Friday, 17 April 2015

Space pictures with wooden space cutouts

We are members of the Baker Ross Bloggers Network, and every few months we are lucky enough to receive a big box of seasonal crafting materials. This time we received lots of summer crafts, and we are still busy working our way through them, so I'll be sharing some of our creations in a post next week. But also in the box this time was a bag of Space Wooden Shapes (just £2.75 for 8) and we had such fun decorating them that I thought they deserved their own post.

Sometimes I'm at a bit of a loss when presented with blank shapes to decorate as I don't really know where to start. Until now the children have needed quite a lot of guidance and help from me. But I showed Harry some examples from the website, and explained to him how he might like to use a pencil to mark out his design in advance before we painted. Then I treated him to some of my acrylic paints to decorate them with, and he loved the opportunity to use some 'grown up' art materials.

He came up with some lovely designs, and while he was doing it I painted a star and moon shape yellow for Mia to decorate when she was back from nursery. I helped her to use glitter and sequins to decorate the shapes, thinking that would be enough for her, but of course she wanted a go with the paints too, and decorated a couple of her own shapes.

Here is Harry's picture:

Baker Ross decorated wooden space shapes

And here is Mia's picture:

Baker Ross wooden space shapes

The wooden shapes are glued to a piece of black card which has been mounted on a piece of thicker cardboard and then painted with silver glitter paint. I really like them, they are so lovely and I was so impressed with how well the children worked with just a little bit of help and input from me. They are definitely going to be displayed proudly!

We received the wooden shapes in our Baker Ross crafting box.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Unfinished craft projects

I actually don't have that many unfinished craft projects, as I'm quite good about finishing things off. But there are a few projects lying around that I've started that niggle at me, as well as projects that I have all the materials for but am yet to start.

Recently I listed out all these projects on a page in my Smash book, firstly so that I can keep track of them and secondly for inspiration in case I find myself with some free time and looking for something crafty to do.

Smash book page

On our recent holiday I finished off a project which I'd been struggling with for some time, in fact it nearly ended up in the bin on a couple of occasions. It was a birdhouse kit that I bought once in Hobbycraft, I actually blogged about it once before. It was very cheap, but it turned out to be a bit of a rubbish kit. It didn't contain any of the embroidery silks, so I had to use my own for it. The pattern was impossible to read, and I did most of the design following the photograph that accompanied it. It's supposed to be a large coaster kit, but when I came to frame it the cork backing was too big and showed through the transparent sides, which made it look really messy. I managed to work something out though and I'm pretty pleased with the finished piece, it is quite pretty, and I'm glad that I stuck with it.

Birdhouse cross stitch from Hobbycraft

Now I'm concentrating on another kit that I bought in the sales - a knit your own hot water bottle cover which came from The Works. I bought it mainly because it came with a mini hot water bottle, and as Mia has been eyeing up Harry's hot water bottle for some time I thought it would be nice to make for her. It's supposed to be red and green with a festive crochet snowflake, but I've changed it to red and purple and I'm intending to decorate it with a felt heart (crochet and I don't get along).

Knit your own hot water bottle cover from The Works

I'm not very good at knitting, and I'm pretty terrible at following a pattern. Possibly it's just me, but the pattern included doesn't seem to make a great deal of sense so I've been fudging it a bit. I've knitted one complete side and have just started on the second side. It's quite easy to do, just the increasing and decreasing that I've made up a bit, hopefully it will be finished by next winter!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Review - Colouring for Adults - The One and Only Colouring Book Series

Colouring books for adults are very popular at the moment. I blogged recently about my first foray into the world of adult colouring, and recently I was asked to try out some colouring books from a new Dutch series which will be available in the UK from next month.

Colouring books for adults review

The One and Only Colouring Book series is aimed at adults and older children. I've been looking at two books in the series - The One and Only Colouring Book for Grown-Up Children and The One And Only Colouring Book For Adults.

Both books are quite similar, and contain a good mix of different designs. There are geometrical and repeating patterns alongside more fluid designs. Some pages have a natural theme, some are more abstract. There are also some lovely pages inspired by different architecture, with designs that range from very simple to beautifully complex. Each book has so many pages that it's really easy to flip through and find something that inspires you and matches your mood.

Some of the designs are really simple, like this repeating heart pattern, great for when you're after something simple to keep you busy and not requiring too much concentration.

Colouring for adults

Other pages are based around easily recognisable images, like these fish and other sea creatures which make up a lovely underwater scene. I also liked the pages with popular motifs such as cupcakes and owls.

Colouring for grown ups

All the designs encourage you to think about the colour scheme that you want to use, and whether you want to stick to a limited palette or go wild with different colours. My only problem was deciding where to start! The first design that I chose was a simple one, and reminded me of gemstones and feathers.

Half coloured colouring page

I've been using felt tip pens to colour with and they are colouring smoothly, the pages of the book are nice and thick. The designs have bold lines which makes them easy to colour neatly. The pages aren't designed to be removed from the book once completed (although you could if you wanted to without any trouble) but I can't wait to flip through the book once I've finished a few pages and see it come to life!

Completed colouring page

There are five titles in the series, due to hit UK bookshops in May 2015. They are The One and Only Colouring Book for Adults (£8.99), The Second One and Only Colouring Book for Adults (£8.99), The One and Only Colouring Book for Grown-Up Children (£7.99), The One and Only Mandala Colouring Book (£9.99) and The One and Only Colouring Book for Travelling Adults (£8.49).

I received two titles in the series for the purpose of this review. The pages in this post are all from The One and Only Colouring Book for Grown Up Children. Post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Center Parcs Erperheide in Belgium

Before Harry started school we had several happy family holidays at Center Parcs in Elveden and Longleat. We took advantage of term time reductions, and enjoyed a reasonably priced short break. But when we came to investigate the school holiday prices we found that the prices for a holiday at one of the UK parks were far too high. But to our surprise, we found that the prices for a break at one of the Center Parcs resorts on the continent were a good deal cheaper, and also seemed to offer a lot more for your money. So we took a chance, stretched our wings, and booked ourselves a week at Center Parcs Erperheide in Belgium, and we are so glad that we did.

Center Parcs Erperheide review

Because we visited over the Easter bank holidays, the break was extended to an 8 night trip. We travelled to France through the Channel Tunnel (a cost that we were able to cover with our Tesco Clubcard vouchers) and then from Calais the park was about two and a half hours drive away through France and Belgium. In terms of petrol, it didn't cost us that much more than a trip to Elveden.

VIP Cottage at Center Parcs Erperheide

We paid a small amount extra to stay in a VIP cottage. It wasn't huge, but it had a few extras that made our stay a little easier. For example, all bedlinen and towels were included, as well as a kitchen and toiletries package, free WiFi and a big bag of fresh rolls which were delivered daily to the cottage. The two bedroom villa also had a sauna, and a small kitchen with a dishwasher (although no oven, just a hob and microwave). There was a lovely, private outdoor area with barbecue and sun loungers, although it was a bit cold for that when we visited!

Despite visiting during the Easter holidays, we found that the park was much quieter than we've experienced in the UK parks. And what really set Center Parcs Erperheide apart from the UK parks was the huge amount that there was for the children to do, all included in the price of our holiday.

Eating ice cream at Center Parcs

Aqua Mundo is the swimming area, comparable to those that we've found in other Center Parcs resorts, possibly slightly larger. It has the usual central pool with an hourly wave machine, which is connected to a series of small, warmer pools linked together by shallow rocky waterfalls. There is a baby pool with small slides, and a toddler pool with slightly larger slides. There are longer water slides and an outdoor rapids slide, a large outdoor pool and a lazy river. There was also a pretty cool themed outdoor area where you could dive under the water to see fish in tanks swimming alongside you.

Then there was Baluba, where we spent a great deal of time, and it was awesome. It is a huge building, filled mainly with a large soft play slide area and an enclosed foam ball play area. 

Foam ball play area at Center Parcs Erperheide

There is another soft play area on the other side, and around the edges are a bouncy castle, trampolines, enormous Lego play area filled with different sized bricks and an indoor race track with little cars that you can drive around for €1. 

Lego area at Center Parcs Erperheide

In Baluba was a cafe for drinks and food, and then a small stage where mainly free kids activities took place most days, like the disco, crafts and storytelling. Twice a week there was also a late night show called Straordinario. It was on quite late for our little ones so we only lasted for the first half (the entire show finished around 10pm) but it was quite entertaining, if a little surreal.

Straordinario show

The children's daytime entertainment was hosted by a character called Orry and his three friends, and they were often seen driving about in their Orry Mobiel car, it was a really good way to tie all the children's fun together.

There was plenty to do outdoors too. The children loved the Children's Farm, which was full of baby lambs and goats, as well as rabbits, guinea pigs and ponies. There were plenty of ducks to feed, and lots of outdoor playgrounds, some in the centre and some spread around the park.

Children's Farm at Center Parcs

As well as all the free activities, we found that the extra activities were very reasonably priced. We've never paid for any extras on our UK breaks as they can be so expensive. But at Erperheide our booking included four 'Toppings' vouchers which you can use towards various extra activities on your stay. We used one voucher to secure a particular villa number, two vouchers to pay for an hour of bowling for the family and one voucher for the children to play mini golf.

Mini Golf at Center Parcs Erperheide

There were lots of little craft activities that the children could do, and you paid for them as you did them without needing to book in advance. We paid 2.50 each for the children to decorate a light up stick for the kids disco which they loved. We also treated the children to an Easter Egg hunt for 5 each which they really loved and they came back with more than 5 worth of chocolate each!

Easter Egg hunt with Orry and friends

The only other activity that we paid for was the Kid Safari. For €12 Harry was able to drive Mia around in a little jeep for half an hour, it took him a while to work it out but it was pretty fun!

Just down the road in Peer is a large Lidl which is easy to spot. Although we took most of our food with us, it was useful for the extras as well as for stocking up on some local favourites like big bags of Belgian waffles! There's a string of other supermarkets and fresh fruit and veg shops in Peer too, and the shop on site at Center Parcs itself is very good and reasonably priced.

We mainly self-catered in our cottage. Erperheide doesn't have the wide range of chain restaurants that we've found in UK parks and the restaurant selection was mainly based around all you can eat buffet style dining, which doesn't really suit us as our children are fussy and don't eat a lot. We did eat a couple of times in the Grand Cafe which offered a range of reasonably priced food and drinks in a pleasant setting along with a couple of play areas for the children.

Belgium has three official languages - Dutch, French and German - and all the important information was given in these three languages as well as English. The Orry kids show was in Dutch and the story time was in Dutch and German, but this didn't seem to bother the children. I do speak German and can understand some Dutch so I was able to translate, but I don't think you'd find it a problem if you couldn't, and all the staff and entertainers knew English.

We had such a brilliant time and would absolutely recommend a holiday in Center Parcs Erperheide, whether you are a Center Parcs regular or not. If you have any questions please do feel free to ask in the comments, I'm very happy to help!

If you like Center Parcs, you might enjoy some of my other Center Parcs posts:

Center Parcs - Elveden Forest
Center Parcs - Longleat
Center Parcs - Things to do for free in Elveden Forest

We paid 680 (approx. £490) for an 8 night stay in a VIP Cottage at Center Parcs Erperheide. The full price for the Channel Tunnel was £146 return, which we paid for at a third of the price using our Tesco Clubcard vouchers. As a comparison, a similar villa for the four of us at Center Parcs Elveden that week would have cost us over £2000, without the many extras that we feel Erperheide offers.

I'm linking this post up to #TimeTraveller at Mari's World and #travelwithkids at Smiles and Trials.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Ocean crafts with #bostikbloggers

This month, as a member of the #BostikBloggers crafting team I received a gorgeous box of crafty bits, with a theme of Ocean. There were some really lovely bits this month, and I couldn't wait to get started with some under the sea crafts! This is what we made:

Cardboard box aquarium

How to make a cardboard box aquarium


Cardboard box
Paint - green, blue and sand coloured
Glue (we used Bostik blu stick)
Blue glitter
Fish stickers
Small under the sea themed toys
Cotton and needle


Cut the top and side flaps off the cardboard box. Make sure that all the inside flaps are either removed or stuck down securely - we used double sided tape but I actually ended up having to sew it closed with a few stitches as the cardboard warped when it was painted. Mark out lines down the sides for the sandy section of the box, then paint blue and sand coloured.

Sponge painting under the sea

When the paint has dried, use a sponge and the green paint to make seaweed.

Cardboard box aquarium

When this layer of paint is dry, cover the inside of the box with glue and sprinkle on blue glitter. To stick the glitter we used the Bostik blu stick. We get through glue sticks at an astonishing rate, but this one was particularly good because when you first apply it the glue shows blue, then it dries clear, so you can see where you've put it. Great for crafting with little ones that tend to apply liberally, as they can see where they have already put the glue.

Bostik blu stick for glitter

Then you can use fish stickers to decorate the inside of the box. I also hung a couple of the large foam fish stickers from the top of the box with a length of cotton so that they can dangle inside. We finished off our under the sea scene with some shells glued to the bottom of the box, some treasure and a diver figure.

Under the sea scene

Under the sea viewer

Child holding under the sea craft


Shallow lid from a shoebox
Craft knife and cutting board
Blue cellophane
Small fish stickers


Use the craft knife to cut a window out of the box lid. It doesn't matter if the sides are a bit wavy, that adds to the underwater effect! Stick a sheet of cellophane across the window and secure at the sides with tape. Stick some fish stickers over the window.

Explore the house looking through the underwater viewer, making the fish swim across the furniture! The children played for ages with this, with all sorts of under the sea role play!

Under the sea pretend viewer

The box of craft materials was provided to me free of charge by Bostik as part of the Tots100/Bostik Craft Bloggers Club.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Mini Hama bead tiled Russian Doll picture

For Christmas a couple of years back my brother bought me a pack of Mini Hama Beads - a big bag of the mini beads in a huge range of different colours. If you are interested in trying mini Hama beads, this bag is a real bargain (although you'll need to get some boards too of course). There are some very subtle colour differences between the shades though, and I spent far more time than I'd like to admit sorting the beads out by colour into the little compartments in pill boxes.

I wanted to make some kind of picture that I could put on display, and it needed to use a wide range of different colours. I pin all sorts of Hama bead inspiration to my Hama bead ideas for me board, and one design that I found and particularly liked was some Hama bead Matroyshka (Russian Dolls) which I found among these mini Hama bead designs.

I took the basic Russian Doll design and added some extra patterning and background to make it into a square image

Mini Hama bead Russian Doll picture

Crafting with mini Hama beads is a very delicate process. You need to use tweezers to drop the beads into position, and you learn to perfect a sort of flipping action to get the beads upright before you pick them up. I also can't count the number of times that I've given the board a slight knock and all the beads have fallen off.

Crafting with mini Hama beads

I repeated the design four times in different colour schemes to produce my tiled picture. The design almost fills the square board, and each square uses 756 beads, so the entire picture used over 3000 mini beads. Luckily my brother topped up my supplies again at Christmas last year!

Mini Hama bead Russian Doll tiled picture

You do need to be very careful when ironing the mini beads, with a very quick iron on a low heat setting as they are so delicate. Now I just need to get them framed and on display!

You might also like some of my other mini Hama bead posts - a collection of mini Hama bead designs and mini Hama bead Easter eggs. You can see all my Hama bead posts together on my Hama bead page.

Post contains an affiliate link.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Getting our summerhouse ready for Spring

I have to admit that I'm not a particularly outdoorsy person. I know that it's very important for children to get outside everyday, and I do honestly try my best, but on a grey, cold, winter's day, I'd much rather be tucked up at home with a hot chocolate. Luckily, each of the children enjoy outdoor time in pre-school and at school so I don't feel that I have to worry too much about it!

Twinkl Outdoor Area Poster

We are fortunate to have a nice garden with a big vegetable patch and a lovely summerhouse that we inherited when we moved in. I had big plans for our summerhouse, and although it has taken a while to get things going I'm determined that this will be the year that I really make something of it. My Dad replaced the roof last year, so it's a nice, dry outside room.

I never tidied it up properly at the end of last summer, so it has spent the winter as a tip, with discarded garden toys chucked in and ignored. Over the last week or two I've had a massive clear out, with one bin bag of rubbish gone and one bin bag of extra toys given away on Freecycle. I've also given away a rickety chest of drawers, replaced some old children's garden furniture with our newer set from Harry's bedroom, and gone around with the hoover getting rid of cobwebs and dead woodlice.

Now I'm focusing on making it a bit more homely and more of a play space. I was recently gifted a sewing machine which I was thrilled about, and I'm planning to make some proper little curtains for the windows and some bunting to string outside. I might even manage a cushion! I've also been scouring Twinkl for fun and educational signs and posters to laminate and stick up inside - these are the Animal Groups Display Posters.

Printing and laminating Twinkl resources

I have a beautiful butterfly light fitting that was rescued from Mia's room in the old house, but unfortunately the light part broke when we took it down. I've finally upcycled it into a mobile and I think it looks lovely along with my denim and felt butterfly bunting that I made a few years ago now.

Butterfly mobile and bunting

I'm going to move some of our older toys out there in the hope that they will get played with again in a different environment, like our car garage, a box of cars, and some of the Happyland bits. It won't be long before I'll be setting up our big outdoor sandpit, which is still in pretty good condition despite being a few years old now. We've also put the swings out, and it looks as though Mia will move on from her baby swing this year onto a proper adult swing.

Twinkl animal posters

Now I just need to hope that we have a nice warm summer again for plenty of outdoor play!
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