Dragon Roars, but are the Kids Impressed?

Posted on October 15th, 2011 - Fiona

My week began with a Dragon’s Roar!

Dragon roars tweet for Coombe Mill

How thrilled was I to receive the coveted #sbs Small Buniness Sunday award from Theo Paphitis of BBC’s Dragon’s Den? Just wow and wow again! Anyone who has been there will know that Sunday night feeling, on a complete high, watching the twitter congratulation messages flooding in. Yes flooding! I was struggling to read them at one point never mind reply to them. I think I have spent every night this week up till gone 2am replying to and following new twitter friends and contacts, updating my bio’s and under good advice from http://www.shellybobbins.blogspot.com/  and  http://www.bedsite.ie/  writing a press release. Not done one of those since school english lessons!

My badge created for my web site

What is Small Business Sunday?

#sbs is a great opportunity by the Dragon entrepreneur Theo Paphitis. Each Sunday he takes time to look over all small businesses tweeting him @TheoPaphitis between 5.30pm and 7.30pm with their business and #sbs included in the tweet. He receives over 1000 each week and re-tweets his favourite 6. With 177,000 followers and growing,  his re-tweet has real impact. An amazing opportunity at no cost to me yet hours of work for Theo, so definitely my dragon with a heart! He has his own web site with his twitter stream on the home page http://www.theopaphitis.com/

Theo Paphitis Twitter Feed with Coombe Mill

And the family?

With 6 children, all their sports and clubs, meals and house to look after and the day to day running of our Holiday Farm, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised there is no time to sleep! I do worry when the children are pleading for a good night hug and I am just finishing one last thing on the computer, or I burn their tea taking a booking on the phone. Juggling parenthood and business is never easy and I do feel the business has taken the high ground this week. We have friends round this weekend and so after we have all finished changeover tomorrow it is going to be quality family time. It may not be perfect but it’s my way of juggling being a mummy, wife and working. I have learnt not to beat myself up over it, or over worry every time they complain I am busy, but just to try and find a balance that works for us all.   

The Kids and Me taking Time out on the Farm together


Picnics, a favourite with the kids

Posted on September 9th, 2011 - Fiona

What makes the humble picnic so special?

Picnic time

 Picnics remind me of my own childhood, of freedom, fun, friends, happy times and play. I suppose this is why I am such a fan. They are a break from the routine, a chance to chill out without the formality of meals at home or at a restaurant and therefore always popular with small children. The sitting still etiquette can be wavered at a picnic introducing a fun element. My children always end up eating twice as much as they would round the table at home.

 

All the fun and excitement and you save a fortune compared to eating out too! No stressing over whether they like cafe/restaurant food, whether it is good for them, whether or not to let them have the fizzy drinks, and worrying that they don’t like it after you have paid and waited to be served. All the content of the picnic and the time of when you eat it can be exactly as you choose. Now I think about it that has huge advantages!

 

When and where to Picnic

We are huge picnic fans and take every opportunity. We have even been known to carry a picnic to the play area or front lawn at Coombe Mill and indeed I have seen many of our guests do the same. The If you are not staying with us then a picnic in the garden with a sun tent or in the local park can be a great half day activity. The beach is another favourite for us, all that running around building sandcastles and paddling and the kids are always ready to eat an hour earlier than usual! A quick hand rinse in a rock pool and they are ready to tuck in! Any day trip is worthy of a picnic, in Cornwall we have so many family attractions which make a great day out and every time the picnic wins for us. Having 8 in our family makes finance a big factor but for all the convenience and fun factors already mentioned I think we would choose a picnic anyway!

Picnic in the GardenPicnic in the Garden

Picnic on the beachPicnics away with friends

What to pack for a picnic

I always vary my picnics to keep it interesting but have a few golden rules:

Never pack chocolate in the summer or anything else you are worried about going off or melting

Make more sandwiches / rolls than you would at home, kids will eat more outdoors!

Pasties, sausage rolls or toasted sandwiches wrapped in foil are good alternatives to sandwiches for a change

Use the picnic as an excuse to have some of the treats you don’t always allow at home (crisps are a winner with mine, they are a real treat food normally and they don’t melt or go off)

Bought little cakes or biscuits are popular with us as I always bake my own at home

Dried fruit like raisins and apricots or carrot batons travel better than fresh fruit

Pack plenty of drinks, water or squash but they will drink more on a picnic too.

On colder days a flask of hot chocolate goes down well

 

For a real last minute picnic simply drop into your local supermarket and buy everything en route, no hastle at all, all the fun and still much less money than eating out!

A few extra tips from experience

  • Always know where the nearest toilets are to your picnic spot – kids always eat then need the loo!
  • Wet wipes for sticky fingers
  • Use disposable containers – I recycle ice cream tubs – then you can throw it all away afterwards
  • Don’t stress about making and packing the picnic, simple and quick is fine or it becomes a chore
  • Remember the picnic rug or blanket
  • Chill and enjoy your family time

Picnic fun

I first wrote this blog for multiplemummy Kerry. She has 3 lovely youngsters and is keen on the benefits of picnics. You can see her blog and my original post here http://multiplemummy.com/blog/picnics-a-favourite-with-the-kids/


Mummy Tips for Potty training – Dry in a week

Posted on July 12th, 2011 - Fiona

There is so much advise these days on potty training your toddler it is hard to know what to follow. It’s a bit like maths, there are several possible ways to work out a sum and still reach the correct answer, just some methods are quicker than others! The reality is that by one means or another we have all come through potty training and learnt toilet etiquette.
So why am I blogging on the subject? Simply to share my experience with my own 6 children. Every one of them is different in personality, intelligence, confidence and just about every trait you can think of, yet they have all been potty trained the same way and all been dry in a week. If I am honest, my method is not really mine at all, it is that which was thrust upon me by my confident 1st nanny. After around 10 years as a professional nanny and me as a know nothing new Mum returning to work, I figured I was best to just go along with her recommendation, as like most things, she knew what she was doing and it worked. Long after we moved away from Surrey and our family grew, I still stuck by her tried and tested method so here it is (Thanks Anna, your secrets shared!)
Golden rules
·         Be consistent
·         Once you start there is no going back
·         use incentives like chocolate buttons (usually never done by me)
·         Be patient and clear but don’t make the process an issue
·         Pick a week when you are at home with a clear diary for at least the first couple of days
·         Buy a basic alarm timer and some real toddler pants featuring your child’s favourite characters
·         Your child needs to want to move on to potty training and you need to be committed to making it work for them.
When to Start?
 Typically most are ready between 18 months and 3 years, but don’t panic, I do know of exceptions at either end! My children were all ready to be trained at around their 2nd birthday, this is not important, what is important is that you pick up on their cue as to when they are ready and able to learn. Try too early and you will both be disappointed, leave it too late and lazy behaviour sets in.
 
Training cue’s
 Have a potty in the bathroom before you start, from around 16 months and encourage them to try for a wee before their bath, no pressure, don’t force the idea or make it a big deal, just encourage the motion, praise them for sitting there when they do.  If 30% or more of the time they can produce the wee then they are probably ready to learn. Other interest in the toilet habits, wanting to see you go or trying to pull off their nappy all the time are other good indicators. I’m sure there are more, you will know your own child best.

 

Theo is dry big bro here & the triplets nearing potty training as
they play together in our toddler play area

 

Ready to go, clear the diary and follow my step by step guide:
Day 1
1.       Explain the whole process to your child so they know what to expect
2.       Big boy/girl pants go on in the morning and nappies are out!
3.       Set the timer every 5 minutes. When it rings stop what you are doing and sit them on the potty. Try for just a short wee, no need to wait more than say 15 seconds, if they think there is nothing there that’s fine. Repeat for the first hour, any successes reward with a chocolate button or other motivating treat…..they soon get the hang of this game! Keep their fluids up so they can achieve their goal.
4.       Increase the intervals during the first day to around every half hour max – toddlers after a drink will often struggle to go longer. Keep them occupied during the day but not so engrossed they don’t want to stop what they are doing for the potty!
Day 2
Continue as for day 1, carry the potty with you if you move around the house or to the garden so it is at hand when the alarm goes.
Day 3 and 4
 Take away the alarm and start the perpetual “do you need a wee?” comment. Keep the reward bit up if you need to but most will be so proud of their achievements and big girl / boy dry pants they won’t need the reward, just constant reminding and praise.
Day 5 /6
Go out, visit  LOCAL friend or the park, just remember to keep asking and ensure it is somewhere where you can whip out the potty. If a toddler replies “yes” to the “do you need a wee?” question it means now not in 5 minutes when I find the toilet! 

 

Our Guy at the beach!

 


So what about night time?
Give them their last drink around an hour before bed time from the first day of training. In my case it was 6pm milk, 7pm bed. Ask them to do a ‘last wee’ before bed, then invest in trainer pants for bed time, we called them night night pants. They had no other use as we never used them in the day. Allowing an hour for the drink to go through before bed helps night time success. The brain is learning day time control and it will automatically work at night time too.  I found 1 pair of night pants would often last a few days before an accident so you should be well on your way to dry nights all at the same time. Dry nights does take longer, since once the brain can control the night it then has to learn to wake the child when he/she can’t last the whole period and this tends to be the harder bit, much easier when you are already awake! However they will soon be encouraged by some dry nights and I found within a couple of months I could do away with the night pants.

 

A good nights sleep from 2 caring, sharing brothers!

 

I am not saying my system is perfect, or that you won’t have any accidents, but if you are dedicated to following through with the timer and asking endlessly if they need a wee you will minimise accidents and boost your child’s confidence till they remember to go for themselves.
It really is just a week of intensive training then just gentle reminders as often as you feel necessary. The important thing is to decide to do it and just go for it and not turn back to nappies. If you do feel you are trying before they are ready and it’s just not working, then go back to nappies, take the pressure off you both and try again in a couple of months time or when you think there are some willingness signs from your child. I did have this with my triplets, after ambitiously trying to do them all together I had to concede defeat let one wait a few more months before he was ready.
Good luck and I hope to have been of some help. I would love to welcome you and your toddlers on holiday with us at Coombe Mill Farm pre, post or during potty training. We specialise in holidays for young children, have potties and trainer seats to borrow and real cloth nappies free to try too. All our properties have stair gates built in and are designed with little ones in mind. They will adore our daily tractor rides to help feed the animals, potties welcome aboard!

 

 I hope to meet  you soon! 
Fiona

note: A big thanks to Mummy Central who allowed me to guest blog this on their site first:
 http://www.mummycentral.com/2011/06/24/potty-training-dry-in-a-week/


What’s cooking? My best secrets shared!

Posted on June 21st, 2011 - Fiona

When I reach for the cooking pots the sun is sure to shine! Despite the dismal forecast today, I am once again es conched in the kitchen while the rest of Cornwall is on the beach! Never mind, Surf Club this evening for the children so I will be there too! In the mean time I have been meaning to share some of my cooking secrets, so while they are fresh in my mind and my meals are cooling for the freezer here goes:

Top Tips
1. Never be afraid to experiment, if it sounds a tasty combination or a logical short cut it probably is!

2. Always cook casseroles longer at a lower temperature than it says in any recipe – makes all meat more melt in the mouth

3. Use a large pot, the meat may look lost in a pot at the start but by the time your veg and marinade have all gone in you will be surprised how it all fills up!

4. When cooking for children make the veg pieces small, I often blend into the gravy / sauce or chop into mince size pieces where they are mistaken for meat. My children hate mushrooms and onions, but actually eat them all the time!

5. 1 pot does all! I can’t be doing with the fry this and set aside type recipes. In my experience if you start any casserole by browning the meat, then toss in and mix the flour before adding stock / liquids and chopped veg it will all turn out just fine!

My 2 recipes today are:
Pork in honey Casserole and Gammon in Cider. They are both recipes I have developed over time and they freeze really well.

Pork in honey
Shoulder or leg of pork chopped into chunks
Sauce: Chicken stock, Soy sauce, white wine, balsamic vinegar, honey, brown sugar 
Veg to suit, I have used roughly chopped carrots, mushrooms, onions and potatoes
Method : Just follow my tip 2 and 5 above. That simple!

As the puff pastry is really quick to cook I cook it separately to the casserole and add it on at the end. I usually cheat on this one and use ready to roll but if I run short it is actually very quick and easy to make.



Gammon in Cider
Hock or Gammon joint chopped into large chunks
Sauce: Good cider, tinned chopped tomatoes, paprika
Veg to suit, I have used onions, mushrooms, carrots and garlic
Method:
Follow my golden tips 2 and 5 but with gammon I do boil lightly for 10 mins first and drain so as not to make the finished dish too salty
I top this one with creamy mashed potato which goes really well with the sauce


If you are staying with us please help yourself to these meals from the freezer and leave us a note in the book as usual.  Enjoy!

I would love any feedback if you have tried my meals of if you want any more information on them. I haven’t added quantities as I never measure anything and just judge it all based on my meat quantities but do give them a go. They are all simple to make and tasty!


Me Time, do you get enough?

Posted on May 17th, 2011 - Fiona

Juggling parenthood, career, housewife and more as today’s modern, do it all Mummy can be tough and leave you frazzled, torn in many directions and constantly feeling like you are not giving any one area of your life the attention it deserves. If this sounds familiar then you will also know that it can be even harder to justify adding in time for yourself! The guilty thought of time for the things you want to do when everyone and everything is pulling at your every moment can make it all feel too much. I have found over the years that being selfish about time for me actually makes me much better at all the other aspects of my life! I am now quite unashamedly selfish in finding time each day (well most days) for the things that are for me!
What you take time out for is up to you, that you do it is important. For me it is exercise, I don’t run marathons or swim the English Channel but I do enjoy a gentle jog in the morning to sort out my plans for the day or a few lengths of the local pool. It makes me feel good, makes me thankful of all that is truly wonderful in my life and helps me approach all other areas of my life in a positive manner. I don’t resent working late at night if I know I can take time out for me in the morning. It doesn’t have to be exercise, that’s just what works for me, a walk in the park, or relax in the garden with a magazine could be what works for you, just think about what you would really like to do if only you had 1/2 hour and DO IT! Where there is a will there’s a way. If you are a stay at home Mum, try an hour of baby sharing with your friends children so you each get an hour of ‘me time’.

My real ‘Me Time’ treat is a girly spa break! A group of us set this one up a couple years ago for the first time and are now planning our 3rd trip! We come back from one planning the next, the feel good factor of having another trip on the horizon is great for positive thoughts on life! Our secret paradise get a way is The Bay Spa Hotel at Fistral beach Newquay
 http://www.newquay-hotels.co.uk/the-bay.html


This close to the beach!

Perfect for us surfer dude Mums, we can watch the waves from our bedrooms and check out the best time to grab our boards! OK. so you are thinking, “jammy mummy, how does she do that one with kids to look after and wow expensive!” Actually they do an amazing Sunday night deal for around £80 per person to include dinner, b&b and wonderful full body massage. Just can’t fault it! As we are staying we get full use of the amazing gym, lovely pool with twinkling lights and water fall and relaxing sauna, steam room and jacuzzi….beam me there now!
 
 

the lovely spa pool  


Us girls lost in a cloudy haze of the jacuzzi!









All gym, spa & surfed out &
 enjoying a pre dinner drink
 watching the waves!



For just one night and 2 days our partners manage the kids – we give them plenty of warning and come back so happy and chilled they are almost asking when we are off again!! The Bay Spa cater for families too and have different offers on other nights of the week. Why not treat the family to a night on the end or start of a holiday to Coombe Mill, (just under 1/2 hour from us) then suggest what a good idea it would be to do something similar with your friends!!
 

I would love to hear your ‘me time’ treats, the little or big things that make you feel really good about life, appreciate your family more and make you a more tolerant person all round .