Why every family should try camping

It doesn’t matter where we’ve travelled in the world, if you ask my kids what one of their favourite holidays was they will cite one where we went camping.
As a family we have been lucky enough to travel to America, France, Spain, Italy, Lapland. We’ve visited amazing theme parks and stayed in the UK at Centreparcs, lovely holiday cottages and quaint little bed and breakfasts.
But the holidays my kids talk about, constantly, excitedly and with animation are our camping holidays. The cheapest and shortest holidays we have!

They absolutely love it. They love the freedom, being able to run wild and well, pretty much the freedom.
There are benefits for you as parents too; your kids are being kids. You don’t really need to know any more than that.
It means they will play outside for hours on end, climb trees, get mucky, explore, chill out, make new friends, not be tied to any schedule.
And the biggest bonus we’ve discovered over our years of camping is it helps you bond as a family.
Sure you’ll row and squabble and put the tent up wrong and forget to heat up the barbecue coals and forget to pack a change of pants and forget your toothbrush.
But in the grand scheme of things these matter not. What matters is you’re giving your kids an amazing adventure and you’re getting them outside.

I know camping isn’t for everyone. There’s the weather. And if it rains, the mud. But it’s been a joy for us. I wrote a post last year 10 Tips for Camping with Kids on how to survive.
But this post is the WHY . . . Why you should just suck it up and go with the flow. I can give you four reasons straight off:

1. The views can be truly stunning

Camping view camping view 2 camping with your dog

2. Everyone has the time to just hang out together

camping with friends DSC_0068
3. The kids have the opportunity to invent their own games

DSC_0072 DSC_0098 DSC_0058

4. You get to wake up to scenes like this. And go to bed to scenes like this

camping sky camping sunset

And, finally, as a bonus point, you get to take photos like this

kids asleep campingStill don’t fancy it? How about trying it out in your back garden first?
This weekend, all things being well and the weather not dumping ten tons of rainwater on us as it has been doing of late, we shall be camping out in our back garden this weekend!
For that can be JUST as much fun, but with all the comforts of being able to nip into the house to go to the loo.

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We’re joining up with the Big Little Tent Festival on the Bank Holiday weekend (August 30th). The event is a collaboration between The Woodland Trust and The Caravan Club who basically want as many people as possible to enjoy the great outdoors for a one-night tent festival – all from the comfort of your own garden!
The event is support by TV travel show presenter Simon Reeve who will also be bedding down for the night in his back garden!
Fellow bloggers Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy and OneDad3Girls will also be joining in the fun!

Posted in Family Holiday, Sponsored, Travel | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Win a NOW TV box and 3 month Sky Movies subscription

chocolate hamper

Earlier this month I was invited to throw a party. A chocolate party. Two words that quite frankly belong together.
The invite was from Sky Movies who are running a #MoveParty campaign to get us all into the party spirit.
Did you hear what I said: Movies AND chocolate. I am IN.

Movies play a big part in this house. We are movie geeks. Geeks with a capital G.
We have a ridiculous number of DVDs and we’re the family that actually do watch them over and over.
Superheroes feature highly, as does Disney, Pixar, Indiana Jones, films from the 80s and anything with Jim Carrey in (my kids have just discovered him!)

So a chocolate-themed party isn’t going to be any problem for us at all. More on that to follow.
However this here is about you and getting you into movies. I’ve teamed up with Sky Movies to give one Sticky Fingers reader a Now TV box with 3-month Sky Movies subscription thrown in. Just in time for autumn and weekends snuggled up on the sofa en family.

But what is Now TV you ask?
Well, it’s a non-contract video on demand service from Sky TV which means you can take advantage of Sky Movies without having to sign up.

And what is a Sky Movies subscription?
Sky Movies has an amazing catalogue of films – more than 1,000 movies including recent box office hits, all-time classics and Disney favourites.
And, Sky Movies premieres up to five new movies every week, and at least a year before they appear on any other movie subscription services.
A pretty easy way to watch your movies – especially if you have fussy kids who can’t decide on what to watch. This way you can choose to watch movies whenever and wherever you want, either on live TV from one of the 11 dedicated genre channels, or on demand across different devices.
The Sky Movies app means choosing a movie is really easy as you can browse films currently available on the service, by genre or search for a specific title.
And you can watch them on Now TV.

How to enter

All you have to do for a chance of winning is fill in the widget below and cross your fingers!
You don’t need to be a Sky customer to enter, it’s open to everyone.
Best of luck.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And if you want to find other competitions hosted on UK-based blogs, check out my Pinterest board for more places to win! Follow Tara Cain’s board The UK Giveaway/Competition Community Board on Pinterest.

The rules bit
The competition is open to residents of the UK, ROI, Channel Islands and Isle of Man only (sorry rest of the world) and those aged 18 and over. Proof of age may be required. 
The competition is not open to employees and relatives of Sticky Fingers and any British Sky Broadcasting Group company (Sky), companies associated with the p promotion and all affiliates of such companies.
The prize is for 1 Now TV box and 1 x 3 month Sky Movies pass. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
Entry is via Rafflecopter.
Make sure your contact details are easily available. Now TV will contact the winner to arrange installation of the prize. 
The competition closes on September 1, 2015.
One winners will be chosen at random from all the entries after the closing date.
A winner will be informed within 14 days of the closing date and will need to respond within 28 days or a new winner will be chosen. The winner must redeem their prize within one year. Failure by the winner to make an installation application within this time could result in loss of prize. If the winner has a previous uncleared debt with Sky the winner will not be able to take up the Prize until this debt has been fully cleared.
The winners’ name will be announced on the widget.
The prize will be sent within 28 days of receiving the winner’s address.
This is a joint promotion between Sticky Fingers and Sky Movies.
Sky/Now TV reserves the right to refuse or withdraw the prize if a winner or a party authorised by the winner to act on their behalf, threatens or abuses a staff employee or otherwise conducts themselves in a manner that Sky reasonably regards as inappropriate, offensive or unlawful.
We reserve the right to substitute the prize (or an element thereof) for an equivalent or greater monetary value if this is necessary for reasons beyond reasonable control. 

Posted in Competitions | 293 Comments

Back to school with Cath Kidston. And ALL the emotions

back to school

Back to school is an emotional time. Understatement of the year alert!
I’ve been doing it for eight years now and I still feel that crushing weight on my chest as I send my kids off for another year, not knowing what it holds, what friendships they will make, what life lessons they will learn, what hardships they will face.
Of COURSE it’s emotional. But they never tell you just how emotional it can be. Just seeing your four year old wearing a uniform for the first time can floor you.

When they first go to school you worry they’re too little, too innocent, that no one knows them like you do.
Then they move into Year 8 and you worry that they’re too distracted by social media, or sport or friendship worries.
The point is you never stop worrying. BUT that heart-soaring moment you get when they put on their new uniform, sling their rucksack over their shoulder and run off into the playground without even turning to glance at you is worth it. Every single time.

I’m writing this post in collaboration with Cath Kidston who have made THE most gorgeous back to school video. And what makes it even better is it features three fabulous parenting bloggers and their kids.
The video perfectly captures those Back to School mornings and is utterly beautiful.
Well done to Housewife Confidential, Mummy Daddy Me and Kat Got the Cream for being part of something so lovely.

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Cath Kidston and their #BagsToSchool campaign.

Posted in School, Sponsored | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Win one of 3 limited edition KLM Trunki suitcases

KLM Trunki

If there is one thing my children love about holidays it’s packing their own suitcase!
The responsibility, the chance to pack one pair of pants and 52 books . . . *ahem*
I’ve found it’s best to get your children to take ownership of their packing from the very start; make them write out a list of what to take, get them to pack their belongings and then also get them to unpack when you get home.
Trunki have somehow managed to make travelling with kids fun with their range of fab and funky suitcases aimed directly at the younger traveller.

So, to help you with your travels, I have these fabulous blue and white Trunkis to be won.

I’ve teamed up with the lovely people at KLM UK to give away three KLM-themed Trunkis featuring their mascot Bluey.
KLM are currently running a #BlueybyKLM campaign to promote stress-free travel for families – the holy grail for ALL parents travelling with kids surely?!

Thanks to KLM’s main hub at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, it is possible to fly from 17 regional UK airports to destinations all over the world – think Cardiff to Bangkok, Norwich to Hong Kong.
Which basically means, when travelling with kids you can depart from an airport much closer to home rather than traipsing across the UK to somewhere like London or Manchester.

You can follow this campaign and find out about other great deals and competitions with KLM by following them on Twitter at @KLM_UK.

bluey trunki

How to enter

So what do you have to do to get your hands on a special KLM Bluey Trunki? All you need to do to be in with a chance of winning is fill in the widget below and cross your fingers! Best of luck x

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And if you want to find other competitions hosted on UK-based blogs, check out my Pinterest board for more places to win! Follow Tara Cain’s board The UK Giveaway/Competition Community Board on Pinterest.

Rules:
The competition is open to residents of the UK only (sorry rest of the world) and those aged 18 and over.
The competition excludes employees and relatives of Sticky Fingers and KLM.
The prize is for 1 KLM Bluey Trunki. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
Entry is via Rafflecopter.
Make sure your contact details are easily available.
The competition closes on Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at midnight.
Three winners will be chosen at random from all the entries after the closing date.
The winner will be asked to provide their full name and address for the prize to be sent to.
A winner will be informed within 14 days of the closing date and will need to respond within 28 days or a new winner will be chosen.

The winners’ name will be announced on the widget.
The prize will be sent within 28 days of receiving the winner’s address.
This is a joint promotion between Sticky Fingers and KLM UK.
Entry to this competition confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these terms and conditions. 

Posted in Competitions, Travel | Tagged , | 370 Comments

The 5 things you need to know about buying school uniform

marks and spencer uniform

I’ve done the back to school ‘thing’ for seven years now. Just about to do my eighth.
I’m pretty sure I know what I’m talking about!
I’ve bought cheap and cheerful, I’ve bought eyewateringly expensive. I’ve bought in bulk, I’ve bought the bare minimum. I’ve bought weeks in advance, I’ve bought right at the last minute.
Basically, I’ve made all the mistakes so you don’t have to!

So what did I distill from all those years of making mistakes learnings?

1. Buy early
Not the first week they break up early, but basically don’t leave it until the last three weeks because stocks will have run low, shops may have stopped their great offers on uniform and you may find some stores even stop stocking so much because they’ve moved on and are now thinking about their Christmas displays.

2. Don’t buy EVERYTHING on the uniform list
During September and October they’re really not going to need a winter coat or those chunky shoes.
Here’s what I learned; once they are through that school gate and are under the influence of their pals, they absolutely won’t want the expensive ski jacket you invested in from Boden. Because they will want what their friends have.
Just wait and buy it when it’s needed. And don’t make the expensive mistake I seemed to have managed to make for the past three years.

3. Spend more where you can
As in don’t buy 10 pairs of socks for a pound, because after wash upon wash they’re just not going to last.
You don’t have to break the bank, but if you go for quality over quantity you’re not going to end up with a pair trousers which look like something my husband uses to rub the car’s bodywork down with after a couple of washes. Or school skirts which lose their shape and pleats if you look at them the wrong way.
Marks and Spencer are brilliant for running offers over the summer break so keep and eye out.

4. Name everything
Yes just writing their name in Sharpie on the label seems like a good idea but a. it comes off in the wash and if it gets lost on the day you forgot to top it up you’ll be kicking yourself. And b. despite naming everything your child will still manage to lose/forget/swap with another child/give away various pieces of uniform so the bigger the name tag the better.

m&s school shoes

5. The shoe dilemma
I’ve tried everything with school shoes; measured and expensive, measured and cheap, supermarket, branded, online, clothes shop. Here’s what I found: cheap shoes just don’t last and you end up buying at least three pairs per school year. Well fitting, expensive shoes last the whole year and look as good as new with a bit of TLC and some good old fashioned boot polish.
I do wince when we have to buy the school shoes every year, especially given that both of my kids are very active and are really hard on their shoes.
I know it’s the issue that divides most parents, but we’ll be going with the higher end of the scale once again this year because even if I scrimp and save on school uniform I know their shoes will stay the distance.

I have one more extra one because I’ve been asked by Marks and Spencer to try out some of their school uniform ‘innovations’.
Mia is starting middle school in September and so needed a whole new uniform – from her shirts and skirts to socks, shoes, PE kit, bags and coat. So,

6. Buy clothes with innovations
This is a bit of a cheat for me as I buy a lot of our uniform from M&S anyway because I love the extras they’ve introduced such a easy to iron shirts, stormwear finish, permanent pleats, active sport and ‘staynew’
AND they actually do what they promise.

m&s uniform Collage

I love what Mia’s chosen. The Umbrella Print coat with Stormwear (£18-£22) is lightweight and packs away easily into her rucksack. The Buckle Detail skirt (£8-12) looks really smart, has permanent pleat (yesss) and has an adjustable waist. The two pack of Cap Sleeve Blouses (£9-£15) are slightly tailored and so look fabulous on instead of shapeless and cheap.

m&s pe kit
For PE she opted for a navy tracksuit top (£8-£12) and joggers (£7-£10) – she opted for the boys joggers because she prefers the cuffed ankle which the girls’  version doesn’t have – both of which have ‘staynew’ technology which sounds great to me, and the white Performance Panelled top (£7-£10) with ‘pure silver technology’ to keep moisture away from her skin.
The only item we didn’t like were the shoes. Mia loved the style (Freshfeet Leather Cross Bar, £26-£30) but found they weren’t roomy enough at the toe end and instantly dismissed them. But as I’ve said previously, I wouldn’t buy shoes like this normally – but it was worth a go!

M&S school coat

Posted in Fashion Review, Reviews, School | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Delia Smith’s Dark Jamaican Gingerbread

delia smith ginger cake

You can always rely on Delia to come up with the goods.
The husband asked for a ginger cake to serve up at Cake Club (it’s a sorry tale, come back and read on when you’ve caught up!)
But not any old ginger cake he said. It had to be like a ‘real’ version of those cakes you buy from the supermarket; dark and spicy and smells like the inside of a Jamaica mama’s kitchen.
It had to be sticky and rich and look Caribbean.

This is most definitely the black and sticky version that tastes like burnt sugar and is even better if you wrap it in foil and leave it for a few days.
I added a drizzle of lemon icing sugar on top to give a tangy contrast but you can leave it plain if you prefer.

ginger cake ingredients

Ingredients
175g plain flour
1 level tbsp ground ginger
1 level dsp ground cinnamon
pinch of grated nutmeg
half level tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp milk
75g black treacle
75g golden syrup
75g dark brown soft sugar
75g butter
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Method
1. Heat the oven to 170 degrees C (gas mark 3). Line a 2lb loaf tin with a loaf liner.

2. Measure out the flour and the spices into a large bowl and set aside.

2. Measure out the treacle, syrup, sugar, butter and 75ml of water into a small saucepan. Heat gently until thoroughly melted. Keep stirring and never let it come anywhere near to the boil.

3. Add the syrup mixture to the flour mixture and beat vigorously until smooth.

4. Beat in the egg a little at a time then add the milk and bicarb mixture.

5. Pour the mixture into the lined loaf tin. Bake in the bottom half of the oven (so the top of the tin is aligned with the centre of the oven) for 1¼ to 1½ hours until well risen and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out.

6. As an extra you can add a touch of lemon icing (just mix a tablespoon of fresh lemon with 3 tablespoons of icing sugar) to give it a zingy extra.

* Recipe from Delia Smith’s Cakes.

Posted in Food, Recipes | Tagged , | 4 Comments

The British Red Cross, their vital new app and cute rapping babies

I’m one of those parents who spent quite a bit of time pacing the waiting room at A&E when my son was little.
Thank heavens he didn’t actually ever do anything that required major intervention from a doctor, but as an active and very curious little man we troubled the staff at our local hospital with enough giant egg-shaped bruises to the head to turn me into a nervous parent.
That’s when I knew I should get myself some first aid training, because honestly I couldn’t cope with the stress of it all! Learning how to deal with emergencies – however small – are a vital part of your parenting arsenal.

Because here’s the thing; sure accidents can happen when they’re babies, when they start to crawl, when they learn that ooooo if I put this TV remote in my mouth it tastes kind of nice . . .
But what about when they’re older and want to climb trees, test what’s in that interesting bottle of liquid, run everywhere, try to fit ALL the sweets in their mouth at the same time?
Then all that knowledge you learned when they were tiny, or even while you were still pregnant, has gone. First aid is not like riding a bike, you need to keep learning, keep up the knowledge. Just in case.

Would YOU know what to do if you walked in on your child licking at a bottle of bleach? Or had an asthma attack? Or if they burnt themselves badly?
I’m writing this in conjunction with the British Red Cross because they are keen to let parents know the importance of keeping up with your first aid knowledge.
In a recent survey, they found that sleepless nights and knowing what to do in an emergency first aid situation are the two skills parents wish they had learned before having kids.
And so to that end they have produced a fantastic free app under the banner of the #rappedup campaign, which means you are only ever a few clicks away from knowing exactly what to do if something happens and you need help straight away. Now THAT is an app you need to have. And that is an app I am delighted to have on my phone.

British Red Cross app

It’s free, it’s packed with useful videos, information and animations and at the heart of it, it provides simple and easy to follow advice. The British Red Cross Baby & Child First Aid app is available for iPhone and Android.
Plus you get to watch this adorable video which helps to bring the message home. In rap form :-) Take it away babies . . .

This sponsored post has been written in conjunction with the British Red Cross.

Posted in Sponsored | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Photo Gallery 239: Home Comforts

Things in the home that make life more comfortable.
Or in my case, because I like to be a bit different, things in the garden that make life more sparkly :-)
The husband and I have just spent a large chunk of time (and money) on dragging our garden back to life; pruning back the overgrown bushes which were taking over the flower beds, replacing the fence panels that were on the verge of collapse, removing the border edging that was so dilapidated and useless for purpose, the garden’s unwanted creatures (slugs, snails be gone) assumed we put it there for them and have taken up residence in it.

We are delighted with all we’ve achieved (with a huge chunk of muscle and inspiration coming from my mother and her other half who set the ball in motion) and it now looks like it was actually designed rather than a whole bunch of plants and trees just fell in there and organised themselves.

BUT here’s the thing; at the bottom of our garden is this lovely children’s playhouse that has given both of my children years of fun. And they no longer use it. Well they use it to store various cricket bats, hola hoops, balls, shuttlecocks and water guns in. Which seems like a terrible waste.
So I would like to make it my new ‘home comfort’ in the garden – but what? What can I convert it into?
There have already been some corking suggestions over on Instagram – from giving it over to chickens to converting it into a ‘she-shack’ (there is also a she-shack hashtag, can you believe it?!)

This post is for week 239 of The Photo Gallery. The theme is: Home Comforts.

Now it’s your turn to link up your post and join in. If you’re new here and want to know what the Photo Gallery feature is, go and read all about it, and then come right back and join in!

Here’s how to join in

Take a photo using the theme I’ve given as your inspiration. There are no rules and you can interpret the theme any way you like. Write a blog post or caption. You can write as many or as few words as you like. You don’t even need to use a new photo; just a photo you think represents the prompt.

 Add the Photo Gallery badge (and the foot of this post) to your post so other readers can find the other entries.

 Use the linky tool at the bottom of this post to link up your post so readers can find you. The linky stays open until Tuesday so you have plenty of time to join in.

➤ Tweet me with the hashtag #thegallery and I will retweet and share your entry (you can find me on Twitter @Tara_Cain). Or you can  use the hashtag #thegallery on Instagram (I’m over there as TaraLara) and I will share and comment on your photos there.

Now go visit as many of the other entries as you can. Leave a comment, discover new blogs, discover new ways of taking photos and maybe share any tips you have.

The Photo Gallery isn’t about taking technically brilliant photos. You can take them on your phone, your point and shoot or your fancy pants camera. It’s about having a passion for photos, wanting to better yourself and discovering what other bloggers are doing.

 You can also find the Photo Gallery on  Pinterest and Google +

Follow Tara Cain’s board The Photo Gallery on Pinterest.

To ensure you don’t miss a prompt, you can subscribe to the Sticky Fingers feed to have them delivered directly to your inbox every Friday.

 PLEASE don’t link dump – this is not that sort of linky!

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery
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The Photo Gallery is open for absolutely ANYONE to join in – be you on blog, Instagram, Flickr or any platform where you an host a photo.

See you over there x

Posted in The Gallery | 5 Comments

The Photo Gallery: Week 239

Gallery logoHello and welcome to week 239 of The Photo Gallery.

It has been a glorious weekend here in the UK. Glorious.
I’ve shunned any social media in favour of reading my book, drinking cider, playing tennis in the garden with the kids and partaking of a touch of barbecuing at friends’ houses. We’ve also done a spot of sitting in front of the chimnea as the sun goes down, warming our toes in front of the hypnotic fire!

So, for this week’s Photo Gallery theme I have chosen: Home Comforts.
What are your home comforts? What can’t you live without? Your log burner, your ‘special’ wine glass, your favourite slippers, your bench at the bottom of the garden?
As usual, interpret the theme any way you like.

I’ll see you back here on Wednesday when it’s time to link up x

NEW HERE? NOT SURE HOW TO ENTER THE GALLERY?

If you’re new here, here’s a post to tell you all about what The Photo Gallery is all about and how to enter.
And if you want to make sure you don’t miss any prompts or entries in future, make sure you subscribe to the Sticky Fingers blog and get all prompts delivered directly to your in box.
Go on, clicky click away, you know you want to …

If you want to join in with The Gallery and showcase your photos, come back on Wednesday and when my Gallery post goes live, add a link to your post on the Linky below mine.
The link stays open until the following Tuesday, so you have plenty of time to join in.
And ANYONE can join in.

Posted in The Gallery Themes | Tagged | Leave a comment

Blackberry, blueberry, raspberry and chia breakfast smoothie

Blueberry blackberry and flaxseed smoothie

If there is one thing I adore about the summer it’s all the fabulously jewel-coloured fruit available.
Visiting a pick your own fruit farm for me is pure heaven (and hell, because I want to scoff them all as I’m going around picking and popping them into the punnet).

And just look at the colour of this breakfast smoothie – it looks like it should be something you’re only allowed once a month because it’s packed with naughties.
But it’s not, it’s packed with things that are really good for you and if you indulge you can wear a halo all day. AND it’s really filling with the protein from the chia and peanut butter so you shouldn’t be tempted to reach for a snack the minute you’ve left the kitchen.

Ingredients
Small handful of blueberries
small handful of blackberries
small handful of frozen raspberries
half a banana
2 tablespoons natural yoghurt
1 dessertspoonful chia seeds
1 heaped teaspoon peanut butter
150ml milk of your choice

Blitz the lot until smooth.
If you like your smoothie with more of a thick dessert texture then don’t add as much milk. But if you prefer your smoothie to be more like a milkshake, add a touch more milk.

Posted in Food, Recipes | Tagged , | 2 Comments