Chiddingstone Castle school of witchcraft and wizardry

Hello my lovelies,

*This post has not been sponsored by Chiddingstone Castle.  I bought tickets to this even and all opinions and comments are my own.*

We had the most awesome day!  A month ago, I managed to book tickets to Chiddingstone Castle’s school of witchcraft and wizardry day in Kent and we could hardly wait! It was so well organised and so much fun that I was blown away.

I ordered Missy a robe (which looked nothing like the pictures on ebay which led to me opening a case – but that’s another story), made her a tie, dug out her wand (see my wand making post here) and for a wand box tutorial check out my post here.  I also decorated her a witches hat. We were all set!

I must admit, Chiddingstone wasn’t the easiest castle to find as the castle itself has a little concealed entrance and I landed up driving past it and having to double back. But I found it in the end.  The parking was ample even though they said the parking lot was quite small and there was a port-a-loo in the parking lot which I found quite random but it came in handy since we arrived early.  There was also a little honesty box to pay for parking with the proceeds going to charity.

 

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The castle itself is beautiful and we were surprised to find it had a red postbox just outside!

Since we arrived early, we had some time to take pictures while everyone arrived.  We were the only ones not in Gryffindor robes!

About 10 minutes before the doors opened we could hear a Harry Potter soundtrack playing which just heightened the anticipation.  The kids couldn’t wait!

Upon entering, some very organised admin witches crossed our names from their lists and checked out etickets. We were given a map and from there, we followed the directions round into the Great Hall.

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The entire place was decorated so well and it really added to the ambiance and theme.

In the Great Hall we were met by the High Wizard Merlin Hopkirken who sorted the kids into their houses.  Our entire group was sorted into Wormtail (which was kind of a crappy  name since Wormtail was the name of that traitorous Peter Pettigrew!) the yellow house.  We were then given our class schedule.

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Our first class was Flying Lessons in the Marquee.  Captain Karkus Prospero was brilliantly entertaining and got the kids ‘flying’ their brooms round a marked out course and doing races.

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Each child borrowed a broomstick for the lesson and it was fantastic to hear them shrieking with laughter. SONY DSC

In between each lesson was a 15 minute break and the children were invited to the craft rooms to make wands or colour pictures.

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Our next class was Spells and Incantations with Ms Septima Warbeck.

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The Spells teacher instructed the children on basic spells and wand movements as well as defense against the dark arts spells.

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Swish and flick!

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There weren’t enough kids to give each child a partner so Missy practiced with Ms Warbeck.

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After each class the kids got a stamp on their certificates.  Once they had a stamp from each of the classes they could graduate.

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We had a fun tour of the Headmaster Merlin Hopkirk’s office while we waited for our next class to start.

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Our third class was choir practice with Madame Mourge. Not sore how the ‘ou’ is pronounced ‘or’ but it was pronounced Morgue.

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Each professor was so well dressed and made up. They kept in character beautifully and the kids really believed they were at a school for Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Choir practice was very noisy but the kids loved every moment of it.

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While the kids were in choir practice I got an opportunity to speak to the event organizers who were such lovely ladies.  This is the first time Chiddingstone has done this kind of event and if all goes well they hope to repeat it next year.  Also, if all goes well, Christmas may be something just as special. Perhaps not this year but it’s exciting all the same.

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We made wands in our break before the long awaited potions class.  Dr Elphias Thicknesse was waiting for us in the potions classroom which was a treasure trove of potion ingredients bottles and other curiosities. The massive cauldron was of particular interest to the children.

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The children helped Dr Thicknesse to prepare a love potion to help her woo Captain Prospero and got to help chucking various ghastly looking ingredients into the cauldron.  I must admit, Dr Thicknesse was my favourite by far as she was completely zany and had the kids enthralled.

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The magic ingredient (hot ice) was added by Dr Thicknesse and the cauldron exploded in smoke much to the children’s delight.

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The only negative feedback I have is that upon booking people had the option of attending with their kids or dropping them off and fetching them later.  I found this to be a bad idea.   These kids got quite rowdy and rude at one stage which was uncomfortable for everyone.  One such 11 year old boy kept following me around and shoving his broomstick in my face shouting aaaaavraaaa kaaaadaaaavraaaaa!  He didn’t take kindly to me pointing out that it was in fact Avada Kedavra.  He also didn’t like the fact that I told him in a very firm voice that I didn’t appreciate the broomstick being shoved in my face.  And that if he did it again, I would make sure his parents were made aware that he was being rude to an adult.  But other than that one small blot on the day, I couldn’t have asked for a better event.

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Prize giving was held back in the Great Hall where the Headmaster announced the prize for the best dressed child who was dressed like Seamus Finnigan after his spell backfired. Well deserved I thought.

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Then he announced the day’s star pupil who turned out to be my very own little Missy!

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She won a t-shirt named after the event and a voucher for a free family visit during the 2018 season!  A fab prize!

After our classes were done, we went to the cafe where I had a cream tea and coffee.  I had packed a dairy, soya and apple free lunch for Missy as it’s been my experience that most places struggle to provide food that is allergen free.

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The staff were very happy for Missy to enjoy her lunch which me while I ate my cream tea.  It was delicious however, there was no way I could finish two large scones!  I’m a bit of a coffee snob and the coffee at the cafe was heavenly!  I only drank one cup because I was concerned I would be desperate to pee on the drive home but I could easily have drank the entire cafetiere.

All in all, we had a fantastic day and it was well worth the money.  I would definitely attend the event next year and look forward to attending other events planned by Chiddingstone and especially to exploring the grounds.

Bright blessings,

Mrs R

x

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Easy Focaccia

Hello my lovelies,

I must apologize for not blogging much recently, I am working on rectifying this and hope to bring you some great blog posts, recipes and ideas every week starting today.

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It’s half-term for us and as such I try to do some baking or cooking with Missy (DD has now been renamed to Missy since she’s 7 going on 15!). She was really craving pizza but as a dairy free kid she can’t have shop bought pizza.  I know I can buy frozen pizza bases but I find they expensive when we can whip up a batch of pizza dough for mere pennies.  Plus, I get the added bonus of teaching Missy about weights and measures and help her to learn the life skill of cooking.

We made her pizza and used Marchego cheese which is a hard goats cheese. While I know this isn’t dairy free it doesn’t contain the cows milk protein that affects her, however, she only has it occasionally.

After we made her pizza, there was a lot of dough left and I really didn’t fancy pizza because I was having chicken soup for lunch.  Then I had an inspired thought… I could make focaccia!

 

This pizza dough is really versatile and can be used to make pizzas, focaccia, calzones, dough balls and much more.  Check out Kitchn’s post for some great ideas.

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Here’s the pizza dough recipe I use.  It’s easy enough for kids to help but best made in the morning so that it has time to prove if you want to use it to make lunch. If you’re using it to make dinner, make it in the early afternoon.

Easy Pizza dough

500g plain flour

1 sachet of dried yeast

1 tsp each of sugar and salt

250ml of warm water mixed with 2 tsp olive oil

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl until the dough is soft and well combined.  Knead well in the bowl for about 5 minutes to break down the gluten.

Place the dough in a warm place covered with a tea towel for about an hour until it’s doubled in size. Probably about an hour or so.

Knead the dough again  (also called knocking it back) for another 5 minutes. Cover with the tea towel and allow to rise in warm place.  About 1-2 hours.  It should be nicely risen.

This should make one small pizza and one swiss roll pan sized focaccia.

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To make the focaccia,  simply grease a swiss roll pan with a little olive oil and press the remaining pizza dough into the pan.  Make little dents in the dough with your fingers pressing all the way into the bottom of the pan.  Add some fresh sprigs of rosemary and brush with more olive oil all over the surface. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake at 220 degrees Celsius until it’s golden brown.

Simples!

 

I hope you enjoy this recipe and as always, if you try the recipe please leave me a comment and let me know how you enjoyed it.

Bright blessings,

Mrs R

x

 

 

 

Why you need a morning routine

Hello my lovelies,

There is no doubt about it.  People who consistently stick to a morning routine are more successful.  There have been various studies that prove this.   But how does a morning routine make you more successful?

A morning routine, or lack thereof sets to the tone for the day.   A good morning routine sets the tone for a day where you are in control.  Basically, you want to drive your day instead of letting your day drive you. Think about it.  On those days where you’ve woken up late and your usual morning ritual has gone out of the window it’s been chaos.  You’ve been late for work, you didn’t have time for breakfast, you got stuck in traffic… see? Chaos!

But imagine a day where you wake up, get dressed (you showered the night before) and have a cup of coffee in the quiet before your kids wake up. You unpack the dishwasher ready for the breakfast dishes later and start breakfast before the kids come running through.  While the kids eat breakfast, wipe the counters, take out the recycling, feed the dog and get a load of laundry on. Dirty dishes go straight into the dishwasher.  While the kids get dressed, make the beds, take out something from the freezer to defrost and do a quick 5 minute tidy of the main living areas. By the time you leave the house, you’ve gotten quite a bit done, leave the house in a decent state for later and you feel in control.  Go Mom!

Before the school holidays started I decided to make these 6 weeks count.  I have been working on various techniques in order to get my home looking good, staying motivated and basically, training myself to spend as little time as possible cleaning on the weekends.  I can’t tell you have having a simple morning routine, especially during the school holidays is making life simpler.  I didn’t normally have a routine for the Summer.  But maintaining what I do during term time during the summer holidays means that by 8:30, I can go out for the day with my daughter and come home to a clean, peaceful home.

If you don’t have a morning routine, now is the time to start thinking about creating one. this is my morning routine:

Get up and make the bed

Make coffee (I don’t have to unpack the dishwasher because I did it before I went to bed)

Make breakfast and eat.  Take our vitamins

Tidy up after breakfast (dishes go straight into the empty dishwasher)

Take out meat for dinner to defrost

Laundry on

Quick tidy of the main living areas

While I’m in the bathroom after brushing my teeth, I swish the toilet bowl with the toilet brush, wipe down the mirror and basin with a bathroom wipe.

Boom!  You’re all set for your day. The kitchen is clean.  Laundry is on.  Dinner is defrosting. The bathroom is clean. The main living areas are tidy.  Your kids have been feed and are dressed.

Now that my routine is more established, I plan on working some personal development into my day.  So perhaps, wake up a few minutes earlier for some meditation with my coffee.  This part is going to take a while to establish because I can’t even think before my first hit of caffeine but I’ll work on it.

Get yourself into a morning routine and see how well your day goes.

As always, I’d love to hear from you, so leave a comment below.

Bright blessings,

Mrs R

x

 

 

 

Foolproof home baked bread in minutes!

Hello my lovelies,

It’s the school holidays here in England and that means 6 weeks of scrambling to find activities for my child that won’t break the bank. Thank goodness for Pinterest and Facebook viral video’s! I found a really cool video for bread in a bag and just had to make it.

Yesterday we baked bread in a bag and it was a-mazing! Light, tasty and super duper easy to make.  In fact, my 5 year old daughter did 95% of the work!

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I measured out all the ingredients in 3 stages so that it was easy for my daughter to add them into the zip lock bag.  She had so much fun!  All you’ll need besides the ingredients, is a large zip lock bag and a few plastic tumblers.  The recipe is in cups which, surprise, surprise I couldn’t find yesterday so I used one of my daughter’s ikea plastic cups which worked perfectly.

So, here’s the recipe and method:

Foolproof bread in a bag

Into a large ziplock bag, add  1 cup of flour, 3 tablespoons white sugar (next time I’ll use 1/2 this mount as it seemed a little sweet to me), 1 pkg rapid rise yeast and 1 cup of warm water.

Seal the bag letting out the air as you go and then comes the fun part.  Play with the ziplock bag and massage it in your hands so that all the ingredients combine.  My daughter LOVED this part!

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When it’s combined, set the bag aside for 10 minutes.

Now open the bag and add 1 cup of flour, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Once again, seal the bag letting out the air as you go and play with the ingredients in the ziplock bag and manipulate it in your hands so that all the ingredients combine.

Open the bag and add a cup of flour.

Seal the bag again and manipulate to mix the flour in.

Lay the bread dough on a floured surface and gently mould into the shape of a bread loaf. Place into a greased loaf tin.

Cover and allow to rise for at least 45 minutes in a warm place.

Bake at 190 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Once baked, turn out onto a cooling rack and wait five minutes before devouring with butter and jam!

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Bright blessings,

Mama R

x

 

 

 

 

New amazing way to bond with your daughter

Hello my lovelies,

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Today I wanted to talk to you about a meaningful way to connect with your kids, especially your daughters.  My little one is 5 turning 6 as she likes to remind me, and with our busy lives, I often find we don’t connect as much as I’d like.  It was really getting me down that I didn’t get enough time to really find out a little more about what makes my little girl tick when I happened upon a great idea on Pinterest.

It’s called the Mommy and daughter journal. We bought this pretty journal from WH Smith which my daughter decorated with stickers. And the basic idea is that as the Mommy, you start off by writing an introduction letter to your daughter.

 

Mine said:

 

Dear Darling,

Would you like to be my pen pal?  Instead of posting letters to each other, we can keep them in this lovely notebook.  Does that sound like fun?

I will write to you in the notebook and leave it on your bed.  Then, when you write back, start on a fresh page and when you’re done, leave the notebook on my bed.

You can write about anything you like! Things that make you happy or sad or even things that happen during your day.

In your first letter, please tell me two interesting things about you.

Love

Mommy

xxx

 

Let me tell you dear readers, when I first started this notebook I had no idea it would become such a brilliant tool and keepsake!

Not only does writing in it help my daughter with her literacy and handwriting skills but I’m finding out so many great things about my little girl.  Some of the entries bring tears to my eyes and I cherish every one of the little, ‘I love you mommy, you’re the best’ messages.  One day I will present this book to my daughter as a special keepsake gift.

So, how do you go about starting your own notebook?

Firstly, I would recommend taking your daughter shopping to choose a notebook that you both like.   While you’re there, pick up some cute pens, stickers and washi tape. My daughter loves to decorate in our notebook with washi tape and pictures for me.

Next, write your first entry to your daughter. Remember to keep it lighthearted and fun.

I don’t pressure my daughter to write in our journal. If I’ve written to her a few days before and she hasn’t written back, I gently remind her and she usually can’t wait to go write something for me.

I know that my daughter struggles sometimes, with her literacy at school when she has to write stuff from imagination.  She just doesn’t know what to write!  I reassure her that she’s not the only one who finds a blank piece of paper intimidating.  That’s why I have found it helpful to use prompts in my letters to her. For example, in my first letter to her, I prompted saying, ‘In your first letter, please tell me two interesting things about you.’ This helped to give her a starting point.  I do this with all my letters. Here are some examples of prompts I’ve used recently:

  • What are your favourite foods and why?
  • Which toy is your favourite and why?
  • Who is your favourite teacher and what do you like about her?
  • Let me know some fun things you would like to do during the school holidays
  • If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?

 

Another winner was an entry I wrote to my daughter listing ten things I loved about her.  The return message squeezed my heart.  She wrote ten things back to me and oh deary me, they were so precious!

Don’t forget when you are writing your prompts to give your answers to your own prompts. Tell your daughter what your favourite foods are and why.  This helps the bonding process and makes your journal feel less of an interrogation!

I always remember to slip in compliments on what my daughter has done well and to tell her how proud we are of her and how much we love her. To me, you can’t tell your kid these things enough.  No adult ever complained to the shrink that their parents told them they were proud of them and loved them too often!

I’m honestly so glad we started this very special little practice.  Try it and see what an impact it has on your relationship with your little girl.

 

Bright blessings,

Mama R

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY giant bubbles

Hello my lovelies,

diy giant bubbles

Here at Swish Cottage, we are always on the lookout for fun and educational things to do with DD.   She absolutely adores blowing regular bubbles and DH, after watching a youtube video on creating these giant bubbles decided to give it a go.

It’s super easy.

All you need is a bit of dowel rod cut in two, some wool, Fairy washing up liquid, some water and some glycerine.

To make the bubble wands DH used the spare wooden thingie that opens the door to the loft.  As I said, he cut them in two and tied the wool around the dowel rods on both ends in a loop. It should be quite a long piece of wool as you’ll see in the pictures below.  DH says you could use sturdy sticks from the garden.

To make the bubble mixture you mix together, 1 part FAIRY dishwashing liquid to 6 parts water and mix in a couple of teaspoons of glycerine. DO NOT froth up the mixture.  Mix slowly to combine.

It’s also worth mentioning that we tried this with cheap dishwashing liquid and it did not work so we recommend Fairy dishwashing liquid.

Please excuse my run down greenhouse. It’s due a makeover this Summer.

So once you’ve got your mixture made up and your ‘bubble wands’ ready, place the wool into the water as shown below.

You’ll notice that the wool will start to tangle a bit and as you lift up the wands, there will be bubble mixture in that triangle in the middle.  

Slowly move your arms further apart and then swing you arms sideways to catch the wind/air which will cause the bubble to swell. Et voila!

A large magical bubble in the making!  And there it goes!

Warning!  Kids go nuts for these bubbles!  There will be squeals and screams of delight… and you may not get any rest for a few days until the novelty wears off!

Cheap, cheerful and exciting!

Bright blessings,

Mama R

Halloween light jars

Hello my lovelies,

DD and I kept really busy on Monday.  We not only baked the Moist Banana Bread I posted about yesterday we also decorated our mantle for Halloween.

I had been taking a tea break and browsing a Christmas Facebook group that I joined when I saw someone had used paper napkins and modge podge to do some gorgeous glass jars for Christmas.  I remembered I had a few halloween napkins in the  halloween boxes of decorations and knew exactly what to do with them.

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I think they came out fabulous! It kept DD and I busy for quite a while cutting out the napkins and painting with the modge podge.  They are super duper easy to do.SONY DSC

 You just cut out your images from the napkins. Then use a little modge podge to stick the images to the glass jars wherever you want to place them. Then GENTLY – I cannot stress this enough –  dab the modge podge onto the napkin images on your jar generously.  REMEMBER do this VERY, VERY GENTLY or your napkin images will tear like DD’s jar in the front. She was so proud of it that I didn’t have the heart to try to help her to get it perfect. Because she doesn’t need it to be perfect that’s just my perfectionism coming through!

Here they are placed in situ in my entrance hall.

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Doesn’t this little guy look like the Cheshire cat?

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Bright blessings,

Mama R

x