Monday, 28 July 2014

Felt and ribbon purse for carrying little treasures about

In this post I'm going into more detail about the felt, ribbon and button purse that I made for Mia, using some ribbon that I received from Fantastic Ribbons. It's really simple to make, and she is loving using it to carry her little treasures around the house while she goes about her role play. I should mention that this isn't a toy and you should always supervise your child while they are using it as the ribbon around the neck could be dangerous.

Felt button and ribbon purse for girl

All you need is a piece of felt, some cord or ribbon, some velcro and some buttons. I chose purple felt to go with the pink dotty ribbon and buttons.

Ribbon, felt and buttons

First work out how large you want the purse to me. Mine measures about 12cm wide by 9cm high. Your felt needs to be three times the height that you want the purse, then cut the top section so that it is shaped like a flat topped triangle. I made a template in paper first to cut out from the felt.

Fold up the bottom half of the purse and sew down each side. Then sew the ribbon down each side so that it covers up the sides. I suspect that there is a better way to do it than the way that I did it, possibly involving an iron, I did find it rather fiddly! Then sew in a small piece of velcro so that you can close the purse.

Felt button purse tutorial

For the button embellishment I sewed the buttons onto a piece of felt first, then cut around it. It is sewn over the part of the flap where you could see stitches from the velcro underneath.

Finally, measure a long length of ribbon so that the purse will either sit over the recipients tummy or hang to about their waist, then sew in securely at each side. I twisted the ribbon so that the dotty side is always showing. Make sure that it is sewn as firmly as you can, as the purse is bound to be swung about while full!

And here's a photo of it in use! I'm sorry that it's a bit blurry, she doesn't stay still for long, and I've cropped out her head because (as usual) her hair desperately needed a good brush!

Felt button purse tutorial

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Paradise Park, Newhaven, East Sussex

We have a busy summer ahead, and with some saved up Tesco Clubcard vouchers we have lots of days out planned. We have our favourite places to visit, but we tried to come up with some new attractions and picked out Paradise Park near Newhaven. We'd never been before, and didn't know anyone that had, but we took a chance and I'm so glad that we did, as we loved it!

The visit starts with The Planet Earth Museum. It's the life story of planet Earth from the very beginning, in particular with lots of ancient fossils. There are also some fab dinosaur displays with dinosaur models that move and that you can control yourself using the buttons. Harry has an interest in fossils and he loved picking out ones that he recognised.

Paradise Park Newhaven

Then we moved onto the Plant House. You start in the desert zone, filled with cacti, then move through different collections of plants before finishing in an Oriental garden with a huge collection of Koi carp. We had arrived early so they were empty, and it was really peaceful. Then you come outside into the main gardens.

Paradise Park Newhaven plant house

At this point the children saw the play area and there was no distracting them from that, so we let them loose. Some of the areas were designed for older children but there were some swings and slides just right for them. There was also an undercover sand pit where they spent ages digging for plastic dinosaur 'fossils', then we spent quite a bit of time in the large indoor soft play area. They had also spotted the Crazy Golf and so we treated them to a round  for £1 each.

Paradise Park Newhaven Crazy Golf

Then we explored the gardens. There is a Sussex History Trail to follow as you walk around the gardens which was very interesting, with lots of little models to look at, some with buttons to press to make appropriate noises. There are also several large fish ponds, so we bought some fish food for the children to feed them which they loved. You can choose a longer or a shorter trail to follow.

Paradise Park Newhaven feeding fish

Part of the gardens is a Dinosaur Safari, with cheerfully coloured, roaring dinosaurs to wander past. The children were fascinated, although a bit timid when it came to the loud noises.

Paradise Park Newhaven dinosaur safari

We finished our visit with another trip to the indoor soft play area. Unfortunately the miniature railway driver was on his lunch break as we were leaving, so we had to distract the children away. The little train did look like a lot of fun, it kept passing us as we were walking through the gardens and the driver looked as though he was really enjoying himself!

We spent about four hours at Paradise Park and could probably have spent longer on a cooler day. If we lived nearer I'd definitely be thinking about an annual pass!

We visited Paradise Park using Tesco Clubcard vouchers. Individual entry is £9.99 per person, with children under 3 free, or you can buy a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children for £29.99. An annual family park pass is £69.99. See more information on the Paradise Park website.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Crafting with some Fantastic Ribbons

I was recently chosen to review some products from Fantastic Ribbons. Fantastic Ribbons sell a great selection of ribbons, and also many other crafting products like buttons and washi tape. I've never actually bought ribbon before (I scavenge it from boxes of chocolates, clothes and so on) so it was lovely to be able to browse the website and choose some ribbon to use in my crafting. I chose a roll of pretty pink ribbon with dots (5 metres) and some bold cobalt blue side stitch ribbon (4 meters). Each roll cost £2.50, which seems pretty good value to me.

fantastic ribbons craft supplies review

I love the colour of the blue ribbon, and I decided to use some to create a simple ribbon bookmark. There are more complicated ways of making these, but all I did was cut a length of the ribbon and secure in a loop at the bottom using a large bead. The bead can then be slid up and down the ribbon to suit books of different sizes.

simple ribbon bookmark

Then I moved onto the pink spotty ribbon. This ribbon really appealed to me, it matches some washi tape that I have! I found this small cardboard box treasure chest on special offer in our local craft shop and painted it pale pink with poster paint. When it was fully dry I used double sided sticky tape to glue the ribbon to the box. Really simple, and it's a great place to keep some of my smaller crafty bits. At the moment it's filled with buttons!

ribbon covered treasure chest for storage

I used some of these buttons for my third Fantastic Ribbons craft. Mia loves playing going to pre-school/going to the shops/going for a picnic games around the house, and she has a variety of bags that she uses to transport everything that she needs. I thought I'd make her a little purse to keep some of her smaller treasures in. (Remember that if you are making this for a small child it's important to supervise them while they are playing with it as it may go around their neck). I cut a long piece of purple felt which is folded over and stitched up the sides. Then some ribbon is added along the sides. It closes with velcro, hidden by a small design made from an offcut of felt and decorated with buttons.

ribbon neck purse for a child

You can see the full range of products available on the Fantastic Ribbons website.

I received the ribbon to make these projects from Fantastic Ribbons.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

A day at Butlins with Beechdean Scooby Doo Ice cream!

We got the summer holidays off to a fantastic start with a day out at Butlins Bognor Regis! It's just down the road from us, but I haven't been since I was a child, so I was delighted to be invited along to try out some new Scooby Doo Ice Creams from Beechdean Ice Cream. We also had the chance to see the Scooby Doo Live show, which is new this season at Butlins.

Butlins deckchair

We were greeted by this enormous deckchair, and of course we had to stop and take a photo! Then we had some time to explore. The children were a bit too timid for the rides in the fairground but we had a great time on the smaller rides and the indoor soft play in the Skyline Pavilion.

Butlins Bognor Regis

Then we headed for the conference centre to find out more about the new Scooby-Doo ice creams. When we arrived, first we attempted some Scooby Doo themed dressing up to take a "Scooby Selfie". To help celebrate the launch of the new Scooby-Doo ice creams, Beechdean is launching a nationwide competition offering the chance to win a family break to Butlins, plus spending money, and you can find out more details here -

Scooby selfie

Then there was plenty of ice cream to try! There are three new flavours - Chocolate Snack, Honeycomb Snack and White Chocolate and Strawberry Snack. Of course in the interests of fairness we had to try one of each. My favourite was the Honeycomb, but Mia was quite fond of the White Chocolate!

Beechdean Scooby Doo ice cream

Beechdean Scooby Doo ice cream

After that it was off to Centre Stage to watch the Scooby-Doo Live show. It was packed inside, but we managed to find seats on the floor near the front. It was quite a relaxed atmosphere fortunately so it didn't matter that the children were a bit restless. Harry loved the show, and although a bit shy at first he was soon shouting along and pointing out the baddies to the cast. Mia was a bit more fidgety though so we only made it through the first half of the show, but we all still enjoyed it very much!

Scooby Doo show Butlins

Finally we returned to the Skyline Pavilion, and spent some more time on the little rides and soft play. We were all a bit hot and bothered by this point so it was time to head back home, but I'm hoping that we can return to Butlins at some point because I know there was plenty that we didn't have time to see!

We were invited along to Butlins by Beechdean and so we received complimentary entry.

Harry's first year of school is over

In the blink of an eye, Harry's first year at school is over. It started off slowly, but the last few months have gone so quickly, and now I can hardly remember a time when I had two little ones at home all day. The school run has become a fixture of our routine. I know exactly what time I need to leave the house for drop off and pick up, I know where to park and I know all the different routes that we can walk. We've even managed to work it all around our gym trips. 

child in school uniform

Harry has come on so well. He started school not recognising all his letters and he has finished the year as one of the top readers in his class. He's desperate to learn, he takes in everything, he loves school and he's made lots of new friends. He had his first Sports Day last week, took part in a class assembly and performed with the Infant Choir. We are so proud of him.

Although Harry seems happy about his move to Year 1 it's a big change for him. The classes are mixed up, so he's only going to be with a few children from his old class. They also don't mix as much between the classes. His classroom is at the other side of the school, not kept separate like the Reception classes, and I'll no longer be taking him into his classroom in the mornings. I've not met his teacher, or even seen inside his new classroom.

Harry is definitely ready for a break, these last few weeks have been hard work. And I'm so looking forward to having him home for the holidays. I've got lots planned - we have our Summer List to work through and I've been arranging plenty of trips out. Mia will still be at nursery for two mornings a week so there will be some time for just the two of us.

I'm trying very hard not to think about the fact that once he's back at school in September it's not going to be long before we receive our application form for Mia to start school next year. I just can't imagine it!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Sponsored post - NISAs - the new name for the ISA

Did you know that ISAs have changed since the 1st July 2014? 

At the moment we don't always have a great deal of money left over at the end of the month to put into savings. But when we do, we always put it into our ISAs. It's the obvious place to save money without needing to worry about paying tax on it. Until the 1st July 2014, the maximum amount that could be invested in a cash ISA was £5,940, increasing to £11,880 if you invested the rest into a stocks and shares ISA.

However from the 1st July 2014 this all changed. ISAs are now known as New ISAs, or NISAs, and have an increased annual allowance of £15,000, which can be saved either entirely in cash, in stocks and shares, or in any combination of the two. Existing ISAs will change to NISAs, and any contributions made since 6th April 2014 will count towards the 2014-15 allowance.

In theory this is great news because it offers opportunities for larger tax free savings. But Scottish Friendly has warned that savers need to be wary of automatically holding all their ISA funds in cash and instead to consider the alternatives that are available.

The reason for this is that banks and building societies have already started lowering their interest rates, rates that are already low, in anticipation of the NISA launch, and it's important to think about whether savers that invest all their money in cash are really receiving the best deal. 

Neil Lovatt, Scottish Friendly’s Director of Financial Products, said:

“For every one investment ISA taken out, three cash ISAs are opened. 

“Cash is easier to understand as it offers security and access to the savings without penalty that investment ISAs do not. People are being put off by what they think is pure equity investments and instead are opting for accounts that offer poor returns on their cash. 

“The changes introduced in the budget gave savers a glimmer of hope and incentivised people to put more money aside each month. However, the Cash ISA market has not risen to the opportunity, instead choosing to offer low rates of interest on cash ISAs and in some cases actually reducing their rates for fear of overly high inflows”.

I must admit that we've only ever invested money in a cash ISA. Like many people, we want the security that the cash ISA offers, and we all know that with a stocks and shares ISA the value of an investment can go down as well as up. But if you are prepared to look at the long-term picture when it comes to savings, there are ways of investing that will still mean that your savings are secure. 

So if you have some spare funds to invest at the moment don't necessarily think that a cash NISA is the best way to see some return on your investment, it's worth doing some research into the alternatives. You can find out more information in the video below: 

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Scottish Friendly. Find Scottish Friendly on Twitter here.

Review - Aquabeads Deluxe Set

I was recently given the opportunity to review some Aquabeads. Regular readers will know that Hama beads are a crafty favourite in this family, and so I was very interested to try out the Aquabeads to see how they compare. I received the Aquabeads Deluxe Set which retails for £19.99 to review.

aquabeads deluxe set review

The Aquabeads Deluxe Set contains over 1200 beads in eight colours in a divided case, a base tray, eight template sheets, three base boards to place the beads on (each with a different configuration for the beads), a bead pen to help you place the beads, a sprayer to fix the design and full instructions. With this set you can make a small photo frame, a desk tidy and a variety of different pictures.

The Aquabeads are small, round, solid beads. They are placed on the tray, either with fingers or with the clever little bead pen that picks up a bead and drops it when you press a button on the side. The base boards fit nicely onto the base plate with the template underneath, and they are clear so that you can see exactly where to place the beads. When your design is completed you simply spray it with a fair amount of water and leave it to dry. The coating on the beads dissolves slightly in the water which sticks the beads together before you remove your creation from the base plate.

The beads are very small (and bouncy!). Harry (5 1/2) found them a bit fiddly to place at first but he soon worked it out, and he loved using the bead pen. Because he was placing the beads directly onto the template he had no problems making his designs.

aquabeads deluxe set

Once you've sprayed your design you need to wait at least an hour for the beads to dry, meaning that you can't make another design straight away on the same board. This pack includes three boards though, so you don't need to stop creating. The finished piece peels away from the board quite easily once dry, and then you can respray it on the other side just to make sure that it's solid, and they feel very firmly stuck together.


The huge advantage that Aquabeads have over Hama beads is that children can complete the whole process themselves, they don't need to wait for an adult to iron their creation as they can just spray it themselves.
It's also very easy to make 3D designs, either by layering up different flat pieces or making small boxes. All the pieces can be packed down quite small so it's easy to store (although the divided storage tray for the beads didn't keep the colours separate for too long!).

aquabeads storage

Harry has really enjoyed doing this set, it's something that he can easily get on with by himself while I'm making dinner which is great. Mia is a bit young yet (it's recommended for age 4 and above) and it's too fiddly for her at the moment, but it won't be long before she's able to have a go. Harry has had several crafting sessions with the box and he hasn't completed all the projects yet, so there's plenty in the set to keep children occupied.

You can buy refill packs for the beads and also a variety of themed sets with different designs and project ideas.

I received this kit to review, Amazon link is affiliate.
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