Friday, 3 July 2015

Inspired to rediscover patchwork by the Craft Lounge at #britmumslive

One of the things that I loved about BritMums Live this year was the Craft Lounge, hosted by Lady Sew and Sew and Make it Coats. I didn't get there until the second day, and I really wish that I'd spent more time inside. It was a great place to chill out, chat, and concentrate on something creative.

I've always loved the look of patchwork, and I remember my Mum teaching me with paper hexagons when I was little, although I didn't stick at it for long. My Mum made me a gorgeous patchwork quilt, and we also have a few other little baby quilts that she made around the house, Mia uses them when she's playing with her dolls. I did attempt some patchwork a couple of years ago which unfortunately turned into a bit of a patchwork fail, but when I saw a sewing table in the Craft Lounge with help to make a couple of simple paper pieced hexagons I thought that I would give it another try.

The Craft Lounge at BritMums Live

It was much quicker than I remembered to sew a couple of hexagons together, and I really enjoyed the process - tacking the fabric around the paper hexagons and then sewing the pieces together.

Lady Sew and Sew at BritMums Live

So I was really pleased to get home and find a fat quarter from Lady Sew and Sew in my goody bag. It's a lovely green flowery fabric and I knew that attempting some patchwork would be a great use for it. I found some other bits of fabric in my stash that I thought matched well and chose to stick with just three different fabrics. I wanted to start small, and so I decided to make a little case for my phone.

BritMums Live goodybag fat quarter

I was quite surprised by how easy I found it! Once I'd got the hang of the pattern I was flying, busily cutting up paper hexagons, fabric hexagons, tacking around and sewing them together.

Starting patchwork

This is where I'm at so far, and I think that I'm over halfway there:

Hexagon patchwork in progress

I must admit that I'm not entirely sure where it will go from here. I have made a paper template and I'm intending to make a long strip that I can fold over to make the case, insert some wadding for protection, and then back it with some lining fabric and perhaps some velcro to close. I'm pretty much making it up as I go along, so we'll see how it turns out!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Review - Laser Pegs light up construction set

Harry has been having fun recently playing with Laser Pegs after we were sent the Laser Pegs 8-in-1 Helicopter Construction Set to review. Laser Pegs are a construction kit, a standalone set that can be expanded with other sets in the range, and are also compatible with most similar brick based construction toys. They come with a battery powered base plate, and when you connect your finished model it lights up and flashes.

Laser pegs helicopter set

The pieces look very cool when you take them out the box. You have a triangular base piece, several clear electrical pieces, and a big pile of translucent coloured bricks in different shapes, sizes and colours.

This particular set can be used to create 8 different designs, although the box only includes the instructions for one model, the helicopter. The rest of the instructions can be downloaded online and printed which isn't ideal, it would nice if the instructions for at least a couple more models were included. Harry (6) had no problems following the instructions once he'd got started, but he did need a bit of help clicking some of the bricks together as they were a little stiff. We found it was a good idea to sort the pieces out by size, as the instructions are in black and white and pieces of different sizes are the same colours.

Building laser pegs construction kit

Harry soon finished his first model - the large helicopter - and he was thrilled with it. He was pleased enough even before connecting it up, and when we'd plugged it in to see the model light up he was thrilled. The triangular base takes two AA batteries (not included), and you can press the button in the centre to scroll through a few different settings, with different types of flashing and non flashing lights.

Finished laser pegs helicopter set

Next Harry was very keen to start building his own models, and he soon had the method of connecting the bricks to the power source worked out and was able to build a little car. The bricks are fully compatible with his Lego bricks which is fantastic, and offers all sorts of further opportunities for imaginative building.

We received this set in exchange for a review, Amazon link is affiliate.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Our first trips camping at Ashurst in the New Forest

Several years ago, Ram and I bought a small tent, with the intention of making camping a regular thing. We spent one night in the New Forest in late September, then it was winter. Come spring I was pregnant with Harry and didn't really fancy it, and camping with our up-all-night-screaming-babies-and-toddlers was out of the question. The tent has since been used for nights with Harry in the garden, but with the lovely weather we've been having lately we decided that it was finally time to give family camping ago.

So a few weeks ago we bought a smaller pop up tent and second airbed, loaded up the car, and headed off to Ashurst in the New Forest for a night's camping. It's where we stayed before, one of the closest campsites to us and has good facilities. When we arrived we drove around the site a couple of times looking for the perfect spot, finding a great space at the far edge of the campsite with a view out across the open land behind us and forest in the background.

Camping in the New Forest

We split up with an adult and a child in each tent. The children loved setting their beds up with their pillows and sleeping bags, and getting all their teddies ready. We let them go running off by themselves across the field, and they absolutely loved the freedom.

Children in a tent

There is a footpath that leads from the campsite, and a short distance away there are fallen trees to play on and walk across. We spent ages here, and also found a geocache.

Child walking on a tree trunk

For dinner we headed to La Pergola in Lyndhurst just down the road. It was perfect for us, pizza to eat and a playground to keep the children entertained. It's very popular though, we arrived soon after six and the only seats were outside, but I can see why, the food was delicious. Then we had a quick drink at the pub next to the campsite while the children played in the playground there, before heading back to our tent.

Tent selfie

We got the children ready for bed and then headed out for a pyjama walk with our torches. In retrospect it wasn't the best idea as Harry managed to step into a puddle and soak the bottom of his onesie, meaning that he had to sleep in his clothes as I'd only brought one set! They really loved the experience though. Then we finished the evening playing football in the open area behind the tents while the sun set, it really was quite idyllic!

Camping by sunset in the New Forest

The next few weeks we couldn't stop thinking about how much fun we'd had, but we knew that our tent set up wasn't really practical. The airbed didn't really fit into the smaller tent, and it has no inner lining meaning that everything was wet in the morning. Ram is always keeping his eyes open for a bargain, and was delighted to find a family tent at a reasonable price - we snapped it up, and found ourselves the new owners of an Urban Escape Atago 5 man tent. We were a little daunted by its size at first, but we practised putting it up and then chose another weekend when the weather was looking good (I'm afraid that we are fair weather campers!) and headed back to Ashurst. 

Urban Escape Atago 5 man tent

Our new tent is fantastic! It was so nice to be able to stand up inside and there was loads of room for all our things. The tent has two bedrooms inside, and even the smaller one easily fitted the double airbed. Our camping experience was definitely improved! 

We had another pleasant evening watching the children run about, this time very much enhanced by our fold up chairs and some Pimms from the Co-op down the road. It's such a nice time of year with the long summer evenings, camping is a great way to make the most of them.

Pimms at the campsite

We'll definitely be back, and we already have a few more possible weekends pencilled down in the calendar. Perhaps next time we might even manage to stay for two nights!

Sitting outside a tent in the New Forest

We paid £23.20 each time for a night's camping at Ashurst Campsite in the New Forest. Ashurst Campsite is run by Camping in the Forest - you can find out more information on their website. 

Monday, 29 June 2015

Making a Space Snack with Miles Kelly

To celebrate the release of the three new Miles Kelly's 100 Fact Books, I was invited to come up with my own space themed snack inspired by the 100 Facts Space Travel book. Eating in space is of course quite different to eating on earth, not only do astronauts have to contend with eating in zero gravity, so they can't eat anything that will break up into tiny pieces, the food also has to be easy to prepare, capable of being stored for long periods, light in weight and mustn't need to be refrigerated. Most of the food is served in packets, to which water is added before eating.

Miles Kelly 100 Facts Space Travel
Page image from 100 Facts Space Travel

To inspire us, we were sent the ingredients to make our very own Space Pudding to enjoy while looking through the books. All you need is some Angel Delight, powdered milk, water, a syringe and a re-sealable plastic sandwich bag.

Miles Kelly books with Space Pudding

Harry very much enjoyed making the Space Pudding. First you need to add two tablespoons of Angel Delight and two tablespoons of milk powder to the bag, then add the water using a syringe. When all the water has been added, you squish the bag in your hands to mix it all together, leave it to stand for a couple of minutes, then eat by cutting a corner off the bag and squeezing it into your mouth - great fun!

How to make Space Pudding

We watched a few videos to learn more about eating in space, and discovered that instead of bread for sandwiches, astronauts prefer to eat tortillas, because they don't make any crumbs which are annoying to have floating about the space station. They are also light, don't take up much space, and can be stored for a reasonable period of time.

So for our own Space Snack recipe we came up with a tortilla based snack. I had a think about what other foods we had in our cupboards that would travel well and would be sticky enough to stay where they were put in zero gravity and my thoughts turned instantly to our favourite family food - pizza!

So here is our recipe for a Tortilla Space Pizza Wrap:

Tortilla Space Pizza Wrap

One tortilla wrap
Tomato ketchup or tomato puree in a tube or sachet (about three tablespoons worth)
A bag of grated cheese with herbs already added (a large handful). In space this would have to be freeze dried grated cheese like this as there is no fridge!

Making space tortilla pizza

We put the grated cheese into a re-sealable bag and added a sprinkle of herbs and a couple of big squeezes of tomato ketchup. If we were really making this in space, we'd need to add some water too, to rehydrate the cheese. Then Harry squashed it up with his fingers to make sure that it was all mixed in. I cut a corner off the bag and Harry squeezed it onto the tortilla. I hope that the mixture would be sticky enough not to float away. Then Harry wrapped up the tortilla ready for eating, making sure that the bottom was secure enough to contain the filling.

We ate it cold, but it could easily be warmed up in the microwave. I think it tasted pretty good! I'm not a big fan of ketchup myself, but if the food was being prepared for space it could easily be made with a more tasty and healthy tomato sauce, perhaps with the herbs or other flavourings already added. I loved this challenge, and it really encouraged us to think creatively, as well as learning a great deal about everyday life in space. It would have been a great activity for our Space Day!

Space food pizza

Harry is very interested in space (he even has a space themed bedroom) and he couldn't wait to get his hands on these three fantastic 100 Facts Books from Miles Kelly. As you would expect, each book in the series contains 100 facts about each topic, with each double spread forming a chapter on a different theme.

100 Facts Space Travel talks about the history of space travel, what space travel is like now, and where technology could lead us in the future. Each page is a mixture of photographs and cartoon illustrations. All the facts are explained and expanded upon, and there are a few little quizzes and extra "I don't believe it!" facts added in.

100 Facts Space Travel book from Miles Kelly

100 Facts Stars and Galaxies looks at deep space, beginning with the formation of the universe, with facts all about the different types of stars, black holes and constellations, finishing by taking a look at the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. There are little activity suggestions added in, like exploring how the universe is expanding by blowing up a balloon, and creating your own constellations by using a torch shining on holes pricked into a piece of cardboard.

100 Facts Stars and Galaxies book from Miles Kelly

Finally, 100 Facts Solar System takes a closer look at our own Solar System. It features each planet in turn, with a fact file, information about what the planet is composed of, and information about their moons.

100 Facts Solar System book from Miles Kelly

All three books are laid out really well, with a mixture of fact boxes, diagrams and images, and different sizes and styles of text makes the information fun, and easy to dip in and out of. The books contain a huge amount of information, and I know that they are going to be both an interesting read and a useful source of reference.

We were sent these three books to review, as well as the ingredients for our Space Pudding.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Toilet roll tube monsters with #bostikbloggers

This month the theme for our #BostikBloggers craft challenge was Monsters, and we received a lovely crafty box stuffed full with bits and pieces that fitted the theme.

Bostik Bloggers craft box

In the box was also a wonderful big cardboard cone that I thought would make a great monster body. I raided our junk modelling supply for some extra toilet roll tubes, and set Mia loose with a paintbrush and selection of different coloured paints.

Painted toilet roll tubes

Then we looked through our crafty bits to see what we could use. First we worked on monster hands and feet. Mia threaded the colourful beads onto pipe cleaners, which was really easy for her to do and satisfying because the textured surface keeps the beads firmly in place. I cut out some feet from glittery card, and laid out lines of Bostik White Glu for her to stick pom poms in place. The Bostik White Glu was really easy to apply to small areas using the nozzle at the top of the bottle, and once it was dry all the pom poms stuck really firmly.

Monster hands and feet with pom poms

Mia and I had fun gluing all the bits together to make our first two monsters! We finished them off with a feather and some googly eyes. Again, the Bostik Glu worked perfectly for this craft, easily sticking all the different types of embellishment that we used.

Monsters made from toilet roll tubes

Then after school Harry joined us and we completed our Monster Family, using lots of different scraps and embellishments, the children were so pleased with them! It's a really fun craft for children of all ages, and easy to do with all the crafty bits and pieces that you tend to collect when you have small children around!

Toilet roll tube monster family

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

Friday, 26 June 2015

Book review - Grandad's Island by Benji Davies

Grandad's Island cover

Grandad's Island by Benji Davies is a new picture book about a young boy called Syd who enjoys visiting his Grandad. One day when he goes around to his house he finds his Grandad up in the attic, and Grandad takes him through a secret door to visit a magical island together. Syd wishes that they could stay there together forever, but Grandad tells him that he is going to stay there, and even though Syd is very sad to say goodbye, and lonely when he returns home, he knows that his Grandad is much happier where he is.

Grandad's Island inside

Although it's fairly subtle, the story is really dealing with the experience of a young boy that has lost his Grandad. However this isn't something that Harry picked up on when we read it together, he just saw it as a lovely story about a boy and his Grandad having adventures together, even if it was a little sad at the end. I do like the way that the book deals with the subject matter, and the way it shows that those we love can still be near to us even if it seems as though they are far away.

Grandad's Island illustrations

What I liked most about this book was the illustrations, they are absolutely beautiful, with vivid colours and full of detail. As well as the book I was sent some lovely postcards with images from the book, and I'm definitely going to be finding a place to display them as they are wonderful pieces of art!

I received a copy of this book to review, Amazon link is affiliate.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Things are actually growing in the garden!

I was quite busy over the weekend so I didn't get out in the garden much, although my parents were here on the Friday to look after the children while I was away at BritMums Live and I notice that they did do a bit of sneaky weeding! The tomatoes are looking nice and healthy now, and some of them have started to get flowers, I just need to remember to keep pinching out the side shoots.

Tomato plants in vegetable patch

I had a big cull of all the pots that we had in the garden, all inherited from the previous owner. I was hopeless at looking after them properly and they were mainly filled with big, dead plants. Most of the large pots were given away on Freecycle, and the rest were filled with new compost and bedding plants from a big pack of petunias that I bought. This planter had been at the top of our drive for the last three years with something dead in it, now it's looking much better with some flowers.

Petunias in a pot

Amazingly out of the 24 plants that I bought only one has died so far, the poor thing was eaten by slugs so I've been putting pellets down now. We also inherited a lovely strawberry planter, the strawberries are sadly long gone but I've planted it up again with the petunias and I'll try it again with strawberries next year.

Petunia in a strawberry planter

I did keep some strawberry plants alive though, and this week we harvested our first - the children love picking and eating them. As long as I look after them I do seem to have a reasonable success with growing strawberries, so I'll definitely be getting more plants.

Strawberries growing in the garden

The apple tree in our front garden is also looking good this year. Last year something must have gone wrong, perhaps it didn't get pollinated or something, because we had no apples at all. But this year we had loads of blossom and now I can see plenty of apples growing. I'm not sure what variety the apples are but they must be cooking apples because they aren't very tasty to eat raw. In the past though I've made some delicious apple cake and apple crumble from them, so I'm looking forward to trying that again this year.

Apples growing on an apple tree

I'm sharing my garden snaps on the How Does Your Garden Grow? linky at Mammasaurus. I know that my gardening prowess does not come even close to some of the other linkers, but joining in from time to time is definitely keeping me motivated to spend a bit of time working on our garden!

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