Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Delilah's First Birthday and a Super-Easy Dog Birthday Cake

I can't believe our little bundle of fluff has turned one.  In some ways it only seems five minutes since she burst into our lives, turning everything upside down.  In others, we simply can't imagine life without her, she completes our household and comes everywhere with us.

From the very first meeting she stole our hearts.  We struggled through the toilet training, hands red raw from excessive anti-bacterial gel. Constant mopping up and disinfecting. Training her to walk nicely on her lead (ok, so that's still a work in progress) and getting her to sleep through in her crate.

Actually, it was over so much sooner than I expected.  She just fit right it. She's so laid back, happy to stay home alone if I'm out, or leap into the van to come on camping trips with us.  When we lost Ella I truly didn't think I'd be able to love another dog, but she's filled up my heart and I can't imagine life without her now.

Ruby had been planning her first birthday for months, and when the day came (slight confusion over the actual date - the vet has one registered, the Kennel Club another but we went by the date of the photo we were sent from the breeders when they were first born) she was determined to give her and her brother a birthday to remember.

Delilah was showered with cards and presents before her 'party in the woods'. I'm quite sure anyone passing would have thought we were barking mad, but hey!

I have gag-inducing memories of the annual 'dog cakes' Blue Peter used to concoct on the TV when I was a child.  Dollops of tinned meat congealed with jelly.  Ruby too had been scouring Youtube for suitable recipes, all of which involved baking, and most of which I'm fairly sure Delilah wouldn't have eaten.

Instead, I came up with my own super-easy and tasty doggy birthday cake which went down a storm, and importantly, didn't make me heave.

I picked two large beef burger patties from the supermarket and grilled them. Allowed them to cool completely before sandwiching them together and 'icing' with meat pâté.  The result was a chunky, meat-tastic pink cake, finished off with dog biscuits to decorate and a birthday candle - naturally.

Both Delilah and her brother went mad for it and would probably have wolfed the whole thing down given the chance, but I thought it would be too rich given that they're used to dry food, so they each just had a slice.

Me and Ruby had baked some peanut butter doggy biscuits too, so they munched on those washed down with a warm flask of homemade chicken stock.  Spoilt pooches!

Singing Happy Birthday to two dogs in the woods and blowing out their candle may seem odd to most people, but I think we've started a tradition!

Monday, 10 October 2016

Colour Me Happy - Autumn Crafts in the Forest

I'll admit to feeling a bit of a slump this September.  It hit me really hard. The end of a fabulous summer and amazing holidays. I struggled with the back-to-school scenario, Ruby moving up another year, her last year in her current school.  The sense of time rushing on and passing me by.  The sudden change in the weather and the days shortening.  However, Autumn has always been my favourite time of the year and now that October has kicked in, I can feel my spirits start to lift again with the promise of spectacular colours, afternoons spent kicking through crispy leaves, gathering shiny conkers, the smell of woodsmoke and bonfires, hearty casseroles and wooly mittens on the horizon.

I'm not alone,  recent research by the Forestry Commission shows that  96% of people point to beautiful autumn colours improving their mood.  In order to make the most of this stunning time of the year, they have developed a series of 'Colour Me Happy' autumn trails  to delight the senses.  Children and families can search for and hide acorns like squirrels, listen to the crunchy leaves underfoot and forage for juicy blackberries.  The trail will give your wellbeing a boost before the winter months.

Rachel Giles, Learning Manager, explains:

“Autumn is such a special time of the year, and the forest creates a wealth of opportunities to explore with all our senses – from tasting juicy blackberries, to smelling the damp earth, and enjoying the amazing array of colours of the trees. We hope that this trail will really get people excited about being in the forest this autumn, and that they will also learn something about the trees and wildlife that they find during their visit.”

There is also the chance to be part of our wonderful woodland weave. Hang your piece of forest art within the canvas to help us create a vibrant community artwork and share the growing masterpiece with us on Facebook using #ColourMeHappy.

We headed to the forest this weekend to soak up some fresh air, and I popped a few craft materials in my bag.  Collecting up autumn treasures such as acorns, pine cones, beautiful coloured leaves, delicate ferns and soft feathers, we set about making a dream catcher.  All you need is a hoop - you can use a wooden embroidery hoop, or make one from wire - some string or yarn and some beads and collected treasure to decorate.

Dream-catchers originate in Native America and are hung above the bed to filter out bad dreams.  Ruby's delighted with hers and plans to hang it in her bunk in the camper van.

Next, I set her the task of finding some tiny treasure. She hunted down teeny pine cones, delicate feathers, small pieces of fern and miniature coloured leaves to make fairy jars.  I brought along a packed of little glass jars (I bought mine from The Works and cost £1 for a packet of 6) and some packets of glitter.  We filled the jars with fairy treasure and a sprinkle of magic dust.  She's made some for her friends as good luck charms, and we think they're just delightful.

If you want more ideas such as making your own blackberry art, leaf bookmark, mini woodland weave or autumn colouring sheets, download the free activity pack from the Forestry Commission.

Disclosure: We are Forestry Commission bloggers and receive an annual pass, we were also sent a pack of craft materials for this activity.

Growing Family