World Book Day 2014

World Book Day 2014 – Book Review: Woolly’s Walk

 

It’s World Book Day!  This morning I dropped my two off to school dressed as Belle from Beauty and the Beast and Lightening McQueen, with the relevant book in hand.  Now strictly speaking I am not sure that these really count as ‘book characters’ but at 5 and 3 I am not going to be too picky with them and I’m very comfortable that they have an impressive love of a huge variety of books so… ‘have a lovely time Belle and Lightening’!

 

I am a firm believer in reading to babies, even when they are still bumps!  It is never too early to start reading with your children, even if they don’t seem particularly interested and just want to chew the book, even this is a start.   Snuggling up on the bed, the sofa or the PlayDuvet and reading with your children is a lovely way to spend time together, for you and for them, and it is also hugely beneficial to their development, stimulating their reading and communication skills, their imagination and understanding, and allowing you opportunities to talk about colours, patterns, likes and dislikes… the list is endless.

 

For World Book Day every child in full time education in the UK and Ireland will receive a token to get a book for £1.  There are some great books included so don’t miss out!  You can find out more at www.worldbookday.com.  But if you’re little one isn’t in full time education yet, here is a recommendation and a review for a book for young children that we have loved, Woolly’s Walk by Usbourne and illustrated by Stephwn Cartwright.

 

Woollys Walk

 

This book is from the Usbourne ‘Touchy-Feely Farmyard Tales’ collection and one of the things that we loved about it was that it was a touchy-feely book with a story to it (albeit a short one!).  A lot of the sensory books don’t actually seem to have a story as such but this one is very sweet.  It takes young children on a journey with Woolly the sheep as she wanders about looking for some food, warning her off what she shouldn’t eat and eventually finding the grass that is just right for her.  It not only teaches young children the textures of things but also the relevant word for that texture and about nature – for example that birds eat apples and that a thistle is a prickly plant.  I can honestly say this is one of the best touchy-feely books I’ve come across.

 

Books like this are fantastic for playing games with on your PlayDuvet for children right through the early years to play together.  For example you can lay a different object on each square of the PlayDuvet and then your children can make up their own animal walk crawling from one square to the next until they find the right thing for that animal to eat, with a different opportunity to learn something at every ‘stop’!

 

 

2 Today!

2 Today – Thanks to You!

 

Two years ago today we launched PlayDuvet at The Baby Show at Earl’s Court and two years on I am very happy and proud to say, here we still are, having won an award and with fantastically positive feedback and testimonials from our customers.

 

I am told that the first two years in a business are critical and I know that there are some very exciting things on the horizon, so here at HQ we can’t wait for year three!

 

A huge thank you to ALL of our customers, our family for their continued support (and ad-hoc childcare!) and all of the friends we have made along the way.  Your support and positivity has been amazing and we look forward to growing the business and spreading PlayDuvet as far and wide as possible over the coming years so that more families can play together!

 

‘Happy Birthday to us, la-la-la-la la-laaa…’

 

 

Book Review – Percy’s Bumpy Ride

 

Today is International Literacy Day so there’s no better time than to post a new book review.  Reading a good story on the PlayDuvet® is a favourite past time here at HQ!  Sometimes huddled up together, sometimes with the book in the middle so that we can all lie around it and get really involved!  Not only is it quality time together that the whole family enjoys, regardless of your little one’s ages, it’s a great way of bonding and stimulating development.  Language and literacy skills come on in leaps and bounds with an inevitable influence on confidence and self-esteem.

 

One of our latest discoveries has been ‘Percy’s Bumpy Ride, A Tale From Percy’s Park’ by Nick Butterworth from Harper Collins Children’s Books.  Both our 5 year old daughter and our 2 year old son absolutely love it, it’s the perfect book when you need a story that will cover several children of different ages.

 

A great book to read as a family on the PlayDuvet

 

Park keeper Percy has been hidden away in his shed for days, making lots of noise, and all of his animal friends  are wondering what on earth he is busy doing.  He then emerges from his shed on top of ‘a very strange machine’ – a homemade lawnmower.  The animals hop on and so the adventure begins!  Much to everyone’s amazement the lawnmower takes off (thanks to the ‘fan’ Percy fitted to keep him cool).   The animals are excited but Percy is clearly not quite so impressed with his own invention, which soon stops and sends them all crashing down into a field of sheep.  The sheep huddle together to provide a soft landing blanket and Percy demonstrates his gratitude by offering them the lush long grass to graze on that he has still not been able to mow!

 

The book has a faultless level of suspense and intrigue for under 6’s, with an amusing and heart warming feel.  With quite ‘grown-up’ language, the book will undoubtedly introduce lots of new words to your children without being too complex and hard to follow.  Children will love the lift up page which shows the land below and the view that Percy and the animals are enjoying as they fly higher and higher.  Throughout the story there is also a fantastic sense of the trusting and loving relationship between a park keeper/farmer and their animals.

 

For more information about reading and playing with your children visit the National Literacy Trust’s amazing website http://www.wordsforlife.org.uk.

 

 

Blackcurrants-a-Plenty!

Blackcurrants-a-Plenty!

 

This summer my Dad’s blackcurrant crop has been plentiful and we’ve all been desperately trying to find different ways to use them up rather than just tarts and crumbles.  So, if like us you’ve currently got access to an abundance of blackcurrants or similar fruit, here’s some recipes I’ve tried and tested with great success, for the whole family to enjoy together, while you enjoy this gorgeous summer we’ve been having on your PlayDuvets!

 

DSC_1266

 

Blackcurrant Ice Cream

This ‘no churn’ blackcurrant ice cream from Woman & Home has been a huge hit!  It’s really easy, whether you’re  a cook or not, and absolutely delicious.  And if like us you don’t have an ice cream maker this recipe is the perfect answer.  I haven’t yet tried it with other fruit but I suspect the basic recipe would work well with lots of different flavours.

 

Blackcurrant Cordial

This cordial that I found online from The British Larder keeps well in the fridge.  You dilute it right down so don’t be concerned about the sugar and at least you know exactly what you’re putting into your little ones!

 

Blackcurrant Meringue Soufflé

This is a bit of a naughty pudding recipe that my Dad makes.  The recipe is scribbled on an old scrap of paper so it’s impossible for me to credit the source sorry!  It’s absolutely delicious, just leave out the nuts on the top for younger children…

12oz fresh blackcurrants

8oz caster sugar

1tbsp powdered gelatine dissolved in 3 tbsp water

6 eggs, separated

½ pt double cream, whipped

1oz flaked almonds

 

  1. Put blackcurrants and 2oz of sugar in a pan and heat gently until sugar dissolves and blackcurrants are soft then puree.
  2. Whisk 3 egg yolks and 3oz sugar until pale and thick then fold in blackcurrant puree and gelatine.  Fold in cream.
  3. Whisk 3 egg whites until stiff and fold into puree mixture.  Pour into a 1 litre soufflé dish, cover and chill until set.
  4. Preheat oven to 230°C/Gas 8.  Whisk remaining egg whites until stiff.  Whisk in half remaining sugar and then fold in the other half and spread it over the chilled blackcurrant mixture.
  5. Sprinkle with the almonds and bake on the top shelf for 3-5 minutes until golden.

 

Enjoy! x

 

 

 

Book Review – Dig, Dig, Digging

Book Review – Dig, Dig, Digging

We LOVE reading books with our little ones, especially when we’re all cuddled up together as a family on our PlayDuvet.  Inside or outside, day or night, since our kids were newborn we’ve loved to read with them, and they adore it too.

 

Our little girl was into books from the word go but Sam took a bit longer and didn’t really seem to engage with them much until he was about 12 months when it suddenly clicked.  Now he will pick up a book and brings it to us to read of his own accord, any time of the day.  It’s quality time that we have together every day (not always at bedtime) and I know it’s been a key part of our children’s development.  Their understanding of language and their vocabulary never fails to astound me and both are incredible at imaginary play, something which I am confident has been hugely encouraged by the face-to-face time we have together, the hours that have been passed, comfortably cuddled up on our PlayDuvet pouring over books.

 

For these reasons, I’ve been toying with the idea of recommending books to you for a while but this particular one gave me that final nudge required!  Sam was given this by his best friend Alfie for his second birthday and it has been read EVERY day since, sometimes 4 times a day (yes, it can become a bit tedious at that point!).  The book is called ‘Dig, Dig, Digging’ and it’s written by Margaret Mayo and has fantastically bright and bold illustrations by Alex Ayliffe.

 

Don’t be put off by the title if your little one is a girl, it’s bound to appeal more to boys and is definitely aimed at young children but my 4 year old girl also loves to listen to it and can pretty much read it off by heart, despite the fact that it’s not particularly short.  The book is full of beautiful, bouncing rhyme, describing what different types of vehicles do (Diggers are good at dig, digging, digging, scooping up the earth and lifting and tipping), from lorries to car transporters to dumpers and fire engines, with each one ending with the repetition of, ‘they can work all day’, which is the bit my little boy loves to recite.  At the end of the book they all go to bed for a big rest!

 

This book is excellent for teaching your little ones describing words, like pulling, rolling and spinning while you and they make the actions, even rolling around on the PlayDuvet like a road roller!  This book will undoubtedly develop little ones language, memory and recall skills.

 

For more information about reading and playing with your children visit the National Literacy Trust’s amazing website http://www.wordsforlife.org.uk.

 

 

Mummy Maker

Mummy Maker

If you haven’t seen Mister Maker yet (you probably will once your little one is old enough to start watching tele!), just cast your mind back to Art Attack or Tony Hart and the lovable Morph.  Start taking notes because if it hasn’t already happened to you, it is about to – you are soon expected to be this able and creative, just because you are a parent.

 

I have just come out of my Easter Bonnet making hell.   I usually take a while to come up with a suitable idea that my (usually) daughter is amenable to, initially drawing a blank with the pressure!  I’m not particularly competitive with these things, it’s more about letting the kids get involved in the experience, developing their imagination and skills although you also have to make sure you pull something passable out of the bag so that you’re not exposing them to utter humiliation once they arrive at school, or the parenting nightmare that is bullying. And, competitive or not, you also are unlikely to want to be ashamed of your (child’s) creation when you turn up at school/nursery.  That said – there will always be something that should have made it into London Fashion Week or The National Gallery.

 

As time goes on, I am becoming a savvier ‘Mummy Maker’.  The Easter bonnets were definitely quicker this year and weren’t aided by a readymade bonnet – one was a flowerpot and the other paper maché.  At Christmas time my little girl was a snowman in the school play.  I was initially quite proud of my cotton wool and felt covered creation, complete with scarf and cardboard hat, until we arrived at the play and I realised she was the only child who wouldn’t be able to sit down all the way through due to the lack of flexibility in the costume.  We survived it – 2 days running.

 

Unfortunately it’s not just holiday season that presents itself with these delights.  I am also becoming quite nifty at face painting and making things out of air drying clay and we have had to make farm animals (that can stand up) and a dinosaur for school.  One tip is to approach it with all of the knowledge you are presented with when you have your baby – think of your childs senses, think textures, colour, pattern and the learning experiences or versatility of everyday objects.  You will be amazed what you can make by playing together with these things and undoubtedly heartened by the ideas presented thanks to your child’s imagination.

 

Some great websites to help get you started when the time comes are netmums.com (huge thanks to them for the inspiration for this year’s bonnets!), sparklebox.co.uk and nurturestore.co.uk.

 

Last of the Summer Veg: Part 3

Last of the Summer Veg: Part 3

Clearly I am still in denial that there is something left of summer and am starting to realise just that having made my Christmas cake this week!  Nonetheless, I always seem to plant my peppers late and consequently I am lucky enough to still have peppers growing in the greenhouse, some of which have even still turned yellow/red.  So with that in mind, here’s the last of our recipes for the whole family, using up the summer vegetables (and herbs) in your garden (or the seasonal veg in store).  I had this recipe from a friend a while ago and it’s become a firm favourite in our house.

For more family friendly recipes check out www.netmums.com, they even tell you where your local farm shops are to get great fresh veg if you can’t or haven’t grown your own.

 

Egg & Pepper Pots

½ tsp cumin seeds

2 tbsp mild olive oil

2 onions, sliced

2 red & 2 yellow peppers thinly sliced/chopped for little ones

2tsp dark brown soft sugar

2 bay leaves

Handful each of fresh thyme, parsley and coriander, roughly chopped

6 large beef tomatoes, chopped

½ tsp saffron

Pinch of cayenne

200ml water

1 pack of lardons OR ½ ring of chorizo

6 fresh, free-range eggs

Freshly ground salt and black pepper

 

Dry roast the cumin seeds in a large frying pan on a high heat.  When they start to pop add the oil and fry the onions for at least 5 minutes until really soft, then add the peppers, sugar and fresh herbs and fry for another 10 minutes on a med-high heat until well softened and coloured.

 

Add the tomatoes, saffron and cayenne and season.   Add the water, bring to the boil and cook over a low heat until, until the dish has a sauce like consistency and has all started to blend together well, at least15 minutes.  Meanwhile, fry the lardons/chorizo
in a separate pan until starting to crisp.

 

Add the meat to the pepper mix and divide between individual oven proof dishes or one large dish.  Make 6 wells in the mix and break an egg into each, then bake in the oven on 160 degrees until the eggs are just set. Serve with crusty bread or potato wedges.

 

 

Last of the Summer Veg: Part 2

Last of the Summer Veg: Part 2

Here it is, our second recipe for using up the veggies in the garden, a last taste of the fresh flavours of summer for all the family. We’ve been lucky this year to have a late crop of tomatoes so if like us you still have a few left in the greenhouse and you’re sick of salad, here’s a lovely and super easy recipe that will also use up any fresh red chillies you might have grown and my much loved chives, which are still in abundance. As with all the recipes, it serves 2 adults and 2 small children.

 

Prawn Linguine

8oz pasta (linguine, reginette or spaghetti are all great with this dish)

A pudding basin of fresh tomatoes (cherry tomatoes are ideal), chopped (as small as required for your little ones to eat them happily)

1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and chopped (experiment with this and add as much as is suitable for your children) (you can use ½ – 1 teaspoon of dried chilli if you don’t have any fresh/out of season)

3 cloves garlic

Splash of white wine (optional)

1 packet of cooked prawns

Juice of half a lemon

Freshly ground black pepper

A small bunch of fresh chives

 

Start cooking the pasta as per the instructions on the pack. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add chilli and garlic (not too hot as the garlic will burn). Fry for one minute and then add the tomatoes. Cook this down until the tomatoes are quite well softened and starting to go saucy. Add the spash of white wine and allow to simmer for a minute.

 

Add the prawns, lemon juice and seasoning and cook for 4-5 minutes on a medium heat until the prawns are well heated through.

 

Using kitchen scissors, chop the chives straight into the sauce, add the cooked pasta and serve.

Last of the Summer Veg

Last of the Summer
Veg: Part 1

It’s safe to say that whatever summer we had is over, although there are still some summer vegetables in the garden.  That said, I for one am not feeling like salad is the dish of the day anymore and my kids (4 and 1) are not great at eating lettuce and the like I have to say. So here is the first of a few easy, family friendly recipes that will
warm you up as well as use up the last of those seasonal goodies.  You might need to tweak or judge quantities to suit your family and also because I usually guess these things by sight so not everything is in weight, sorry!

All of the dishes serve 2 adults and 2 small children

 

Garden Risotto

325g Arborio rice

3 small shallots (or 1 if it’s onion sized like the ones in
our garden!)

1 clove garlic

½ glass white wine (optional, you can replace with stock)

2 ½ pints of vegetable or chicken stock

1 large courgette

1 bowl (cereal size!) of purple sprouting broccoli

2 handfuls of French/dwarf beans

White pepper (season to taste, you may not need salt with the stock and parmesan, children particularly)

2 large handfuls of freshly grated parmesan

A knob of butter

Small handful of fresh chives

 

Finely chop the shallots and chop the vegetables – they should be small enough that you can get a fork with more than one taste on it and also small enough that it suits your little ones.

Heat a frying pan with 2 tbsp of olive oil.  Gently fry the shallots for a few minutes, until softened, and add the Arborio rice. Stir this in the pan on a medium heat for a minute or 2 until all the rice is well coated in oil.

Add the white wine to the pan to begin cooking the rice.  You will need to keep stirring the risotto as it cooks.  Once the wine has mostly been absorbed add a ladle of hot stock. Continue doing this until the rice is almost cooked and has just a slight bite to it.  Despite what most recipes say I normally find this takes at least 35 minutes.  When the rice is almost cooked add your vegetables.  You may need to continue adding a little more stock at this stage to cook the rice and the vegetables.  This stage should take another 5-10 minutes depending on how small you have chopped your vegetables – they should be slightly al dente in the finished dish.

At the last moment add the parmesan, butter and cut your chives straight into the pan, stirring through and serve. Don’t underestimate this simple, vegetarian dish, it’s delicious but if you can’t bear to be without meat it would work equally well with chicken or bacon added to it!

School Holiday Phobia

School Holiday Phobia!

My little girl has just turned 4 and today has begun her first ever ‘school summer holidays’.  After the ‘summer’ (really?  I hadn’t noticed, I thought it was February?!) she will go from the nursery year across the yard into reception in ’The Big School’ as it’s known in our house!

As part of the nursery year, our school day to date has only been from 9am to 11.45am, and 3 of the 5 mornings I still have our little boy at home too.  So why am I completely petrified of the next 6 weeks?!  I have been hit today by a giant imaginery stick that I suddenly have 6 weeks to fill and what on earth are we going to do and how on earth am I going to work, when logically actually this is barely different from all of our other days!  I have been working out all of the creative things we can do, local places we can visit that wont be overrun by other people also trying desperately to fill their children’s days, play dates we can have.  I really need to relax!  These days will be filled with everything we normally do: stories; cooking; cuddling up; tea parties on the PlayDuvet®; picnics (also on the PlayDuvet® of course!); trampolining; parks…

If you’re looking for some regular ideas through the summer of something to do each day try Nurture Store and sign up to their fab weekly email (no junk accompanies it).  And if you need to get hold of me through the summer holidays, please be patient, but I promise, I am here and I’ll be with you as soon as possible!

Now… fingers crossed for some great weather.