Book Giveaway Winner


Folks, we have a winner for The Great PJ Elf Chase.

Drum roll please. And the winner is….lynn


Please send your mailing address to nina at and I will pop the book in the mail and send it off to you. Pronto!

Thank you everybody for participating in the give away. Keep your eyes open because I will be giving away another book. Soon. Real soon.


Autumn Activities to do with Grandkids

(NOTE: This is a guest post by Tracey Elliot. Thank you Tracey for sharing your ideas!)

manorTracey Elliott, owner of Pickwell Manor in Devon, England, knows the importance of being outside and enjoying the fresh air. With this in mind, Tracey compiled a Top Ten Tips on how you can keep the grandkids busy this autumn.

“It’s all about encouraging our TV and video game loving grandchildren to go outside. In case they don’t know what to do, we need to help them. Here are a few fun ideas to get them started.”

Make an autumn hedgehog. Think about how hedgehogs curl up for the winter and hibernate. Make its body out of mud or clay. Then use leaves, pine needles or spiky nutshells to create the hedgehog spines – you can collect these from your yard. Or, stick googly eyes onto pine cones. In our garden at Pickwell, we have a hedgehog box to help our real hedgehogs find somewhere snugly and safe to sleep for the winter.

Design a treasure hunt around the garden. At Pickwell, we have a permanent treasure hunt around the garden using ‘orienteering punches’ and a map. It is easy to make a quick treasure hunt by drawing a picture of something in your yard and then hiding the next clue in that place. Continue to create six or seven clues and at the final place hide some sweets or a little prize.

Make a fairy garden. Grab a heavy paper plate. Put mud on it to create the contours of land. Use moss to cover the mud so it looks like the grass. Add tin foil to make a river or pond and use small bits of twigs to make tress. Your grandchildren can use Lego figures or any other small toys they have to play with on their fairy garden.

Make autumn leaf bunting. We have made this for our garden at Pickwell. It looks lovely draped between the trees around our fire pit. It adds a special magical touch. Start by putting your string up between trees in your yard. Use a glue gun (plugged in with an extension cord making sure you supervise the grandchildren!) to glue the leaves to the string. This really does look wonderful with all of the gorgeous colors of the autumn leaves. You can also add some chestnut shells and other autumn things your grandchildren may find in your yard. The leaf bunting would be a great decoration at a bonfire party.

Campfire 1Have a bonfire. Talking of bonfires, children love to help build fires. At Pickwell, we have a fire pit area for families to enjoy, but you may want to find a sheltered area in your garden to make your own (just make sure that you are well away from sheds, fences and low-hanging trees). Why not teach them how to make their own fire and light it without using matches? You can get fire starter kits with tinder and strikers on the Internet. There is nothing better than snuggling up round a fire. You could even sing a quick round of ‘Campfire’s Burning’. If you need a reminder of how this old Scout song goes check out the YouTube version.

YouTube Preview Image

DampersMake ‘dampers’ and cook them on the fire. To make a ‘damper’ put plain flour in a bowl and mix in water until it makes dough.

Make long sausages of dough and twist them around one end of a long stick. Hold your ‘damper’ over the fire until cooked.

Encourage the grandchildren to cook over the glowing embers rather than the flames. Embers will brown the ‘damper’ whereas flames will burn it. And, the ‘damper’ won’t taste so smoky. You will know when it is cooked because it will easily slip off the stick.

Go conkers! Collect up conkers (horse chestnuts) and enjoy a good old-fashioned English game of conkers. Use a skewer to make a hole through the conker (this may need adult supervision). Thread string or a shoelace through the hole and then knot it to keep your conker on the string. Then, play conkers. The aim of the game is to, in pairs, take turns hitting your opponent’s conker with yours. The first one to smash their opponent’s conker is the winner.

Chutney-making. Autumn always makes me think of harvest (especially looking out over surrounding fields watching the farmer ploughing). It is a great time to be harvesting and storing food for the winter. Why not make chutney with the grandchildren. I love making windfall-chutney with the apples from our orchard. My children and I go out and collect them in a basket. (Or, you could take your grandchildren to the local farmers market if you don’t have an apple tree. This would be a great way to introduce them to the different seasonal foods.) Make this windfall-apple chutney recipe. I used to make this with my mum when I was a little girl.

Apple Chutney

3 lbs. fallen cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 chopped onion
2x 400g (14 ounces) tins chopped tomatoes
4 oz. sultanas (light brown, seedless raisins)
1.5 lbs. light brown sugar (use half the amount of sugar if you are using eating apples instead of cooking apples)
2 tsp. curry powder
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. teaspoons salt
1 pint malt vinegar

This is a simple recipe as you just put everything in a big pan and cook it for 2 ½ hours (stirring every now and then) until it is thick and a bit sticky (chutney-like!). You can eat it straight away, which is always a winner with grandchildren.

Once cooked, ladle it into sterilized jars and seal. My mum says you can keep the chutney for about a year like this in sealed jars but it never lasts that long in our house! Your grandchildren may want to decorate the jars with their own autumn-inspired labels and give the jars as a present to mums and dads or uncles and aunts.

tree facesMake tree faces. Find some squiggly mud (or make by mixing some dirt with water).

Grab a few handfuls of mud and push it onto the trunk of a tree. Form it into a round shape. Make a nose and mouth shape on it.

Then use different things you find around the yard to make eyes and hair (e.g. acorns for eyes and leaves or pine needles for hair).

If your mud is too sandy and won’t form a mud ‘splodge.’ you could always buy air-drying clay and use this instead.

(You’ll notice that the ears/horns in this picture are made from mushrooms.)

Tree faces


And one for indoors – have a board game revival. If you can’t get outside, rediscover board games.

It is a wonderful way to get everyone interacting and playing together. (We have board games and puzzles in each of our apartments here at Pickwell to encourage families to make the most of being together on holiday and it is always lovely hearing what fun they have had.)


Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a free children’s Christmas book. The giveaway ends at midnight on Oct. 23

Book Giveaway

Many families have the tradition at Christmastime of giving their children new pajamas on Christmas Eve. (I wanted to create that tradition in my family but for various reasons never did…)

The delightful children’s book The Great PJ Elf Chase is a story about a family that has that tradition.

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 5.44.18 PMHere’s the plot.

Meet the Taylor family. While the boys take their baths on Christmas Eve, Santa’s elves deliver new pajamas outside the bathroom door.

The brothers want to catch the elves who deliver the pajamas. They know the elves are sneaky and quick. Nobody has ever seen them.

The brothers want to change that. They can be sneaky, too. They want to catch the elves.

They set traps and even enlist McGee, their pet dog, with the hope that he will bark if he sees or hears anything suspicious.

Then come all of their escapades!

After the bath, they do find their pajamas. But the elves made a mess in the boys’ bedroom. The boys are off to check their traps.

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 8.37.02 PMWill they succeed? Will they catch the elves?

I’m not gonna tell! You’ll have to read it to find out.

The authors, Judy Voigt and Karen LoBello, are former teachers. They wrote the rhyming children’s picture book (for children ages 3 to 10) based on their own family tradition.

The book is a B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree, a Readers’ Favorite five-star review recipient, and a 2014 finalist in the National Indie Excellence Book Awards.

The book is available as a paperback, hardcover, and Kindle version. The paperback and Kindle version are available on Amazon.

They authors are currently running a special for the hardcover and activity book. You can get both of them for $22.95 on their website.

They also have a few activities on their website — coloring pages, finding the candy cane that is different, decorating a Christmas tree, and finishing a picture of Santa.

I will be giving away a copy of this book to one of my lucky readers Whoopee!

To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment and mention one of your family’s Christmas traditions.

The giveaway will go until midnight on October 23.

I will announce the winner on October 24.

You could start a great tradition with your grandchildren of reading this book to them during the Christmas holiday season. I can see it now — grandma snuggling with grandchildren on the couch, reading the book, and nibbling cookies. Sipping a cup of hot cocoa would be good, too!

So, post a comment to enter to win your copy of this fun children’s book.

Good luck!

Help! Help! I Need Help!

bright_boxes1A mailbox is a lonely thing.

So is a grandma whose grandchildren live faraway. Boo hoo . . .

I had a reader e-mail me for suggestions of things she could do for/with grandchildren who lived far away — especially teen-aged children. And especially with teen-aged grandsons.

She’s not asking much now is she? :-)

Right now, my grandchildren are 6 years old and younger. Most of my ideas are based around those ages.

So, I’m reaching out to you, Dear Readers. What have you done to stay connected with your over-the-river-and-through-the-woods grandchildren? What are some of your ideas and experiences?

Please post a comment and share your ideas. Let’s see how many ideas we can give her!

She’ll be checking here to see what you all have to say. (And so will I!)

Come on, Folks. Let those ideas come a-rollin’ in…