My favourite winter warmers

During the last week, we’ve all become aware of the fact that summer is well and truly over. It’s been windy, wet and most of all really nippy. So it’s time to throw your thermostat on and warm up with some tasty winter warmers.

Here are my all time favourites:

baked apples

Bratäpfel or baked apples are something that sends me straight back to the winter months of my childhood. I think my very first encounter with them was in kindergarten, but they were also a popular winter and autumn tried in our house. They’re super easy to make and seeing Kelly’s recipe over on Domestic Goddesque this week has inspired me to share mine over the next couple of days, so watch out for it.blackberry crumble

Crumble is something that I had never heard of until I moved to England, but I very quickly became a massive fan of it. I think it’s the sour kick of the fruit and the sweetness of the crumble topping that makes it the perfect winter warmer for me. Oh and the crunchie crumble topping, of course! There’s nothing better then relaxing on the sofa on a dark autumn or winter evening and enjoying the mix or crunchy topping and soft fruit. Amazing! Soljanka

Soljanka is probably not really known in the UK as it’s a Russian soup, but I absolutely love it. My mum made it a lot when I still lived at home and when she phoned me yesterday and told me that Soljanka was what they were having for dinner, I instantly got jealous. I will definitely make it next week or the week after, because I didn’t realise how much I missed it until my mum mentioned it, but it so tasty that I just have to have it back in my life.
hot chocolate

I don’t have to say much about hot chocolate, do I? It’s the classic winter warmer and still one of the best ones to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I’m not usually a milk drinker, but when making a hot chocolate milk is an absolute must. You will really taste the difference. If you like experimenting, try and add some spices to give your hot chocolate a more exotic touch. Chilli powder or pumpkin spice are supposed to be really nice winter and autumn flavours.

So here you go, these are my favourite winter warmers. What are yours?

Disclosure: This post was brought to you by Heatmiser UK, makers of thermostats that make sure that you stay warm when your winter warmers have gone. Image credits from top to bottom: Eat Smarter, Neil Conway, source unknown via Pinterest, source unknown via Pinterest,


Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow – wildlife for everyone

Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow horse pferd

The Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow (Natur and Environment Park) is a fabulous place for all the family, so it’s no surprise that we came back here with Amy on our most recent trip to Germany. The park that locals call NUP is only a 20 minute drive away from my German hometown and a place that we used to go to a lot when my sister and I were younger. Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow Goat Ziege

You enter the park through the environmental education centre, where you can find an interactive exhibition on water as well as an aqua tunnel that allows you to see what happens in the river Nebel. You can start your tour wherever you want, but on this occasion we walked past the horses and goats first and watched Amy giggle about the tiny guinea pigs that ran around their enclosure like there was no tomorrow.
Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow guinea pigs Meerschweinchen

Amy just couldn’t get enough of them and kept running back to their little guinea pig city. I forgot to take an overall photo of it, but the guinea pigs have a living space that is decorated like a little town and it’s just absolutely adorable. Their huts are little houses built in the traditional half-timbered house style that you find in many towns and villages around Germany and there are a lot of hollow tree trunks in the enclosure that the guinea pigs can hide in.Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow waterfall wasserfall

The park also features a lot of little streams, rivers and waterfalls, which make it a really lovely place for a relaxing stroll at the weekend and of course an adventure playground for little ones who like to splash about.
Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow playground spielplatz

Of course, there is also the real adventure play ground in the style of a big tree house. It has slides, climbing frames and as you can see above, Amy and Ben really enjoyed it. They climbed up the spider webs, whooshed down the slides and climbed into the petting area where they were quickly surrounded by bunny rabbits, chickens and goats. Our afternoon at Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow horse riding reiten

Amy wasn’t particularly keen on the goats’ touchiness, so she quickly climbed over the fence and jumped onto the wooden horse that’s been part of the playground ever since I remember. In fact, when I went through my old photos the other day, I discovered a photo of my sister and me sitting on it and I think I was about eight years old then – crazy, that that’s been 20 years ago and it’s still here for kids to enjoy.
Our afternoon at Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow water pump Wasserpumpe

Another feature that Amy had a lot of fun with was the water pump on top of the hill that leads to the nature path. My sister’s boyfriend showed her how to use it and although it wasn’t easy for her to get water out of it, she didn’t give up until the little trough filled itself with water – that’s my girl.Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow nature path Naturlehrpfad

Her next stop was the nature path. It’s full of educational activities and I absolutely love it. You can feel what’s in the boxes left and right of the path and I can tell you now, a plastic shovel can feel pretty darn creepy when you can’t see it. Sheep wool or a set of antlers aren’t much nicer either. Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow guinea long jump weitsprung

A bit further along the path, you can find a long jump pit where you can compete against the animals of the forest. The sportsman in Ben came out as soon as he saw that he could potentially break a record here, so after a quick warm up, he ran up to the pit in perfect long jumper style and jumped as far as a wild boar – yes, I didn’t know that they can jump almost 5m either, but apparently they do.Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow long jump weitsprunggrube

Amy who is forever following in her daddy’s competitive foot steps couldn’t resist a jump either and of course she beat the wild boar and ehm daddy. That she cheated and didn’t even attempt jumping will remain our secret forever. She just looked too proud for us to tell her.Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow sea eagle Seeadler

After our small and not so small athletes had gathered their breath, we continued on our way through the 500 acre big forest and headed towards the aviary where we admired this beautiful sea eagle. Close to the aviary is the brown bear enclosure where the Swedish brown bears ‘Fred’ and ‘Frode’ live. It has a lake for them to swim in and is the largest one in Germany. That’s probably the reason, why we didn’t see them this time. You can check them out via the Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow website though, where the bears have their very own webcam.

Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow wild cat enclosure Wildkatzengehege

Another amazing part of the Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow is the huge wolf and wild cat enclosure that you access via a big wooden bridge that leads you through the forest and into the world of wild animals. You can watch wild cats, lynxes and wolves in their natural habitat and get a real insight into their behaviour. It’s fantastic! Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow wild cat Wildkatze

We arrived just in time for the feeding of the wild cats and Amy absolutely loved that she could watch everything from the bridge. She even went ‘uhm’ and ‘yum’ when the wild cats were eating and probably didn’t realise that they were snacking on rats and other small animals. She’d have quickly changed her mind! Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow lynx lux

The lynxes got their food straight after the wild cats. They quietly sat underneath the bridge waiting for the rangers and I was lucky to capture them on photo. Aren’t they little posers? I was actually really surprised that the rangers walked right into the enclosure to feed them. The lynx might not look big in the photo, but they do in real life. There’s no chance that I’d go in there and feed them out of a bucket. Meat over the fence and bye bye would be my option! Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow wolf wolf

The wolves are one of my favourites and I think I’m not the only one who finds them absolutely fascinating. The Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow regularly offers night-tours where you can hear them howling at the full moon while an expert tells you all about them. I know from friends and family that these guided tours are not only great fun, but also really interesting and educational at the same time and I can’t wait for Amy to be old enough to join us on one of them. Our afternoon at Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow wolf enclosure unterirdisches Wolgsgehege

Amy loves animals and being outdoors so much and I was surprised that she didn’t get tired or wanted us to carry her, but I guess things just were too exciting for her. She raced from one enclosure to the other, waved each animal goodbye and had an absolute blast.
Our afternoon at Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow toad stool fliegenpilz

Even Ben got really excited at one point: He discovered his first toadstool in free nature. Pretty crazy seeing that he’s 33 years of age, but he’s just such a city boy that he’s never come across one of them before our trip to Germany. I actually thought he was having me at one point, but I do think he was really being serious.Our afternoon at Natur und Umweltpark Güstrow deer RehAll in all, we had another fabulous day at the NUP and I just can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a great place for families with young children and due its size it never gets crowded, which makes a refreshing change from traditional zoos.

If you want to check out what else the NUP has to offer, here’s the English version of their website. Tickets cost around £7 for adults and £3.50 for children from the age of 3-16. Webcams for some of the other animals can be found here.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall Learning for LifeClarinasContemplations

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X-Factor – love or hate?

xfactor judges 2013“Hate” is such a strong word yet we seem adamant on hating on people these days, people, who quite frankly, we don’t know from Adam.

So, where does this apparent anger come from? Some are seeing it as an actual emotional investment in people we elevate, with lifestyles or talent we may envy. A good example of this is people’s obsession with X Factor. We see them on the television and imagine that the edited TV version of that person is someone we actually know. The next thing we know, we feel our blood boil, we hate James Arthur as much as we hate our ex boyfriend and we soon start searching for comprehension of this anger. We go on Facebook and realise that thousands of people also share this anger; you must therefore be normal right?

Apparently so. Social media has become something of a phenomena for people jumping on the hate-bandwagon, campaigns of disdain towards people we don’t know have become part of our every day lives and psychologists are seeing it as something of a revelation. Much like any form of hatred, this anger is actually a sign of caring too much and creating an emotional investment in the shows themselves. It is this element of humanity that people are now trying to cash in on. Places like are recognizing this cheerful disdain as a new sort of industry and people are starting to tactically bet on talent shows like they would a sport.

Their direct dislike for one individual increases their affection for another and weighing up the popularity of the loved and the hated becomes something of an art-form. X Factor is very much evidence of this claim. People who are terrible become “the favourite”, as the public jump on the bandwagon of obsession, one it would seem that has been put in place by the haters. It makes people intentionally ironic or controversial with their favourites, simply knowing how others dislike them.

It would seem that this hatred is only adding to the cult of the chosen celebrity. As they say “All press is good press” and it would seem that hate campaigns are proving this point.

What do you think about the X-Factor? Are you a fan or do you avoid it and who is you favourite contestant of all time?

Disclosure: This post was brought to you by Juliette Duprès


Kids Capture The Colour Competition

blue green redwhite


A couple of weeks ago, Amy was sent a camera to take part in Travel Supermarket’s ‘Kids Capture The Colour Competition’. She loves taking photos and looking at them, in particular her little photo album with photos of all her family, so I thought she would have a lot of fun with the task of taking 5 photos featuring the colours blue, green, read, yellow and white.

At two and a half, she is quite good with her colours, so this part of the task didn’t pose a problem, but Amy is also a little whirlwind, so we hand dozens of retakes, because either her object had moved, she had moved or the picture was completely blurry.

Amy’s biggest problem wasn’t finding objects to take photos off, but using the camera. It was quite small and Amy struggled a little pushing the buttons and not moving the camera, so we took the majority of photos with my Canon 40D. To make things a little easier for Amy, we popped it on Auto Focus and I helped her hold it as it does get quite heavy for little ones – no secrets here. Oh yes and I obviously cropped the photos and added the writing to them ;)

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Retirement homes: Living later life independently

pros for retirement homesThe one thing that is certain about later life is that you will probably spend much of your working life planning, financing and looking forward to it. Every one of us will have a definite idea about how we would like to lead our life after the responsibilities of working and family life have slipped from our shoulders.

However you wish to lead your retirement years it is important to make provision and plans from as soon as you can. The more financial wriggle room you give yourself the better, especially if you have grand plans to travel.

One of the biggest decisions you will have to make will be how and when you should move from the family home, downsize to a more affordable and realistic apartment or retirement property and release that all-important wealth accrued over the years.

Keeping it real but thinking laterally 

As your retirement years approach the most effective weapon to employ is a good dose of realism. The more realistic you are about what you can afford and what you will be able to do, the better your later life will be in the long term.

There are financial advisers who can help you with planning your finances, but it helps to have an idea of how you would like to live during later life before you start planning how to fund it.

Thoroughly modern retirement homes

You will find a wide range of good-quality providers of retirement properties based throughout the UK. These properties are usually set in self-contained, secure and convivial complexes, which offer an independent life lived on your terms.

The best of the bunch offer top-notch apartments to retirees and some, such as McCarthy & Stone, offer apartments for both those who are wholly independent and those who require assistance.

Each apartment is well thought-out and specially designed to meet individual needs.

The great thing about companies such as McCarthy & Stone is that they offer a number of other services, including professionals to guide you through the sale and purchase of your properties, financial advisers who can explain the intricacies of  equity release schemes, benefit advisers who can help you work out your state benefit entitlements, and resale teams for when you decide to sell your retirement apartment.

Positively forward-thinking

Such retirement homes are there to make your later life as enjoyable as possible. Forward-thinking in their design, they offer self-contained apartments, run by staff and a manager 24 hours a day.

There are lounges where you can meet neighbours in social gatherings, quiet areas for contemplation and guest suites for when family want to stay over. In fact, every consideration is taken care of. Security is top-notch too, so you can happily go out and about in the knowledge that your new home is as safe as houses.

Have you thought about later life yet? How would you like to live?

Disclosure: This post was brought to you by Kira. Photo credit: Francisco Osorio


Amy’s first lantern walk – Introducing a German tradition

lantern walk Laternenumzug

Autumn is the perfect season for lantern walks or Laternenumzuege, which is what they are called in German. It gets dark early, but it’s not too cold to spend the evening outside, so when we arrived in Germany, I knew that this was a German tradition that I really wanted to introduce to Amy. I have such vivid memories of my lantern walks as a child and it’s something that I really wanted Amy to experience too.

lantern walk laternenumzug martinszug laterne gehen

So the next day, we got Amy one of the traditional moon shaped paper lanterns that you can get everywhere during the autumn months and told her a little bit about going on a lantern walk. As you can see she was really excited about having some outside fun after dinner.

latern walk laternenumzug martinszug

Instead of lighting a candle inside the lantern, we opted for a toddler-safe battery-powered light that provided Amy with just as much fun and us with some piece of mind seeing that Amy dragged her lantern across the grass and everything. Had we gone for a candle, the lantern would have been on fire before we even left my parents’ road.

lantern walk laternenumzug martinszug

After a good 45 minute walk plus some fun time on the playground (apparently there’s nothing like going down the slide when it’s pitch black), Amy had enough of carrying her lantern. She let it drop more and more and we decided to go home singing Laterne, Laterne, the traditional German song for lantern walks. You find the lyrics under the picture below.

laternenumzug martinszug lantern walk

Ich geh’ mit meiner Laterne
und meine Laterne mit mir.
Da oben leuchten die Sterne,
hier unten da leuchten wir.
Mein Licht ist aus,
ich geh nach Haus.
Rabimmel, rabammel, rabumm.
Mein Licht ist aus,
ich geh nach Haus.
Rabimmel, rabammel, rabumm.

Laterne, Laterne
Laterne, Laterne, Sonne,
Mond und Sterne.
Brenne auf, mein Licht,
brenne auf, mein Licht,
aber nur meine liebe Laterne nicht.

Have you ever been for a lantern walk and did you sing the German song or maybe an English version? What’s your favourite lantern? The traditional moon or maybe something more unique or crafted?

 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


Jewel Candle Review

Jewel Candle review

I love candles and the warmth that they spread in your home, so when the lovely people from Jewel Candles got in touch and asked, if I wanted to review a candle with a twist, I just couldn’t say no. Jewel Candles are like ordinary fragranced candles, but they contain a hidden surprise that comes to the surface once you’ve burned your candle for about 15 hours: a piece of jewellery worth between £10 and £250.

Jewel Candles come in two different sizes: There is the small size that costs £16,95 and contains earrings and the bigger size that costs £24,95 and comes with a ring. I was sent a Jewel Candle in each size and  I have to say that I absolutely love them. I received the scents vanilla ice-cream for the small one and sweet cupcake for the big Jewel Candle and both scents are really pleasant and not overpowering at all.

As I’m nosy and a tiny little bit impatient, the vanilla ice-cream candle was the first candle that I lit. It’s the smallest candle and I thought, that the earrings should make an appearance quite quickly, but I had underestimated the stamina of the Jewel Candles. It took a good 20 hours until I could fish the little heat protected parcel out of the wax and unwrap my piece of jewellery, but I wasn’t disappointed at all. Okay, I didn’t find a set of £250 earrings, but my set (worth £15) is really lovely and actually something that I would have bought had I seen it in a shop.

Jewel Candle jewellery

I don’t know how my ring looks yet or if it will fit at all (sausage finger alarm), but I’m totally sold on the concept behind Jewel Candles. They are not only a great gift idea for birthdays, anniversaries or Christmas, but they are also a lovely treat that you can spoil yourself with. Considering that you are getting a lovely piece of jewellery with each candle and not to forget the excitement whilst waiting for the candle to burn down, Jewel Candles are really great value for money and definitely something that I will be getting back to when buying presents for Christmas or other occasions.

Disclosure: I was provided with two candles for the purpose of this review and if you keep your eyes peeled, you might discover a little Jewel Candle giveaway on the blog very soon.