Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Spring window decorations

Spring is on the way! Well, I'm trying to convince myself at least that it's starting to feel a bit warmer! To celebrate we made this easy Spring hanging decorations to display in the window, also a great craft for using up some of those pom poms that we seem to accumulate in great numbers. Even very little ones can do this, and older ones can enjoy making up their own designs and patterns. If you don't have fabric petals, you can easily cut out some petal shapes from coloured card or tissue paper.

Hanging Spring flower decoration

Materials:

Thick cardboard, cut into circles (I used the bottom of a large mug as a template)
Ribbon - about 30cm length per decoration
Things to stick on - we used pom poms and fabric flower petals
Glue
Skewer and large needle

Spring flower decoration materials

Instructions:

Cut the cardboard into circles, we used three for each decoration.

Cover liberally with glue and decorate, making sure that you use plenty of glue especially underneath the pom poms. Harry liked the idea of making some Spring flowers using the petals, Mia went for a more random approach.

Spring flower decorations with petals and pom poms

Make holes with a skewer where the ribbon needs to go. Thread the ribbon through the holes using a large needle. I used shorter lengths of ribbon to join the circles (tied in a firm knot at the back) and a longer length for a loop at the top to hang. Mia's decoration hangs down in a simple line, Harry wanted to make his into a triangular shape with the flowers close together.

Hang up and enjoy! I used some suction cap hooks to attach the decorations to the window, but you could just use the ribbon to hang them from a window handle or a hook on the wall. They are currently brightening up our kitchen with their cheerful, bright colours!

Spring flower window decorations

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Book review - Confessions of a Mother Inferior by Ericka Waller

Confessions of a Mother Inferior review

"Peta has three children under five, a job she hates and a tummy that looks like Jabba-The-Hut. Her (quirky) daughter has just started school and it's not going very well. Her husband comes home less and less since employing his young blonde secretary and the only person she wants to talk about it all with is no longer around to hear her. She tries to keep up with a village full of perfect mothers and happy marriages but quietly her chaotic world is falling apart by the second. Can she save it and herself in time?"

I am in complete awe of anyone that can write a book, and especially people with young children, I just can't imagine finding not only the time to write, but also the thinking space in order get to grips with the complexities of working out the plot to a whole novel. Ericka Waller writes a fantastic blog at Mum in the South, and Confessions of a Mother Inferior is her first novel, published through Britain's Next Bestseller. You can read her inspiring story of how she got published here.

I found the book easy to read, and completely engaging from the outset - given the opportunity I could have easily read it all in one go, I was quickly drawn into Peta's world, and was eager to keep reading to find out what would happen next. I knew that there was a plot twist coming, but it kept me guessing until the end.

The book is full of emotion - at times hilarious as Peta struggles through the reality of everyday life with young children, and at times full of sadness as Peta mourns the loss of her close friend and faces the reality that her family may be falling apart.

If you are a Mum with young children then you will definitely be able to relate to Peta's life, the school run dramas, how life changes when you become the main at home carer to small children and the exhausting and challenging every day reality of life with little ones. And even if this isn't you, it's still an enjoyable read that keeps you interested and wanting to read more.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Playing the #MinsGame - a February declutter challenge

Towards the end of January I was tagged by my friend Cherry to take part in a February declutter challenge. She proposed the Minimalism Game, the idea being that each day you remove the same number of items from your home as days in the month. February is a good month to take part, because with fewer days the final goal is a little more achievable - although by the end of the month an incredible 406 items will have been decluttered!

I did bend the rules slightly. It just wasn't practical for me to make a trip to the charity shop every single day, so the clutter stacked up in bags until I was able to remove it. I was away from the 14th - 19th February, so that was 99 items that I needed to declutter in advance, and I also pre-decluttered for some of the higher numbered days towards the end.

I decluttered all sorts of things, from earrings to a fireguard, old glasses to a breadmaker. I found at least five pairs of my trousers with a hole in the knee, as well as several pairs of shorts that are no longer decent, even for the beach. Many of the items were children's clothes, toys and books that they have grown out of - at least with small children there is never a lack of things to be passed on - and I hope that they will have found nice new homes via the charity shop.

#minsgame decluttering game
Some for the doorstep clothes bags, some for the charity shop!

I was amazed how easy I found it. I like to consider myself fairly decluttered, but I think the pressure of actually listing out my decluttered items forced me to consider getting rid of things that had survived previous decluttering rounds.

It has made an enormous difference. I noticed it in particular when I was packing for our holiday. I could grab pants, vests and socks from the children's drawers, and knew that all the ones I had picked up would fit them and that they would wear them. It was also an opportunity to declutter further - when packing for Harry, among his minimal collection of clothes I discovered another 7 t-shirts that no longer fitted him! I've managed to fit all my paperwork into my filing cabinet, when previously I had papers piled up on top of it, and I now know exactly what craft supplies I have, inspiring me to pick some of them up again.

The challenge has freed up cupboard and drawer space that I can use to store things in temporarily instead of having them lying about the house. I feel lighter emotionally, and I like to think that I've done some good by donating good quality items to the charity shop.

In fact I've enjoyed playing the Minimalism Game so much that I'm planning on carrying it on into March. I don't know whether I'll get to the end - with a further 90 items to find the 31 days of March will require a massive total of 496 things to leave the house - but decluttering is a continuous process and even if I just manage a few things a day it will still make a difference.

Cherry has written about why she is taking part, along with some other thoughts about the challenge here, and you can read a blog post written at the beginning of the challenge by another one of my fellow players here - Fresh for February from The Vicar's Wife.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Book review and giveaway - Oksa Pollock - The Heart of Two Worlds blog tour

Today I'm taking part in a blog book tour for Oksa Pollock - The Heart of Two Worlds. The Heart of Two Worlds is the third book in the Oksa Pollock series (the first two being The Last Hope and The Forest of Lost Souls) by Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf. There are six books in the French series, and The Heart of Two Worlds has just been translated and published in English. 

The series follows Oksa Pollock, who has just moved to London with her family, when she discovers that she has special powers. She finds out that this is because her grandmother was a princess in another land, Edefia, and Oksa has inherited her gifts. Oksa is now the last hope of the group of Edefian survivors, and the series follows her as she leads a group of other survivors as they fight against their evil leader, in a world populated with exciting spells, supernatural goings on and mystical creatures.


If you like the sound of the series, I have a copy of Oksa Pollock - The Heart of Two Worlds to giveaway! All you need to do is enter via the Rafflecopter form below (please see the Terms and Conditions at the bottom of the post)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I'm taking part in the Oksa Pollock - The Heart of Two Worlds blog tour! You can see a list of all the blogs taking part below, do pop over to see what they are sharing about the book each day!

Oksa Pollock Heart of Two Worlds blog book tour

Giveaway Terms and Conditions

The giveaway prize is a paperback copy of The Heart of Two Worlds by Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf

As a mandatory entry into the giveaway you must leave a blog post comment telling me what you are reading at the moment. If you are leaving a comment as Anonymous or using a nickname, please leave your full name in the comment (and if possible a Twitter handle or e-mail address) so that I can moderate entries. 

 The giveaway is open to UK residents only. 

The giveaway closes at midnight on Friday 6th March 2015. All entries to the giveaway must be received via the Rafflecopter form above. The winner will be chosen at random through Rafflecopter and invalid entries will be removed. If the winner does not respond within 14 days I will redraw and reallocate the prize. One entry per person, no third party or automated entries. There is no cash alternative. 

I received a copy of the first three books in the Oksa Pollock series in exchange for a review and giveaway. 

Book review - T-Rex Terror from Parragon

T-Rex Terror is a part of the Dino Supersaurus range from Parragon, and a few months ago I reviewed another book in the series, the Dino Supersaurus Boxset. T-Rex Terror is a comic strip storybook, written by Timothy Knapman and illustrated by Tim Wesson. It is great for children that are reading independently, with the comic book style making it particularly good for those that are intimidated by books containing large blocks of text.

T-Rex Terror from Parragon

Harry grabbed this book as soon as he saw it. It's the first book that we have in this format, and it clearly caught his eye. I wasn't sure what he'd make of it, but he absolutely loved it and read it over and over. This story introduces us to the Supersaurs - four ordinary dinosaurs endowed with special powers after being struck by a radioactive meteorite. As well as fighting crime in New Dino City, they must also deal with the evil T-Rex, who wants to destroy the Supersaurs and rule the world.

T-Rex Terror book review

It's a fun story, which Harry really enjoyed, and so I'd definitely recommend it!

I received this book to review from the publisher as a Parragon Book Buddy. However they have not paid me for this review, and they do not exercise any editorial control over my review or anything else on this site. T-Rex Terror retails for £5.99. 

Friday, 27 February 2015

Book reviews - Gorgeous picture books from Flying Eye books

This week I've been looking at some gorgeous new picture books for children from Flying Eye books.

Beautiful Birds by Jean Roussen and Emmanuelle Walker

Beautiful Birds picture book review

Beautiful Birds is a large alphabet book, filled with stunning illustrations of the world's most beautiful birds. A playful poem leads readers through the book, accompanied by bright and cheerful pictures.

Beautiful Birds picture book inside

Many of the birds, like ducks and flamingoes, will be familiar to everyone, others, like tanagers and kakapos are less well known. It's an educational book, both a classic alphabet book and a way to teach young children about the bird kingdom. I think that it's equally suited to younger toddlers that will enjoy the rhyming text and colourful illustrations, as well as being a wonderful book to share with older children and even adults that are interested in all the different types of bird.

Beautiful Birds picture book from Flying Eye

The book itself is sturdy with lovely big pages and bright neon colours that really pop. It's a wonderful book to keep on the bookshelf to browse through.

Black and White by Dahlov Ipcar

Black and White picture book review

Black and White tells the story of a little black dog and a little white dog that are friends. They play together, and they dream of adventures beyond their wildest imaginations.

Black and White picture book from Flying Eye

The rhyming text follows them as they play during the day, and at night they dream of black and white creatures and places before telling each other all about them the next day.

Black and White was originally published in 1963 during the height of the US civil rights movement, and was intended to promote equality within the turbulent political landscape of its time. This edition contains the original artwork, printed using a limited palette of just a few colours on each page.

It's a beautiful book. Although the story would be appreciated more by older toddlers and children, I know that my son in particular was fascinated by high contrast images in books from just a few weeks old, and I would have loved a book like this to share with him when he was first starting to focus on books. The text flows beautifully, and it's a pleasure to read aloud.

I received copies of these books to review.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

What to do with old diaries?

I'm currently decluttering. I'm coming to the end of a February decluttering challenge (more on that to come!) and I'm also following a year long organisational programme - Declutter 365. I've always thought that I was quite good at getting rid of things, but I'm amazed with some of the things I've been keeping that I'd forgotten all about.

One thing that I unearthed recently was a big box of my old diaries. I did know that they were there, but the box had been pushed to the back of the wardrobe and I'd not seen it for a while. This is just a few of them...

Pile of old diaries and journals

I started keeping a diary around 1990, in my final year at primary school, and carried on pretty much until I went to University in 1998. There is a 2002 diary in the box, but I gave up around March that year. I always used A5 hardback diaries, beginning with two days to a page and working up to each day being an entire A5 page. I usually filled the page, and I stuck in various tickets, free stickers from magazines, and ephemera as well.

The diaries themselves are mainly pretty boring to be honest. They contain detailed descriptions of what I got up to in each lesson at school that day, along with plenty of teenage angst which makes me cringe when I read it back. It's like reading something written by a different person, and I can't believe that I got myself so worked up over such little things.

My instant reaction was to bin them, as I find them very difficult to read back. But when I asked for opinions on Instagram, almost everyone said I should keep them! I would hate for anyone else to read them though, so a note to family and friends - when I'm gone, burn them!

Although I stopped keeping such detailed diaries, I still kept a holiday journal with long accounts of our travels. But on my birthday last year I began keeping a diary again. I have a Five-Year Memory Book where I write just a few sentences each night about what I've been up to that day. In years to come I can bore Ram before bed with details of what we were up to on that day in previous years. I also have my Smash Book, which I've started to use as a way to keep a few notes about memorable days and holidays, as well as a place to stick in tickets and other daily life ephemera. This is a really quick double page spread that I did the other day for our recent holiday to Disneyland Paris:

Disneyland Paris Smash Book pages

Do you have an embarrassing box of old diaries? I'd love to know what other people do with them! I can't help feeling that I'd feel much happier if I just binned the whole lot, but I don't want to regret it!
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