A Residence Blog

Travel and adventure taking, memory and home making, parenting and play shaking, never faking, tales of family life.

A Residence Blog

Travel and adventure taking, memory and home making, parenting and play shaking, never faking, tales of family life.

Epic Explosions! The Energy Show comes to a stage near you


I took my good friend Sarah out for lunch to celebrate her birthday yesterday. Like me she likes to experience life at its fullest, so we always come away from our chats full of ideas, there are always ideas for books to read, games to play, shows to see, mountains to climb. Sarah has just seen The Energy Show with her 7yo at Nottingham Playhouse, and the great news is it is currently touring and will be running at the London Science Museum from July 22nd until August 3rd 2014. Continue reading

Everyone should see Tuscany via Villa Pia


We’ve never let kids stop us travelling, and seeing the places we want to see. Although with hindsight, in the early days, we made some rooky ‘new to parenting’ mistakes, our family holiday to Tuscany was one such trip. So when Villa Pia got in touch to share their amazing Tuscan family villa, I immediately thought ‘now that’s how I wished we had done Tuscany!’

At Villa Pia, we understand the difference between simply travelling with kids and experiencing an affordable luxury holiday that is truly family friendly. Our all inclusive, child friendly accommodation provides a welcome escape for families of all sizes. Your children will return home with exciting stories to relate to their friends, and you will come away feeling like you have had a proper break.

Continue reading

8 things I learnt at #ESVC Global Summit to end Sexual Violence


Jolie and Pitt reflect on the Vision not Victim exhibit – exploring women’s empowerment and role in ending sexual violence in conflict

ActionAid UK invited me to attend the GlobalSummit to End Sexual Violence, it was timely for me, as I explained here. My experiences of travelling to Ghana and Tranzania have changed me, Team Honk has shown me that change is possible and increasingly I feel fired up to change this world.  My Facebook stream tells me daily that women’s lives if anything seem to be getting worse, not better.  Here is in one of my first tweets from the event:

Shocked but not surprised. Violence against women is the most prolific and tolerated human rights abuse globally. #timetoact @ActionAidUK

— Penny Alexander (@AResidence) June 12, 2014

Continue reading

Roast vegetables and halloumi


The recipe for my roast vegetables and halloumi was requested on Instagram by mrsclairefarmer. Its the first time in a while my cooking skills have led to someone asking for a recipe, they used to a lot, so it was a wonderful reminder that I can actually cook stuff people want to eat, thanks Claire!

I’ve turned a bit of an exciting corner with food, after being in a rut, suddenly I am feeling inspired. I am trying to up my veg and salad intake, I am also trying to cut down carbs, I’ve started to explain what I am doing on my Facebook page here, if you want to know more. Continue reading

The art of garden containers


Garden containers are all about drawing your eye away from ugly steps, manholes, drains, empty walls, unloved corners and unweeded areas. They are great for keeping herbs close to the back door and for stopping mint in its run riot tracks.

In our pretty wild garden, more gaudy flowers are safe from harm and from sticking out like a sore thumb when in pots. Miss L insisted we have a dahlia, it would have looked a bit lost in the garden, but in a pot it looks beautiful, what do you reckon? Continue reading

Dream Theatre Break – The Wind in the Willows


My daughter and I have just finished reading The Wind in the Willows at bedtime. I remember my Uncle giving me the book for Christmas when I was a similar age, a beautifully illustrated edition and so it was a real joy to revisit the characters.

So I was really excited to discover that the Royal Opera House production of The Wind in the Willows, Directed and choreographed by Will Tuckett is returning to the West End this Christmas. 

I know it is really early, but in my head I am already planning a weekend in London around it.  I think it would be wonderful for the kids to see London at Christmas and the Wind in the Willows has to be the most magical layer of sparkling icing on that. A night in a hotel, twinkly lights and all the excitement of London town. Taking them to see Matilda in the West End was truly magical. Continue reading

1 Woman & her dog learn how to frost cupcakes with A Mummy Too


Emily from A Mummy Too is also my neighbour, so she popped over to show me how to frost cupcakes and to make some how to frost cupcakes videos for her blog. Emily is a real natural on camera and I think you will agree, working together makes Emily’s amazing baking really come to life. I learnt how to frost cupcakes with and without a piping bag and we had a real giggle.

Max the greyhound fans – Max only has a small part today – he’s complained to his agent - but in all fairness, it’s genius. Find it at 5.54.

A Mummy Too fans - read Emily’s how to frost cupcakes post and recipe.

I’m really honoured to be a finalist for the third year running in the Britmums Brilliance in Blogging Video Award, thanks so much for all the votes! I’m loving making video more than ever,   collaborating is so much fun and you learn so much working with someone else.

If you’ve enjoyed this please do subscribe to my You Tube channel, thank you.

Judging the Direct Debit Big Break for Charity Awards

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 13.31.25

This month is the last month in the Direct Debit Big Break for Charity. Since April I have seen so many charities working hard to share what they do to make the world a better place and harnessing votes. I’ve learnt a lot about what makes a successful online campaign and its been a brilliant opportunity to consolidate so much of what made Team Honk so successful when fundraising for Comic Relief.

Good Luck to all the June Big Break for Charity entrants and congratulations to May’s winners! There have been so many examples of great social media practice which I rounded up in this post: How do charities catch your eye online? This post: 10 ways to raise awareness online highlights lots of strategies that have worked, both for the charities involved and for my readers, who are an equally online-savvy bunch. Continue reading

How to make an Insect Hotel


Use acrylic paint to paint the stones and draw on with permanent marker – advice from Kirsty at Damson Lane.

We’ve been wanting to work out how to make an insect hotel for ages. Many years ago, when she was still with us, my Mum taught Miss L how to find insects using a stick to poke about and since then L’s been hooked. I was going to make one like this, out of pallets, after seeing one at Scampston Hall, in Yorkshire an amazing place we visited a few years ago, but never quite got round to it.


Then last month, my Dad was tidying the garden and piled up some old bricks in a corner, and the rest was history. Dad’s been trying to kill off the Russian vine that was planted in that corner for years now, they grow like mad, like ivy but faster, it was forever blocking the light into the garden behind us. He’s finally convinced it to stop, but putting the bricks on was the final nail in its coffin. Fortunately having some soil underneath makes it a perfect base for our insect hotel.

In between the raindrops over half term it began to take shape, Kirsty from Damoson Lane left some half painted rocks behind after making some videos for Netmums with me and L decided to make it into a sign for the insect hotel. We found an off cut of wooden edging to make a roof.


Over the half term we built a little bug hotel and planted marigolds and geraniums in these buckets from Wayfair.

This activity really caught their imaginations and over half term the kids were kept busy collecting snails and piling up foods and announcing to me they were ‘fully booked’ and had ‘so many customers!’

It rained so much it was hard to find dry materials, which is what insects need, so we’ve waiting for a dry spell for the next steps….

It needs lots of little sticks, canes with holes for ladybirds and straw to fill up the gaps.

It needs a polythene roof weighted down with sand and stones to keep out the rain, maybe some protruding roof tiles if we come across some – insects like it dry.

When the kids have finished fiddling I would love to make it a little longer, add some soil to that sand and stone roof and grow succulents on top, but shhhh, I’m waiting for my Dad to sort me some cuttings so I can convince them!

So it really is that simple, how to make an insect hotel! This is a lovely project to add to as you spot things, and you may be surprised how much of what you need you have already – old bits of wood, tile, brick, canes, sticks, plastic bag.



The RSPB have a huge campaign to give nature a home currently – How to make an insect hotel

Wayfair 4 piece les Roses Container Set

Kirsty Damson Lane painted stone craft


Happy families at Somerset Yurts – Video Review


Once upon a time we went to stay at Somerset Yurts, on a real dairy farm. We had no idea what a treat we were in for, this is glamping at its absolute – yet affordable – best. I am a firm believer in having a few luxuries when camping and home comforts, like this teapot and the mugs which were provided. You can get a full run down on the Yurt set up and family friendly facilities in the video below.


Mister G discovered leaping through hay bales in the barn, testing his physical limits. Mr A discovered relaxing in the cosy Yurt with the fire he built in the wood burning stove (and having 3G internet).


The kids enjoyed meeting new friends, both Annie’s children and children from the other 2 yurts.


Miss L enjoyed getting her glamping gear on, (thanks to Next who gave her the hat), and all of us loved our farm tour. You can meet the cows too in the video.


Men make fire, women make Instagram was the order of the weekend. Our yurting neighbours were the Mammasaurus clan, Somerset Yurts was an amazing place to hang out with friends with kids


The kids ran wild and free as the smoke rose from the BBQ  and later the camp fire.


Pictures help to tell the story, but video can take you there! Full tour of all the facilities and the days out included. Something happened to me too, I felt like a 16 year old at Glastonbury again, albeit with lots more home comforts, it was so utterly rejuvenating to be outdoors. I really couldn’t have pictured beforehand just how magical our experience would be – the whole family felt transformed. Can’t recommend this enough!



Emma, Mark and family are lovely and made us feel so at home, so do check out the Yurts and tell them we sent you!

To book Somerset Yurts

You can hire a yurt, or a pair,  or even all four and have the field to yourselves – perfect for a special occasion.

Visit the site Tweet Facebook Instagram Pinterest

e: emma@somersetyurts.co.uk
t: 07811 350 176

Days out

Fyne Court - Gorgeous National Trust gardens and tea shop with a real focus on play for children.


Cheddar Gorge – we decided the caves were incredible but indoors and it was far too nice to be in a dark cave, so we just paid a few pounds to walk along the gorge instead, worth it for the amazing views. Its a long but incredible circular walk so pack a picnic and supplies. We failed on that so just walked most the way up and down again.

Burnham On Sea beach – the tide was a long way out when we went but the kids enjoyed playing in the sand, chips and ice creams. Lyme Regis is under an hour away on the Dorset coast which I would definitely recommend from childhood memory.

There are lots more ideas here 

I’m really honoured to be a finalist for the third year running in the Britmums Brilliance in Blogging Video Award, thanks so much for all the votes! I’m loving making video more than ever, and the kids seem to be getting as much out of it as I do.

If you’ve enjoyed this please do subscribe to my You Tube channel, thank you.

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