Category Archives: Blogging community

Baby Tilda Barn Dance

A week ago today we travelled to Kent for a very special occasion.  A beautiful setting, a perfect late Spring day, so many friends gathered to remember Matilda Mae and to raise money for the Lullaby Trust.

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The children had a lovely time, playing outside, dressing up in silly hats and helping themselves to a selection of their favourite snacks – Tiddler couldn’t believe his luck!

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Then we moved indoors for the dancing.  Owl was pleased to be allowed to join in with the band and Rabbit danced every dance.  Monkey and Tiddler preferred to watch, but they all had a good time.

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Rabbit made the most of the craft table, and had her face painted too.  All the children enjoyed the play area, and of course the ice cream.  There were bubbles for Tilda, big ones and little ones, a reminder of why we were there.

Rabbit has asked to help write this post, so over to her!

I liked playing with the ducks and I liked the snacks and smoothies.  I liked dancing and having my face painted.  I had an ice cream.  I liked playing with my friends.  I made new friends.  It was fun playing in the playground.  My brother played the violin.

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Later there was more dancing inside, and then beautiful music by Classical Babies outside.  The afternoon ended with the three raffles being drawn, and we were very lucky to win some amazing prizes, including vouchers for Livie and Luca shoes and a Princess and the Frock dress.  Thank you Jennie for having us, and for all the hard work you put into it.  We had a wonderful day!


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

A Letter to Matilda Mae

Dear Matilda Mae,

Beautiful girl you are always in my heart, but I have been finding it hard to know what to say to you.  It’s impossible to put into words.  Your legacy is so many things.  Your mummy has made sure of that.  I could say that we are inspired to do more messy play, but we always did that a lot.  The difference is that every time we do it now, we think of you.  There are a lot of things that remind me of you Tilda.  Blowing bubbles.  Pink and purple.  Stars.  Sunsets.  Rainbows.  But the reality is that you are never far from my thoughts, even on the dullest of days.

I have been inspired by your mummy, to be a better mother, wife, friend.  In reaching out to her, I have found myself drawn into a supportive loving community of friends that I needed far more than I knew.  I have learned that there is beauty in brokenness, strength in openness and power in friendship that is enough to change the world.  You have changed my world Matilda Mae.  It is a better place now.  Thank you x


Britmums Christmas Do

On Monday I had a day out in that London ON MY OWN!  I arrived at London Bridge a little after 9 o’clock, and walked over to Southwark Cathedral.  I enjoyed a pot of tea and a pastry in the peace and quiet of the Cathedral refectory, which was exactly what I needed after a sleepless night and a rush hour train journey.  After strolling through Borough market as it was setting up, I set off to look for the Britmums Christmas Event venue on Borough High Street.

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I arrived for the event twenty minutes early, but I wasn’t the only one.  I was pleased to see two familiar faces, Liska and Rachel – and Liska’s lovely little boy Aaron who proudly showed me his Disney Cars dressing up outfit as we were going up in the lift.  He was very sweet, and as far as I could see he spent the rest of the morning working his charm on everyone else too!

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After a little wait, it was time to get a cup of coffee and go through to the main conference room.  There was a magnificent display of Christmas treats, provided by Morrisons who were sponsoring the event.  As it was a roomful of bloggers, at first no-one touched the food, because everyone was taking photographs, but there was soon plenty of tasting going on too!

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Neil Nugent, executive chef and head of product development at Morrisons was there to give us his top tips for preparing Christmas dinner.

  • Get the turkey out of the fridge three hours before cooking to bring it up to room temperature.
  • Hold it by the legs and shake it – yes, really – to open it up, so the hot air can circulate while it’s cooking.
  • Put seasoned butter under the skin, starting from the neck end, to keep the turkey moist.
  • Don’t cover your turkey with foil – it creates steam, which will make it overcooked and dry.
  • Let it rest for a couple of hours after cooking, so that the juices will settle and it will be more tender.
  • Use Maris Piper potatoes for roasting, and don’t boil them first – just simmer them gently for ten minutes, so they don’t end up mushy.
  • You can prepare the vegetables two or three days in advance and keep them in the fridge.
  • If you want to have mashed potato with your Christmas dinner, you can make that in advance too.

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After that there was time to talk, while eating a delicious lunch and drinking wine also provided by Morrisons.  I had a great morning and met so many interesting people.  I enjoyed getting to know Swazi and Lynda, and discussing Home Education with them, among other things.  Another highlight was a very helpful chat about branding and SEO with the lovely Maggy.

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After the event, I spent a bit more time in London, including popping back to the cathedral and the market, before getting the train home.  The children were at my friend’s house, so I went round there and they were reasonably pleased to see me, though a little disappointed that I was not daddy with fish and chips.  When daddy arrived a little later, we ate supper with our friends and then it was time to leave.  The children were more impressed when we got back home and I showed them the Morrisons Christmas treats we’d been given as we left the event.  We have now eaten them and they were all delicious!

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Thank you Britmums and Morrisons for a wonderful morning – now it really feels like Christmas has started!

Junior Scholars Bloggers Event

Last Saturday we were invited to attend a bloggers event at the Junior Scholars shop in Watford.  We had a very enjoyable morning meeting the owners and staff of the shop and some other lovely bloggers, and our friends from 3 Kids and a Gluestick were there too.

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The children enjoyed playing with and testing lots of toys – and the crisps, biscuits and juice were popular too!

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We were offered some products to take home and we chose a Magic Science kit and Design and Drill set (reviews to follow.)

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We then had a tour around the shop which is a home educators’ paradise…

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…so we just had to buy a “few” extra things while we were there 🙂

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Next we had a tour of the Sound Cube in the basement, which offers recording studio parties for children, teenagers and adults.

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After that there was a little more time to play, mainly with the Zoobs which are brilliant, and then it was time to leave.  Thank you to all at Junior Scholars – we had a great time and I’m sure we’ll be back soon!

Making a difference #MMskydive


Yesterday was a very emotional day.  After months of planning and preparation, nine very brave people jumped from a plane in memory of Matilda Mae and to raise money for the Lullaby Trust.  I was honoured to be able to be there to support them as part of the ground crew.

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I travelled to the airfield with Monika (Mumonthebrink) and family, and when we got there it was time for the team to register.  Dadonthebrink was a late addition to the team as he gallantly stepped up when Monika was unable to do the skydive (this time!) for medical reasons.  Monika, I know you were disappointed but things happen for a reason, and it felt right that there was a dad on the team because dads are affected by SIDS too.

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After the team were registered they had to wait what I think must have felt like a rather long time before doing the skydive.  There was a training session part way through the morning, but there was also plenty of time to take lots of team photos.

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Time for a haircut too – the team are very creative in finding ways to raise money for the Lullaby Trust!

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There was time to chat, to offer hugs and reassurance and of course to tweet and retweet too.  It was wonderful to see #MMskydive trending for almost the whole day as many people showed there support even though they were unable to be there in person.

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And then the first three divers were called.  When they were suited up, there were hugs and photos and then they set off for the plane.

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While the first three were up in the air, the second group were called.  There were more photos and hugs, and bubbles for baby Tilda.  It was good to see the lovely Susanne smiling through the nerves as she was able to focus on why she was doing this crazy thing.  We all wish that we were there for some other reason, but there was so much love in that brief moment.

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And then, after about 15 minutes in the plane, the first group of divers emerged through the clouds.  I can’t really find the words to describe it.  It was incredible.  Partly because of the courage it took to do it.  And partly because it was a really beautiful sight.  But most of all because of the reason for the skydive.  Love. Friendship. Support.  It comes in many forms.  There are quieter ways to show it, all just as valuable.  But this was powerful.  And unforgettable.

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And then, as the first three returned and the second group took to the skies, the final three were ready to go.

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The second group came through the clouds and it was amazing, beautiful and emotional all over again.  And then the third group appeared and it was all of those things – and also very funny as there was a lot of excited shouting and waving from Michelle who loved it so much that she wanted to do it all over again!

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When all the team were safely down, there were pink bubbles, cakes and a last chance to talk before we all went our separate ways.

Jennie, we all want to make a difference.  And I think that we all struggle that with knowing that in the way that matters most we can’t.  We all wish we could turn back time but we can’t.  But we will continue to do what we can to support you and the Lullaby Trust.  And we will always remember baby Tilda.

Team Matilda Mae you are amazing.  Over £6000 raised from the skydive, and the total is still going up.  I know it’s not the end, and there are lots more creative fundraising ideas in the pipeline.  There’s no stopping you – now you have jumped out of a plane you can do anything!  Love is powerful.  Friendship is powerful.  Be proud of yourselves x



Sky Dive for Matilda Mae

This will have to be a quick post because I should be leaving for Oxford in just over an hour.  Before then I have to hang up washing, iron the clothes I want to wear, pack my bag, attempt to tidy the house while four children follow me around messing it up again, deal with any potty accidents that may arise and supervise children who want to do some painting for our summer display. And that’s the scaled-down version of the list, and doesn’t include the numerous things I’m sure I have forgotten.

Anyway, the point of all this is that tomorrow morning nine brave people will be JUMPING OUT OF A PLANE and I will be there to support them, as ground crew because I am not brave at all.  Well, I did manage to remove a fairly big spider from the house yesterday, but it’s not really in the same league…

The nine crazy  brave people who are jumping tomorrow are doing it to raise money for the Lullaby Trust in memory of Matilda Mae.  If you can, please sponsor them.  You can also help by sharing this post or the links within it, and if you are on twitter please tweet and retweet like crazy tomorrow morning to get #MMskydive trending.  Thank you!

BritMums Live 2013

On Friday and Saturday I had an amazing two days at BritMums Live.

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It was brilliant being in a roomful of so many inspiring women, I enjoyed the talks and panel sessions and learnt some useful things.  I also enjoyed meeting and chatting to some of the representatives of the various brands that were there.  I was particularly pleased to talk to the Butlins team (application form is in – yay!) and Parragon books (review to follow.)

Friday’s highlight for me was the panel session about New Feminism.  It was inspiring to hear all the women on the panel giving their perspectives about Feminism, and I was particularly impressed by Sonya who said (apologies for the paraphrase) “Feminism is about choice.  We need to work together and not fight amongst ourselves.  You can be a feminist and a SAHM.” It was good to hear that said aloud, to be honest.  It’s easy to keep quiet about being a feminist if you have chosen to stay at home with your children, in case you get shouted down, when really it’s obvious that if we replace one set of obligations (to stay at home entirely) with another (to work full-time and put children in childcare from a young age) then we are no closer to freedom or equality than we ever were.  I also loved the comment from Melaina (again it’s a paraphrase) that it’s okay to love pink and glitter as long as we don’t say girls should wear pink and boys must not.

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The BiB awards party on Friday evening was great fun.  I enjoyed the bubbly and the conversations, especially with Sonya and Jo.  Oh, and I took a picture of my Mia Tui bag just because I love it, and also because it was the BEST conference bag, with room for so much stuff, and enough separate compartments that I didn’t lose anything so it made me feel really organised!

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After the party, I went out for dinner at the Chiswell Street Dining Rooms – thank you Monika for getting the group together and booking it .  What a fantastic meal!

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Saturday morning passed in a bit of a blur because I was so tired.  I enjoyed chatting to Heather from Twinkl, Lauren and others about home education.  But after that, and despite a lot of tea and coffee, I was definitely flagging.  I reached a point, at a little after midday, when I was missing the children so much that I really wanted to go home.  Luckily at that point I ran into Jennie, and we found a comfortable place to sit and gather our strength to be ready for the rest of the day.  After a delicious lunch, and some more time to chat, I felt revived and able to enjoy the afternoon sessions which I was really looking forward to, and I was not disappointed.  I loved the session on blogging with heart, for support, and was in tears within the first minute.  That was pretty much how it carried on, and I got through a lot of tissues, but left the session feeling inspired and uplifted by the lovely bloggers who shared their stories, and showed how supportive the blogging community can be.  I then went to the Pinterest session, which I knew would be good as I’d heard Maggie talk about Google + at Cybher, and she made it all seem very clear.  Maggie, I am going to try and get better about using both of them, I promise!

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I met so many interesting and friendly people, and had such a wonderful time.   The final session, with bloggers reading keynote posts was an emotional end to the day.  The highlight for me was Merry’s post Remembering Matilda Mae.  Merry, I missed you and wished very much that you were there so I could give you a hug, but Susanne and Heather read your post so beautifully.  Three lovely people coming together to support Jennie; another example of the power of the blogging community.  I’m proud to be a part of it.  Thank you Brit Mums for organising such a brilliant event, and I can’t wait to do it all again next year.

Cybher 2013

Saturday was AMAZING.  Went to Cybher 2013 with Mum Friendly Jo.  Signed in and got a lovely (and very bright!) pink satchel.  Coffee in the exhibition area, and then to the ballroom for an introduction by Sian, and an inspiring keynote talk by Zoe Margolis encouraging women to make connections and support each other.  Met Jax who has inspired me so much over the last few years, as a home educator and as a blogger.

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More coffee.  Lovely to see Monika again.  She is raising money for the Lullaby Trust by doing a sky dive in July.  Go and sponsor her.  I’ll wait….



Next, Jo and I both had a makeover.  Yes, really. Me with make-up on!  Here’s the proof.

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Then off to a photography session with Mario Cacciottolo. The main thing I learnt was to think about where the light is and manipulate the subject, if possible, so that the light is on them.  I also took some photos of the session but they weren’t great.  The irony was not lost on me.  Sigh…

Lunch next and more time to talk with some of the other bloggers – so many fab people, so little time.

My highlight of the day was meeting Merry.  We have been friends for what feels like a very long time.  It was hard to believe we hadn’t met before.  She is just as lovely in real life!

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Some excellent sessions in the afternoon, including Sian and Claire‘s really useful beginners’ basics session, and Jay‘s awesome inspiring talk about changing from Auto to Manual on your DSLR camera.  I don’t even own one (yet) but for me it was the best session of the day.  (I am now watching several cameras on Ebay!) I also loved Maggy‘s Google Plus session, so I’m going to have another try to get to grips with it.  Then a really useful session about how to make your blog pay (might have to think about doing this so I can afford to keep going to blogging conferences) and a closing session back in the ballroom.

Out for a quick meal with old and new friends, and then back to the cocktail party where we met even more lovely people, including some of the Collective Bias team.  I am feeling inspired and have lots of ideas for the blog.  It was a brilliant day and I just want to do it all over again!


See you at Cybher!

On Saturday I will be going to Cybher with my lovely friend Jo.  It will be my first blogging conference and I’m really looking forward to it.  This time last year I had only just started blogging.  I remember reading Merry‘s tweets and blog posts about Cybher, and thinking it sounded like fun.  In fact, it was reading Merry’s blog over several years that led to me starting to write mine.  I wanted to help and inspire people who were thinking of home educating, as I had been inspired by Merry, Jax and other home educators.  I didn’t know how much I would enjoy being part of the blogging community which is full of friendly supportive people, and it will be good to meet some of them in person.  If you are going and want to say hello beforehand (okay, I haven’t left much time for that I suppose) I’m on twitter @readlearngrow.  And do come and say hello on the day, especially if you have any questions about home education.  Or maybe don’t push that button.  Depends how much time you’ve got 😉

Cybher 2013

I’m going to BritMums

me now


Name: Hannah

Blog: Caterpillar Tales

Twitter ID: @readlearngrow

Height: 5ft 8

Hair: Brown (I’m studiously ignoring the grey bits)

Eyes: Greenish brown

Is this your first blogging conference?

It will be my second, but my first BritMums

Are you attending both days?


What are you most looking forward to at BritMums Live 2013?

Spending time with friends, meeting people I have talked to on twitter and whose blogs I love reading, and getting to know new people

What are you wearing?

Umm, some clothes… the ones which have the least food/ paint/ glitter on at the time

What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live 2013?

New friends, creative ideas, technical knowledge

Tell us one thing about you that not everyone knows

Today I learnt to crochet!

crochet 1  crochet 2