A-maize-ing art

So many events have been cancelled or at least virtually modified this year that it’s absolutely lovely to read about two events we’ve enjoyed in the past managing to take place nearly as normal.

With a few Covid-19 tweaks – it’s obviously even more important, if not essential, to book ahead for days out now – both Doddington Hall and Uncle Henry’s have been pleased to announce that their respective biennial sculpture exhibition and annual maize maze WILL be taking place.  And both events take place predominantly outdoors with lots of space as well as fresh air.

UHMaizeMaze

The Maize Maze at Uncle Henry’s opened on July 18th and 2020’s design very appropriately pays tribute to the NHS.

Open daily until August 30th, the maze at Grayingham (DN21 4JD) is spread over five acres and contains a hidden letter challenge.

At £8 per person (under 2s free, £25 for a group of four), there’s also a 9-hole crazy golf course and jumping pillows to enjoy too.  Click here to book tickets.

SculptureDoddingtonDoddington Hall (LN6 4RU) is “thrilled in this most extraordinary of years that we can welcome you to our 5th biennial Sculpture Exhibition“.

Open from July 25th to September 6th, the 390 works of art from 68 artists from the UK and overseas will be placed around the gardens and in the Stable Yard Gallery with a safe route to follow.

Garden admission applies (no extra charge for the exhibition): Adult  £7.50, child  £3.50 and family £19.  Click here to book tickets.

Are you visiting any events as “normal” this year?  Let us know in the comments below.

How to cope with number four (or more!)

We have some exciting news in the Malpi household that we’d been waiting to share with our friends and family since before lockdown.

We finally gave up on trying to tell everyone in person and went digital to let those closest to us know that mummy’s weight gain was not purely down to lockdown snacking but slightly more localised than that.

Mini Malpi number four is due to make its appearance in September 2020!

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Photo: Emilija Photography

What a year to be making an entrance into as if 2020 wasn’t going to be unforgettable enough!

It’s been an interesting time to be pregnant.  I feel so much for those who are experiencing everything for the first time.  But, whilst it’s not a new experience for us, I do also feel for my husband who is missing out on all the scans in what will be our last time enjoying this prenatal period.  (We’re only going for a fifth if he carries it next time and apparently he’s not terribly keen on the idea…)

Obviously we understand the importance of keeping everyone involved as safe as possible – with a medically vulnerable 3-year-old and a pregnant mummy in our household we’ve been trying to stay hidden away as much as possible for the last few months – and it is also yet another reason to be hugely thankful for the NHS and those that work within it.

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Photo: Emilija Photography

One of the best pieces of advice I received when Faith was very young and I was still trying to work out exactly what it meant going from two to three children was to keep it simple.  Sadly not my forte but I still often refer to it in my mind on days when I’ve particularly overcomplicated things or even just on the normal 100th pre-lockdown day in a row I’d spent driving round in circles dropping off and picking up everyone else.

But what will life with four be like?  Who to ask but those who are already in the throes of dealing their own quartets?

Jemma, who writes at Thimble & Twig, says “We have four and absolutely love it – my hardest time was genuinely 0-1!!!!  Top tip is to spend lots of time outside – the kids seem to be play better together when outside and to do one load of washing a day!  Oh and slow cooker meals are a lifesaver!”

Rachel, who writes at Coffee, Cake, Kids, also has a top tip to share: “We have four. It’s… interesting.  It’s noisy.  It’s chaos.  It’s expensive and it’s bloody brilliant.  I adore my little tribe.  Top tip: get your comebacks ready because the comments you get having a big family come from every angle. ‘Yes, I do know how babies are made’ is something I found myself repeating a lot in the early days!”

And Big Family Organised Chaos’s Mandi has often experienced such comments too: “Yes we do have a TV is also common!!!”

My husband’s comeback to that is that its having a TV that distracted the minis long enough for their sibling to be thought of in the first place, but we should definitely listen to Mandi whose tribe doesn’t stop at just four.

“We have seven and I’d say the biggest life challenge was going from one child to two, after that adding an extra one just seemed easy!” she says.  “Finding a vehicle to transport them all was tricky and logistics of all the different nurseries, schools, colleges (and now uni) is a minefield, but lockdown has been amazing having all seven together and I’ve genuinely loved every minute as they’ve all helped each other.”

Deborah, from Country and Heart and Home, also didn’t stop at four and recommends using a buddy system.  “We had six and it was always easier on trips when the kids would buddy up.  Usually an older one with a younger on days out etc.  The bonds between them all are amazing to see.”

Katie, from Mum’s Family Fun, also has advice about trips away: “Trying to find accommodation when going away anywhere was either impossible or cost an absolute fortune.  We discovered Air BnB and it opened up a whole new world to us.  I definitely recommend it for family trips.  There’s places on there to suit all your needs.  It’s brilliant.”

Unsurprisingly the comments large families receive aren’t always just about simply the numbers of children as Eddie of Yorkie… Not Just For Dads knows.

I’m a stay at home dad.  Between me and my partner we have five girls.  Four at home with us and my eldest daughter at weekends and extra time in the school holidays,” he explains.

Having been asked multiple times, including via his social media, about what it’s like being dad in a large family and living with daughters he decided to write a whole post in answer to his commenters.  “Is it difficult?” he writes.  “Absolutely.  Being practically the only male in the house other than an attempt to make up the man numbers by the way of pets, doesn’t really count does it?”  In Question for Dad – How do you find it and manage with 5 Daughters, Eddie clearly has to think about the question to start with, it is after all his norm, but then he’s also quite honest about how much the thought of their teenage years terrifies him…

If your family size adds up to more than 2.4 how do you cope?  If you have any tips and useful tricks please share them in the comments below!

Find out more about “a wobbly and magical friendship”

Newark Book Festival 2020

NBF1Like a lot of events scheduled for this year, the Newark Book Festival has had to make a few changes to its original plans.

But due to the hard work of its organisers and guests it’s now getting ready to present readers with not just one short story but a whole five chapters of 2020’s programme.

Chapter One will take place virtually this month (July 10th-12th).

Alongside authors such as Kate Mosse, Jess Kidd and Frances Brody and debates on crime through the ages, gothic and historical fiction and celebrating the Bronte 200 anniversary, younger readers haven’t been forgotten either.

The first event on Friday, July 10th, will be a story time with Helen from Diddy Signers. Hosted by the BeanBlock Cafe’s Facebook page, the Makaton-signed reading of Five Minutes Peace by Jill Murphy will take place at 10am.

Claire Barker - author imageOn Sunday, July 12th, recommended for ages 6 to 10, children are invited to join in adventures with Picklewitch and Jack.  Taking place from 1.30pm to 2.30pm, tickets to the event are available via www.iaminprint.co.uk/newarkbookfestival.

The author Claire Barker will bring to life her creations that share “a wobbly and magical friendship”

“Picklewitch has a nose for naughtiness, a taste for trouble and a weakness for cake. And unluckily for brainbox Jack – winner of the ‘Most Sensible Boy in School’ for the third year running – she’s about to choose him as her new best friend…  This is a story about fitting in and finding a special friend where you’d least expect it.”

There are two titles in the series currently available and a third – Picklewitch & Jack and the Sea Wizard’s Secret – is now due to be published in June 2021.

And if you run out of questions to ask Claire about her work you can always ask her about wrestling sheep, battling through nettle patches and catching rogue chickens on her farm in Devon.

Find out more at Newark Book Festival. 

#30Days Wild Days 24 to 30 – Flowers, water and more butterflies

The last week of #30DaysWild went by quickly with changing weather, lots of work commitments and attempts at home learning that were, well, variable in their success.

Flower PartsSome of the tasks sent home from their school helped in our daily challenge as our eldest was set the task of learning the names of some garden and wild plants, the parts of a flowering plant and identifying trees and the parts of a tree.

We vicariously enjoyed others’ natural adventures through the CBeebies programmes Down on the Farm and Let’s Go For A Walk.   A not incredibly successful attempt at getting our youngest to sleep one night led to a marathon binge watch of CBeebies Bedtime Stories and the discovery of a beautiful book called The Rhythm of the Rain by Grahame Baker-Smith that celebrates the water cycle flowing from a pool on a mountainside, through sparkling streams, over waterfalls, through rivers and into the open sea – and on to our ever-growing book wish list.

Creating butterflies in our arts and crafts projects has featured highly in our last two month’s activities – Day Six, Day Eight, Day Nine, Day 23 – so we couldn’t pass up another opportunity to make some more of the winged creatures when we read about The Butterfly Project the Different Light Collective is running in association with this year’s SO Festival.

TheButterflyProjectGiven the current Covid-19 situation, the SO Festival has cleverly rebranded itself as the SOfa Fest for 2020 as it goes online rather than on to the streets of Mabelthorpe and Skegness but it’s still keen to be as interactive as possible.

The Butterfly Project is a creative community engagement project asking people to design and send in their own butterflies which will become part of a short film by award-winning artist Barret Hodgson.

“The project is about being a small part of something big, something special that celebrates creativity, community, beauty, freedom and self-expression.  It reflects the idea of being trapped and eventually released, of going from caterpillar to butterfly and also represents the idea of the ‘Butterfly Effect’ – one small action here can lead to a much bigger impact elsewhere.

The finished short film will show the butterfly images from individual members of the community gradually coming together to form one giant butterfly – a creative and beautiful expression and demonstration of how we really are all in this together of how when we all work together we’re stronger and can achieve more.”

Our own “small actions” saw Luke (a big fan of the recent The Great British Sewing Bee series) choosing to have his template cut out of felt so he could sew on different fabric remnants to decorate it whereas Willow headed straight to the glitter, glitter card, stickers and pompoms to design hers.

The PDF templates are available to download from Different Light’s website but be quick, the deadline for submission, which can be via email, is Sunday, July 12th at 4pm.

What a lovely colourful and collective way to round off our 2020 #30DaysWild experience.  We may not have managed something every day of June this year but then some days we did more than one thing and it’s certainly once again given us the chance to think about the importance and influence our wild world has on us and that we may have on it.  Here’s to 366 (ish) days wild.

Click here to find out more about #30DaysWild. 

#30DaysWild Day 23 – Natural art

Taking advantage of the nice weather we headed into the back garden to do some art work.  Last time we got the paints out during lockdown the necessary clean up involved washing part of the sofa as well as showering minis number two and three so relocating to the patio area made much more sense today.

Using some of the things we collected on our walk in Greetwell Hollow, we did some leaf rubbing, used leaves to make prints and, adding some sticks into the mix, created more butterflies too.

I got my bonus point for it linking to home learning work set by their school and also took advantage of the time to complete an art task set a week or so ago when I was still refusing to get the paints out again.

Painting with bubbles definitely appealed to Willow, so much she says she wants to do it again soon.  Any ideas where I can hide the paint?

Click here to find out more about #30DaysWild. 

#30DaysWild Day 22 – Colourful walk

Yesterday was all about daddy’s day (honestly he really did want to spend it clearing out the loft…) but today we managed to get out for a walk around our estate which gave us plenty of opportunity to enjoy the colourful fruits of our neighbours’ labour with all the beautiful flowers in full bloom gracing their front gardens.   

I didn’t have much opprtunity to take photos though as mini number two decided to take one of her favourite mermaid books out with her and needed reminding to look when crossing roads…

Click here to find out more about #30DaysWild. 

#30DaysWild Day 20 – Greetwell Hollow

Not to be put off by yesterday’s less than successful attempt at discovering somewhere new we headed out today to try somewhere even more local that I’ve been meaning to visit for some time but it’s taken a pandemic lockdown for me to finally get there.

I’d assumed (correctly) that Greetwell Hollow Nature Reserve just outside Lincoln wouldn’t be the best to investigate with a pushchair so it helps that Faith is now walking a bit more although the uneven terrain and heat meant that she was quite happy being carried for a lot of our stroll too.

The “interesting wildlife haven and geological” Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust site is a lot bigger than we first realised (13 hectares – there is a map available on the charity’s website for people who are better at planning than we are) so we only covered a very small area of it leaving plenty of reasons to go back again.

“The limestone grassland in the valley offers a wide range of wildflowers including bee orchid and the scrub offers great homes for wintering and nesting birds. The stream that flows through the centre of the reserve supports wetland plants and attracts wintering snipe, moorhen and heron.  In the rough limestone grassland with hawthorn scrub, traveller’s joy is a scarce plant in the area, and dwarf thistle and field scabious can be found.  Bullfinch is a characteristic bird.”

Mummy thought it would be a good place to collect some natural art supplies for a future project but the minis found out it was actually good for playing what’s the time Mr Wolf and, thanks to an impressive stick find, asking if there’s room on the broom.

Click here to find out more about #30DaysWild. 

#30DaysWild Day 19 – Fiskerton Fen

Day 19After our new lockdown discoveries of Starmers Pit and Ashing Lane Nature Reserve we were feeling emboldened today and headed out in the car to pastures new once more.

And you can’t beat a personal recommendation can you?  So when my friend Rachel Eldridge suggested Fiskerton Fen is a lovely place to go with lots of wildlife the pin was placed firmly on the map.

Sadly it was only a metaphorical map and we drove, not only through two downpours, but also past the entrance of Fiskerton Fen twice before finding it.  Then we discovered there was a height barrier to the car park which we couldn’t get in with the roof rack on.  Not our most successful journey.

Thankfully Rachel took some photos of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust’s “wet feland landscape with open water and reedbeds” on her last visit so I can share what a lovely place it looks to be for those who travel without a permanent storage box on the top of their cars.

The Trust highlights that the reed-dependent animals “include some of our rarest species including the bittern and marsh harrier. Greater water parsnip, once common in Lincolnshire but now almost extinct, has also been introduced.”

And it could prove a perfect choice to visit during next week’s National Insect Week (June 22nd – 28th):

“Surrounding the wet fenland is grassland with thickets of blackthorn and hawthorn scrub. The wildflowers of the grassland such as field scabious, knapweed and St. John’s wort provide nectar for butterflies and a host of other insects. The scrub provides shelter and song posts for birds such as yellowhammer, corn bunting, linnet and tree sparrow.”

Click here to find out more about #30DaysWild.