Garden Ideas for encouraging imaginative  play

I’ve got my sensible parent hat on today so thought I’d revisit one of the very topics which lead me into blogging in the first place; child development. While I may have hung up my hat in that industry coming up 4 years ago, it still crops up in conversations and remains the baseline from which I parent my kids. Albeit with much looser reins these days. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from raising teenagers it’s that there’s a lot more trust in them making the right choices and less rule setting, but I still have a 3-year-old to help teach independence and educate on the healthier side of life.

Take the turn in seasons, for example, longer warmer days means less excuses to hibernate. And while I still yearn for duvet days, watching movies and trying to stay in my pj’s for as long as possible, the reality is I have a little boy who needs exercise as much as the dog. He goes stir crazy if kept inside for too long so while we get the odd late start to the day, we’re always up and dressed by midday at the latest and off out whatever the weather. On days when I’m overloaded with housework and work-work, my mum comes to the rescue. Either way, he’s never had a day when we’ve stayed in unless ill.

So back to that child development thing I mentioned; well all this thought of being outside more has got me thinking about how I can vamp up my small front garden. My boys will be 4 in a couple of months so the toddler slider and builder tray of sand just don’t cut it anymore. At his age, he’s very much about imaginative play and role play. So I’m going to have to bite the bullet and go for a mud kitchen. It actually pains me to say that, but a quick scour of Pinterest I’m sure it’s the way forward (and a lot cheaper than a garden full of brightly coloured plastic)

trying to find some ideas to encourage imaginative play in the garden

So, let’s say, for argument’s sake, I’ve acquired some pallets and created a corner in the garden where said mud kitchen will go, now it’s let’s think about what I’ll need to make it a go-to place while I sit nearby and crack on with some work. (I’m thinking ahead now to the 6 weeks summer holiday where I try and juggle work with mum stuff.)

I’m on a water meter so ideally, some sort of rain collecting system would be ace, nothing too big but large enough to allow him to access water when needed. And then there’s the mud, obs, I quite like the idea of these old tyres which I can fill with mud, leaving him to dig and scoop to his hearts content and to finish it off, some small water play tables for mixing said mud and also, where he can wash his hands quickly before coming in the house. I’m not completely insane and I quite like my grey and white decor WITHOUT a 3-year-old height brown hand splatter pattern

In an ideal world, I’d have another little corner where I can create a little den. Think tree house minus the tree. This is the point at which I stopped searching Pinterest for outdoor play ideas and my imagination ran wild.

No harm in having a vision and I consider this parenting without guilt; My boy can play, get fresh air, work on all those senses and physical development skills while I get to work and do boring housework, meal prep stuff.

And who knows, I may even dive in and join him!

This is a collaborative post


Macaroni Cheese with Pancetta And Tomatoes

Being a vegetarian, mac n cheese is often the go-to on the menu when lunching out so I’m fairly confident I can pass judgement when it comes to deciding what makes a decent macaroni cheese.

And while, yes, you can just stick with a standard cheese sauce and pasta job, it can also be a great way to sneak some vegetables into a family meal – try adding a tin of sweetcorn, or just a really tasty meal which can be prepared ahead. This version, however, is a much fancier version which will satisfy anyone who likes having meat with every meal.

Don’t feel that you have to buy breadcrumbs buy the way, just whizz up some end bread crusts in a food processor. I usually make myself a small vegetarian version by leaving out the pancetta or substituting with Quorn bacon piece. I just bake in a small separate dish.

Serve on its own, with salad, garlic bread or corn on the cob. Either way, it’s one meal which I know is going to get the thumbs up from my ravenous teenagers.

this luxury macaroni cheese is a much fancier twist on a family favourite,


  • 250g/9oz macaroni
  • 40g/1½oz butter
  • 40g/1½ plain flour
  • 600ml/1pint 1½fl oz milk
  • 250g/9oz grated cheddar
  • 1/2 bunch spring onions
  • 130g pancetta
  • a packet of mozzarella cheese cut into slices
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp chives
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 6 sliced cherry tomatoes – sliced
  • 2 handfuls of breadcrumbs
  • salt & pepper to season

this luxury macaroni cheese is a much fancier twist on a family favourite,


  1. boil a pan of water and add the macaroni according to packet instructions
  2. dry fry the pancetta in a saucepan
  3. remove and set aside
  4. using the same pan, melt the butter then add the chopped spring onions and cook until soft
  5. add the flour and mustard powder stirring until it’s all combined
  6. slowly start adding the milk stirring between each addition to avoid any lumps,
  7. add the basil and grated cheddar
  8. bring the sauce to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened
  9. strain the cooked macaroni then combine with the sauce and pancetta
  10. transfer to an ovenproof dish, layer the sliced mozzarella top with breadcrumbs
  11. finish with the sliced tomatoes and a sprinkle of chives
  12. bake in a preheated oven at 180′ for 25 minutes.

this luxury macaroni cheese is a much fancier twist on a family favourite,


I said I’d do it, so I did…my first (and last) tattoo

I like to think that I’m one of those types of people who aren’t that easily irked by things people say or do, I just tend to avoid the ones that make me slightly twingy. But one quality, if you can call it that, which I will say gets me a little oh, here we go again’, are people who say they’re going to do something and clearly have no intention of doing it, you know the type; always banging on about I’m going to get a dog, I really want a dog, I’ve found the perfect dog.

No dog.

Or that big one;  I’m going to travel, I’ll be off in a few months, by the end of the year, and 2 years later it’s still the same. I’m not talking about dreams or ambitions, they’re different, I’m talking about empty promises which you soon realise are never going to happen.

Well, I made one of those promises 6 months ago, I promised myself I’d get a tattoo. Since the age of 14 I’d fancied a small one on my wrist, and I very nearly came close to getting one. Not a wrist one though, a Celtic cross on the centre of my back. Man am I glad I bottled it though if there’s one thing I have repeatedly told my children –  never get a tattoo in your teens. That’s one decision I made as an 18 year old which I will never regret (very out of character for me at the time!)

In the years that followed the tattoo parlour bottling incident  I never really considered getting a tattoo again. I had my belly button pierced which hurt like hell, and childbirth was an absolute killer, so I saw no point in voluntarily putting myself through any sort of pain.

But that all changed 6 months ago, when I looked back at how much I’d changed since my husband and I had separated, how much stronger and independent I’d become and I wanted to mark the transformation. What better way to show it that getting a small symbolic tattoo to mark the new me?

getting my first tattoo to make my divorce

And I knew just what I would get to mark said occasion.

Every day, over the last 2 years or so, I’ve seen a white feather. Often in the most obscure places, sometimes even floating down in front of me while I was in the car or walking the dog. A subtle reminder that my guardian angel was watching over me and that everything was going to be ok.

I’m not a big believer in the messages from the other side, I’ve had my tarot cards read and that’s about as far as my beliefs wen. But these sweet sightings were the highlights of my day.

I like to think it’s my grandad sending me a sign, I’m not sure why it’s him. My Nanny was much more upfront, more likely to give me a nudge or a tap, Nanna was a gentle soul but distance meant I didn’t get to spend as much time with her as I should have. I just have this feeling it’s my grandad.

A feather it was to be then.

Somewhere small, hidden but not in a place where age or weight gain would ravage it, the inside of my wrist seemed perfect and if I didn’t like it in years to come, I could cover it with a watch or bangle.

So off I trotted to the most modern, clean, friendly tattoo parlour I could find and less than an hour later I walked out with my new addition. It struck me on the way that I probably hadn’t given this enough though and it might hurt. I was once told I would never be able to endure the pain of a tattoo, my reply;

I’ve pushed 3 babies out my fanjo, I know I’m pretty sure I handle a small tattoo!

But I can honestly say it never hurt in the slightest, more a slight scratching sensation. The girl who inked me up was incredibly gentle so I guess I was just lucky?

So there, you go. That’s the time I said I’d do it, and I did. I got my first and last tattoo.

The perfect reminder I can handle more than people give me credit for!


Don’t Panic! Here’s A Last Minute Mothers Day Gift Guide..

Less than a week to go until that day when fellow mums wake up to handmade cards with flowers on and breakfast in bed; otherwise known as Mothers Day. I’m not holding out for the later going on the basis that the only kids I own, who I’d give free rein in the kitchen to, don’t tend to immerge out of their pits before 11am on a weekend. On the flip side, I still love showing my amazing mum how much I appreciate everything she does on this day and I’m happy to report I’m all prepared.

If you’re one of the last to the Mothers Day party and can feel the rising panic that you still haven’t bought your gifts yet, fear not, I’ve cobbled together some last minute gift ideas, some which you can order from Amazon Prime and get delivered next day. There’s something for every budget here ranging from  £49.99 for the Amazon Echo Dot which I can personally recommend as being amazing, ideally I’d have one in every room as Alexa has fast become my friend as I ask her to let me know everything from weather reports, horoscopes, add things to my shopping list, play music and count me through my morning planks. I’ve eyed up the Amazon Spot and currently arguing out the ‘do I want or do I need’ in my head as I try not to impulse buy on payday. They’re easy enough to set up if your mum’s a technophobe too.

here's some last minute Mothers Day gift ideas which you can use with Amazon Prime

If you’re looking for something a little more traditional, how about a box Prestat Fine Chocolates. Read the reviews on the Amazon site with trepidation, I was salivating at the thought of them!  Or maybe an indoor herb garden (save money on buying potted herbs in the supermarket so it’s a gift which keeps on giving.) a Rituals bath set with the aromas of Cherry blossom and Rice Milk. Who doesn’t love an indulgent bath or a miniature gin gift set from, perfect for trying out the many flavours gracing the market

last minute gift guide for mothers day

Or if you’re buying for your children to show your wife, partner or girlfriend how amazing they are, why not go for something a little more personal? Like a personalised Mummy necklace or Apron from  Handmade at Amazon. Just don’t forget the card! There are some really cute/funny/heartfelt ones.


I’ve tried to keep this post short and sweet so you can dash off and get ordering without having to listen to me waffle on anymore.

Whatever side of the fence you’re sitting this Mothers Day, have an ace one.




This is a collaborative post with affiliate links



World Book Day Made Easy With Asda

Fancy dress themed days, you either love ’em or hate ’em, but whatever you think when you’re a parent it’s just gotta be done. Fear of one day, sitting in a psychologist’s room listening to my adult children confess that all their troubles began the day they turned up at school in uniform when everyone else gleefully trotted through the classroom door dressed in everything from The Tiger Who Came To Tea through to the Gruffalo. I bite the bullet and join the masses. World Book Day in the past for us has usually meant something cobbled together to vaguely resemble a character of some sort. I’ll openly admit I failed big time once with a very badly paper mache helmet and shield made of cereal boxes.

Despite an A Level in Art and Design, creativity escaped me that day and I still shudder at how truly terrible they were when I see the photos on my Mac. I can still sense the shame as other children arrived in fabulous home or shop bought outfits and vowed from that moment on, I would buy any future outfits knowing I could sell or pass them on. Which is exactly why we headed down to our nearest Asda in Newton Abbot at the weekend in search of something my 3-year-old could wear to preschool for this year’s World Book Day.

I’d checked out their website and found the perfect outfit; The Hungry Caterpillar. My boy adores this book and it fitted along with the preschool bug them perfectly. Parking up, we headed through the main doors and immediately found a selection of fabulous book themed characters. Everything from David Walliams to Roald Dahl, only this selection was aimed at older school children. (not bad priced though at around £15 an outfit which, by slightly upping the sizes,  you could swap with friends the following year to save a little cash.)

So off we went in search of a Hungry Caterpillar outfit.

I'm taking the stress out of World Book Day this year with a shop bought dressing up outfit from Asda which I know my son will wear more than once. It's not cheating BTW!

Younger children’s outfits were placed at the end of each aisle and my boy was soon weighing up whether to go as Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Iron Man, Captain America, a Dragon or Chase from Paw Patrol.  With him not really having a grasp of what World Book Day meant, to him, it simply meant going to preschool in dressing up clothes. Try as I might sway him towards going as a Dragon as I thought it fitted in rather well with Julia Donaldson’s Room on The Broom,  it was clear had his heart set on something much more familiar. With a £50 Asda challenge to spend on World Book Day gear, he finally narrowed it down to Chase, Captain America and Iron Man, priced at £15, £15 and £16 consecutively. For the added features and quality I’d happily give all the outfits a 5 out of 5. They’ve already been through the mill coming on and off various times and still looking good.

I'm taking the stress out of World Book Day this year with a shop bought dressing up outfit from Asda which I know my son will wear more than once. It's not cheating BTW!

Extra features of the Chase outfit include removable tail, backpack and badge

Now, this was where I got into the thinking that actually, he was on to something. We read Paw Patrol books at home all the time, and the superheroes, as someone kindly pointed out on my Instagram, are also comic book characters. But above all, I knew we’d get much more longevity out of dressing up clothes which he’d chosen and LOVED.

They all came with headwear of some sort, the only downside was the plastic mask from Iron Man being uncomfortable for him and part of the light from the chest piece was damaged sadly, so we’ll have to return that one. But I can categorically say it has been money well spent as they’ve been worn on a rotation basis from the moment we got into the Asda car park.

I never did find that Hungry Caterpillar outfit mind, I suspect we were a little late to the party with it being less than a week to this year’s World Book Day.  Hey ho, I doubt the thrill of dressing as a caterpillar would’ve lasted as long as the power of saving the day as an incredibly cute pup or muscle clad action hero anyway.

I'm taking the stress out of World Book Day this year with a shop bought dressing up outfit from Asda which I know my son will wear more than once. It's not cheating BTW!

This is a collaborative post with Asda.