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Easy Ways to Make Your Back Garden More Attractive

Collaborative Post

If you have a home with a large garden, it’s a waste to let it go unattended, especially if you have kids around. There are plenty of things you can do to give the space a lift if you’re feeling creative, and the good news is, most of these things don’t even have to cost a lot! All it takes is having a good plan of what you want your garden to ideally look like, knowing who the right contractors for each job are, and perhaps setting aside a little time for your family to take a break while things are underway.

New Plants  

By far one of the easiest ways to give your garden a whole new look is to consider a new arrangement of plants. A good landscaper can help you quite a lot with this, although you can probably do a large part of that job on your own if you know how to do your research online, and also know what resources you have available.

Make sure that you approach this in a tasteful way though – don’t just plant a bunch of the most expensive bushes you can find and call it a day! Try to have some harmony between every element in your garden, and plan ahead so that everything will be easy enough to maintain in the long run too. If you’re not sure how that works, it’s best to leave this part in the hands of a professional familiar with the field.

Attractive Fences

Garden fence panels can allow you to create an attractive setup for your garden boundaries whilst also ensuring your privacy. Rather than sticking with the usual plain fence panels that came with the house, why not go for more decorative fence panels sold by companies like Fencestore? You can find a wide variety of fence panels online at Fencestore’s website. These range from picket fences to the more traditional feather edge fence panels, so choose something that goes well with the garden design you envision.  If you do not have a budget that will stretch to new fence panels just yet, a simple lick of paint can bring a new lease of life into your garden.

Outdoor TV

Keeping a TV outdoors is becoming a more and more popular trend among many homeowners with a large back garden. It makes sense too, especially for those who like to socialise with their neighbours on a regular basis and enjoy throwing the occasional grill party. With a proper outdoor cover, your TV can safely be kept outside the house even during harsher weather, giving you a lot more freedom in how you spend your evenings with the family during those hot summer nights. The only thing you’ll have to think about is making sure to insulate the power cords and other exposed electrical components, but the rest is very easy to set up when you’re working with the right company in the field.  Make sure to also keep any electrical appliances away from any sources of water and ensure there are no hanging wires creating a trip hazard.

Grill Tent

Speaking of grill parties, why not take things to the next level with a classy tent that your guests can use in hot and cold weather alike? Having a good grill in the first place is of course important, but if people feel uncomfortable while eating those tasty burgers, you’re reducing your chances of seeing them at your next party. A good tent can cost surprisingly little if you buy it from the right supplier and know what your requirements are and setting it up is a piece of cake with most modern models.

Keep in mind that you may have to take the tent down during periods of extreme weather, especially if you live in a place with stronger winds, so it’s best to spend some extra time searching for a model that is easy to take apart in those cases.

Lighting can also become an issue if you want to spend some time outside in the tent late into the evenings, so try to come up with an energy efficient solution that will allow you to keep the whole place attractive to guests while also not costing you too much.  For example, it would be a good idea to invest in solar powered lights that also have a movement sensor for the added bonus of security throughout the night.

Swimming Pool

It might cost a bit more than your typical garden renovation, but a good swimming pool can make all the difference in those hot summer periods when the entire family is sweating from top to bottom. It’s not impossible to do it yourself, although it requires very specialised skills and is far from your typical DIY project – not to mention the kinds of tools involved in the job!  It might also be a good idea to coincide the construction period with a family getaway since it is obviously not an overnight job.  An unusable garden in the summer holidays means the kids will be stuck indoors which is not something you want to contend with.

The good news is, quality professionals are not hard to come by, and if you already have your specifications prepared and ready to present, you should have a relatively easy time getting in touch with a company that can do the job properly for you. Something else to keep in mind in case you’re constructing a pool is the average price of water in your area, as sometimes the initial construction turns out to be the lesser evil in terms of what you’ll have to pay.

As you can see, it all comes down to having a few good ideas about what you want to do with your garden and knowing what professionals you can get in touch with to execute those ideas properly. As long as you have your budget in order and take the time to research your local market for the different services you’re about to use, you should have a great time refreshing your garden and turning it into an even more attractive place for the whole family – and possibly some of your favourite neighbours!

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Spicy Thai Cauliflower Soup – Vegan Friendly

Guest post with recipe developed by Nicky Corbishley, the founder of Kitchen Sanctuary blog.

Nicky is also brand ambassador for NEFF, after winning the Cookaholic competition last year, and is currently helping gathering true and passionate cookaholics around the country to enter this year’s competition.  This is his second recipe to feature on my blog.

Neff is currently looking for new entrants to this years competition at:

The Spicy Thai Cauliflower soup is actually vegan so a flavoursome option for vegetarians and vegans.

Spicy Thai cauliflower, coconut and lime soup

A deliciously spicy soup to warm you up from the inside. It’s vegan too!

Serves: 4


  • 1 large cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium red chillies, chopped (remove and discard the seeds if you don’t like it too hot)
  • 1 x 3cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp lemongrass paste
  • 1 heaped tbsp of fresh coriander stalks (save the leaves for garnishing)
  • 1 ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1 x 400ml tin coconut milk (full fat)
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
  • 1 tbsp light brown muscovado sugar
  • Juice of one lime


  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C. Place the cauliflower florets on a large baking tray.
  2. Place 2 tablespoons of the oil, half of the chopped onions, the chillies, ginger, garlic, lemongrass paste, coriander stalks, turmeric, tamarind paste, cumin and paprika in a food processor, and pulse until you get a thick paste.
  3. Spoon half of the paste onto the cauliflower florets, and rub the paste in using your hands.
  4. Place the cauliflower in the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
  5. Meanwhile heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan. Add the remaining chopped onions and fry for 5 minutes on a medium heat until softened. Add in the remaining curry paste and fry for a further minute.
  6. Add the roasted cauliflower to the pan (save a few florets for garnishing) along with the coconut milk, stock, rice wine and sugar. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat.
  7. Carefully blend the soup in the pan using a stick blender.
  8. Divide the soup between four bowls and garnish with the reserved cauliflower, coriander leaves and some finely chopped chillies.
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Sugar Free Chocolate Mint Avocado Mousse

Guest post with recipe developed by Nicky Corbishley, the founder of Kitchen Sanctuary blog.

Nicky is also brand ambassador for NEFF, after winning the Cookaholic competition last year, and is currently helping gathering true and passionate cookaholics around the country to enter this year’s competition.

Neff is currently looking for new entrants to this years competition at:

One of his fantastic recipes is included in this post.  Enjoy..

Refined sugar-free chocolate mint avocado mousse with shortbread bites

  Makes 4 servings of mousse and 28-30 shortbread bites

Chocolate Mint Mousse:

  • 4 ripe avocados, peeled and de-stoned
  • 2 very ripe bananas, peeled
  • 160ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1/8 tsp green food colouring gel (optional)
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • ½ tsp peppermint extract
  • 3 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 2 tbsp Greek yogurt
  • 1 small square good quality, sugar-free dark chocolate, grated
  • Mint leaves to garnish

Shortbread Bites:

  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tbsp real maple syrup
  • 100g plain flour
  • 50g rice flour
  • pinch of salt


  1. Start with the shortbread. Using a stand mixer, or by hand, mix the butter and maple syrup until well incorporated. Add the two flours and the salt, and mix again until just incorporated (don’t over-mix as your cookies will be tough).
  2. Scoop out the dough and squash it together into a big ball. Place it onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to approx. 6mm thick. The dough is quite delicate and will try to crumble in places. Just push it back together if it crumbles.
  3. Using a small (approx. 3-4 cm) cookie cutter, cut out the cookie shapes – squashing and re-rolling the dough as needed. Dip your cookie cutter in flour before each cut, to prevent it sticking to the dough. Place the cookie shapes on a tray or chopping board, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes (this will help the cookies to maintain a sharper shape once in the oven).
  4. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 170c CircoTherm. Take the biscuits out of the fridge and take off the clingfilm. Place baking parchment or a silicone mat onto a large baking tray and place the cookies on the tray. They shouldn’t spread, but leave at least 1.5cm space between each cookie. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, until the edges start to turn slightly golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the tray.
  5. Now make the mousse. Place the avocados, banana, almond milk, vanilla bean paste, food colouring gel (if using) and honey into a food processer. Blend until smooth and creamy. Spoon half of the mixture out into a bowl and stir in the peppermint extract.
  6. Add the cacao powder to the remaining mixture in the food processer and pulse until well combined.
  7. Spoon the two mixtures into two separate piping bags with a large circular or semi-circular tip (alternatively use disposable piping bags with the tips cut off – no nozzle needed). Holding both bags at the same time, with the tips next to each other, pipe the mousse into serving glasses in a swirled pattern.
  8. Top each mousse with ½ tbsp Greek yogurt and a small sprinkling of grated dark chocolate. Push a shortbread biscuit into the blob of Greek yogurt and garnish with a few small mint leaves.
  9. Serve the mousse immediately, with extra shortbread bites for dipping.


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Featured Guest Post: Four Great Home Burger Ideas

A favourite of pub, restaurant and café menus across the country, the burger is one of the most satisfying and hearty meals around.

Kids love the tasty flavours and the French fries that often go with them, making them a great choice for easy home dinners. Plus, by making them yourself, you can quickly and easily come up with some great tasting burgers that will knock your family’s socks off.

Burger Fries

Chorizo And Chilli

To make a delicious chorizo and chilli burger, simply take some beef mince, some sliced chorizo sausage and some finely chopped chilli.  Mix together, let it rest for a few minutes and then grill or fry until cooked.

The spicy flavours of the chorizo and the chilli will set the beef off nicely and create a delicious burger for your family to enjoy.

Built-In Cheese

This one is great for anyone who loves a generous slice of cheese with their burger.

Simply take your beef mince, add a little seasoning and then form it into a burger around a large piece of your favourite cheese.

As the burger cooks, the cheese will melt, giving you a delicious surprise in the middle of your meat.

Sweet Potato And Feta

Though it can be hard to find a good veggie burger recipe, this one works really well and provides a tasty and nutritious burger for any vegetarians to dig into.

First, roast the sweet potato then mix it with feta and a little chilli. Add an egg to help bind it all together, and then grill or fry. Try not to cook the burger for too long otherwise it can become a little dry.  Serve with French fries and voilà.

Chicken, Avocado And Blue Cheese

A good healthy option for any meat eaters out there is a grilled chicken, blue cheese and avocado burger.

Just before the chicken is cooked, place a slice of blue cheese on top and allow it to melt over onto the chicken. As blue cheese is quite strong, you won’t need very much to really make an impact. Place a few slices of avocado in the burger for a great finishing touch.

Once you’ve found your perfect burger recipe, simply cook up some crispy McCain French fries to go with it and you’ve got a simple, delicious dinner that all the family will love.


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Featured Guest Post: Clothes for the Great Outdoors: My new season wish list

Featured Guest Post by Katie Belle

Before I became a mum, I pretty much used to go into hibernation once temperatures started falling, rushing from home to work and back home again, where I’d put the fire on and remain put, unless of course I managed to find a restaurant or bar with a cosy fire.

But, once my little ones arrived, staying indoors for any length of time became a big no no – they need fresh air and space to run, otherwise we all go a little crazy and they can’t get to sleep in the evening.

So, that famous quote by adventurer Ranulph Fiennes that there is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing, has certainly been taken to heart in our household. I always make sure the kids have everything they need to enjoy themselves whatever the weather, whether that’s snow boots or wellies, rain coats or mittens. It’s usually me who is wearing something not warm enough for the season. So, as we enter a new year, I’ve decided to invest in a few pieces to take me from winter through to spring.


For rainy days

I used to think wellies for just for little ones. But I’ve become slightly addicted to my glossy green Hunters. They sit by the door, so they’re the first thing I pull on, I have to admit whether it’s raining or not. They are, a bit like me, starting to look their age. So I’m going to treat myself, and my feet, to a new pair. The tartan detailing on this pair from Barbour is patriotic and on-trend all at the same time.

Cross body bag

Now that my two are getting older, there’s no need to carry all the paraphernalia needed for babies. But mums still need some essentials, money when the ice-cream van inevitably arrives outside the park entrance, sticking plasters for grazed knees and water for sunny days. I’m determined not to carry around a huge tote anymore so I’ll be buying a cross body bag that will keep my hands free for pushing my children on the swings while keeping everything safe and to hand. This one from Voodoo is in a cute shape, with skull-print lining and it will add a pop of colour to any outfit.

The must-have knit

A chunky-knit cardigan is probably one of the most hard working items in your wardrobe. You can wear it under your winter coat when the mercury levels plummet, with a gilet when it starts to warm up and as a cover up over your floral dress or shorts when summer arrives. I love this plum cable knit by Soft Grey for La Redoute, which ticks the double-breasted trend for spring and summer, while keeping me cosy for winter.

A new coat

I’m still snuggled up in my woolly winter coat at the moment. But give it a couple of months and spring might start to spring and a lighter-weight cover-up will be needed, so I don’t get too hot keeping up with my two, but which protects me from showers. Trench coats never go out of style so I know I’ll get seasons upon seasons out of this one from Nasty Gal. Its slouchy shape and khaki colour give it a bit of an edge so it’s perfect dressed down for a didn’t-try-too-hard weekend look.

Boyfriend jeans

My wardrobe has been full of skinnies – in all different hues – over the past few seasons. But silhouettes are becoming much more relaxed for spring and summer. So, I’m going to be investing in a pair of boyfriend jeans that I can wear with trainers for daytime or turned up a little and worn with heels and a blazer for a casual night out with the girls. This pair by Spice Girl-turned-designer Victoria Beckham are a bit pricey, but they’re the perfect shape. I like the fact they’re mid, rather than low-rise, to keep any residual baby tummy firmly in its place.

They’re all pieces that are stylish but casual enough to wear out and about with my little ones, so we make the most of the great outdoors together, whatever the weather.


Some great items.  I’m not sure I’ll ever wear a pair of Victoria Beckham jeans, but I do like the cross body bag from Voodoo.

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Featured Guest Post: 7 Steps to Keep Your Child Safe Online

Baby Computer

The internet is a wonderful way for our children to learn and play.  But as every parent knows, it can be a dangerous place too.  Even if you lock your security settings as tightly as possible, you can still download viruses and be targeted by spammers and scams.

There’s an even riskier human element to the web as well.  People target families to steal identities and money, and predators often pretend to be children and teenagers to target kids in chat rooms, games and social networks.

The best way to protect children from this is to supervise them whenever they’re online.  But with so many devices now able to access the internet, it’s impossible to monitor children all the time.  Even children as young as 3-5 years-old are now going online independently by using the family laptop or tablet.

So what can you do to teach your child how to be safe online?  What should they do to protect themselves? Here are seven steps which should help…

1. Thinking about the internet as a place

A great tip to help teach your child about the dangers of the internet is to imagine the web as a physical place.  You don’t have to go into specifics, but try to make them realise that there are bad neighbourhoods online the same as there are in ‘real’ life. What are bad neighbourhoods? You’ll often recognise them by the ads for gambling sites, drugs and even pornography. Make sure they’re aware that it’s bad to end up on these sites, and they shouldn’t wander off there on their own online if they do end up unsupervised.

2. Giving out personal details

Teach your children that they shouldn’t hand out personal information when they’re playing games or chatting to other kids online. It might feel natural for them to post instant messages explaining where they live or what their phone number is, but explain that this is dangerous. Even if the person they’re communicating with is genuine, these personal details may not stay in the right hands.

3. Accepting online communications

If your child starts using a social gaming site and begins striking up friendships, they may start sending instant messages, emails, texts and photos to each other. Children need to be very careful about this. An innocent-looking message could contain bullying messages, or messages from adults pretending to be a child. And both kids and their parents need to careful about downloading and opening attachments containing viruses that will harm your computer – downloading the latest virus protection software will help protect against this.

4. Meeting up with strangers

It might feel normal for children to arrange a meeting when they’re been playing games together or chatting online. But make it clear that your kids should meet up with people they’ve only talked to on the internet. It’s vital that your children understand that online friends are still ‘strangers’ if they haven’t met them in real life.

5. Deciding if something is reliable

Young children are incredibly trusting and honest. While this is an admirable trait that many adults wish they’d held onto better, it means that kids aren’t equipped to judge whether people or information they encounter online is reliable or not. Teach your kids how to check out whether things are real or lies by reading other websites, in books or by asking someone who knows.

6. Telling adults about online concerns

It’s important for kids to tell adults if someone is being bullied or feeling worried in the physical world, and the same principles apply on the internet.  It’s even easier for bullies to target victims online, as they can harass other children anonymously and from a distance.  And sometimes other children or profiles will talk to kids in a way that seems suspicious or makes them feel uncomfortable.  Again, it’s vital in this situation that children know to tell parents, teachers or other responsible grown-ups that they’re worried.

7. Talking about the online experience

The internet doesn’t go away just because you power down the laptop, and children’s experience of being online can stay with them long after a session has ended.  Sometimes kids might be upset about something that has happened online and not let on, so it’s a good idea to talk with your children regarding how they felt about their time online.  You don’t need a blow-by-blow account, but this is a good way to get a handle on whether anything is concerning them online – or whether they’ve been doing anything risky.

These steps are in many ways just the tip of the iceberg.  There are many in-depth guides to help you keep your children safe online, but this advice should help give you a foundation to start building safe internet behaviour.  To read more about internet safety for kids go to

This is a featured guest post.  Although this content of this post is one that I have received compensation for my time in editing and posting, the content is a very real issue that our children face on a daily basis.  We’d do well to consider the content and remind ourselves of the obligations we have to our children and keeping them as safe as we possibly can.

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5 Things to Remember when Baking with Kids

This is a guest post from Chris who writes for one of the child sponsorship charities, World Vision UK..   I’m already linked to World Vision as one of the bloggers who does a sponsor share for a child through their sponsorship scheme.  You can find out more about what we bloggers did for that here.   Interestingly, Chris has chosen to blog about baking with our kids.


cherry cake slice

Baking with kids should be many things, fun, entertaining, enjoyable and should hopefully result in some tasty treats.  I will offer five small things to remember when baking with kids to ensure you make the most of the experience.

Be Generous

I think being generous goes hand in hand with baking, don’t try and limit the ingredients, I find a nice mix of ingredients makes the baking experience that much more enjoyable.  If it’s cookies you are making why not buy a variety of ingredients to make different flavours, a nice selection always works better in my experience. You could use white chocolate, milk chocolate or caramel chunks; basically any sweet treats that you think will add to the taste should be included.

Be Creative

Following a recipe is initially advisable to make sure you have got the basics right but add your own creative touch, in fact encourage the kids to add their own style, this will help get them involved and should add to the enjoyment of the exercise. If its small cakes you are making, Smarties, chocolate chips or multi coloured icing should help them use their creative touch.

Be Prepared

It may seem obvious but making sure everything is prepared can go a long way in ensuring a successful days baking, having the ingredients to hand can help avoid any disasters amidst the potential chaos that may ensue. If you are thinking about baking two or three different treats prepare your time especially for this, it should go a long way to making sure everything comes out as planned.

The Kids are Always Right

My favourite thing to remember when it comes to baking and something I’m sure the kids will agree with is that the kids are always right. Aside from the key basics there are generally no fixed rules which means all sorts of variations will work. Deciding how things are decorated and what is mixed is all part of the experience, fingers crossed the cakes and cookies come out well.

Have Fun

The most important thing to remember in my opinion, baking should be about having as much fun as possible.  If you are doing it as a family then great, make it as enjoyable as you can; don’t be too worried if the presentation is not perfect.   The main thing is getting the kids involved; let them make a bit of a mess, after all that usually means there will be plenty of fun being had.

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Guest Post from Cancer Research Uk: Tips for Surviving the Flu Season

Autumn is officially upon us now – we’ve dug our winter coats out, turned up the heating and said goodbye to our sunnies for a while. And with the new season, it is inevitable that soon enough we shall all be under threat from colds and flu. But how can we prepare for this and start battling off the symptoms of runny noses, sneezing and sore throats? Take a look at our top tips for surviving the flu season and then sit smugly as you watch everyone else succumb to illness.

Image CC via Flickr

1. Stay Indoors

Okay, so obviously we don’t mean that you have lock yourself away from the outside world, but why not consider switching your mad Friday night drinking session for a cosy night in front of the TV? We all know that alcohol isn’t great for us, but cutting down around this time of year can significantly improve our chances of avoiding the flu as it weakens your immune system, giving nasty viruses the opportunity to take advantage. Plus, clubs and bars are an absolute haven for viruses. Anyway, with weather like this, a nice hot chocolate and a bad film sounds somewhat more appealing that a chilled glass of Pinot!

2. Stay Hygienic

Again, let’s not get over the top with this one. There is no need to freak out everytime somebody with a slightly red looking nose comes near you, but at the same time, it doesn’t hurt to take a few extra precautions around this time of year. Try keeping a small travel sized bottle of antibacterial gel in your bag, and make sure you’re using it at times when you come potentially pick up a bug, for example after you’ve been on a train with lots of people, or if you have been eating in a communal area. Just try to find the right balance between squalor and germophobia!

3. Know Your Vitamins

Understanding the correct vitamins to take can significantly boost your immune system and improve your chances of resisting illness as long as you remember to keep taking them. To avoid colds and flu, try vitamin C or the lesser known Echinacea, which helps strengthen your immune system. You can get it in both drops and tablets, depending on your preference, from all good health stores.

CC via Flickr

4. Sleep, sleep, sleep

This may sound like simple advice, but it is amazing how many people fail to get enough sleep on a regular basis. Of course a lack of sleep can make you feel run down as it is, but recent studies have also shown a link between sleep and the production of disease-fighting white blood cells. So, next time you feel bad about having too much of a lie in, just remember that it’s for the sake of your health!

5. Avoid the Gym

Okay, so most of us don’t need an excuse to skip a visit to the gym, but the fact is that, if you’re not feeling great, it’s a place to avoid. To start with, it’s a pretty close environment and there’s a real risk of either picking up a bug from someone else. If you’re already feeling rough, there might be a temptation to exercise through it, in the hope that it’ll speed up the healing process. Truth is, you’ll just risk infecting other people and making yourself feel worse. Listen to what your body is telling you: if you’re ill, rest is the fastest way to recovery.

6. Wrap up Warm

There’s a persistent myth that colds and flu can actually be caused by being too cold. In reality, both are caused by a virus that you can only pick up from someone who already has it, or from coming into contact with something they’ve been using. If you’re already ill, though, nothing will make you feel worse like being cold, and you’ll soon see your symptoms exacerbated.

This was a post from the health bloggers at Cancer Research UK, providing information and support to those suffering with breast cancer and those who know someone who is.

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Guest Tutorial: Make a Colourful Autumn Tree Decoration

How to make an Autumn / Winter  tree decoration

Unfortunately summer has gone, now it is time to celebrate Autumn and the coming of winter.

Bring some colour to those grey days with this beautiful fun tree decoration craft activity tutorial by Stacey for Cutfoam, which the kids will love making.   The tree shape can be a bit tricky to cut out so children may need some help but they can join in sticking on the leaves.

You will need:

Foam sheets of different colours

  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Pencil and paper

Step 1

Draw  a tree shape on to a piece of paper  approximately 20cm x 20cm.  Then cut out.

Step 2

Draw around the paper template on dark brown foam.

Step 3

Cut out the tree shape and cut a 3cm slit in the bottom.

Step 4

Using the base of your tree as a guide cut out the shape shown. Make a cut in the top so that it will slot in to the bottom of your tree.

Step 5

Cut leaf shapes from green, red, orange, yellow and light brown foam.

Step 6

Glue the leaves to the tree branches.

Step 7

Slot your tree in to the base piece so it stands up.

If your tree does not stand on its own then glue another strip of foam to the back of the trunk and double the thickness of the base piece.   This tree would make a lovely centrepiece for any dining table or mantle piece which the kids can show off to the rest of the family.

This tutorial was brought to you by Cutfoam, the cushion foam specialists.

If you would like a fun tutorial for your blog please contact Stacey.lowe13 (at) yahoo dot co dot uk

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Featured Guest Post: 5 Reasons Girls Should Be Playing Sports

A featured guest post from Simon, writing for Banana Moon


We all know playing sports is a great way to get some exercise, and having fun while doing so is an additional benefit. But there is a distinct difference between the number of girls and boys playing sports. Up to 70% of boys participate in regular exercise, with some reports suggesting the amount of girls participating in sport to be as low as 31%, with the recent success of the Olympics hopefully this number will increase. So if your daughter wants take up athletics don’t give her the run around, here are 5 reasons girls should be playing sport other than the fitness benefits.

1.       Better Results at School

It may seem that playing sports would take up time that could be used for studying, which in turn would have a detrimental effect on school results. But research suggests that girls who regularly participate in extracurricular sports perform better in school than their peers who don’t. Sport improves concentration, memory, and learning, which is sure to give active girls a head start in the classroom.

2.      Learn Teamwork and Goal-Setting Skills

By participating in sports the effectiveness of working together becomes more apparent than in a classroom or work based situation, learning to cooperate on the field can easily transfer to other situations where achieving a common goal is the desired outcome. Working with coaches, trainers, and teammates to set goals and work towards them will help develop communication skills that can be difficult to learn in a classroom; and teach girls that the success of a team is not due to one person’s performance but the performance of each individual working for the group. Setting goals is also a great way to direct attention and focus on a desired outcome, the achievement of which will greatly increase self-confidence.

3.       Boosting Self-Confidence

Girls that take part in sports tend to be more self-confident. Knowing that you can set goals, train towards them, and achieve them is great and by gradually increasing the difficulty of skills and opposition you will quickly develop a sense of confidence and will be much more likely to try something more difficult in the future. Performance accomplishments are the greatest influencer on sports confidence; understanding that you are the biggest influencer on your performance will send a girl’s self-confidence sky high and encourage her to believe in internal affecters rather than be negatively affected by external forces such as peers or fate. Knowing that internal factors are much more likely to affect results will allow for greater risks to be taken on the sports field, in the classroom, and socially, resulting in greater rewards.

4.       Reduce Pressure

As I’m sure most of us know being a teenager can be quite a stressful experience. Although the causes of the stress may appear trivial as adults, they are very real at the time. Since the rapid rise in social media and the pressures faced by girls to look a certain way the causes of stress are only increasing, as a recent study found when it discovered one in three teenagers experience stress at least once a week. Exercise is known to inhibit the release of cortisol from the adrenal gland, which acts as part of the bodies fight or flight response and suppresses the immune system, so exercise reduces the physical symptoms stress can induce. Not only does exercise decrease the release of cortisol it even increases the release of endorphins, the bodies feel good chemical, producing a feeling of jubilation sometimes known as ‘Runner’s high’.

5.       Great for Health

As well as the obvious benefits of maintaining a healthy weight and cardiovascular fitness girls there are other health benefits. One of which is girls who play sport are less likely to smoke than those who don’t take part in any sports. The effects can also be seen as girls get older, with those that exercise less likely to develop breast cancer. Exercise undertaken at an early age will also help strengthen bones helping to reduce the chances of suffering osteoporosis.

In summary girls should be participating in sports as they help develop skills that can be transferred to other facets of life, as well as making them feel better both emotionally and physically. Introducing girls to sport will hopefully foster a passion that they will maintain throughout their adult life, and gain the health benefits that are seen not only in the short term but also the long term.

Author Bio

Simon is a Sports and Exercise Science graduate and coach of a junior hockey team, blogging on behalf of Banana Moon who specialise in personalised clothing; including sports kits, T-shirt printing, and personalised hoodies.

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Featured Guest Post: 8 Free Fun Activities for Mums to have with Toddlers

Featured Guest Post from Agnese Geka from Agnese Geka – blogger and online marketing consultant for, which is UK’s biggest guide through market research companies providing opportunity to earn extra money by working from home.  For the latest news updates follow them on twitter and facebook.


How to have Fun with an Empty Purse

Seen through a toddler’s eyes, an empty purse is almost as fascinating as one which is full. Therefore keeping them entertained doesn’t have to cost the Earth. All it takes is a little time and imagination – and a parent who is willing to play. There are numerous fun and free activities that mums can do with their toddlers. Here are just a few.

Make Play Dough

Play dough is suitable for children of all ages and can keep toddlers entertained for hours. It is simple to make from items you will already have in your kitchen. The dough is made from salt, flour, vegetable oil and food colouring. Toddlers can even help making the play dough as there are recipes available which do not require the dough to be cooked in a pan. Perhaps the best thing about play dough is that it is non-toxic and will do your toddler no harm if they accidentally swallow some. It can also be reused over and over again. In terms of a toddler’s education, this provides a great way of teaching new shapes and colours as well as improving hand-eye coordination skills.

Visit the Library

Libraries are great for toddlers. There’s lots for them to see and do – and at no cost to you. Besides, encouraging your toddler to read from a young age is recommended and will help when they eventually start school. The vast majority of libraries hold toddler groups and often have special guests to entertain the children. Sitting down in a group and paying attention to one adult is good preparation for the future, as is mixing with children their own age. Such groups give mums the chance to mix socially as well.


It may seem like a strange suggestion but toddlers can help in the garden. Obviously, they should not be handed dangerous tools but there nothing to stop them helping to plant and water. Not only does this give you both the opportunity to get some fresh air, but toddlers can learn a lot from the garden including the colours and varieties of flowers and how the plants grow.

Insect Collecting

Another fun activity for toddlers is to go insect collecting. All that’s needed is a jar jam and a small net to catch the bugs. There is an endless supply of creepy crawlies that can be found in a back garden or local park. By simply sweeping the net over long grass you are likely to catch several bugs. Toddlers can learn the names of the various bugs and their colours. Such activities also make it more likely that your child will not grow up scared of insects.

Make a Tent in your Living Room

You’ll be surprised at how easily it is to be creative at home. Rather than sitting your toddler in front of the television, why not build a tent for you and your children to play in? Simply placing a bed sheet over four chairs will give toddlers an opportunity to use their imagination and for you to encourage some role play games. This activity is great for a raining day when your toddler may be frustrated by having to stay indoors. It can also help to eradicate some fears toddlers may have of enclosed or dark spaces.

Bubbles Galore

Toddlers love bubbles and although this may seem like a simple activity, it can keep them entertained for hours. It is also something that can be done every day. Most mums will have children’s bubble mix at home but even washing up liquid can be used. Put some washing up liquid in water and then dip a plastic ring in it and blow away. You can create different sizes and shapes which your toddler will love. Count the bubbles with your toddler to help them develop their numerical skills. Best of all the bubbles leave no mess!


Teach your toddler some dance moves when they are at home. There’s almost an endless supply of suitable music for children to dance to. They will enjoy it and it is great for their coordination. Try arranging a few toddlers to come round to make this activity last a bit longer. The toddlers are likely to keep dancing longer with an audience. This will also help improve their social skills.

Visit the Garden Centre

Taking your toddler shopping may not seem the most fun activity, but garden centres are a great location for them. They often have pet shops and aquariums which will fascinate even the most demanding child. They can walk around and see the different plants and ornaments. Remember you do not have to spend money in order for you and your toddler to while a few hours away wandering around the site.


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Unpicking Parenting Ideology: understanding the power of ‘memes’, by Shanta Everington

A guest post today from Shanta Everington.  I know what I think of the methods of some parenting gurus, but we all have to make up our own minds without influencing others, don’t we.  An interesting piece, from a writer who is passionate about choice.

 Shanta Everington is the author of four published books, including non-prescriptive parenting books, Baby’s First Year: A Parent’s Guide and The Terrible Twos: A Parent’s Guide with Need2Know Books.  She runs a parenting book blog at and a writing website at


Unpicking Parenting Ideology: understanding the power of ‘memes’
by Shanta Everington

This week, there was a heated debate on the BabyCalm blog about the rights and wrongs of controlled crying, following publication of (some say flawed) research that indicated that it was not harmful.  Parents on both sides of the fence wanted to convince the other side that they were right.

We all know that people are individuals, right?  With vastly differing temperaments, likes, dislikes, values, beliefs systems and world views.

So why do we have to agree that ‘one size fits all’?  Similarly, many baby care books will have you believe that all your life experience – all those years spent building a unique frame of reference from which to view the world – is meaningless, because THIS IS THE RIGHT WAY.

“it is every mother’s responsibility to create her own unique version of motherhood”
from The Idle Parent by Tom Hodgkinson

When my son was fifteen months old, Channel 4 aired its controversial series, ‘Bringing up baby’, which compared techniques which were popular in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies via six families with new babies trialling three different approaches to baby care under the guidance of three mentors.

Here are the three approaches and the captions from the Channel 4 website:

  • The 1950s: Dr Frederic Truby King’s Strict Routine Method, ‘Routine, fresh air and show baby who’s boss.’
  • The 1960s: Dr Benjamin Spock’s Baby and Childcare, ‘Chuck out the rule book and shower babies with love.’
  • The 1970s: Jean Liedloff’s Continuum Concept, ‘Sling in your baby and join the tribe.’

The Truby King method, although created in the 1950s, seemed to be making a comeback when I became a mother six years ago. When I’d visit the health centre, some professionals spoke to me like there was only one way to do things.    ‘Put the baby down.’  ‘You mustn’t give into him.’ ‘He’s just trying it on.’ blah blah blah.

The idea that babies are somehow Machiavellian for wanting to be loved and held is frankly scary.  I knew my parents had the Dr Spock book (the biggest selling book in history, second only to the Bible) and I was reassured by Dr Spock’s advice, ‘Trust yourself; you know more than you think you do’.

I’d never heard of the Continuum Concept, which is based on the lifestyle of Yequana tribes, but I was interested in it for the very reason that suggesting that mothers hold babes ‘in arms’ until they can crawl was the extreme opposite of the ‘put him down or he’ll get used to being held’ propaganda.

I never missed an episode.  What I loved about this programme was the acknowledgement (at last!) that there are different approaches and that they are all based on underlying belief and value systems.  Each approach offered vastly different advice on every aspect of parenting.

Continuum Concept parents carried babies in slings twenty-four-seven and slept with them at night.  Truby King parents put the babies in their cots and shut the door, discouraged from picking up a crying baby.  Continuum Concept parents fed on demand, at least the mothers did, from the breast, of course.

Truby King parents fed from the bottle according to a strict timetable and with minimum cuddling which would ‘only encourage them’ to expect it.  Dr Spock parents, in the absence of any rules, just did what felt right.

In Winning Parent, Winning Child, Jan Fortune-Wood explores the origin and power of parenting ideas and discusses the Darwinian concept of ‘memes’, ideas that, like genes, self-replicate.

She says,

‘Some of the most powerful and deeply ingrained ideas we have as parents are not just single ideas, but groups of ideas that work together.  These have been called “memeplexes” and examples are religions, ideologies, languages, alternative therapies and lifestyles.’ 

She explains that we need to have a critical eye on such memeplexes, which as well as containing useful ideas, may often contain harmful ideas that inhibit our thinking about parenting.

So-called ‘progressive’ parenting ideology can be as unforgiving and rigid as the fifties methods. Although a  lot of The Continuum Concept principles corresponded with my own instincts, I also found the assertion that the deprivation of the ‘in-arms’ stage is the root cause of all evil (we’re talking drug addiction, mental illness, criminality, the lot) and that the Yequana’s way of life is the only ‘right’ way to live is frankly ridiculous. Some parents and babies love ‘baby-wearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding on demand’ and some don’t. Is it not possible to want to breast feed but not co-sleep or vice versa?!

As parents, we need to decide for ourselves what we are comfortable with, what style of parenting fits our own set of beliefs, our value system, our world view and our babies’ temperaments. We don’t have to buy into any particular ‘parenting religion’. We CAN pick and choose!