Making the Most of your Garden this Summer

Although the great British Summer is notoriously unpredictable when it comes to the weather, the warm, sunny spells we’ve been having recently does give us a chance to make the most of our garden or outdoor space, whilst we can.  Due to being neglected during the winter months and the lack of sunshine we get in the summertime, many people are unsure how to make the most of their gardens when it begins to warm up. The thought of cutting bushes, potting plants and mowing lawns can be pretty daunting to some and many of us don’t have the money to go all out on the garden furniture, the built in BBQ’s and the hot tubs, but there are definitely simpler ways of enjoying the outdoors during a rare bit of British heat.

 

Dining Alfresco

No matter how big or small your garden is, when the sun is shining there is nothing better than taking your dinner to eat outside, with a nice cold drink. Whether you set out the table with a range of salads, cold meats and bread, or simply just cook your dinner inside and bring it out, there is something about dining alfresco that soothes the soul. If you haven’t already, it is definitely well worth investing in some garden furniture. It doesn’t have to break the bank, it can even be a simple little wooden or plastic set for two, but sitting out and eating at night, or enjoying a nice brew in the fresh morning sun is definitely a great way to utilise your outdoor space.

BBQ Time

BBQ it up

Following on from my last point, eating outside in the warm weather is a dream, and cooking in it is also a great change. You might already have a fancy BBQ where you can cook all kinds of fancy and yummy meats and fish, but even if you just buy a small, disposal one and cook a few sausages, it still counts! Everyone loves a hot dog so bbq’ing on a budget can be a simple task and a great excuse to get the family and friends together. ‘Build your own buns’ are a great, purse-friendly way to feed the five thousand. Cook a load of sausages on the BBQ, give everyone a hot dog bun and set out different ‘stations’ for the toppings (onions, mustard, ketchup, beef chilli etc). Fill a bucket with some ice and beers and voila! Everyone is happy – except maybe the veggies but there is always Quorn for that!

Get the Essentials

One of the great things about hot, summer days is sitting out late into the night and it still feeling warm (ish). However, if you want to make a habit of this (or do it as often as possible) there are some essentials that you will need to invest in. First of all, some outdoor lighting, from fitted lights with sensors to solar powered lamps, your lighting options depend on your budget and the size of your garden – so get researching! Secondly, small, mini fire pits are a great way to keep everyone outside once the sun goes down. You can buy them from major supermarkets for next to nothing and sitting around a campfire either toasting marshmallows or playing a few games is a welcome change from the TV indoors! Thirdly, bug spray – because they always try to spoil the fun.

Grow some Goodness!

You don’t need a huge space to grow a little of your own fruit and veggies this summer. A lot of us have been meaning to try this for ages but never get round to it – so now is your chance! Find a raised patch of soil and get planting some summer seeds. Nothing more rewarding than enjoying a salad with tomatoes you’ve grown yourself or a crumble with freshly picked raspberries and blackberries! You’ll be a domestic goddess in no time.

Outdoor Games

If you have grass in your garden, there is nothing better than a few good old fashioned games with family and friends to while away the hours. The games you can play even with just a single ball are endless and I’m sure everyone will enjoy unlocking their inner child for a good game of Piggy in the Middle – especially after a few drinks! A cricket set or a Rounder’s bat also cos very little from budget stores and can provide hours of (competitive) fun. If you’re more civilised or simply a little restricted on space, a pack of cards outside is the perfect entertainment!

The National Trust launches ‘Nature Misses you’

There are still three weeks left of the Summer holidays for most of us, and if now is the time when ideas to keep the kids occupied are starting to run dry, then it is the perfect opportunity to take a look at the ideas that the National Trust has for getting children outside and enjoying the fresh air, the environment and nature.

The National Trust has, this summer, launched a new initiative called ‘Nature Misses you’. They have researched the activities that different generations partake in, for leisure and family time, and the research has shown, that with each passing generation, we are spending less time outdoors. The National trust feels that the activity ideas they put together as part of the ‘50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾’ could help to address some of these issues, by getting families to do fun things together in the great outdoors. (If you haven’t seen it yet, you can find the full list of activities here.)

Nature misses you sign - Wasdale

I think spending time outdoors is absolutely essential for health and wellbeing, and that it also is a whole lot of fun. As a family, we have been crossing things off the list that we have already done, and with an upcoming weeks holiday in Wales, we have highlighted more of the activities that we are going to try.

Here are some things that we have already crossed off.

Roll down a really big hill. (Number 2 on the list)

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Build a den (Number 4 on the list)

forestry commision 062Great fun at the Forestry commission in Cannock Chase – there have partly built dens that you can add to – Joe loved this.

Run around in the rain (number 6 on the list)

084This is a much younger Joe having fun in puddles. Rain should never be a reason for staying indoors!

Play in the Snow (Number 15 in the list)

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Create some wild art (Number 18 in the list)

10439470_623864107711694_7057920189297689307_nWe made these fishes with sticks from our garden and then attached them to the fence. We made them outside too, which was fun – although there was glue all over the paving slabs…

Jump over Waves (Number 20 on the list)

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Pick fruit that is growing in the wild (Number 21 on the list)

DSCN8432We cheated a little with this one, as we visited a local fruit farm. Still a whole lot of fun though, and the strawberries were amazing.

Catch a fish with a net and find some frogspawn (Number 8 and 32 on the list)

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Discover what’s in a pond. (Number 35 on the list)

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Go swimming in the sea (Number 42 on the list)

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Learn to ride a horse (Number 48 on the list)

DSCN2618Not quite there yet, but Joe loves horses so this is definitely a plan for the future.

These are just some of the activities we have done so far, we have also played pooh sticks and skimmed stones (Nu. 19 and 5 respectively) and made daisy chains and trails. Next up is to check out a cave, and to hunt for bugs. There is literally so much to do on the list.

You can find out more on the new App, it’s available on iOS and Android.

Don’t forget to get involved with the conversation on Twitter and Instagram too, use the hash tag #50things and #NatureMissesYou.

Super Busy Mum

 

 

 

 

A picnic in the park

Last week I received a lovely email asking if I would be interested in taking Joe for a teddy bears picnic in order to test a special alphabet picnic game designed by Waitrose. I loved the idea, we often have picnic lunches in the garden when the sun is shining.  Joe also enjoys a challenge, so I knew the game would definitely interest him. So I replied with a great big ‘YES’, and on Monday we set out to a local park with Sooty, Sweep and Soo to take on the challenge.

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Cheslyn Hay park is truly lovely, with lots of grass and trees for children to run and explore, a great little play area with swings and slides, and also goalposts for a nice game of football. It is definitely one of Joe’s favourite places, and the perfect place to both have a picnic and a play session, and also to attempt to find all the things on the alphabet game list.

DSCN8608We packed a picnic of sandwiches, crisps and savoury biscuits, yoghurt and fruit, and a cartoon of fruit juice. I also added my current food obsession, jelly filled with fruit (in this case raspberries), and added plastic cups, spoons and a blanket, and we were all set to go.

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With Sooty and Sweep.

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Little cutie.

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Soo looks after the juice.

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Joe practices his photography skills!

Once the food was finished, it was time to take up the challenge. We didn’t find everything on the list, but still did pretty well. Here are some of the things we did find.

B is for Bumble Bee

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F is for flowers, G is for grass that is perfect for rolling on, and H is for hedges.

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L is for leaves

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R is for rainclouds…which luckily passed straight over.

DSCN8611T is for trees.

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U is for Undergrowth

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Z is for Zebra…or at least something stripy!

DSCN8628We found lots of other things on the list, from ants, to yellow flowers, nasty stinging nettles, and a couple of mammals who were being walked in the park. Joe loved doing the challenge, and carefully ticked off each item we found.

DSCN8633We had a lot of fun with our picnic and the teddy bear challenge. If you would like to have a go this summer, you can download your own game from the Waitrose website (click here to visit.) You will also find lots of summer recipes and picnic ideas.

*We were sent a voucher from Waitrose in order to shop for our picnic. Soo chose the juice – it’s her favourite.

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