Sunday, 29 November 2015

A day out at London Zoo with #youtubekids

At the weekend, we were invited to London Zoo for the launch of YouTube Kids.

Launch of YouTube Kids

YouTube Kids launched in the UK and Ireland last week. It's a free app which makes the YouTube experience safer and more accessible for young children, and we had a lot of fun at the launch party while we learned all about it!

Children at YouTube Kids launch event

Mia loves any opportunity to have her face painted, and so while she was being turned into a pink cat, Harry and I attempted to mould plasticine into something resembling Shaun the Sheep, one of the many familiar television programmes that is available through the YouTube Kids app. I think he did very well!

Sweet table and cake pops

We also enjoyed some delicious food - these cake pops were amazing, I wish I could get mine to turn out like this! The children had a brilliant time playing trains with the Fat Controller (or Sir Topham Hatt as he's known these days), meeting Postman Pat and an Octonaut, and the chance to see meercats, an armadillo and a donkey close up.

Meeting a donkey at London Zoo

YouTube Kids is a completely logged out experience, so it's not linked to a YouTube account and you aren't able to like, share, upload or comment on videos. The channels and playlists can be browsed in four categories - Shows, Music, Learning and Explore - and feature many familiar series like Thomas & Friends, Postman Pat and Teletubbies as well as those aimed at older children like Stampy and his Minecraft videos that Harry is currently loving.

Parents can choose whether to limit their children to the videos that the app has selected, or allow them to use the search function to find other videos that meet family friendly criteria. There is also a timer function, very handy! We've been using the app for a few days now and I've been very impressed with it. I know how easy it is in YouTube to click on to video after video and before you know it you are looking at something completely different. At least using this app you know that everything the children find will be family friendly. It's also really easy and intuitive for little ones to use by themselves, and packed with familiar programmes and characters.

Then we had the time to go out and explore the zoo. We'd not visited London Zoo since Harry was a little toddler, so we had a lot of fun looking around. Harry was interested to see the Reptile House where his namesake Harry Potter first discovered his ability to speak to snakes, and both children loved making friends with monkeys through the glass.

Children at London Zoo

Thank you very much to YouTube for inviting us along, we had a great day! You can find out more information about the app in this blog post from YouTube Kids, and if you have little ones I'd definitely recommend downloading the app and giving it a look.

YouTube kids logo

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Crafting for Christmas with Baker Ross

Christmas is a great time for crafting, whether you are making things for yourself or for others. We received a lovely box of Christmas crafts from Baker Ross to review and we've made some lovely things which will both make great Christmas decorations and that I hope will be appreciated by loving relatives this Christmas!

I really like these Reindeer Wooden Photo Frame Kits (£3.49 for four). They were very easy to put together and can also be personalised. The children drew pictures to go inside with a recipient in mind, which could easily be swapped for a photo. They have sturdy little feet to hold them upright, or you could also glue a magnet to the back for the fridge.

Reindeer frame kits from Baker Ross

Another lovely gift idea is these Christmas Bucket Buddies (£1.99 for three). Again they were simple to assemble and are nice, sturdy little baskets. I'm planning on filling them with festive sweets and treats as gifts. They would also make a nice decoration for around the home at Christmas, perhaps popped under the tree with some chocolates inside.

Baker Ross festive bucket kits

Mia really enjoyed colouring in some Christmas Personalised Door Hangers (£2.50 for eight) and because there are eight in the packet we had enough to pass onto some friends. The door hangers are made from sturdy cardboard and come in four different designs.

Baker Ross colour in door hangers

We also made these gorgeous snowmen from the Build a Snowman Kits (£2.95 for three). Along with a few Penguin Bean Pals (£5.96 for four) they will make a lovely festive display.

Baker Ross penguins and snowmen

Finally we received a pack of Penguin Stained Glass Effect Hanging Decorations (£1.99 for six). We haven't started these yet as I'm saving them for a play date nearer to Christmas, something that the Baker Ross kits are perfect for!

Baker Ross Christmas stained glass kit

I received these products from Baker Ross to review, prices were correct at time of writing.

Friday, 27 November 2015

How to make a simple crochet wreath

This Christmas I was asked by Turtle Mat to take part in their 2015 Christmas Wreath Making Challenge. I was sent a selection of crafty bits to make my wreath, and a voucher to purchase any extras. With my new love for crochet I decided to make my own crochet wreath, inspired by the gorgeous seasonal wreaths designed and made by Lucy at Attic24, and so I purchased some yarn in varying shades of green.

How to make a crochet Christmas wreath


Wreath base - I used a 30 cm flat wire wreath ring
Wadding (I used about 1/2 m)
Selection of yarn in shades of green, crochet hook and needle
Decorations - I used a robin similar to this one, artificial holly berries and felt holly leaves
Ribbon or cord for hanging

Crochet wreath frame and wadding


First cut the wadding into strips about 4cm wide and wrap around the wreath base. Overlap the end of one strip with the beginning of the next one, and make sure that it isn't wrapped too loosely so that the wadding stretches to fit the shape of the ring. Secure the last end with a few stitches, and stitch down any other parts where the ends of the wadding have come loose to make sure that the wadding covers the ring evenly. You don't need to worry too much about how it looks as of course it will be covered by the crochet cover, but it's worth trying to make it as smooth and even as possible.

Wrap wadding around wreath frame

I used a half treble crochet stitch as it works up quickly and doesn't have too many holes in it. I was glad that I chose a quick stitch as I was quite surprised by how long my strip of crochet needed to be - although it was only 20 stitches across I needed to make it nearly a metre long. I'm still quite new to crochet so my strip wasn't the neatest, in particular the edges turned out a bit uneven as I've not quite got the hang of keeping the same number of stitches, but fortunately this didn't matter as the edges are completely hidden.

Sewing up crochet wreath

When my strip of crochet was finished I wrapped it around the wreath and sewed it up at the back, passing the needle through the wadding a little bit as well to make sure that it was firmly secured. I'm quite embarrassed to share a picture of the back of the wreath as it's so messy, but here it is! (I also went to quite a lot of trouble to sew 99% of the ends in before realising that I didn't really need to as they could also have just been tucked in and hidden!)

Back view of crochet wreath

Then I added my accessories. The little robin has wires on it which I just poked through the crochet and wadding. I cut out some simple holly leaves from felt, and decorated them with a bit of green glitter, then I glued them in place along with some red fake holly berries. Finally I used some festive cord to create a hanging loop.

Crochet Christmas wreath detail

And here's the finished wreath, ready to hang! I'm not sure that I'm brave enough to put it on the outside of the front door though, I'd be too upset if it got wet or blew away!

Crochet Christmas wreath with robin

Turtle Mats sent me a box of crafting materials and a voucher to purchase the extra bits for my wreath. Amazon links are affiliate.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Gift ideas for crafty Mums

With Christmas approaching, I thought I'd take a look at some gift ideas for Mums that enjoy crafting. Crafting is something that can easily be put to one side when children come along and reduce the amount of free time available, but I've always found taking time to craft really important for relaxation and a sense of accomplishment. So whether you are buying for a crafty person or looking for ideas for yourself I hope there's something here that appeals to you!

Mini Hama beads

If you are a creative Mum then it's pretty much a given that you'll enjoy doing creative things with your children, and perhaps being inspired by the crafting products that they use. That's how I discovered Hama beads, and I particularly really love the tiny mini Hama beads. You can buy some lovely little kits like these Hama Mini Bead Owls or Mini Hama bead butterflies which are quite quick to make up. This isn't a craft to do around young children though, I've learned from experience how easily the boards can be knocked over and all your hard work destroyed!

Mini Hama bead projects

Colouring books and pens

One very popular craft that you can easily do around small children is colouring. I have quite a selection of colouring books now, and I was recently sent some lovely new ones from Phoenix Yard Books to try. The One and Only Mandala Colouring Book and The Second One and Only Mandala Colouring Book contain some lovely, detailed mandalas to colour in a range of styles. Mandalas are a traditional source of meditation and wisdom, and colouring them in is great for some relaxing creative time.

Colouring books for adults

If you enjoy colouring alongside your children I also love the idea of The One and Only Enormous Colouring Book for Adults. It's a large format book filled with gorgeous patterns that can be easily removed from the book and worked on by several people at once. We've been having a lot of fun colouring in together and it's lovely to see how differently everyone interprets the patterns.

Adult colouring with small children

Personally I like to colour with felt pens, I have these ones - Stabilo Cappi Fibre Tip Felt Coloured Pens - which are lovely to use and come in a good range of colours. For more detailed work though many people prefer to use coloured pencils, and you can get some lovely sets, like these Faber-Castell colouring pencils in a tin.

A cross stitch kit

Another craft which I've found good to get on with around small children is cross stitch. I like it because you can pick it up and put it down easily so it's good if you are constantly being interrupted, not like knitting or crochet where you have to concentrate on counting stitches! You can make some lovely samplers to display your baby's birth information like this Dimensions Birth Record Cross Stitch Kit. There are also some gorgeous cross stitch designs that you can use to decorate your child's room, like this The Stitching Shed Village Sampler Cross Stitch Kit. I chose to make a sampler for myself based on a historical design, and although it took me years and years I'm so proud of it!

Vintage cross stitch sampler

Classes to learn a new craft or skill

A session of evening classes would make a lovely crafty gift, especially for things like stained glass or pottery that are difficult to try out at home, and it saves having to invest in expensive equipment. And for me it's not only the monetary value of the classes that I'd appreciate but a set evening each week where I knew that my 'me time' was booked in!

Crafting with friends

You could also consider money or vouchers towards a crafty evening with friends. One of our local garden centres runs crafting evenings where you can enjoy a glass of wine while you craft, and pottery painting together is always fun. Some companies will loan a basket of materials so you can do pottery painting at home and then pay for what you have used, or you could give enough vouchers for a group of friends to go along together.

Pretty craft storage

Make it clear that these craft materials belong to Mum! For storing sewing supplies you could look for a gorgeous traditional wooden sewing box or a more modern printed fabric sewing box. If you are buying for someone that loves organising they might light a set of little plastic drawers to keep tiny bits and pieces safely out of the way of little fingers.

Fabric flower sewing box

A craft kit to try out something new

I love craft kits because they contain everything that you need for a craft, so if you give a craft kit as a gift you can be sure that the recipient won't need to go out and purchase any extra materials. How about a kit for something like Decopatch - I received this Decopatch Love And Hearts Kit a couple of years back and it kept me happily occupied for ages. I've also enjoyed kits for soap making and candle making which were quick and easy to use and gave lovely results.

Homemade soap

A kit to make something for the children

I've seen some gorgeous kits which have everything you need to knit or crochet a baby blanket like this luxury crochet baby blanket kit, or else I've already mentioned cross stitch samplers. I remember my Mum shopping at Clothkits when I was younger, and I still have the doll with clothes that she made me.

I hope that this gives you some gift buying inspiration for the crafty Mum (or indeed Dad!) in your life!

I received the adult colouring books to review but all other products have been purchased or selected by me without any incentive. Amazon links are affiliate.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

20 blog post ideas for crafty blogs

I love making lists, and I regularly brainstorm ideas for blog posts. Lately I've been spending a lot of time crafting and I think that this has been reflected more and more lately in the content that I've been publishing on my blog. So I thought I'd share a list of blog post ideas that I came up with for craft blogs, many of which would also work for blogs in other niches.

20 blog post ideas for craft blogs

1 - What you've been working on lately - A summary of your current crafty diversions along with in progress photographs. BeingMrsC does this really well with a regular crafty catch up post, it's especially good if you've been sharing the odd picture on social media as it lets your readers catch up fully with where you are at on a project.

2 - A list of current works in progress - Not necessarily things that you are working on at the moment, but a good way to keep a record of those dusty and unfinished projects stuffed in drawers that you really do intend to complete one day. Here's my list - Unfinished craft projects.

3 - A new craft that you'd like to try - Perhaps create a Pinterest board with examples that have inspired you, and then link to the board in your post. Pick out particular examples, along with photographs (make sure that you have permission to post them) and write about why this craft appeals to you, or what has stopped you from giving it a go. For example, I'd like to try quilling but I've been putting it off because I'm not sure what I'd do with the finished work.

4 - Pinterest Wins - Things you've made inspired by Pinterest that you were really proud of. Here are my Pinterest Wins!

5 - Pinterest Fails - Conversely, things that you attempted inspired by Pinterest that didn't turn out quite as well as you had hoped.

6 - How you store your craft supplies - Any storage solutions that you are particularly proud of? Or perhaps a wishlist of storage items that you'd like to own. Again, you could embed a Pinterest board where you've collected together some crafty storage ideas.

7 - Pictures of your crafting stash - Crafters love stash photos that they can compare to their own. They don't need to be particularly well organised or staged for the photos - just heaps of yarn, piles of washi tape or stacks of coloured paper that fellow crafters can drool over! If you dabble in lots of different crafts this could even form a series of blog posts!

8 - Update on a long term project - When I was working on my cross stitch sampler I posted regular updates about how I was getting on. It felt fantastic to be able to publish my final post with a photograph of the completed work, and of course link back to all the previous updates.

9 - A round up post - Group together a selection of your own blog posts that are linked by a common theme, perhaps seasonally or using the same materials in different ways. A great way to draw attention to older posts that would otherwise get lost in your back catalogue.

10 - What inspires you? - Share a photograph of a place or object that inspires you or gave you inspiration for a particular project, and write about it.

11 - How do you fit in your crafting? - Do you have to slot in your crafting time around other commitments, like work or family? What tips can you share about what works for you?

12 - Write a review - Review a piece of craft equipment that you use regularly, particularly a piece of expensive kit that people will be researching online. If you own several different tools that do the same job, for example different brands, compare and contrast them.

13 - Crowdsource for a post - Ask other people for their thoughts and options - Facebook is great for this, whether in a group, your blog page, or from your personal profile. You could ask people what in particular they enjoy about their favourite crafts, ideas on the best places to purchase materials and equipment, or to share a photograph of something they've made that they are particularly proud of. Offering a link back will generally get an excellent response from fellow bloggers and you can easily write it all up into an interesting and useful blog post.

14 - Compile a list of your favourite crafty bloggers, tweeters or Instagram accounts - Pick out people that you can recommend to others, and make sure to let those featured know that they've been included. If you tag them on social media there is a good chance that they will share your post with their own followers.

15 - Start a regular weekly or monthly themed post - Perhaps a regular catch up on what you've been working on, or take a look at a different craft or technique each time. As you get into a routine you might even want to make it a linky so that other bloggers can join in and add their own related posts.

16 - Challenge yourself to try something new - and blog your progress. Write about what made you choose this craft, what materials you needed and how you chose them, how you taught yourself - link to books that you used or videos that you watched. Ask readers to offer help and advice if it's something that you are finding tricky.

17 - Round up links to your social media channels - to remind people where they can find you when you aren't posting on your blog. Especially the social networks where you share photographs and updates on your crafty endeavours like Instagram or Pinterest. You could expand the blog post by discussing the things that you like and dislike about each platform, and perhaps suggest a few of your favourite people to follow on each. You could also offer tips to help connect with like-minded people, for example hashtags that you use or groups that you are a member of.

18 - Share some pre-blogging craft projects - Have a look around your house for things that you made before you started your blog and share some pictures. These will probably be some of your favourite finished projects, and it's great to remind yourself how much you enjoy having them around.

19 - Write a wishlist or gift guide - Either things that you would like for yourself, or things you've spotted that you know other crafters would love. You could keep it general or go for things along specific themes - like gift guides for different age groups or for people with specific interests. It may also be a great post to point people towards when your Birthday or Christmas is approaching!

20 - Change it up completely - and write about something completely different. Write about a recent day out that you've enjoyed, share one of your favourite recipes, perhaps blog a book or film review or discuss something that you've read about in the news.

You might spot me using some of these ideas in the future - and they are all blog posts that I'd love to read! If you use any of these ideas please do feel free to leave a link to your post in the comments below so that I can see and share it!
You Baby Me Mummy

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Planning a new project - the #SkyBlanket2016

As I come to the end of my Patons Crochet Along blanket my thoughts are turning to new projects. I can't quite believe how well I've picked up crochet. A few months back I had accepted that crochet was not a craft for me, but the invitation from and encouragement of the Make it Coats team really gave me the push to try it again, and with a bit of help from my Mum to start me off I was soon flying, and as well as the Patons Afghan I'm also building up quite a stock of squares to make my own granny square blanket (which already features lots of sky themed colours!).

I was already thinking that I'd like to try my hand at making a new blanket in the New Year, and so when I heard about the Sky Blanket project that was recently launched by three fellow bloggers I knew that it would be something that I'd love to take part in.

A Sky Blanket is a blanket created over the course of a year, inspired by the colours in the sky each day. You can use any medium that you like - knit, crochet, quilt or perhaps something else entirely - and you can use any design and pattern that you choose. Many Sky Blankets are knit or crochet in rows with a different colour each day, but you can also come up with a design using squares or other shapes. There are already lots of people signed up to take part in the Sky Blanket 2016 project, and some really creative ideas being shared. We've been chatting about ways that you could represent other types of weather in the blanket like wind or rainbows, as well as including ways to represent birthdays, holidays or other special events throughout the year.

I've decided that I'm going to crochet my blanket, but I need to think carefully about my pattern. Crochet is great for blankets as it works up really quickly, but with 366 rows to plan for it could well end up being enormous! I also need to work out what yarn I will need and in what colours. Unfortunately living here in the UK I need to assume that my blanket is going to require a fair bit of grey so it would be nice if I could come up with a way to vary it a bit, and I'm going to need to find a yarn that will represent rain.

Of course I've started a Pinterest board filled with inspiration for my blanket, check it out below!

Follow Jennifer Jain's board Sky Blanket 2016 on Pinterest.

Would you like to join in the Sky Blanket project? There is plenty of time to think about it. You can see the Sky Blanket Facebook page here, and there is also a Sky Blanket Facebook group for more discussion. There will be regular linkys where you can add blog posts, as well as joining in across social media using the hashtag #skyblanket2016.

For more inspiration, check out what the founders of the project are planning!

Bug, Bird and Bee - The Sky Blanket 2016 Craft Project
The Boy and Me - Crochet: Sky Blanket 2016
You Little Sew and Sew - Sky Blanket 2016

Monday, 23 November 2015

Christmas 4000 Stickers book from Parragon

Christmas is getting closer and closer, and it's a good idea to have a few simple activities on hand to keep little ones busy and calm amongst all the excitement. So the new Christmas 4000 Stickers from Parragon is perfect to keep around at this time of year.

Christmas 4000 stickers book from Parragon

It's a bumper book, packed with activities and simple puzzles, as well as 4000 Christmas stickers. Some of the stickers are designed to be used in the book, but most of them are extras which you can use for all sorts of Christmas crafting projects - perhaps for making your own Christmas cards or Advent calendars, to decorate gift boxes and labels, or to make invitations for your Christmas gatherings.

Parragon Christmas activity book

There is an excellent range of activities in the book, ranging from simple colouring and drawing activities to mazes, spot the difference and dot-to-dot puzzles, which would suit young children from pre-school age and older.

Christmas activity and sticker book

The stickers are gorgeous and come in a huge range of sizes and styles to suit all sorts of projects, and there are loads and loads! The pages also pull out easily which is an advantage when you have more than one child that wants to do the same thing at the same time, and means that you can also use the lovely pictures and completed drawings as festive decorations.

I received a copy of this book to review as part of the Parragon Book Buddy scheme. Amazon link is affiliate.
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