Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The garden in June

We've been enjoying some lovely sunny days lately, and I've been trying to make the most of the garden, both by myself during the day and with the children after school. I'm not much of a gardener so we don't really have any flower beds, it's usually as much as we can do to keep the grass cut and stop the weeds from completely taking over!

Last year we bought some new garden furniture which I really like and has had a lot of use. It wasn't too expensive but it's quite sturdy and easy to clean. We do enjoy lots of barbecues and it's nice to have somewhere to sit during the day that is comfortable. It's also very light so it's easy to move around the garden depending on whether you want sun or shade.

Patio furniture in the garden

Mia brought this plant home from school before half term, having been told it was a sunflower, and was under strict instructions to look after it so they could see whose had grown the tallest. After a couple of days it became apparent that it was in fact a nasturtium, so I've planted it out in a pot for her in the garden which she has decorated with my painted pebbles - she's very proud of it!

Nasturtium in a pot

This is our vegetable patch which is just off to the side at the bottom of our garden. My parents were visiting last week and I took advantage of my Dad having weeded it to take a photo. I had planted lots of things and was reluctant to weed it in case I pulled something up by mistake (that's my excuse anyway!). Unfortunately many of the things that I had planted didn't actually grow so he's planted me some more, I'm not very green fingered!

Vegetable patch in the garden

Finally, keeping an eye on our garden is Beowulf. I found him in our old house when I was sorting out the garden after we'd been living there a year or so. It had become a bit of a jungle and was quite overgrown, and I found him tucked away among the vegetation. I named him Beowulf, I'm not sure why but I think that we'd just watched the film. I wonder if his previous owners ever wonder where he got to!

Garden ornament

Monday, 19 June 2017

Our first camping trip of the year to the New Forest

Over the hot weekend we enjoyed our first family camping trip of the year to the New Forest. Since our first trips a couple of years ago we've spent a few nights at a time in the forest, staying at either Ashurst or Hollands Wood. Ashurst is slightly closer to us and feels a bit more open, to us Hollands Wood feels more foresty. Either site is lovely though, and for this trip we chose Hollands Wood Campsite, staying for one night.

We arrived on the Saturday in the early afternoon, a little later than usual as the children were taking part in a parade at home. It was very hot, but under the trees it was lovely and cool. After we had put up the tent, something that gets easier every time, the children busied themselves close by, looking for bugs in the tree trunks and undergrowth and building pretend fires with the sticks.

Looking for bugs in the forest

The children also sat still for ages reading their books which was lovely, I even had a little snooze! Then we headed out for a short walk for some tree climbing. We had a barbecue by the tent, then went over to the large open area for some football and frisbee. At this time of year it stays light so late that you can really make the most of the day. Mia was tired first and headed to bed but Harry stayed up reading as late as we did - way past his bedtime but he was so contented that we didn't have the heart to put him to bed!

Reading in pajamas by the tent

The next morning fortunately the children slept until a reasonable time - all that fresh air worked wonders! While we were packing up Mia built herself a little shop on the tree trunk, I loved seeing how her imagination was sparked with the natural bits and pieces that she found around her.

Setting up a forest shop with natural materials

I made a little video of some of the fun that we had in the forest, enjoy! We hope to be returning very soon.

If you want to try camping with the family you might like my post with some tips for trying out family camping!

Friday, 16 June 2017

Those Sainsbury's Lego cards

For the last couple of weeks I've found myself immersed in a new obsession - desperately trying to complete two Sainsbury's Lego trading cards albums. I'm sure that most people reading this post will be familiar with them! Our first encounter with the cards was when my parents sent some packets to the children in the post. They were thrilled with them, they divided them up fairly and only had one duplicate between them, and played all sorts of games. They are really fun cards, each one depicts a different mini figure and they can also be used for games like snap, dominoes and scissors, paper, stone.

But the main reason for collecting them is to trade them with others and slot them into the special album. A couple of weeks later we went to visit the other set of grandparents, who had another stack of cards for them and also the albums. The children now had plenty of cards, but of course once we'd sorted through them, taken out duplicates, and made sure that both albums were as full as they could be, they still had lots missing.

Sainsbury's Lego trading cards

I started to notice that parenting forums like Mumsnet were full of threads with parents busily swapping cards for their children, and Facebook was full of posts from people looking for the last elusive cards. I had promised myself that I wouldn't get swept up in it, but I couldn't stop myself as my perfectionist tendencies kicked in, and I knew that I'd have to try my very best to complete their albums.

I contacted a couple of friends that I knew were regular Sainsbury's shoppers and would be collecting the cards. Thanks to their generosity I was able to fill lots of gaps in the albums, but there were still a few left that I just couldn't find.

As the obsession with completing the albums grew, I started to wonder who was most bothered about the cards, me or the children. They did take their pile of swaps into school along with a list of the numbers that they needed, but they weren't very successful and seemed to come home with fewer cards than they started with. Then as the number of cards required finally began to dwindle to a manageable amount it began to seem even more important. I sent out messages to family and e-mailed around the school mums. Fortunately I wasn't the only Mum out there working hard on behalf of their children! Thanks to a friend of my sisters, we finally slotted in the remaining four cards at the weekend. We still have a small pile of swaps left, and so I've been keeping an eye on our local Facebook group to offer out any that people desperately need to complete the collection, as a way of paying back the generosity that we've had from others.

The children are thrilled with their completed albums and they both love looking through them, so I think that they are appreciative. The albums really are very good, with lots of interesting facts and reading on different topics. It must have been a really successful promotion for Sainsbury's, as it's definitely been a hot topic of conversation both online and offline - but I must admit that I am hoping they don't run it again!

Children with completed Lego card albums

Have your children been collecting the cards? Have they completed their albums yet, or has it been you doing all the work?

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Collecting things

When I was young, I remember that all my friends collected something which they could bring back as a souvenir from holidays and days out and keep on display in their rooms. Some collected erasers, some pens, and my collection was keyrings. As a child, my Dad built me special display racks to hold them, using planks of wood and cup hooks, and I took great pride in arranging them my colour and type.

I've thinned down my collection over the years and I now keep them in a pretty tin, but I love going back through them and reliving the memories of where I bought them. Some of them are now attached to bunches of keys that I use regularly. Even though I don't officially collect them any more, from time to time I still pick one up if I've visited somewhere particularly special.

Keyring collection in a tin

I still remember the excitement of visiting the gift shop after a day out and choosing my keyring. Sometimes there was a limited choice, and sometimes there was a huge range. Where possible at first I would try and buy an embossed blue leather keyring with the name of the attraction. In later years I tended towards plastic ones. I liked to buy matching sets if I could, and I was thrilled when I was able to find matching plastic keyrings from three of the Disney parks.

Plastic Disney keyrings from the 90s

I've been trying to interest the children in a collection. Mia isn't particularly fussed (although she has plenty of plastic nick nacks and stuffed animals building up in her room), but Harry showed an interest and he decided that he would like to collect magnets. So the last few times we've been on holiday we've treated him to a magnet from one of the tourist tat shops (Mia generally comes out with another stuffed toy). He chooses ones that are interesting to him, the bigger and more colourful the better, and he proudly displays them on his radiator.

Child's magnet collection on radiator

These days I still like to collect things. I wrote a little bit about the things that I bring back from my travels, and I have a huge collection of leaflets and postcards from places that we've visited all around the world, neatly sorted in boxes by country. I also like postcards, especially the free advertising ones that you can sometimes find at the cinema or in hotels, and I have lots left from my student days when I used to stick them up all over the walls. I keep ticket stubs, programmes and nice paper bags, and selected printed ephemera relating to current events like the Royal Wedding, or the release of a popular film or book. The main thing about my collection now is that it is mostly free, and easy to dispose of if I feel the need to cut it down! I also have a collection of craft things, in particular buttons, pens and felt, but I do use it regularly so it's not too bad.

Did you have a collection as a child? What do you collect now?

Monday, 12 June 2017

Painted stones

Living near a pebbly beach, there is never a shortage of pebbles for crafting. Our garden has several gravel borders, and this is where I put the pebbles that make their way back from the beach in buckets and handbags. They are large and small, smooth and rough, and in a variety of different colours and shades.

I've been wanting to paint pebbles for a little while now, and I decided that now was the time. I collected together a selection of different pebbles. They aren't too large, they measure around 2-3 cm in diameter, and I chose smooth ones with a nice shape to them that were fairly flat on each side.

I painted the pebbles using gouache paints, as I had a nice selection of colours. They leave a flat, smooth surface. You could also use acrylic paints, which would give a shinier and more textured finish. When the paint had dried I finished with a layer of thin varnish.

The design on the pebbles is very simple - a yellow centre, coloured petals and green background. I left some space around the pebbles, so you can still see the original colour of the stone underneath, although it is made a little darker with the varnish. The white dots are made using a Posca Pen - a really useful crafting product which I've used before to decorate wooden Christmas decorations. The white showed up really well ever on the darkest backgrounds.

Painted pebbles with flowers

Some of the dots around the edges of the petals were painted before the paint had completely dried. This meant that some of the paint colour seeped into the white, making it look as though a paler version of the colour had been used. I waited until the paint had dried completely before making the dots on green, so they showed up as a brighter white.

Brightly coloured painted pebbles

They probably aren't sturdy enough to last very long outdoors, but I'm thinking of displaying them in a flowerpot which is sheltered in the veranda of our summer house. They were so quick and easy to make that I don't mind if they only last the summer - I can make more next year!

Friday, 9 June 2017

A Hama bead flower bouquet craft

Hama bead bouquet craft

After the Hama bead wreath that I made recently, I decided that I enjoyed making Hama bead flowers so much that I'd make some more for another flower themed decoration! My previous flowers were made using a flower Hama bead pegboard, but these simple flowers just use a hexagonal pegboard and don't require too many beads. This is the design that I used:

Simple Hama bead flower design

I used three green lollipop sticks to make the stalks for each decoration. Two of the sticks are cut down so that the flowers fit nicely. The sticks are attached to the bottom with glue to hold them firmly in place, then the Hama bead flowers are glued to the tops of the sticks.

Hama bead flowers for crafting

I've found that as long as you leave the glue to dry thoroughly, the Hama bead decorations stick down firmly.

Hama bead flowers on lollipop sticks

When it was all dry I made some flowerpots for the decoration using some brown corrugated card. You could also use brown craft foam or just some thick cardboard. Alternatively you could just keep the Hama bead flowers on individual sticks, I bit like these decorative plant markers that I made using mini Hama beads.

Hama bead flower bouquet craft

The finished craft would look lovely stuck to the front of a card, perfect for Mother's Day or as a thank you card. You could also use BluTack to stick them up somewhere as a summery decoration, mine are currently brightening up my desk. They would also look nice with some ribbon attached so that they can be hung up.

If you liked this craft you might also like to see my Hama bead crafts page.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

The last few weeks of the Summer term

Now that the half term holiday is over, I can't believe that the children only have five weeks until they break up for the summer. These last few weeks have gone so quickly, and the end of term will be here before we know it. They have both had end of term tests, and although Harry still has a piano exam in his final week, things definitely seem to be winding down. Their school shoes are looking scruffy as I'm reluctant to buy them new ones that they will grow out of over the summer, and I'm anxiously watching the hemline on Mia's tunics - she only needs to wear them for one more year and so I'm hoping that I can get away without buying expensive new ones!

Summer dress and straw boater

I always spend this time of year fretting over school uniform. Admittedly last year was much more stressful, as they both started a new school in September and I had two complete sets to buy as frugally as I could. There will be a second hand sale at some point in the next few weeks so I need to get my list together for the school branded bits, then stock up on the remainder and the generic bits as soon as I can before the shops start to run low. This year I'm determined not to leave it until the last minute like I often do!

In my memory the summer term at school lasted for ages, and was mainly formed of long lunchtimes sitting out on the grass field, making daisy chains which we rushed to put into water as soon as we got home in the hope that they would last. I remember the excitement when it was warm enough to wear the summer dress, and it had to be very hot indeed for us to be allowed to bring a water bottle into school (there were just a couple of water fountains).

I hope that the children are making fun memories of their time at school, although quite different to mine. Some things are the same though - when I was at school one summer craze was a Coca Cola yo yo (I still have mine...), which is not all that different from a fidget spinner!

Two fidget spinners

The children's school is very close to the sea, and Mia's class have been spending alternate weeks having 'beach school' which sounds fantastic. They've been drawing the pier, looking for shells, making art and doing some beach science.

I'm really looking forward to the end of term and having the children at home with me all day. I love the long summer evenings when there is no pressure to get up the next morning (although of course that doesn't stop them rising at the crack of dawn...), no packed lunches to make, no homework, and no school run.

However I'm sure I will have forgotten my enthusiasm a few weeks in, when I realise that I have literally no time to myself and the only way to get a break is to let them play Minecraft for a bit, which ties up my computer so I can't even do any work! I'll be coming up with a list of activities like I usually do, and spending some time browsing Pinterest for inspiration. Hopefully we can organise some play dates and day trips with friends!

What are your memories of the countdown to the summer holidays?
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