The Botanical Gardens

Now that spring has finally made an appearance there’s an abundance of colour bursting in to life at the Botanical Gardens. We have been visiting the gardens since the 1980’s when I was a little girl so trips to the gardens are always nostalgic for me. There’s some areas of the gardens which remain unchanged and every time we visit we find a new corner to explore. This is a great place for us to visit with grandma now that we are allowed to meet up outdoors.

The peacocks greeted us as soon as we arrived. After checking in at reception we took a sideways route straight to the corner of the gardens as the glass houses remain closed due to social distancing requirements, but on a bright spring morning we were happy to remain outdoors, and we began to walk along the footpath to the left towards the bird houses.

An array of feathered friends could be heard chirruping from across the lawn as Arlo was delighted to make the acquaintance of a Macaw and a cockatoo, running around the bird houses several times and calling us to show us new birds he spotted each time.

The peacock seemed to follow us around and stood proud admiring the topiary bush of himself from the aviary and then appearing suddenly in flower beds as we wandered around.

We followed the paths around the circumference of the gardens, through a woodland walk and down to the school gardens which appears have just been replanted with vegetables. The butterfly house area right down the bottom was closed off but we did see freshly prepared beds ready for planting and so I expect this area will be in full bloom come summer time.

The “secret pool” at the bottom of the woodland walk and fern trail was a hub of activity for some blackbirds and Arlo enjoyed bug hunting amongst the roots of some of the more established trees, and this was the only area we encountered mud – most of the gardens are easy to explore with footpaths suitable for prams and strollers. There are some alternative little side paths to explore so it’s worth little ones wearing wellies.

We paused along the way for elevensies under a blossom tree. Throughout the gardens you can find peaceful rest stops like these benches but in busier areas such as the play area and main lawn seating areas are closed off for now to aid social distancing, it’s worth bringing along a picnic blanket for lunch on the lawns if you’re planning an all day visit.

We arrived early at about 10am and so we had the place to ourselves when we first arrived, lots of space for Arlo to enjoy being Arlo, we noticed pretty quickly that visitors arrived in droves and by the time we left the car park was full, but there’s plenty of space outdoors to explore.

We picked up a scavenger hunt trail from reception on our arrival and so Arlo was kept busy looking for different textures and nature finds throughout the gardens.

My absolute favourite spot is the pond which is abundant with fish, the magnolias scent was glorious and filled the air and we spent a while spotting goldfish and just enjoying the tranquility of this space. It’s hard to believe that you’re a stones throw from the city centre here.

The play area is another of our favourite areas, some of the spaces are sectioned off and Arlo was a little disappointed to not be able to play in the sand pit or on the big slides but I promised him we would roll down the grass lawns together so he didn’t remain downcast for long. We wandered up past the historical gardens and the fountain to find a brand new alpine rock area before heading to the promenade at the top of the lawns.

We had hot chocolates from the cafe hatch at the top of the gardens which is open for takeaways and then decided to do another circuit of the gardens taking a different route entirely, and chancing upon new spring blooms from different views. The gardens are well established here and there’s a huge variety of beautiful plants for garden fanatics to enjoy and so it’s ideal to visit with the grandparents.

We can’t wait to revisit in the summer when rainbows of flowers fill the space and hopefully live music will be able to go ahead, as planned. The restoration work on the bandstand has finally completed on and it’s looking absolutely beautiful at the moment. You must book online for visits to the gardens. Adults entry tickets are £6.00 and under 5’s are free. There is also a £2 charge for parking.

Hone is where the heart (and office) is.

The last twelve months has been a time of upheavals for everyone.

We’ve all had time to reassess our priorities and for many of us it’s not likely that we’ll be going “back to normal” once lockdown finally ends. Working from home made me really value my living space and I decided back last spring when I realised that the lockdown wasn’t going to last just a few weeks that I was going to renovate my entire home. Hence the “house that chaos built” project commenced in to being.

Pre lockdown I didn’t spend too much time at home at all. I was out working full time Monday to Friday, driving up and down the country commuting for business meant that I wouldn’t even be at home for breakfast and to see the sun come. I would end up socialising with friends in restaurants when I had time, and then the weekends were always dedicated to having adventures with Arlo.

Suddenly I began to reassess our space and decide to make some changes. One of the first things I did was to swap all of the bedrooms around. As fun as it seemed to be able to work from my sofa, it didn’t help with productivity and I found it hard to switch off in the evenings. Then I also made sure to turn my living spaces in to relaxing environments for both myself and Arlo to enjoy.

I wanted to make sure that as I was working from home that I allocated the space accordingly and so I turned the spare bedroom in to a home office for myself. This was important, I needed to have a specific space so that work didn’t encroach on my home life. A place for the laptop to remain and a space which I could shut the door on and forget about to enjoy some down time in the evenings.

For many the lines became blurred and the work life balance was out of kilter, people balancing childcare were squeezing in emails between meals and the bedtime routine and I felt permanently attached to my tech. I found myself checking work emails in bed and flicking through sales reports instead of watching a movie. When I realised that many companies were doing away with their offices permanently I knew I was doing the right thing by allocating a home office room. If anything, I needed to have a better background for when I used zoom.

I also wanted to change my kitchen and reception rooms – reconsidering my living space entirely. I was so used to a lifestyle full of social gatherings which revolved around meeting friends for meals in restaurants that transitioning to being at home all of the time was a major change. I decided to make the most of lockdown and plunged myself in to learning new recipes and spent a lot more time in the kitchen than what I was used to, and so of course this space ended up having a makeover as a priority. I found my love for DIY during lockdown and there’s not a single space in my home which hasn’t been changed in one way or another.

I was lucky enough to have the space I needed and so I’ve been choosing new paint colours and repurposing furniture. Some friends have used the last year to make some enormous changes to their homes. Adding an extra room through a loft or garage conversion has been the approach taken for some to increase the living space. For this type of major change theres obviously huge costs involved and so it’s useful to be able to use a remortgage calculator to help look at the figures and work out affordability to make these projects spring in to life.

Now we know that working from home isn’t going to disappear I’m glad I made changes to my home, and feel lucky enough to have had a spare bedroom. My home is a place I’m happy to spend most of my time in. I’m looking forward to entertaining friends from home and of summer evenings with barbecues and watching my son play in the garden as the sun sets. In fact the joy I have experienced from renovations has inspired and motivated me to look at a career changes for myself.
For many friends the need to have separate working/living environments and a more comfortable living space has been the driving force for a decision to relocate.
For so long the decisions about home location have been based upon the commute and distance to transport links. Now that working from home is a viable solution for the majority of the working week, friends have been able to look for larger family homes – happy with being further away from the office, commuting only for a couple of days a week in exchange for an extra bedroom, a larger garden and a larger space for dining and entertaining away from the main commuter belt suburbs. Being able to work from home has provided many people the opportunity to find larger family homes outside of the often over priced popular commuter areas.

To buy or not to buy is the main question.

With so much uncertainty the property market has been interesting and making huge decisions about relocating when the job market is also unstable has been a real challenge. Renting for many seems like a simpler option with less commitment when there’s so much upheaval. There’s so many things to factor in to choosing a home.

“When the chancellor announced the changes to stamp duty thresholds it spurred many people in to making life changing decisions.

Assessing affordability is the main concern for anyone planning to relocate and it’s difficult to know where to begin when it comes to making such important decisions especially now when you have to factor in unanticipated personal circumstances, especially if you’re a first time buyer and used to paying rent.

Home is most certainly where the heart is, but it’s also where the office is and where pretty much everything else is for the foreseeable future so it’s now more than ever important to make the right choices and It’s great to have a wealth of information accessible via online resources to help make important decisions.

Exploring mini beasts – A Tuff Tray invitation for pre schoolers

Like most three year olds Arlo is absolutely obsessed with bugs and so now that spring is blooming the garden is full of them and they are a great natural resource to explore. We have been moving around the pots and digging up the borders for the last few weeks and so have found quite a few creatures in the garden. This afternoon I set up a tray and lots of resources for him to explore. We spent all evening in the garden – the lighter evenings are fabulous for fun now the clocks have gone forwards.

You will need:

  • Tuff tray (eBay)
  • Mini beast insert (Tiger Moon)
  • Bug hunting kit (B&M)
  • Soil
  • Scraps of paper
  • Mini beasts hunt (Twinkl resources)
  • Toy creatures (various)

I began with this tuff tray insert from Tiger Moon, a wipeable mat which rolls away nicely when not in use and then I added a bug catching tool kit, which was from one of the high street bargain shops for £3. The mat itself has bugs hidden in the picture so I covered this with soil – this I itself would be enough providing tools to scrape and reveal, but I like to go wild and hoped we’d find some real bugs in the garden.

I wasn’t sure if we would actually find outdoors because sometimes you just aren’t that lucky when you’re looking – I have quite a few little creatures in the toy stash and so I quickly hid these in the compost piles and added handfuls of crimped paper on the tray too for an added texture. This made it immediately obvious what the focus of the activity was – Arlo spotted the tray from the window and almost tripped up because he couldn’t get out of the back door fast enough – he dove straight in with his hands exclaiming every time he found something.

As we are close to Easter I also decided to hide some bugs hidden in eggs around the garden. This is a great alternative to hunting for chocolate at this time of year and a way to re-use the plastic eggs – I keep them handy all year round so Arlo knows exactly what to do. I tried to hide them in places where we might happen upon real bugs and we were not disappointed. As soon as he spotted the first egg which wasn’t too far from the tray he went zooming off around the garden, running back to the tray every time he found one to show me and match it up.

Our tiger moon insert had some lovely enlarged bug pictures so I planned it to match a toy to every single one and these were great to to point out the features of each bug, and at just the right time a woodlouse decided to grace us with his presence and make acquaintances with his portrait.

I also printed off a twinkl resources tick sheet and attached that to a clip board and also propped up one of his favourite bug books and so with each new bug we identified it counting the legs and looking at the body parts and colours and I read out some facts. I like to add books to our activities so that we can bring them indoors after the play activity and pull them out as a refresher because once we have done something like this it becomes a hot topic and Arlo likes to pull out books from the shelf himself to explore when he’s got an idea too.

We spent quite a bit of time matching and counting out our toy bugs, sorting them from largest to smallest and by colour before the woodlouse appeared and we decided to go looking for some real creatures – Arlo didn’t have to look far, he lifted up a patch of astroturf and was delighted to find all sorts underneath. Worms, slugs and even a centipede were all bought back to the tray gently to inspect.

The highlight of Arlo’s afternoon was however finding a ladybird, which stuck around to play with us for quite a while, even inspecting our new bug house which has now been given a prominent spot in the garden. We also have a nice little collection of snail shells which Arlo wants to keep as treasures.

We can’t wait for a bug filled summer – Next week we’re going to plant the seeds of all sorts of flowers and plants we’ve had some very interesting conversations today about how important it is to look after bugs and creatures, I don’t know where he gets half of his information from but he’s beginning to grasp an understanding of ecosystems now.

You never know quite where a tuff tray set up is going to end up, but it’s always an enjoyable experience to create an invitation to play with so many open ended avenues for little minds to explore. It’s not just about making a mess, it’s about inspiring conversations and introducing new concepts.

The mini beats tuff tray insert is currently on offer for £12 at Tiger Moon. Click the logo to head to the website.

Tiger Moon Kindly provided the mini beast tuff tray insert for review however all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

The Easter trail at Trentham Gardens

We have been out and about again today and this time our travels took us to Trentham Gardens, which are amongst the finest in Britain. A week ahead of Easter there has been a Beatrix Potter themed trail added to the grounds.

You can book online to visit the gardens. Tickets are £12 for adults and under 3’s are free. The Easter trail pamphlet is an additional £2.50 and can be exchanged at the end of the trail for a treat. We took the pre booked line at the entrance and avoided all of the queues, you do have to select an arrival slot time but if you’re early the ice cream shop is open and there’s also toilet facilities to use at the entrance.

Trentham Gardens site has a wealth of activities to participate in, we were given the winter and spring spotters guides and a historical one too, and it was fascinating to see the remains of Trentham Hall too. The extended site also includes a garden centre and a shopping village which will hopefully bounce back to life as soon as restrictions lift and with free parking this in itself is a grand day out, that’s without mentioning the monkey Forest and Tree Top Adventures (must be booked separately) which are also set to re-open shortly. There really is something for everyone here.

The extensive grounds at Trentham circulate the beautiful lake which has a mile long walk you can amble along at your leisure and there’s plenty to see and do. Arlo took along his own camera today and was busy capturing the ducks as well as spotting the infamous Jeremy Fisher along the trail.

The upper flower garden is where the majority of the Peter Rabbit trail was located so all of the markers can be found along paths which are easy to navigate with pushchairs, and it’s not too challenging for little ones. With such a vast area to explore we found that we had plenty of space and didn’t at feel like our social distancing was compromised. It feels as though spring is about to burst in to life with daffodils and early bulbs blooming to bring the first wave of colour through in the gardens.

Arlo was delighted to explore the display’s created for every single character, we were looking for letters on wooden eggs to complete a puzzle. He’s just starting to recognise letters and so as soon as he recognised a character from the books he ran ahead to find the “abc” for us. Then once he finished examining the displays he looked up to see the surroundings he would pause to catch his breath. The placements have been very carefully chosen with lots of open space and to take you around to some of the best corners of the gardens with great vantage points.

We also decided ahead to purchase the fairy trail pamphlet for an additional £2.50 – these permanent sculptures by a local artist are dotted around the gardens and the lake and you will encounter many of them if you keep your eyes peeled whilst looking for Peter Rabbit and friends. There is a one way system now around the gardens so some of these are harder to spot if you’re determined to finish the trail but this change helps the social distancing. Wanda the mermaid is a new addition and can be found basking in one of the fountains.

Hunka Munka the mouse was holding the last clue to find, and once we had all the letters we had to unscramble them to find a word to complete the trail. (I won’t post the answer spoiler.) The walk took us about an hour as we paused to feed the ducks in the stream and ambled slowly along and we then got the chance to play in the adventure park – the slide, maze and the barefoot walk remains closed but all of the other apparatus including the sandpit were available for Arlo and others to enjoy. We also went up behind the maze in to the open field where sheep were grazing just to say a quick hello.

We retraced our steps back to the lake and noticed that the Italian tea rooms were open to provide takeaway food and that there are also “pods” are being set up for family bookings which will provide fabulous views across the lake for afternoon tea. The toilet facilities here are also open. We sat and enjoyed our picnic and trail treats watching the nesting moorhens before continuing our casual stroll – I hardly noticed I’d achieved my 10,000 steps for the day.

We can’t wait to come back and visit as the seasons change, we want to finish the trail and visit monkey forest next time. I highly recommend Trentham Gardens as a Midlands based family friendly attraction. Click below to book.

Indulgent no bake mini egg cheese cake

This weekend marked the Spring Equinox and so we decided to start with the Easter bakes. This indulgent mini egg cheesecake is a fun one for little ones to make because it involves lots of bashing with a rolling pin.

You will need:

For the base

  • Digestive biscuits – 300g
  • Ground almonds – 50g
  • Honey 2tbsp
  • Crushed hazelnuts 50g
  • Mini eggs – a handful
  • Butter 200g

For the filling

  • Nutella 3tbsp
  • Double cream 300ml
  • Icing sugar 120g
  • Full fat cream cheese 700g (two packs)
  • Vanilla essence 5 drops
  • White chocolate – 70g

For the topping

  • Sprinkles
  • Mini eggs
  • Chocolate shavings

When it comes to quantities it’s almost impossible to be accurate with a toddler – I try my best to stick to easy proportions so to begin we smashed up an entire pack of digestives give or take two and a pack of mini eggs too.

This amount was enough to fill the base of a large spring form tin and three ramekins – so in total 15 portions. You might want to scale this back if you’re not feeding the five thousand this Easter but for us “more is more.”

Add the mini eggs, biscuits, nuts and honey and mix well to distribute. Melt the butter in short bursts in the microwave and then mix this in – it quickly creates a nice ball which is cookie dough like in consistency. I cut a grease proofpaper circle in to size and add this to the base of my spring form tin before piling the mixture in and patting it down with a spoon.

We had lots left so used the extra in ramekins to make some individual portions. Then we popped this in the fridge whilst me mixed up the filling.

This is done in two stages. Melt the white chocolate in short bursts in the microwave and leave this to cool slightly. I whip the cream up with vanilla and icing sugar using an electric whisk until it forms nice peaks and then I leave that to the side whilst I mix up the cream cheese. It’s best to work with this at room temperature as it mixes in nicely. (If it’s cold then it goes lumpy). Pour the white chocolate in with the cream cheese and then a handful of crushed mini eggs too. I then combine the cream and the cream cheese together by folding them gently and taste testing at this stage. You want it to still form peaks and this is how you know it will set nicely.

For added indulgence we spread Nutella over our biscuit base before topping up with the filling. This is Arlo’s second favourite thing to do, and then it’s simply a case of leaving this all in the fridge to set overnight before decorating. This is where the little ramekins come in handy….. no one likes to wait for a taste and so if you’re impatient like us, you can dig in to these straight away.

We decorated our cheesecakes with more mini eggs, chocolate shavings and then some extra sprinkles for good measure. The result was a super rich and indulgent cake which has us all excited to dig in. I leave the spring form collar around until just before serving.

Here’s a slice profile for you too. I can’t even explain how delicious this is. Now that spring has arrived we are going to use the base of this recipe and adapt it with some different flavours – I’m thinking lemon and raspberry next!

Melting rainbows – a baking soda and vinegar activity

This is a really fun project for budding scientists – when you mix baking soda and vinegar a chemical reaction occurs which creates bubbles. This is fun all on its own but when you involve colours things take on a new direction. I’ve previously written about how Arlo’s schema penchant is for transformation and so setting up little science experiments for him to explore is so much fun.

You will need:

  • Ice cube tray
  • Food colouring
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • A tray
  • A beaker
  • Pipettes

I began by mixing up food colouring and water in an ice cube tray and letting this freeze overnight. I ended up leaving these in the freezer for a while and pulling them out on a quiet afternoon when we needed something to do

The set up was simple – I simply poured baking soda on to a tray and scattered the ice cubes over randomly, and then popped a small amount of vinegar in to a beaker with a pipette. I’ve found that when I only provide a small amount Arlo knows to use it sparingly and takes his time to approach the play task.

Then it was simply a case of supervising the play – as soon as the liquid touched the powder it began to fizz and so Arlo was super interested. He started trying out dripping the vinegar on different colours and then at different angles to see what the difference would be.

As the ice began to melt he wanted to move around the cubes to mix different colours and

Also realised that more powder created better bubbles and so he asked for a spoon to scoop the powder from the edges on to his favourite colour cubes. When the vinegar in his beaker ran out he used the pipette to squeeze up liquid back from the tray and re-use it.

A really simple but effective tray play idea, I always keep baking soda and vinegar in my play resources cupboard and it’s fun trying to think of new ways to play. Our colour reveal in a cupcake tray was another success.

Making a meal of it – the roast beef version

I previously wrote about how I like to make the most out of a roast chicken by stretching out the leftovers to make additional meals and I had so many questions and requests to showcase what I would do with other meats.

This week we had a Sunday roast with beef and so I had a little think about things and decided to plan ahead for this one. First things first, we don’t eat beef too often, I like to wait for a decent price joint with not too much fat and every so often a fabulous offer comes along – this joint was £6/kilogram and I picked up a decent size for £7.

I prepared our roast by searing the meat on all sides and then roasting it – my top tip here is to prepare your roast with the beef cooked more on the rare side. This means that when you use the meat for leftovers it’s not going to end up getting too tough. Obviously this is down to personal taste too – I tend to cook the beef for twenty minutes per half a kilo and then add an extra twenty minutes.

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I added a selection of veg to the same tray as the beef and prepared some potatoes and stuffing whilst this was cooking away nicely. Once the beef is ready I take it out to rest and and also remove the bulk of the veg out and then add some stock to the oven tray placed over the hob to make my gravy, using all the juices and leaving nothing to waste.

We were well and truly stuffed after this meal, and there was over half a joint left over, so plenty for us to be getting some fab meals from. The first thing I’ve been wanting to do for ages is make some steak bakes in the style of a popular high street bakery. On Sunday I made sure to cut up the beef in to slices and chunks to cool it down before storing it safely in the fridge.

I took out a roll of ready made puff pastry from the fridge and cut out rectangles – piling each with cuts of beef and some bits of leftover veg too. Like I said the beef is very pink but I knew this would be going back in to the oven. Our leftover gravy was also saved and so I added some of those before crimping the sides together and scoring them to make our pastries.

These were popped in to a medium hot over and baked for thirty minutes until golden brown …. I made four of these with the intention of having them as an evening meal with some extra veg but as soon as they were cooked both Arlo and I tucked in so they became our lunch – we were going to have chunky beef sandwiches with red onion and rocket but plans often change when there’s a three year old dictator involved.

I still had a fair amount of beef left and so I decided to split up what we had – I was needing a new evening meal option for the evening and so whilst I decided what to do with that I put all the remaining veg and half of the beef in to the stock pot – I love making soup with leftover chicken but when it comes to beef I prefer more of a stew – and for anyone wondering, the main difference is the amount of water you add in to the mix.

I like to keep my stews chunky and so this is where all the leftovers went – I think 3 carrots and a parsnip, some onions plus lovely big chunks of beef and the last remaining gravy. I topped this up with a small amount of stock and left it to simmer. Tomorrow this will be topped up with dumplings and then I’ll portion it out and freeze what we don’t eat to save for another day.

With my last remaining beef I decided to go for something completely different – with our chicken I often do a pasta or stir fry and so with this I opted for chilli beef broth with noodles- a fairly light option given the steak bakes were so filling but a fabulous way to create a completely different flavour profile using the meat and adding in some veggies to bulk out the meal.

So there we have it – this week I managed to get another 17 portions out of our Sunday roast leftovers.

Sunday dinner – x3 portions

Steak bakes x 4 portions

Beef stew x6 portions

Chilli beef noodles x4 portions

I think I’m going to try this challenge out with pork and lamb over the next few weeks and see how I get along.

Love bug cookies

These love bug cookies are a twist on our super simple sugar cookie recipe which is the basis for all of our fun themed biscuit bases.

You will need:

  • 200g butter
  • 100g sugar
  • 300g flour
  • Vanilla essence
  • Red food colouring
  • Choc chips
  • Chocolate
  • Edible eyes
  • Heart cookie cutter

You begin by combining the sugar, flour and butter in a bowl with the red food colouring. At this stage you can add vanilla essence or another flavouring of choice. Then roll out the red dough and sprinkle your chocolate chips on randomly before cutting out heart shaped pieces.

Lay all your hearts out on a baking sheet covered with grease proof paper and bake in the oven for about 12 mins at gas mark 6. This varies from oven to oven. Whilst the cookies are baking melt down some chocolate in a bowl and leave it to one side to cool down slightly and then fetch the cookies from the oven to cool down too.

Once the cookies are cool enough to handle dip the top half in to your melted chocolate before carefully placing them down on fresh grease proof paper. Add your edible eyes to the chocolate whilst still wet. If you have any chocolate left then you can carefully use the back of a spoon to draw a line down the centre.

This mixture makes about twenty heart shaped cookies. We popped a couple each in to bags for nanny and grandad and delivered these with a hand made clay ornament as their surprise valentines gift and the rest have gone down a great here.

Plant printing in clay with toddlers

There’s somewhat of a debate when it comes to making beautiful “keepsakes” with toddlers versus letting them experiment and play with mark making. For once I’m firmly on the fence with this. Of course if you have been following us for a while you will know I’m happy to let Arlo run wild and participate in mess making activities with no end game in sight, probably more so than most parents. I also love having a finished “make” and seeing Arlo so proud of his creations and being able to gift them to others has been one of our favourite things to do during lockdown. I wrote all about how different arts and crafts, amongst other things kept us sane here. Valentine’s Day gave us another excuse to get our craft on.

You will need:

  • A selection of natural materials
  • Air dry clay
  • A rolling pin
  • A wooden skewer
  • Heart shaped cookie cutter
  • Tinker bits
  • Grease proof paper
  • Ribbon
  • Card stock

All of the best activities we have done begin with a walk outdoors – it’s nigh on impossible for Arlo to sit down and concentrate on an activity without burning off some energy. We always take out a tote bag and end up bringing home an array of leaves and twigs from every adventure and nature inspires a lot of our craft projects, this air dry clay activity was a simple low prep and last minute plan for a rainy afternoon.

I always provide Arlo with a tinker tray when it comes to playing with dough. As we were approaching Valentine’s Day I had a rummage through the craft stash and found some heart shaped wooden pieces, some sequins and a few buttons for good measure.

This is as simple as it sounds – we rolled out our clay with a rolling pin and then cut our heart shapes. Arlo also decided he wanted to make giant cobra snakes entirely off topic but which we embraced as we had plenty of clay to play with. Some of our snakes did get coiled up in to hearts.

We placed the leaves we wanted to use in to the clay and rolled them in to the hearts with a firm pressure. I had to show Arlo a couple of times exactly how to do this and make a print but he picked it up quickly and began to use some of the tinker items to make his own impressions.

I poked holes in to our hearts and we left them to dry on a layer of grease proof paper. This air dry clay gets whiter as it hardens and makes for a beautiful rustic looking piece all on its own, but we have set some of our pieces aside to paint on another day.

Arlo was happy to thread a piece of ribbon through the hole and I helped him tie a bow and attach it to a piece of red card – which he then “wrote” inside to send to his Valentine (his nanny of course). The clay decoration can be removed form the card and kept as a treasured keepsake and I don’t think this takes away anything from the play experience which Arlo thoroughly enjoyed. We delivered the card alongside some of Arlo’s freshly baked love bug cookies to put a smile on nanny’s face.