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.

Bargain Craft Kits for Kids

Great Summer Craft Kits tested

Summer Holidays are nearly upon us, time to stock up on some craft kits for kids. After taking to the internet last night to try to work out where we are going wrong when it comes to sibling arguments, I came away realising one thing I really need to do is to fill the house with distractions to keep my kids from falling into boredom and agitating each other.

They loved the last craft kits for kids we tested from Baker Ross, they worked a treat. My 5yo was kept really quiet sticking these foam shapes onto a mosaic coaster. They would be a great distraction for a journey, they are pre packed in sets ready to go and weigh next to nothing. Or perhaps a trip out, I am thinking one of those family gatherings in a nice restaurant that goes on just that bit too long for a 5yo. He likes that he can use it – it’s where his bedtime milk goes.


My 7yo got really into decorating her flip flop trinket box with the porcelain pens. She takes after her mum, won’t be long until she has filled it with treasure. I can’t bear the noise of the pens on bare porcelain, but it didn’t bother her in the slightest. Kept her busy for two twenty minute bursts. £4.50 for a box of four, porcelain pens £9.99 a set of ten.


My 5yo couldn’t wait to sew this camper van cushion and with just a little bit of me starting and finishing, he was able to do most of the sewing and loved sticking on the van’s features. My 7yo made a red one and they are both planning to have them on their bunks in our caravan. £4.70 for a pack of two kits and at least half an hour of happiness.

These jumping tubes are so simple, but my goodness they really caught their imaginations, we must have been at the table for half an hour coming up with new ideas. £2.25 for a pack of eight and half an hour’s peace!

I love these wooden sailboat kits, now that has got to be a wonderful way to while away a Summer day.


£2.75 for two, that’s an afternoon with my two sorted! We could set them to sail on the Trent…the boats, not the kids!


We’re heading off to our local Scrapstore too, as my son has a real thing for junk modelling and my daughter loves to explore the treasures and stationary, we came away with paper chase highlighters and Joules diaries last time, for £2 a basket. You can find your local one, using the link above.

Do you have any bargain craft tips? What have you got up your sleeve to soothe fractious kids this Summer? Which of these craft kits for kids do you like?

Top 10 Bee Friendly plants

10 bee friendly plants

We try hard to plant things the bees will enjoy, here are my Top 10 bee friendly plants, with a little dose of nostalgia because these plants hold lovely memories too.

Lavender for its smell. I have memories of running through my mum’s friends Oxfordshire garden as a child and lying in her hammock under the apple trees as wafts of it filled my nose. My mum used to walk my daughter though the garden when she was tiny, singing Lavender’s blue and rubbing the flowers under her nose.


Rosemary is another wonderful one for bees, we have the hugest Rosemary bush that I don’t have the heart to tame, it makes for fabulous BBQ skewers and a wonderful Sunday and Christmas Day roast.

Dad introduced me to Borage and it by far the thing the bees love best. It’s flowers are so delicate, fluffy and fairy like.


Dad also planted the Buddleia and although I took this photo before it bloomed, its an amazing one for bees and butterflies, and dens. I saw our first butterfly last week. I will always love blue and purple flowers best, although we have a white and two purple.


I have a thing for terracotta pots and Geraniums since our tiny first balcony garden on the seafront in Hove back in 2000, I dragged the plants and the compost up the stairs to the balcony for a little splash of colour. You can’t beat that simple combination for bringing an immediate shot of warmth. I had no idea they were good for bees until now. Although bees don’t see red so well, so I plant white and pinks too.



The  Jasmine and honeysuckle fight for space, to attract the bees, go for flowering White Jasmine though.


Roses are another classic for bees.


I would also love to add Foxgloves, Verbena and Teasels because they look incredible, part of winning kids over with plants for me is introducing things with cool structures, which teasels have.  The kids also want Fuchsia, they take me back to my Gran’s garden, like little dancing fairies.

For lots more bee friendly plant ideas I visited this site which has loads of ideas arranged by colour.

What would your top 10 bee friendly plants be?

Linking up with…


Play garden glamping and play tent giveaway

Garden Glamping for kids


Staying out for the Summer

Camp Bestival is one of the highlights of our Summer, my family fell in love with it, it falls on our anniversary and we kind of made a pact to go every year and give the kids the festival experience I loved as a kid.

But if we could I would stay out all Summer. So as soon as I saw this tipi over on Wayfair I fell in love. Why not try a spot of garden glamping?

If you are looking for some garden fun this summer then I have a play tent to giveaway, see the competition below.


Top tips for garden glamping:

I love fleece blankets, great for chilly evenings, lightweight to put in a bag for days out too, easy to wash and quick to dry.

Lanterns, candles with adult supervision make a camp so much more exciting, staying up late is so exciting. Torches and electric lanterns make a safer option.

Create an outdoor play basket with toy binoculars (or even toilet rolls stuck together and painted or a kitchen roll if you are playing pirates), bug hunting gear, bats and balls and bubbles.

Stock up on some garden games Quoits, sand pit, giant 4, giant pick up sticks, croquet, sack racing, giant chess, boules.

Bunting, including these fab Doodle Bunting you can write on, wash and then redesign!


The Giveaway

10 Great Play Tents
For more info on the play tents check out my Polyvore mood board: 10 Great Play Tents by penny-alexander 
To win a play tent of your choice (up to the value of £65), just follow the instructions:

1. The garden glamping giveaway is open A Residence subscribers, so if you haven’t subscribed you can do so here:

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurner


2. Complete the rafflecopter widget, it walks you through what to do, the minimum you need to do is leave a comment on your ideas for garden fun this summer, but there are options for further entries if you want them, and there is more help on rafflecopter if you need it here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have a great Summer and I look forward to all the great tips, I will be rounding the best ones up, so bloggers, don’t forget to include your blog link when you comment so I can link to you.

Win competitions at ThePrizeFinder.com – See more at: http://www.theprizefinder.com/content/kids-tipi-play-tent-wayfair#sthash.jdta6RF4.dpuf

House fantasy: Nature in the Home


Bring nature into the home

We went to Clumber Park last weekend, an incredible National Trust place in Nottinghamshire, with my friend from University days and her growing family. It’s a wonderful place to explore and you can read more about it from a family day out point of view over on Little Legacy.


Here on A Residence I want to talk about it from a house fantasy point of view. I talk a lot about how being outside makes me happy, about how if I had a religion it would be nature. So it makes complete sense to me to bring the outside in. It’s been a trend in interiors for ages, but what does it really mean?

At Clumber they playfully switched that trend, inside was out, low and behold we found a chaise lounge in the tree. ‘Is that art then?’ whispered my friend. We giggled nervously. The kids thought it was marvellous, who would live in a tree like that we pondered? A very well to do squirrel with a lot of nuts to crack? A wise and bookish owl in a velvet jacket?


I’ve since found out a previous inhabitant of the property imported some leopards but they were lost at sea, this is a way of remembering them, imagining them sprawled across the branches of the tree, as incongruous in Nottingham as a chaise lounge.

Back to the nature in the home, I think there are two ways to tackle this trend. Firstly there are some amazing, whimsical ideas out there things that just make you smile. Like this Forest Indoor Tree Seat.


I think these vases are perfect for all the little flowers the kids pick up on the way home from school, or for the odd bloom from the garden.


I love the idea of a drift wood mirror, helping me to drift off to sea side places in my mind.


I can’t quite cope with the idea of real antlers, but I love the idea of hanging my jewellery on these Antlers:


The second complimentary way to tackle this trend and to bring fab statements like these to life, is to bring real nature into your home, collect shells, feathers, stones, driftwood – all these make amazing ornaments with a tale to tell too.

For more nature in the home ideas, check out my Pinterest board.

Follow Penny’s board Nature in the home on Pinterest.

Do you have a house fantasy?

House Fantasy: MontCalm Hotel Style

A slice of hotel life

I feel I can share this post without guilt, because I have cleaned a lot of five star hotel rooms as a chambermaid in my student days. Hotels fascinate me, as I bleached tea cups and folded hospital corners I dreamed of one day being able to stay in them and vowed to always leave a tip. I noted all the details, they are engrained, I now have half a novel about life in a hotel.

Its a while since I did a House Fantasy post, but recently I had the pleasure of spending a weekend in London and staying a night at the Mont Calm and it inspired me. Here’s I am enjoying the Mont Calm before the storm of the conference with a glass of Prosecco courtesy of my room mate Jane from Practically Perfect Mums.



I have been to Britmums Live conference four times (for those not in the blogging know, it is is conference for bloggers) but this is the first time I have stayed at the Mont Calm, which overlooks the conference venue.

Given the convenience, that there is no need to take taxis, and that with some club rooms you get access to complimentary canapés and drinks and breakfast in the club lounge I would completely recommend it for the conference. It is also not as expensive as you might think, our room was £205 a night.

The MontCalm also makes an excellent base to explore London at a decent price for a 5 star hotel, it is a 5 minute walk to Moorgate tube on the Northern Line and close to the nightlife and amazing eateries of Shoreditch and Old Street.

That’s about as far as my London knowledge goes, it has been a long time since I lived there. But coincidentally I also had an amazing night out the weekend before in Shoreditch at the street food festival and at Barrio East bar and cantina, dancing in a caravan booth. I’ve also eaten wonderful Vietnamese, Turkish, Greek and Italian food here too, amazing eateries a plenty.


The conference was buzzing, I met some great people and it was great to be able to talk about my blogging journey and working with Wayfair. I’ve written up my notes on making a career from blogging here. I also found out more about Pinterest, so do come and follow me there and help me fathom it further. I’ve got a lovely collaborative family travel board which is filling up with great ideas.

Follow Penny’s board Family Travel on Pinterest.

It’s amazing to tuck yourself up in crisp white sheets and to have clean and sparkly sanctuary at the end of a very demanding day. A great room mate ready to dissect the day and giggle into the early hours helps.

The MontCalm give you your choice of room perfume, we had lavender pillow spray which helped to soothe us after a stimulating Britmums. While green wasn’t my favourite choice of colour way, it was soothing and I loved the sleek modern interiors, the dazzling bathroom and clever touches like an expresso machine.


If you want to recreate that look at home here are those ideas I picked out at Wayfair, for me it would have to be without the green, but I loved the gold and silver, the sleek black furniture, the luxury of satin throws and cushions, and the white cotton sheets.

So that’s today’s house fantasy. What would you steal – I mean as inspiration, not actually steal obviously - from a hotel room? What’s your house fantasy?

A slice of hotel life

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