I’m going to open this blog post by acknowledging that reading for pleasure isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  We don’t all always want to reach for the written word when we need to escape from the craziness of every day life and that is perfectly alright to admit.  For me, and thousands of other people, it will always be our chosen pastime and I know that reading has been something which has formed a huge part of my life from childhood right through to the present day.

I think that this is partly why I feel so strongly about instilling in our children a desire to read.  Whether they become adults who constantly have their noses stuck in a book or they only read as a means to an end, developing those skills early on will result in them having a skill which will only serve them well as they grow and change.

Whether you personally read for knowledge or leisure, and/or whether you want your children to form the same habits, raising readers is an important part of parenting. But, I figure if you are here looking for tips on how to raise readers then I’m already preaching to the converted!

Both myself and James are big readers so this was always going to influence the way we handled reading around the kids; they have seen us reading books from day dot and you’d think that would mean they also quickly developed a thirst for reading.  However that hasn’t been the case.

With both Meg and Eli we introduced a bedtime story from around 3 months old.  These books were sometimes age appropriate (think board books, touch-and-feel etc) and sometimes for a slightly older age bracket (i.e. Julia Donaldson’s work) but from a very early age we did the Three B’s: bedtime, bottle (later on becoming simply a drink) and a book.

Perhaps you would automatically assume therefore that both our children would love to read and certainly this was true when they were younger.  Brightly coloured board books, rhyming words, and silly stories all formed part of their younger years with both often reaching for a book and coming to curl on our laps as they went into through their toddler and pre-school years.

Then it began to change.  Meg has always been more capable of sitting still and engaging in an activity so reading by herself was a natural progression once she went beyond Reception age and she has the same sort of interest in it that I have always had, reading books which are way beyond her age range in her desire to escape into that world.

Eli, on the other hand, quickly began to lose interest in being read to once he started school and it has been a learning curve and a journey for us all, in finding those books which capture his imagination and encourage him to read.  I believe it has much to do with his personality, and the fact that once he started school, he was taught to read and ‘told’ to read…unfortunately  he is very like me in the regard that once he believes he is being corralled into doing something, he will try to do the very opposite!

So that is where we are coming from when we begin this journey encouraging others in how to raise readers.  We have two avid readers for parents, one child who loves the written word and one who has had to find his own path into the wonders of books and stories.

There is the very well known quote from Dr Seuss which says:-

‘The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.’

I think that this captures, in a nutshell, why I think it’s important to encourage our children to read for pleasure.  I know that it can get tiresome with school reading books having to be read x number of times a week and that finding time to listen to your child read can feel like yet another thing on the never-ending list but I honestly believe that it will become something you won’t regret.  And the first time that you wander into your child’s bedroom and come across them reading on their own, out of choice…or the first time you catch them reading by torchlight under their duvet because they simply had to know what happened next…those will be special moments indeed.

I wanted therefore, to create a series of posts recommending books for all different ages and I will be doing that over subsequent weeks.  If you are also trying to #raiseareader then feel free to join me!  But for this first post I wanted to gather some quick thoughts on places to begin:-

1. Lead by Example

We all lead busy lives and this one can be particularly tricky if you don’t enjoy reading much yourself but I 100% believe that readers are raised in the laps of their parents.  If you still have young children then introduce a bedtime story into your nightly routine.  If you have older children then lead them into being inquisitive about reading by introducing it into your own life.  You never know, you might rediscover a lost love!

2. Read To Your Children

Another great way to develop a thirst for reading is to pick a book which you can read with your children.  For example, at the moment we are reading a chapter book called ‘Jack Fortune and the Search For The Hidden Valley’ by Sue Purkiss and Meg and Eli are loving discovering what adventures Jack gets up to.  We don’t read a chapter every night, just as and when we can fit it in but I am always surprised at how much they have remembered from the last time we dipped into it and how well they listen when both James and I read to them.  I’d choose a book which is perhaps slightly out of their reading range and make a big deal out of it.  It’s a lovely way to spend the final minutes before bedtime as well, especially as your children become older and don’t need your assistance as much.

3. Let Them Choose Their Own Books

Another key one as your children get older and begin to read independently and this was a real pivotal point in us finding what Eli liked to read.  Support your local library by going along and letting your children choose some books to read.  Not only is this free (yippee!) but you might be surprised at the type of book your children go for.  Let them know that it’s okay to choose a book and not enjoy it, and that they can try lots of different types of books to see which ones appeal to them most.

4. Don’t Give Up!

Your child might not automatically want to read, even if you do all of the above, but don’t give up.  There are a multitude of things people can read and novels and chapter books just might not suit.  Magazines, manga, comics and graphic novels are all great alternatives and shouldn’t be ruled out!

Keep your eyes peeled for my recommendations, coming next Wednesday.


You may well ask what we were thinking, agreeing to go glamping in the bitter depths of winter but when we agreed to review a two night stay at the luxury Caalm Camp in Dorset, it was with the express purpose of proving, to ourselves and to friends and family, that winter glamping is entirely possible!

Caalm Camp is an award-winning site which is home to six traditionally made Mongolian Yurts.  Originally a dairy farm, the Camp has been family run for the last 6 years and claims to put the ‘glam’ in ‘glamping’.  It is in a beautiful setting, surrounded by countryside, and with no city lights to interfere with your stargazing come night time.  Each Yurt is named after a different wildflower and during our stay we were in Daisy.

Although our journey was pretty straightforward it took us around 5 hours to get down to Dorset but we were met with a friendly face when we pulled up; the owner, Mark, greeted us warmly and showed us around, explaining how everything operated.

Mark was an incredible host, making sure we had everything that we needed throughout our stay and recommending local places we could explore.  He was particularly helpful on the ‘staying warm’ front (more on that later…) and we felt he really went out of his way to ensure we were having the best stay possible.

The Yurts themselves are absolutely stunning.  From the intricately painted designs to the use of horse hair in their construction (not a bolt or nail in sight!), you really felt as though you were getting an authentic experience.  In each Yurt is a double bed and two single beds, perfect for us as a family of four although Caalm Camp do say that it is possible for a yurt to sleep six.

The Yurts come equipped with a toasty log burner to keep it nice and warm, crisp bedlinen and cosy blankets, an outside fire pit, drinking water tap and a picnic bench as well.  We didn’t make use of the outside facilities as temperatures were in the minuses but I can imagine it being the perfect place to gaze at the stars in the summer months.

I am going to be honest and say that I am not a fan of camping; I don’t understand why people would pay to be cold and wet when they sleep and why they would find enjoyment in using damp and even chillier facilities.  Even though we were glamping, which is by nature slightly different, it’s still something I was concerned about but it really couldn’t have been further from the truth.

There is a building called The Old Haybarn on site which offers shared kitchen facilities, a communal dining and social area complete with TV and a selection of children’s toys, books and board games, and a private wet room for each of the Yurts.  Incidentally, Daisy Yurt is closest to the Old Haybarn so if you don’t fancy walking far in the cold and dark then ask for that one when you book!

There is also a games room complete with two resident goats(!), a tennis table and a pool table.  My only thought here is that it would have been nice if this room could have had some patio heaters as it was bitter.  It is in the old dairy barn so has very little insulation and although Meg and Eli enjoyed having a game or two of table tennis, I couldn’t stand the temperature!

But I know the major question of the moment is whether we were warm in our Yurt?

If you are familiar with our travelling experiences you will know that we can’t go anywhere without having a little ‘adventure’.  Think James getting lost at 12am in an unfamiliar French city after our hotel was booked for the wrong night and having to be retrieved by me after I’d persuaded some terrified hotel receptionist to watch the kids.  Think driving past our Appartamento in Tuscany several times, commenting each time that it ‘looked very much’ like the place we were meant to be staying but didn’t quite match with the sat nav and you get the idea.

So were we warm in our Yurt?

The straightforward answer is that when our log burner was going, we were incredibly warm.  There are logs available for use in your log burner and these come free of charge.  There is also the possibility to purchase a bucket of coal for £3 which we were advised by Mark to do and to place the coal in the burner overnight, ensuring heat the whole night through.  I don’t think that we had quite made it clear to Mark that fire and James don’t mix however and the first morning we woke, snug as little bugs in our beds, but with temperatures absolutely freezing in the Yurt.  In short, our fire had gone out.  And of course we had run out of matches the night before.

Cue James driving to the nearest petrol station to get some matches and a big thank you to the gentleman who offered him what he thought was a box of matches, free of charge, but which actually turned out to be a box of staples.  You can’t make this stuff up!

But honestly, once we had spoken to Mark in the morning and figured out how to use the burner properly overnight, the second night we woke to find that we were much, much, warmer.  In fact, when the log burner was going it took about 20 minutes for the Yurt to heat up and you would never have known you were in a Mongolian Yurt in the middle of the Dorset countryside in January!

Additional facilities on-site include a children’s playground, a shared fit pit area and a shared picnic area, all of which would be ideal if you were staying in a larger group.  Caalm Camp does allow hen and stag parties, as well as big family groups but each Yurt is far enough away that you don’t really hear anyone else.

The pathways are also well lit and clearly marked so there’s no worry about losing your way if you need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.

There is plenty to do in the surrounding area from visiting the beautiful Shaftesbury to taking some local alpacas for a walk and Mark is more than willing to recommend places to go to explore and eat if you need advice from a local.

Overall, our winter glamping experience was a very positive one.  The camp site is well looked after, well thought through and we would definitely recommend a visit, even in winter!

*We were offered a two night stay at Caalm Camp for the purpose of this review.  All thoughts and opinions are our own.


Two weeks in a row must be some kind of record on here!  I hope you enjoyed my little update last Friday.

We had a whirlwind weekend, which, in hindsight may have been a bit ambitious when a return to school and the general routine of life was looming large but we drove 5 hours down to Dorset on Friday to enjoy a weekend break in a Yurt.  I’ll have a more in-depth review live here on Tuesday but suffice to say that it was a really enjoyable time, and surprisingly a lot warmer than I had expected!

Our host, Mark, was incredible which I really think makes all the difference when you aren’t massively familiar with somewhere and we got to take the kids to Monkey World; somewhere I haven’t been in about 10 years which was really lovely.

This week hasn’t been so hot however.  Not only have we had to get back into the full swing of things with work and school, which has worn the kids out completely (I swear they have been sleeping with their eyes open this week) but James has been hit with the flu.  At first I thought it was a bad case of ‘man-flu’ but to be fair, he never complains of feeling unwell and this seems to have completely wiped him out.  I always know it’s serious when he won’t go to work because he turns up whatever.

the power naomi alderman

So I was unexpectedly left to fly solo but also to work and to care for a sick husband as well.  Not massively fun!  It did leave me with a fair amount of down time of an evening however and I was able to finish reading The Power and start of A Court of Wings and Ruin, thereby ticking off a) my book club choice for the month and b) my decision to finish series by reading the last ACOTAR book.  Wins all round although ACOWAR is over 700 pages long so wish me luck on that one.

book and quill installation park bath

On our way home from Dorset we stopped off in Bath and had a wander around to stretch our legs and enjoy some good food.  It is a beautiful city!  I have only visited once before, a long time ago for a wedding, and didn’t really get to explore.  We will definitely have to come back for a proper visit as I absolutely fell in love.  I also took some pictures of the kids and they are some of my favourite, ever.  Although also quite heartbreakingly I think that they both look so much older all of a sudden.  Alas the passing of time!

This weekend, fingers crossed, we will get some more finishing touches done on the kitchen.  My father in law is coming over to help but how much gets done will no doubt depend on how much James has recovered.  I’m looking forward to potentially not having to hold the dishwasher open with my shin though as we haven’t managed to get around to fitting the door properly and it springs closed if you don’t hold it open.  It’s the little things of course…!

So aside from collapsing on the sofa this weekend, we will hopefully make progress in the house.  I’d like to film another reading vlog too if I get chance but we’ll see how that goes.  I think it all comes down to whether James is feeling any better.  Eli apparently has made plans for us all to go swimming on Saturday morning but I’m just not sure we will have the energy.  Funny how a sudden shift back into routine can really wipe you out, isn’t it?

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I’m fairly certain we will all have memories from parents, guardians or loved ones in which they commented about the passing of time. How it seemed to go in the blink of an eye and ‘weren’t you just 6 years old and sweetly pottering around my garden just a moment ago?’, usually said to a not very pleased 16 year old who just wants to roll their eyes and escape the conversation!

But it’s crazy how, now that I am on the precipice of being mother to a 9 and 7 year old, how true those remarks have started to seem. For one thing, I simply don’t feel old enough to have children of that age, never mind anything else. But that isn’t really what this post is about!

I wanted to write something, to put my thoughts down somewhere, for all those parents who are perhaps going through a difficult time. Whether it’s children not sleeping (come and talk to me about that any day of the week, as I am still the owner of a 6 soon to be 7 year old who wakes at the crack of dawn no matter what time he goes to bed…), difficulty in potty training, trouble with weaning, listening to children with a bad attitude…whatever the parenting troubles, I wanted to write a post to say that this season too shall end.

Just like the fug of the newborn days slowly lifted and you emerged at the other side to realise that you were still alive and able to function as a semi-normal human being (let’s face it, nothing ever really goes back to being quite the same afterwards) so whatever issue you are currently working your way through will come to an end. The trick is to not let it defeat you but to hold on, make plans and know that it will be alright in the end!

We went away over the weekend and I was struck by how much Meg and Eli have changed in such a short period of time.  I don’t know why it constantly catches me off guard, and yet it does.  They will be 7 and 9 in a few months and although the thought blows my mind, in some small corner of my logic, I can see it.  They are ready for the next year.  I just hope that James and I are too!

Not too long ago I filmed a vlog which was quite tricky for me to do; I sat down and talked about the difficulty we were having with Meg’s attitude.  How I was finding it hard to know how to deal with her and we were getting increasingly frustrated and concerned that our loving little girl was being swallowed whole by a fiesty and sassy tweenager.  I received floods of comments and direct messages telling me to hold on, to keep my head up, that Meg was still Meg just going through some changes and you know what?  All those people were right.  A couple of months later and things seemed to have returned to normal.

Or the new normal.

Because let’s face it, parenting is a constant learning journey.

Not only are you entering into new territories with your oldest child but even if you have more than one, no two children are the same.  What works for one won’t necessarily work for another, and so you have to continually adapt and shift your mind-set to accommodate the newness of everything.  As a person who solidly dislikes change, this has been a HUGE journey for me and continues to be so.  Just when we think we have everything figured out…you realise that actually it’s all up and altered again.

The great thing is that you don’t have to do it alone.  Whether you have friends and family close by who can listen with a sympathetic ear or you reach out to the many communities online…and I would highly recommend that you do so…there will be someone who has been through a similar situation before.  Who can listen, offer advice, hold your hand, and reassure you that this season too shall end.  If you don’t have that person, find them!  The internet is such a vast and varied place and although I was terrified to initially post my video about Meg, thinking it would make me seem like a bad parent, I am so pleased that I popped my head up and admitted we needed help.  Help is what I got and when we came out of the other side it was perhaps as slightly less frazzled parents then we might have otherwise been.

We are never going to have all the answers but if you are going through a tough time and need to hear today that you have got this then MAMA YOU HAVE GOT THIS.

It might not seem like it, and you might feel as though you are stuck on a never-ending cycle but I promise you, one day you will wake up and slowly realise that things aren’t quite as they have been.  And you soak up that respite time and allow that knowledge to sit with you so that when the next wave comes, you will be ready for it.

Mamas (Daddys, Grandmas, Nanas, Grandads…) YOU GOT THIS.


Towards the end of last year I decided that I wasn’t going to attempt monthly TBR (to be read) lists any more as it’s something I am just not good at sticking to.  I am, hands down, 100% a mood reader, preferring to approach my shelves and have a browse before pulling out a book which appeals to me at that time.

I think there is a lot to be said for reading a book at the wrong time.  My own personal experience has been that I simply don’t enjoy a story if I didn’t feel like reading it but was making myself plough through for the sake of it.

Of course that doesn’t mean that I want to wander aimlessly through my reading life in 2018 with no thought or purpose.  I do want to read the books that I want to read, without worrying about how it will appear when I record videos or have discussions but I also want to set myself a couple of loose goals.

books to read in 2018

The first is that I want 2018 to be the year I finish series’.  I have so many that I’ve started and never got to the end of, even when I own all the books, so if I have begun to read a series in the past couple of years then I want to read those to completion.

The second is that I want to re-read some books.  You can see I have pulled out Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and A Game of Thrones by George R R Martin.  Six of Crows is a re-read because I simply LOVED the books and I know for a fact that I raced through the second, Crooked Kingdom, just to know what happened in the end.  I’d like to take my time with reading them a second time around.  Re-reading the Song of Ice and Fire books is a BIG commitment but prior to having children every time a new book in the series was released I would go back and re-read all of the previous books.  I haven’t read the very last book, A Dance With Dragons: After The Feast and I feel like it has just been too long now.  We will have to see how that one goes.

The Storm Sister by Lucinda Riley and Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb both fall into the completing series task although Lucinda Riley hasn’t yet finished writing all the books in her Seven Sisters sequence.  The Robin Hobb book is (wait for this…) the second book in her final trilogy about Fitz and the Fool.  The third book was released last year and I already have the paperback on pre-order…hurry up March!  I have heard nothing but great things about it and I am honestly preparing myself to be utterly ruined by the final chapter.  I have cried at the end of every one of her trilogies featuring the Fool and Fitz and I have no doubt this will be the same.  If you’ve never picked up anything by Robin Hobb and you are into fantasy then I would highly recommend it.

The final two books which feature here, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng are recently acquisitions but both are books I have been waiting to read for a long time and which have been recommended to me on countless occasions.  When the time feels right in 2018 I am aiming to pick them up.
Reading this back it does seem like I am committing myself to reading an awful lot of books in 2018, so we will just have to see how it actually turns out!
And, as always, I’d love to hear your recommendations if there are any books you are particularly looking forward to picking up this year.
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