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87% of British households have a garden, but how many children get to experience a garden as more than just somewhere to play on a trampoline or in a paddling pool?

Here are some scary facts, based on research conducted amongst 300 4-8 year olds*:

  • Over half of British children between 4 and 8 are unable to name 5 vegetables or fruits that could be grown in a garden
  • 95% were unable to name 3 herbs
  • Only 8% able to identify a trowel
  • 79% believed worms are bad for plants 
  • Only 8% had ever picked an apple
  • Only 6% had ever eaten a fresh pea from the pod

This is crazy isn’t it??

When I was little, getting a little patch of soil in the garden to grow my own flowers and vegetables was an absolute joy, and one that as many children as possible should be able to experience, whether or not they have a garden of their own.

It’s why, this month, Get Out and Grow will award school gardening starter kits to 20 schools nationwide, giving young children the chance to have a go at gardening. The kits, which are sponsored by British skincare brand Sudocrem, will include children’s wheelbarrows, gardening gloves, mini-trowels, seeds and lessons on how to make the most of a school garden.

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Advertisement in association with Smart Home Week

Can you believe it’s a whole year since I bombarded you on social media with a load of gadgets as part of Smart Home Week? It feels like only yesterday that I was showing you how I could switch the heating off from the middle of town, or make a thunderstorm with my lightbulbs.

It was a really interesting week to take part in actually as I’m not a natural when it comes to technology and I was curious to see how easy the various gadgets would be to set up and use and whether or not they would really add value to my life. As part of the week I had a go with a Ring video doorbell, a tadosmart heating system, Philips Hue lightbulbs, a Yale Conexis L1 smart door lock, a Yale Smart Home Alarm, the Samsung SmartThings system and Google Home.

I know right? My house was officially smarter than I was.

Smart Home Week

It looks so innocent doesn’t it?

What I discovered though, which is kind of the whole point of Smart Home Week, is that smart home technology doesn’t have to be scary or difficult to use. In fact, most of the technologies I tested were incredibly simple – pretty much you switch them on and they install themselves. Some things, like the smart lock and the heating system, needed a bit of actual, physical installation, but once you’ve done that, you’re good to go.

(I actually really enjoyed installing the tadosmart heating system myself. It involved doing a bit of wiring to take out the old thermostat and put in the new one, but the instructions were VERY clear and I felt a huge sense of achievement at the end.)

I wrote a pretty comprehensive introduction to each of the technologies at the time, so that’s probably a good place to start for an overview, but of course one year is a long time in the world of smart homes, so it’s worth having a quick look at what’s changed. Then I’m going to focus on a few of my favourite products, to tell you a bit more about how we’ve used them over the last year. View Post

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Irish stew easy recipe

Is there a word that means the opposite of heritage? Opposite in that it’s about looking forward rather than backwards? Forwardtage maybe? No, that’s terrible.

What I’m looking for is a word to describe the fact that my sister has been living with her Irish husband and my neice and nephew in Ireland for a few years now, and the longer they stay and the more often I visit, the more I feel a connection to Ireland as a place that part of my close family is growing up in. I may have no Irish heritage, but I feel a growing sense of Irish forwardtage.

When the latest theme for my lamb recipe project came through then, and it was all about cultural influences on food, an Irish stew seemed like an obvious choice. I’ve never cooked an Irish stew before, but the ‘Lamb. Try it, Love it’ campaign is all about inspiring you to try new lamb recipes, so this felt perfect. View Post

It’s a couple of weeks now since Playgroups and Prosecco came out in paperback and whenever I see people I know they want to hear all about it.

‘How’s the book going?’ They ask. ‘How are sales?’

‘I don’t know,’ I tell them, and they look confused, as though I should be getting hourly updates from supermarkets up and down the country.

‘Oh right,’ they say, ‘how do you find out then? Haven’t you asked?’

‘No. I haven’t.’

And that’s that.

To be honest, I don’t think I want to know. But then also I REALLY want to know. Only if I know ONCE then I can’t go back and NOT know, and what if no one likes me? I’d want to not know that. It’s so stressful.

It feels very much like getting a new boyfriend.

For the record, I am BAD at having new boyfriends. I’m an absolute sucker for it mind – the thrill of a new relationship, falling in love, cups of tea in bed, the excitement and newness – and I think I’m a decent girlfriend – thoughtful and fun and kind and what not – but I also find it quite difficult. I’m normally very laid back and relaxed about stuff, definitely not a worrier or an over-thinker, but relationships trigger a vulnerability in me and can feel quite overwhelming.

I swing wildly between desperately wanting to know how someone feels about me EVERY MINUTE, and then ignoring them because who cares, I don’t need them anyway. (I’m a CATCH.) In fact, when I was at the Swindon Spring Festival last week, I met the lovely Laura Mucha, who has written a book about love called Love Factually* and she sent me a copy afterwards so that I could read up about my potentially ‘disorganised attachment style.’

(‘Don’t Google it,’ she told me, which sounded ominous.)

Jo Middleton

‘Haha! No of course I don’t care that it took you 2 hours and 37 minutes to reply to me, even though we were in the middle of a conversation.’

Where was I going with this?

Oh yes.

My point is that while in most aspects of my life I am very secure and confident and generally awesome, love is not always one, and it seems that publishing might be the other.

It’s weird, because I’ve been writing here for 10 years and never particularly been bothered about who reads it, but there is something about the fact of the physical book, being in real life shops, that makes it different. You can’t change it – you can’t go back and edit it once it’s on a shelf – and that can be unsettling, even when you try your best to be super cool and professional.

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Advertisement feature in association with Plusnet and Internet Matters

plusnet internet safety plays

Internet safety can be a really overwhelming topic for parents. It seems as though every week there’s something new we should be looking out for online and it’s becoming ever harder to monitor everything our children come into contact with on the internet without physically looking over their shoulders all the time.

While many apps and content designed for kids can seem safe at first, it feels as though some people online are going to new lengths to get inappropriate content in front of children. It’s easy for kids too to accidentally find themselves Googling inappropriate images, as evidenced recently by my 10 year old nephew, who is not very good at spelling, trying to search for Pokemon.

As they get older though, is it really reasonable to ban them from all social media and video content, especially when they’re coming up to being teenagers and want a little more online freedom? How do we really know what they’re seeing on their phones and tablets if we can’t watch with them every single time? Do you feel confident that your child would highlight unsuitable content to you and know how to correctly report it to stop it from happening again, or do you think they would they be more likely to be drawn in by things they knew they weren’t allowed to be seeing? View Post

Advertisement feature in association with Tesco Jersey Royals

Is there anything more spring-like than a huge bowl of Jersey Royal new potatoes, slathered in butter and fresh mint?

I mean sure, there are lambs and primroses and what not, the smell of grass, cut for the first time after winter, but give me a Jersey Royal, butter dripping down my wrist, and I’m a happy woman.

Jersey Royal new potatoes

I didn’t take much persuading then to get on board with creating a spring recipe using Tesco Jersey Royals. In store now until the end of the season in July, Tesco Jersey Royal new potatoes have a heritage that dates back over 140 years. They’re still produced and harvested using traditional methods like planting the seed potatoes by hand and fertilising using seaweed from Jersey beaches.

‘Delicate and nutty’ it says on the bag, which describes most of my ex-boyfriends, so it’s no wonder I like them. View Post