappointing! There’s also a pretty new butterfly house just opened. Throughout the day there are scatter feed times for the meerkats, chimps & bonobos, coatis and bush dogs, elephants and spider monkeys and a penguin parade – all are on every day.

We’d already eaten just before we got there (if you’re visiting and need some food on the way, there’s a McDonalds just off the M42 exit island on the way there, which is very handy!), but of course, an ice cream stop was obligatory, especially after all of that learning and running about!

Twycross Zoo running

And we ended our visit in the Explorer Zone, with a pets area and plenty of kids play equipment…

Twycross Zoo Pets area

Twycross Zoo play areas

And just look at the contentment on Little Man’s face! He does love a swing, and he really enjoyed his day out. In fact, he’s been asking to go to the zoo every day since!

Twycross Zoo Little Man

It’s a really lovely family day out, though I freely admit to bias here as it holds so many fabulous childhood memories for me. All of the interesting animals aside, from a parents’ point of view, I like it as it’s all pretty much flat, so no steep hills with the pushchair, and it’s not too huge, so no walking for what feels like ages from enclosure to enclosure with little ones. It is all gravelly though, so be prepared to dig gravel out of little sandals! We did have an ice cream and drink there, and the prices were reasonable. We visited at the weekend and plenty of the cafes and ice cream kiosks were open, so lots of places to eat and snack, without everyone queuing all in the one place.

We visited Twycross Zoo as part of our Stay Play Explore pass. For £109, a family of four can stay at a 4* hotel in Leicestershire (we’ve yet to do this part but I will fill you in when we do), and choose to visit 3 great attractions from a list of 5, so we’ll also be going to Conkers and Twinlakes Theme Park. I will share how we get on at our other 2 attractions over the coming weeks, but I can say now that I am really impressed with the value that this represents. There are other breaks available, too, for family adventures, theme parks, and adults gourmet breaks, amongst others – take a look, they’re fab!

I like to see all of the animals, but I have a particular penchant for the penguins, elephants and tapirs when I visit a zoo – what’s your favourite?

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

Introducing toogiez

We’ve recently been introduced to toogiez, the playable, wearable, stickable sidekicks….


toogiez are a match made in heaven – adorable, collectible plushies that stick to comfy, stylish, specially designed t-shirts. Attached securely and displayed proudly, toogiez are a child’s best friend, wearable sidekick and constant companion.

It’s a cute concept. A toogy is a little plush friend that attaches to a t-shirt, and are designed for 2-8 years olds. Boo was very excited when she first saw hers, which says it all, I think. There’s a great novelty factor with these, and the lovely idea that you’re carrying a little friend around with you. Boo’s called her toogy Rapunzel, and they are now firm friends…

toogiez Boo 1

The t-shirt has a velcro patch on, which when the toogy is not affixed, is a pretty heart shape that blends in with the design…

toogiez Boo

The toogiez are soft and well made, and I like the range of them available and their designs. The t-shirt itself feels soft, washes well, and my favourite clothing feature – it irons easily!

The design we have received is a prototype, and there are many more in the pipeline, along with a variety of toogiez..


You can buy all sorts of toogiez combinations, from 1 t-shirt with 3 toogiez, all the way through to a total toogiez set.

It’s an exciting business venture for two good friends and mums, Noa C and Noa S who have toogiez on Kickstarter now, so as well as having a toogiez, you can be part of the toogiez story!


You can find out more about toogiez and how they came to be over on Kickstarter, and we at The Reading Residence wish them the best of luck, as we think this is a really sweet and fun idea.

Disclosure: We received a toogiez top and toogy FOC for the purposes of this review. As always, words and opinions remain my own.

Word of the Week – 25/7/14

Thank you so much for continuing to share and to link up. You’ll be pleased to learn that Little Man has actually slept past dawn several times this week, so I’m now getting lie ins until just after 6am, which I can totally handle!

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. 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:


It’s been a week where I’ve achieved lots of things that I needed to get done, all interspersed with play dates, trips out and sunshine. I’ve got a couple of classes now booked in for Little Man from September, caught up on all of my snail mail, had a toy clear-out and got the kids next size up clothes hanging and ready to use. I’ve been pottering about in the garden getting jobs out there done, whilst the kids have been enjoying the sunshine. I’ve arranged a few upcoming blog posts and been working on more freelance work. Then the big project has been buying and changing all of the furniture in Little Man’s room, switching some of it with Boo, and arranging for his bed, which will come in a few weeks time – more on that to follow. So it’s all been very productive, very warm, and I’m feeling rather pleased with everything that’s been achieved.

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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