Winter 2018 Bucket List

Here is our bucket list of activities that we want to experience and complete in January and February. I do a separate list for December and Christmas, so these are winter only items, not festive goals. I’m really looking forward to cracking on with this list because I always find January and February difficult months to fill, with it being so cold, wet and dark, so hopefully these things will fill us with sparkling winter joy! Come along!

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Playing in a Winter Wonderland.

My girls, age 5 & 2, had until this Winter, never played in the snow. The last decent snowfall we had, here in the Midlands, was in January 2013, when Banana was around 9 months old. We took her out to touch it and look at her world turned white, but she obviously doesn’t remember. So this year, I was determined that no matter what, my girls were going to have the chance to play in the snow. Knowing that the chances of a decent snowfall were low (ha!) I decided to book us into Winter Wonderland at the SnowDome in Tamworth, as our main Christmas activity for December.

We had a really enjoyable day. First we got to play in the dome itself which has real snow, sledges, tobogganing (on 5 different slopes) and it was made wonderfully ambient with Christmas trees and Christmas music playing. We had a fantastic time on the slopes and the girls just loves making snowballs and throwing them at daddy us.

Next we got to go and see a mini panto, featuring Santa himself, which was a fun way to thaw after our snow play, it included loads of singing, dancing and audience involvement, which the girls loved.

Finally, our day ended with a walk around Santa’s village where we got to see and pet some of Santa’s animals, including the Reindeer. And we also got to write our letters to Santa and post them in the magic post box. As we were leaving, the girls were given a Thornton’s chocolate Snowman lolly as a little gift from Santa, which was a lovely final touch, and kept them quiet for some of the journey home. (Always a bonus).

The day at the SnowDome cost us £76 for two adults and two children which I was happy to pay, as part of the girls’ Christmas gifts. After all, it meant they got to experience snow for the first time…

LITERALLY, the following weekend, we had the heaviest snowfall since 1982! Easily 12 inches of beautiful white, snowball and snowman making goodness! FREE for all to enjoy! I couldn’t believe it… it pretty much sums up my luck!

However, not being one to dwell on things for too long, we soon saw the SnowDome as a (£76!!) practice run for the real thing and were soon out making snow angels, building a snowman and all the other fun things that snow brings with it. The winter of 2017, truly was glorious and now my girls have some lovely snow capped memories to add to their collection!

Play in the snow is Number 15 in The National Trust’s #50Things Challenge

Taking on the National Trust’s #50Things Challenge.

This year, I’ve decided that we’re really going to have a good go at the 50 Things to do Before You’re 11 3/4s challenge by the National Trust. We’ve dabbled in the past, and managed to get a few things completed in the Autumn, but I’ve decided, this year, to make a feature of it on my blog. I just think it’s real ‘back to basics’ childhood fun, which helps 21st century kids to reconnect with Nature and gets them away from screens and technology for an hour or two (or longer) each week. Let’s face it, kids don’t play outdoors like they used to. It’s the era of the helicopter parent (guilty!), technology and home comforts. And yet, building a relationship with nature and the outside world is so important to our children and their future. For these reasons I’d recommend everyone to give it a go. They are all low spend, outdoor activities that are simple and educational. They can be carried out at a National Trust property as the website suggests, or just as easily in your local park, woods and even garden. There is even an app, where you can tick off and record details of each activity as you complete them.

I will keep you updated with our progress as and when. Here are some of the things we ticked off in the Autumn:

#50Things Number 9 Eat an apple straight from the tree

#50Things Number 6 Run Around in the Rain

#50Things Number 10 Play Conkers

#50Things Number 47 Cook on a campfire

Building a campfire- an exercise in family bonding. 

We probably have a fire in our garden most weekends. We love it, especially in the autumn, that smoky, earthy  wood scent. The dancing flames, perfectly hypnotic, helping your to unwind and de stress after a hectic week. Amongst other things, Mr W. is a woodworker, so we have lots of wood off cuts to dispose of at the end of the week so it makes sense to get out the fire pit and fire lighters and have a ready made bonfire in no time at all.

HOWEVER…

When I compiled out family Bucket List for the season, and added the usual ‘Toast Marshmallows.’ It occurred to me that as lovely as our weekend fires are, they have become quite common place for us, part of our normal life. As my list is all about experiencing new things together as a family and authentic, real life experiences; I decided that we weren’t going to toast marshamallows over the fire pit in the garden, we were going to find somewhere away from home. Somewhere beautiful, surrounded by nature. We were going to find our own firewood. We were going to build our own campfire with natural materials from the surrounding area. We are going to sit on rocks not chairs and we’re going to roast our marshmallows on sticks not skewers.


So, off we set. We found somewhere fairly local which I knew allowed campfires as it had the perfect combination of woodland to collect firewood, a quarry for rocks to build the campfire and natural clearings in the forest, so that we knew a fire would be safe and wouldn’t cause harm to the local environment.


We collected dead, dry sticks to burn. We collected decent sized rocks from the quarry which we arranged in a circle as the fire’s boundary. We did some safety checks. Collected long, thin sticks to toast the mallows  and cut away the bark to reveal the clean inner layer, which we burnt to ensure they were sanitary. And then we set up our fire.


Do you know what? After all that hard work, together as a family, they were the best toasted marshmallows I’ve ever tasted! All that was left was to get cosy around the fire. Banana even entertained us with some campfire singing!


Fabulous, family fun and awesome bonding time.

Cooking on a Campfire is Number 47 in the National Trust’s #50Things Challenge. ✅

We’re going on a conker hunt, we’re going to find a big one! 

There is something about going out and hunting for natural treasures that really appeals to kids. Despite the simplicity of the activity, children seem to get so excited about searching through the carpet of fallen, crunchy leaves to find that spiky green shell, and ultimately the shiny, regal nut within. Or getting a big stick and attempting to throw, hit or shake the treasure directly from the tree. A pastime that our ancestors before us enjoyed as children, still as relevant as ever (more so, in fact!) in this age of technology, progress and instant gratification.


This is the reason that every year, it has become a family tradition to add this to our Autumn Bucket list and dedicate an entire morning or afternoon to conker hunting. There is no instant gratification, that 21st century children have become accustomed to. You have to find the tree, search for the shells, work to prise out the conker, compare with siblings and cousins  for shininess, size and strength… and at the end you have this oversized brown seed that will inevitably shrivel and need to be thrown away…or at least that’s how the adult sees it, through a child’s eyes, you work hard and are rewarded with a beautiful mahogany coloured gem, with endless possibilities for play. Serious business actually… of course, all play is!


These sorts of activitys are so important to children, especially when repeated year on year. It teaches them about life cycles and seasonal changes. It gives them a chance to get down and dirty in the earth, creating a relationship with nature that will serve them well into their adult life. Loose materials such as conkers are amazing for open ended play and amazing creative thinking opportunities. Being outdoors amongst beautiful things helps to develop a mature and varied vocabulary which is based on real life experiences and therefore relevant and meaningful. Above all, it’s fun, it’s free, it’s quality family time and those things are invaluable!


Do you still take your kids conker hunting?

Playing Conkers is Number 10 in the National Trust’s #50Things Challenge. ✅

Playing in the Autumn Rain 

Ok, so anyone who knows me, or reads my blog, knows that I am a huge advocate of playing outdoors, whatever the weather. I very much believe that as long as you and your children are wearing suitable clothing and protection, then there is no need to stay cooped up inside. There is a whole other world to enjoy on those days when the sun just refuses to shine (and let’s face it, in the UK those days are common!)

Last weekend it rained, A LOT! So instead of being miserable or facing the dreaded soft play with all the other soggy kids and agitated parents, we decided that this was the perfect time to tick another thing off our Autumn bucket list: ‘Go Out And Play in The Rain.’

So, we popped on our waterproofs and boots and headed over to a fairly local beauty spot called Wenlock Edge. It poured with rain the whole way there and I just knew there was fun to be had!


We weren’t disappointed! Although the rain had slowed by the time we arrived, it was still falling and we had an amazing time walking through the woodland, which has amazing natural play structures such as balance beams, climbing frames and seesaws. Of course, the girls had to be careful not to slip, with it being so wet, but such risk assessment is an extremely important part of childhood learning, so we try and allow them to make the judgement for themselves.


The views from the Edge, overlooking the rolling Shropshire countryside are spectacular and well worth a visit if you’re in the area. There is also a fantastic old Lime Kiln and a quarry which are brilliantly preserved. This allowed for a short history lesson from me and engineering lesson from dad (poor kids!) but the girls enjoyed running up and down a slate pile and exploring the old kiln.


I think Banana’s favourite part of the day was spending time in the bird hide, watching the birds coming to feed, identifying them from the posters on the wall and then writing down what she’d spotted on the whiteboard within the hide. This unexpected activity kept her occupied for ages and she didn’t want to move on, when it was time. I only wish we’d taken her binoculars to make the activity even more enjoyable and relevant.


Duckling’s favourite part was, naturally, jumping in huge puddles, having the freedom to get as soaked as she liked, being encouraged to do big, run up splashes… it’s what being two is all about after all!


The best part for me, was after the rain had stopped, and in typical September fashion, the sun came out, as bright as if it had never been away. The woods, already beautiful, transformed into this enchanted and magical forest, where the sunbeams seeped through the canopy in graceful celestial rays. The rain drops glistened on the leaves with fairy-like endearment, and the water evaporated from the ground in a hazy mist, which just enveloped the glorious majesty.


Every now and again, we are lucky enough to catch Nature ‘do her thing’ and when you do… well, it’s indescribable really; just truly, utterly, beautifully amazing! Being stuck indoors starves you of this intrinsic, natural gorgeousness that is all around us, it really is worth it!

Playing in the Rain is Number 6 in the National Trust’s #50Things Challenge. ✅

Let’s go Apple Picking – Tick.

Hi all,

As it’s now September, and despite all those protests of people desperately clinging onto the last remnants of a summer that never really materialised, I have decided we’d begin on our Autumn activities.

Isn’t it just the most beautiful time of year? The golden hues, the low sparkling light, the crunching and cracking sounds that you hear whenever you walk outdoors, the smell and taste of pumpkin spice everything! Ah bliss! A real carcophony for the senses. It’s like the firworks at the end of Mother Nature’s ‘big annual show.’ The spectacular ending, the part that everyone waits for with baited breath. I think this year is going to be glorious, and the signs are already beginning to show.

So, to kick off the new season, and because the fruit harvest has been so tremendous this year, we decided to begin with a day at the orchard picking apples and pears.
So we donned our little baskets, and off we went. It was a glorious early autumn/ late summer day with the perfect balance of warm sunshine and cool breeze.  Honestly, if I could live in this sort of climate forever I’d be more than happy.

Well, to say the trees were dripping with fruit would be an understatement, it was incredible! Every tree held hundreds of beautiful, fresh, ripe apples just waiting to be picked and we soon filled our baskets.


After we’d picked enough fruit, trying to encourage my girls to be mindful of waste, and only picking what we could use. The girls happily played in the orchard itself, running through a small hedge maze and enjoying the sensory path and frog pond.


I’d really recommend this as an autumn activity for kids. It provides ample opportunities for learning, both explicit lessons; Plant biology, food education and decomposition. But also implicit; natural harmony, appreciating natural beauty, treating the world with love and respect, not taking more than we need and community values.

We had a really enjoyable day out and finished the day with some delicious homemade apple crumble.

Have you been apple picking this year? Or do you intend to go?

Eat an apple straight from the tree is number 9 in the National Trust’s 50 Things to so before you’re 11 3/4s challenge. HERE

A Letter to my daughter after her first school Nativity.

Dear A,

I have just been reflecting on your first term and school and how far you’ve come. How much you’ve grown and developed as a person. (How cheeky you are getting at times!) but mostly how amazingly well you are doing as a fully fledged school child.

Your school Nativity was one of the things that showed just how far you’ve come in four short months.

We’re proud of your maturity, while the other kids were wriggling and pulling silly faces, you sat beautifully straight, waiting patiently for your turn to perform.

We’re proud of your beautiful, wholehearted singing. With your head held high you sang each word beautifully and clearly, you moved your arms gracefully, as an angel moves its wings, no silly flapping. I secretly loved hearing you practice your singing, already a perfectionist, wanting to make sure you knew each line for the day. And although you thought I wasn’t listening… And forbade me from ruining the surprise, I just couldn’t help it!

Most of all we’re proud of your bravery and determination. I know you felt apprehensive about performing in front of all the mums and dads, but you did it anyway, and you were so proud of yourself afterwards.

Well done darling!

Forever your proud and affectionate,

Mummy xxx

Christmas Baking -Tick!

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Who doesn’t love a good old Christmas bake off? I know we do. All those lovely smells of cloves and ginger filling the house and making it feel all festive.

Each year I make sure we squeeze in a couple of baking sessions. Not only does it put us in the festive mood, it also means we have plenty of yummy Christmas treats to keep us going until Christmas Eve when we allow ourselves to open the ‘Christmas pantry’.

This year Banana decided to bake mince pies for the adults, which we made more child friendly and fun by using Christmas cookie cutters for the lid. We cheated and used Aldi Specially Selected mincemeat which was delicious (and a little boozy!) As an extra bonus, we always leave one of Banana’s homemade mince pies out for Father Christmas when he visits, so she really takes extra care when making them.

She also decided to bake gingerbread men for the children and she did this as a joint activity with her cousins. They loved creating the gingerbread, with all its sweet and sticky ingredients, as well as cutting them out, territorially marking their initials to show which one belonged to which and then decorating them with some colourful icing. My lovely, sensitive Banana took so much care decorating her little people and loved them so much that she couldn’t bring herself to eat them! Unlike her sister who tore her’s limb from limb and gobbled with relish! I love seeing their different personalities, haha!

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Did you do any Christmas baking with kids this year? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Click to see the rest of our Christmas Bucket List 2016