Essential Guide to Travelling with Children – what every parent needs to know!

Essential Guide to Travelling with Children – what every parent needs to know!

Life is stressful enough without having to deal with bored children so whenever we travel any distance I always go prepared. And yes I did used to be a Girl Guide!

How to keep little ones occupied on a plane/train/in the car

Thankfully that old adage ‘children should be seen and not heard’ is well out of fashion and I love to chat with my little ones.

I do, however, like a bit of peace and quiet and especially on long journeys when chatting can quickly turn into arguing and competition for attention.

This is where the
travel bag is essential.

We take one or two travel bags with us on planes, trains, in the car and even into restaurants if we think that we may have to wait quite a while for food to arrive. The travel bag is often left in the car boot so it’s easy to grab whenever the need arises.

Here is a list of essentials for the parent travel bag:

Create a named folder for each child. Once you are safely ensconced in your seat you can hand each child their folder so that they can choose their own activities.

In each folder you could pack the following:

  1. An age-appropriate colouring book – my children love the Usborne Doodle books
  2. Crayons or washable colouring pens; those with a colour at each end are ideal
  3. A sticker book that relates to something they love, such as Lego, animals etc.
  4. An age-appropriate activity/puzzle book
  5. A pencil
  6. A reading book – chose something that inspires them and for little ones possibly a book with ‘things to spot’ that will hold their interest if they can’t yet read
  7. A tablet or hand-held game, if they are old enough
  8. A small toy
  9. A selection of snacks (in your bag so that you can police them!) is an absolute must. On a recent trip abroad we had one child wailing ‘I don’t want to get on the aeroplane’ at full volume for ten minutes before we realised that she was just hungry and grumpy.

Essential Guide to Travelling with Children – what every parent needs to know!

In my experience sweets are a complete no no, it may just be my children, but their behaviour is always adversely affected by eating sweets. Instead I pack little snack packs, such as mini biscuits, dried fruit and fruit jellies. Bottles of water are a good idea too (though you will need to buy these after passport control of course if you are travelling by plane.)

Again, it may just be my children but they are incredibly messy and so wetwipes and a light change of clothes is essential. I usually pack a plain t-shirt just large enough for any of them to wear plus spare undies/leggings for the little ones. A plastic bag is a good idea for messy clothes or for anyone who’s feeling queasy.

I also take a pack of activity cards, so when the novelty of their folder wears off we can play verbal games, such as I Spy, Consequences and Squish Squash (you may have a better imagination than me but I find these cards really useful prompts.)

And finally, ear plugs….only kidding!



Seasonal Garden Ideas


Easy homegrown tomatoes for British Tomato Week – no greenhouse required!

British Tomato WeekI can still conjure up the sweetly acidic fragrance of ripening tomatoes in my Grandad’s rickety old greenhouse. 

They were the sweetest most delicious tomatoes on the planet, though everything my Grandad grew or cooked tasted wonderful to me as an adoring granddaughter!

As this week heralds British Tomato Week, I thought I would attempt to grow my own. As I don’t own a greenhouse, this project from our book, Seasonal Garden Ideas, is perfect.

Fingers crossed, I can grow
those sweet little morsels
that Grandad excelled at.

Seasonal Garden Ideas.

Tiny Tomatoes in Terracotta

The taste of a sun-warmed tomato picked straight from the bush is leagues removed from anything you can buy in a shop.

Container-growing is easy and you are rewarded with a succession of tasty toms beyond compare.

  • Pot up young tomato plants in late spring or early summer when all danger from frost is past for cropping throughout the summer.
  • Plant in full sun.
  • Planting four to six pots shouldn’t take more than an hour.

What you need


  • Four to six (or more) young bush tomato plants – a wide range of different varieties is available from garden centres – including red, yellow and even purple ones. ‘Red Alert’, ‘Pixie’ and ‘Tiny Tim’ are all good small-fruited varieties with excellent flavour. ‘Roma’ is a plum-shaped variety.


  • Terracotta, plastic or ceramic pots with drainage holes in the bottom.
  • Soil-based potting compost.
  • Broken crocks for drainage.
  • Trowel.
  • Liquid tomato fertiliser.


1 Line the containers with broken crocks for drainage. Three-quarters fill with potting compost.

2 Plant the tomatoes, one to a pot, firming them in well and topping up with more compost.

3 Place the pots in a sunny, sheltered site – water well.

4 The tomato compost needs to be kept just moist at all times. Try to water regularly, little and often – an irregular regime could cause the tomatoes to split. Feed regularly with a liquid tomato fertiliser to ensure consistent development of the fruits.


As an alternative to pots, try raising tomatoes in growbags – the advantage here is that the bags come complete with just the right soil conditions. You can grow bush or cordon varieties in growbags. Cordons needing staking and you have to pinch out side shoots to restrict the plant to one main central stem.


For successful tomato growing in containers, make sure you buy an appropriate variety. Check that it is a bush variety AND check that it is suitable for outdoor cultivation – many are bred for growing in greenhouses and won’t thrive outside. Take care, too, to choose as sunny and warm a site as possible.


Bush tomato varieties don’t need any pinching out of side shoots. Pick the tomatoes as they ripen. If there are still some green tomatoes on the plants when frost seems likely, pick them all and bring them indoors to ripen.

Project taken from Seasonal Garden Ideas.

Seasonal Gardens Ideas

Seasonal Garden Ideas £3.99Seasonal Garden Ideas

A beautiful book packed full of easy little projects like this and is available for just £3.99 (plus P&P).

Seasonal Garden Ideas £3.99


#britishtomatoweek #growyourown

Clever tricks to dry your laundry quicker


Clever tricks to dry your laundry quicker

Busy adj (busier, busiest) 1 having a great deal to do 2 currently occupied with an activity.

Sound familiar?

If, like me, you have a to-do list as long as your arm then getting a good routine is essential for staying on top of things, and a few simple tricks to speed up daily chores can make all the difference.

See the blogs 1-3 for more tips on how to make laundry easier:

Part 1: Make laundry easier, simpler and faster plus the definitive guide to stain removal

Part 2: Make laundry easier, simpler and faster plus create a fabulous laundry space for less than £15!

Part 3: Make laundry easier, simpler and faster plus the definitive guide to washing symbols


There are three good options for drying laundry:


Drying laundry outside

Outdoors on a line

On a dry day, I hang the washing out on the line. You simple can’t beat the fresh fragrance of outdoor-dried clothes and bedding.

For several years I used a peg bag kindly made by my mum that would whizz along the line to the other side of the garden and provide the neighbours with endless mirth observing me chasing the ridiculous peg bag from one end of the garden to the other! What should have been a five minute job took much longer.

I did toy with the idea of one of those cute vintage-style apron peg bags but decided that there would be a flat refusal for pegging out from my other half (though it would have provided the neighbours with more comedy capers). I therefore, decided to buy a new laundry basket with a peg box included, only to find that such a thing does not exist! Instead I pinched one of my son’s Bygel Ikea tubs, which has a hook on one side and hung this onto the edge of the laundry basket. Voila! It works a treat and can easily be stored in a cupboard when not in use. Highly recommended folks.


Drying clothes on a drying rack

Indoors on a clothes maid

This is where a revolution occurred in our house. Sick of tripping over precarious clothes horses, I did some research and decided to invest in a ceiling mounted drying rack. This retro clothes maid is AMAZING! Because warm air rises, it dries the laundry so much quicker and also it’s all out of the way. I can honestly say it is the best thing household item I have ever bought. I tend to fill it/empty it when the children are doing their homework or music practise so that I can do ‘mum stuff’ at the same time as the laundry.


Save laundry space

Tumble Dryer

For me, the tumble dryer is a must for towels otherwise they feel like cardboard. I also use it for bedding on wet days but never clothes. I don’t think it’s gentle enough for many fabrics and is also costly and certainly not eco-friendly.

I came across this great idea for those with limited space:



Don’t miss part 5 coming soon.



Bravo for British asparagus


Bravo for British asparagus and the MOST amazing asparagus recipe

We’re five days into May and the British asparagus season is in full swing – hurrah!

I adore asparagus. It’s so tender, and its delicate flavour lends itself to many recipes, though it’s also wonderful on its own, lightly steamed and sprinkled with sea salt.

British asparagusWhen dipped into soft boiled egg, asparagus is heaven on a plate. These grass-green morsels are packed with soluble fibre, vitamin A, Vitamin B1 and folic acid and when combined with the egg contains a whole host of fab vitamins and minerals. The perfect lunch!

British asparagus is championed by many top chefs including:

Raymond Blanc, Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons
“The quality of the food at Le Manoir stems from the freshness and purity of its ingredients. There’s nothing quite like freshly cut, tender young spears of asparagus when it is in season.  My favourite way of serving asparagus is when it is poached and served with freshly made mayonnaise.
We at Le Manoir strongly believe that everyone should enjoy good food made from the very best ingredients and prepared with care and imagination. I have no doubt that fresh vegetables in season have the very best flavour and British asparagus is a great example of that.”

Brian Turner, Brian Turner Mayfair, Millennium Hotel
“More and more people are realising the value of seasonal produce and how fortunate we are in this country to have such a bountiful supply. Local markets, farmers’ markets and village stores show us the wonderful selection of produce now available, so much to be proud of on our doorstep.
One of my favourite seasonal foods is the first crop of English asparagus which I steam and, whilst warm, lay into a light mustard vinaigrette, allow to cool slightly and devour…delicious.”

This asparagus recipe from the 2015 Dairy Diary is one of my favourites – it’s quick and simple enough to cook at any time, even mid-week, and its simplicity celebrates the fantastic flavours of new potatoes, asparagus and sea bass.



Sea Bass with Asparagus & Roasted Potatoes

Go to recipe









Top 12 recipes for spring


Top 12 Recipes for Spring

This week I would like to share with you my favourite spring recipes.

These snacks, meals and bakes use gorgeous seasonal ingredients, are simple to create and taste delicious.

Which will become your favourite?


Asparagus Risotto

Potato, Beetroot & Mackerel Salad

Sea Bass with Asparagus

Broccoli & Apple Soup

Simple Roast Lamb

Mini Carrot Cakes

Asparagus with Poached Eggs

Quick Prawn Wraps

Salmon & Ginger Fishcakes

Rhubarb Sorbet

Danish Pastries

Green Omelette




Potato, Beetroot & Mackerel Salad


Recipe of the week

Potato, Beetroot & Mackerel Salad

Time 25 mins
Serves 4
Calories 494
Fat 36 of which 7g is saturated

New potatoes 450g (1lb), scrubbed and halved
Olive oil 6 tbsp
Red wine vinegar 3 tbsp
Caster sugar 2 tsp
Grainy mustard 2 tsp
Sugarsnap peas 100g (3½oz), shredded
Spring onions ½ bunch, thinly sliced
Smoked peppered mackerel 250g (9oz), skinned and broken into chunks
Cooked beetroot 200g (7oz), cut into matchsticks

1 Cook potatoes in simmering water for 10-15 minutes, until tender. Drain well.

2 Meanwhile, mix oil, vinegar, sugar and mustard together.

3 Put sugarsnap peas in a salad bowl with spring onions, mackerel and beetroot.

4 Add potatoes to the bowl with dressing and fold gently together.

A Dairy Diary recipe.





#tripletested #recipes

Definitive guide to washing symbols


The definitive guide to washing symbols and a hot money saving tip!

How to make laundry easier - part 3Washing

It’s a great idea to use a laundry basket with two or three compartments so that your dirty washing is pre-sorted. Then when one compartment is full throw it into your washer at a time to suit you. I find it easiest to pop in a load as soon as I get home from work.

When you have invested your hard-earned money on good quality clothes it’s essential that you give them the care that they deserve. Always check garment labels and follow the Dairy Diary’s guide to washing symbols:

The definitive guide to washing symbols

Nearly all fabrics are machine washable these days, and most washing machines handle them with the care they deserve. Sort your clothes and linens by colour and fabric type, and check labels.

Unless absolutely necessary, try to wash clothes at 30 degrees, as this uses less energy and is kinder to the environment. In any case, avoid washing an item at a higher temperature than recommended by the manufacturer, because this can cause it to shrink or change colour.

Every so often, run a higher temperature
programme with the machine empty, to
clean out greasy residues and kill off
any bacteria.

Loading tips
Fill your washing machine loosely. Overloading not only adds to the number of creases that will need ironing out, but can damage your clothes and even your machine. If you are washing woollens, this may mean washing just two or three items in one load.

Definitive guide to washing symbols


And a hot money saving tip!

The Laundry Egg

I recently discovered laundry eggs. As an eco-friendly alternative to washing powder, which claim to be kind to sensitive skin and very cost-effective, I was intrigued. Eco Egg kindly sent a sample for me to try out on my (quite frankly very mucky) family. 

The Laundry Egg contains two types of cleaning pellets: tourmaline pellets – that weaken the adhesive forces between the dirt and fabric, and white mineral pellets – that naturally ionize the oxygen molecules in the water which then penetrate deep into the fabric lifting away the dirt and grime, without fading colours or damaging fibres.

The first time I washed with the Ecoegg was for the children’s bedding. It looked perfectly clean when it came out of the washing machine but it didn’t smell as fresh usual. However, at bedtime when I mentioned to the children that they had clean bedding and asked if they smelled nice, they replied ‘mmmm nice fresh bed’. That’s good enough for me!

The Laundry EggAs well as being suitable for sensitive skin, the great thing about this Ecoegg is that it lasts for up to 210 washes (that works out at less than 5p per wash!) Obviously I do not count every wash but I have assumed that we do around four loads of washing each week and have put a note in the diary to buy a new one early next year.

As the egg leaves virtually no scent on the clothes, I use the fabric conditioner with it, which has a pleasant fragrance, and also add a few drops of lavender essential oil.   I usually tackle any stubborn stains prior to washing using the Dairy Diary Stain Removal Guide (see http://dairydiarychat.co.uk/2015/02/24/making-laundry-easier-plus-the-definitive-guide-to-stain-removal) and so with this approach and the Eco Egg my family’s clothes are left spotlessly clean and smelling good too. Yay!

For more information on EcoEggs visit www.ecoegg.com










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