Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Book review - Zoe and Beans, Hello Oscar by Chloe and Mick Inkpen

Hello Oscar is the fifth book in Zoe and Beans series, and Harry and I loved reading this funny story. Zoe has found all sorts of animals at the bottom of her garden, but where have they all come from? Does the hole in the fence have anything to do with it?

This is definitely a story book for children of the modern age, I can't think of any other picture books with a reference to Google! It's a lovely book to read aloud, and the dialogue flows really naturally. The text is laid out in a way that encourages you to really get involved in the storytelling, and there are plenty of opportunities for a silly voice. We really enjoyed this book, and I'll definitely be looking out for the others in the series.



Affiliate link. We received the book to review.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Homemade Diwali cards craft

In 2012, Diwali will be celebrated from the 13th November until the 17th November. Also known as the Festival of Lights, Diwali (also known as Divali or Deepavali) is one of the largest and most important festivals of the year for Hindus. Lamps are lit to celebrate the triumph of good over evil, and families exchange gifts and cards. If you would like to learn more about Diwali you might like this page of Diwali crafts, activities and resources.

This year we made some simple Diwali cards to send to family. First we looked at some commercial cards, and talked about the images and how they relate to the Diwali story.

Selection of Diwali cards

Then I found some printable Diwali colouring cards with a selection of lovely images. I let Harry choose his favourite and we printed it off to colour. We decorated with glitter glue and sequins, then mounted the picture onto some brightly coloured card.

Homemade Diwali cards

This is the first year that I've started teaching Harry about Diwali, as I think that he's old enough now to learn a little bit about his culture and heritage. I'll let you know how we get on!

If you are looking for some more Diwali crafts, then you might like these pages:

Diwali crafts round-up
How to make a salt dough diwa
How to make Rangoli using dyed rice
Large Hama bead Rangoli
Small Hama bead Rangoli
Simple Burfi sweets for Diwali

You might also enjoy these books to help introduce Diwali to young children:



Diwali (Bright Baby Touch and Feel)- A wonderful very first Diwali book for babies with bright colours, textures to touch and simple Diwali images.

Lighting a Lamp: A Divali Story (Festival Time)- A first introduction to Diwali for very young children, following a family as they prepare for and celebrate Diwali.

Diwali (Holidays and Festivals (Heinemann Paperback)) - A more informative book about the Diwali festival, with more educational resources.

Diwali (Celebrations)Aimed at slightly older children, lots of photographs and ideas for Diwali activities.

(Affiliate links)

I've also collected together lots of fun Diwali crafts and activities on my Diwali Pinterest board:

Follow Jennifer Jain's board Diwali Crafts and Activities on Pinterest.

Friday, 26 October 2012

A walk, a sit and a think

I've not had the best few days. It started on Wednesday, when Harry threw a major strop on me. It all began when he didn't want to have his socks put on. We've been having this issue for a few weeks now, he says that they hurt and keeps taking them off, then refuses to put his shoes on. I'm getting fed up with it anyway, and so when he started playing up again I probably handled it wrong and it all escalated, ending up with us not going out to visit friends after all.

We had screaming, tears, kicking, stamping, more screaming, both indoors and outside. I know that we are very lucky that this isn't a regular thing, but it threw me completely off balance because I'd never seem him like that before. Harry was a screamy baby and I could deal with that - in fact I became very good at dealing with a screamy baby. But as far as I can remember this was the first time since having children that I wanted to escape up to my parents. It was probably for the best that I had calmed down by the time I was able to talk to my Mum!

I also have a major life change coming up in a couple of weeks which I've found quite emotionally draining. I'll be fine when it's over, and it's definitely all for the best in the long run, it's just the getting to that point that is hard.

So in my lunch break today I escaped for a long walk and headed down to the seafront. I love visiting the sea at this time of year when it's deserted and peaceful. It gave me time to order my thoughts, and of course any type of exercise always makes you feel better. Changes are afoot, which I'll share when the time is right, and there are fun times ahead.

We also have an amazing holiday coming up in a few weeks time, and although it does involve things that I'm trying to forget about (a ten hour plane journey with two small children - one of which will not have a seat - and a time difference significant enough to mean that we don't sleep for a month) I am really looking forward to it.

Here's to fresh air, exercise, and collected thoughts!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Easy Malteser (or just about any other sweet) cookies

Ever since I discovered a recipe for Smartie Biscuits at Living it Little I have been addicted to making these cookies. They are so easy to make and so versatile, you can make them with whatever type of sweet or chocolate bar you have around the house. I received a big box of Maltesers for my birthday last week, and so after a morning which started with a rather major meltdown (from the pre-schooler, not the toddler) I made a batch of Malteser cookies for some comfort food.

Easy recipe for Malteser cookies

Unfortunately the link is no longer available online so I've reproduced it here. To make your own, here's all you need:

4oz softened butter (I put it in the microwave for a bit)
4oz light muscovado sugar
1 tbsp syrup
6oz self-raising flour

Sweets - Living it Little used two tubes of smarties, for Malteser cookies I used two (large) handfuls, bashed up a bit with a rolling pin. I've also used two double Twixes or two Crunchies cut up into small pieces.

Then you just cream the butter and sugar together and mix in all the other ingredients, probably using hands at the end to make a nice sticky dough. Make little balls on the baking tray (I find it makes about 20, depending on how much of the raw dough I have eaten) and cook at 180c for about ten minutes. When you take them out they will be a bit puffy, but when they have cooled they will sink down to nice flat, chewy cookies. Yum!

Easy recipe for Malteser cookies

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Book Review - The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb

We were sent a copy of Paper Dolls to review - a new book by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Rebecca Cobb. I really don’t want to sound too gushing in my review, but I have to say that in my opinion this picture book is perfect.

The story follows a little girl with a mother that makes her a string of paper dolls - each named and unique. The paper dolls have some beautifully illustrated adventures as the little girl plays with them around the house and garden. The paper dolls encounter a variety of imaginary hazards, but they escape them all, singing that they are ‘holding hands and we won’t let go’.

In the end, however, they can’t escape the very real threat of a little boy and his scissors, and he cuts them up into tiny pieces. But they haven’t gone forever, and they float away into the little girl’s memory, along with all sorts of other lovely things, until she has a little girl of her own that she can make paper dolls with.

This story is different to others by Julia Donaldson in our collection. The book is a touching reminder of children growing up and the passage of time, and that can be very poignant as a parent reading to a young child. It also broaches the subject of loss, and I think it would be a good book to share with a child that has experienced bereavement or any other type of loss, as it builds upon the idea that nothing and no-one is gone forever, they will always live on in your memories.

The illustrations in the book are quite superb. I love the drawings of Rebecca Cobb. I recently reviewed Lunchtime, which Rebecca wrote and illustrated, and that has become one of our favourite books. Her drawings are so lifelike, and they inject so much personality into the story.

I would absolutely recommend this book. We’ve been reading it every night for several days now, and I’m enjoying it every time. It must surely be destined to become a children’s classic.







Affiliate link. I received a copy of the book to review

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Review - AMF Bowling, Worthing

We'd been wondering whether to take Harry bowling for a little while, so when AMF Bowling offered us the opportunity to try out a family bowling day I was very interested to see how we got on. Initially we were going to take Mia, but fortunately we were able to arrange for my Mum to look after her, as I think at 17 months old she's probably still a little bit too young. Harry is 3 1/2 though, and it was perfect for him. We went to our local one, which is on Worthing seafront.

Ready to go
I've never been a regular bowler, although I've been a few times over the years. I've not been with a young child though, so I wasn't really sure how Harry would get on. But with the addition of bumpers down the sides of the lanes and a special ramp for him to roll the ball down, it really made the competition between us much more even.

Harry receives a pre-bowling briefing
I must admit that the adult's scores benefitted more than a little from having the bumpers in place, even if my husband did claim that he was using the bumpers strategically in order hit the pins at a particular angle. Harry caught on very quickly, and I taught him my tried and tested trick to use the power of your mind and your waving arms to will the ball over to the correct side. As I knew he would be, Harry was also fascinated by the machine that returns your balls to you.


We had a great morning, and we all really enjoyed it. It felt like we could compete evenly, despite the fact that he's only little. We'll definitely be back when Mia is old enough to join in too. Here is a little video showing how easy it was for Harry to use the ramp to roll the ball down (and how waving your arms really can influence the movement of the ball).

 
 
Disclaimer - We had two complimentary games at AMF Bowling Worthing

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Homemade play food - salt dough and felt pizza

I love making play food. It can be as simple or as difficult as you like (I tend to go for simple) and has hours of play value. We eat a lot of pizza in this household so I thought that it was about time I made some pizza to play with. It's great for lots of different role play - among other things you can use it in the toy kitchen, in the toy shop or in a pretend restaurant.

How to make salt dough and felt play pretend pizza

I made the pizza base from salt dough. I used my favourite salt dough recipe - 1 part salt, 1 part water and 2 parts plain flour mixed together to make a dough. I used about half a cup as my measure and that was enough for a nice sized pizza.

I rolled the dough out into a circle and cut it into six pieces. I smoothed the edges and make a slightly thicker crust around the edge. To dry them out I placed them in the oven on a low temperature, which worked well, but I had better results when I just placed them on top of a radiator for a few days. Before painting them I sanded away the rough edges.

I painted the pizza slices with standard poster paint. To make a suitable colour for the crust I mixed a little brown, a little yellow and lots of white paint. I had enough paint left to paint the bottom too, although you don't need to. I made sure to paint all the way down the sides.

How to make salt dough and felt play pretend pizza

Then I used red paint mixed with a little brown to add the tomato sauce into the middle of the slices.

How to make salt dough and felt play pretend pizza

For the toppings I cut pieces from felt. I was going to get fancy and sew each individual item, but it was a lot easier and quicker just to cut out simple shapes. I made large blobs of pale yellow for cheese, then cut out pieces for tomato, red and green peppers, mushrooms, olives, pepperoni and sweetcorn. I made about six of each of the larger pieces.

Looks delicious!

How to make salt dough and felt play pretend pizza

You might also like to see the other play food that I have made:

Realistic play food for the toy kitchen -laminate realistic pictures to add to saucepans and plates
Felt biscuits - Felt party rings and cookies
Felt sandwich - Everything that you need to make a felt sandwich
Cardboard biscuits - Really easy pretend biscuits that children can help to make

Friday, 19 October 2012

Review - Le Toy Van Toaster Set

We were recently offered the chance to review a product from Dolls Houses. I had a lot of trouble choosing which set to receive, as there was such a lovely selection of toys. In the end I went for the Le Toy Van Toaster Set. We've never had a toy toaster, but I've seen Harry playing with one at toddler group and he loves it. When it arrived it looked so pretty in the packaging that I didn't want to take it out of the box. But Harry had seen it, and he was desperate to play with it.

Le Toy Van toaster set review
Le Toy Van Toaster Set in box
Harry likes eating jam on toast every morning for breakfast, and so he quickly got started.

Le Toy Van toaster set review
Waiting for the toast to pop up
Le Toy Van toaster set review
Spreading the butter

I love wooden toys, and I really liked the retro design of this toaster set. I was particularly impressed with the interactive elements of the set. The toaster is spring loaded, so you can push the bread down and press a button to make it pop up (I  just wish I'd had the video camera ready to catch Harry jumping the first time this happened!). Secondly the slices of butter join together with velcro that you can cut apart with the knife. Perhaps Harry is deprived, but he's never had any play food that does this, so it fascinated him. I also fell in love with the little jam pot.

This set retails for £19.80. It's durable, and I think that's a realistic price for a good quality toy that has plenty of play value. The toaster set is aimed at children aged 3+.

Disclaimer - I received the set for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Frustrated toddlers

Mia is approaching 17 months old, and we're going through a stroppy phase. I do feel sorry for young toddlers, it must be so frustrating not to be able to communicate what you want, and to not understand why you can't do something or have something. It's no wonder that they get cross. I remember experiencing a huge breakthrough with Harry once he could understand the concept of "first we will do this, then we will do that". It gets much easier once you can reason with toddlers (and also once they can understand bribes!).

Mia expresses her frustration very differently to Harry. Harry would pretty much just whinge and complain constantly. Mia is a lot more content generally, but if something isn't to her liking she will scream hysterically. I was spared with Harry, but I think that she is going to be the one lying down in the aisle in the supermarket, screaming and kicking her feet.

I am finding it very difficult at the moment to get things done around the house, like housework or cooking. Mia is either screaming angrily and hanging off my legs, or disappearing off to cause mischief, often up the stairs and usually by emptying cupboards. At least I can pop Harry in front of the television for a little bit, to sit quietly while I make dinner!

I have in mind that it was around 18 months that Harry began to have a bit more understanding, and became that bit easier to deal with. Not long to go!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Simple Halloween decorations from toilet roll tubes

We made these very simple Halloween decorations from toilet roll tubes, some paint and good old googly eyes. I like making things from toilet roll tubes, and we seem to get through so many in our house!

The ghost is a toilet roll tube painted white, with slits cut into the bottom. The bat is painted black with simple wings from coloured paper. The spider is a cut down toilet roll, with legs made by cutting slits at the bottom. Each pumpkin is half a toilet roll tube, painted orange and with a face made from black paper.

I especially like the toilet roll tube pumpkins, I think that they would look really sweet as table decorations for a Halloween party, or you could add a base and fill them with small sweets.

Halloween toilet roll tube creatures

You might recognise the spider as one of my minibeasts, I thought that he would be good for Halloween too!

Do you make things with toilet roll tubes too?

Friday, 12 October 2012

Review - Child's fancy dress costume from Jokers' Masquerade

We are extremely lucky, and in November we will be taking a family holiday to Disneyworld. So when I was offered the chance to review a fancy dress costume from Jokers' Masquerade, I couldn't help choosing something that we could take with us to wear. I chose a little outfit for Mia, and I went for the Snow White Ballerina outfit.

Snow White Ballerina fancy dress
Mia in her Snow White Ballerina fancy dress outfit

Mia is 16 months old, and the Infant size (age 1-2 years) was perfect. It fits her well, with enough space to pop a long sleeved t-shirt and tights underneath if it's chilly. It's a simple, all in one piece costume, and it feels good quality. Of course children grow so quickly, but I think that it will fit her for a little while yet, as the top is quite stretchy and there is plenty of room left in the length.

Naturally at this time of year it's probably Halloween costumes that most people are looking at, and Jokers' Masquerade also has a huge selection to choose from, in sizes from baby to adult.

We received Mia's costume for the purpose of the review.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Sleep, glorious sleep

I don't think I ever really thought that I would write this post, but I have finally reached the point, in over three and a half years of being a parent, that I am actually getting enough sleep at night to not leave me feeling exhausted during the day.

We suffered with Harry, I really think we did. I've blogged about it before, and about all the things that we tried, but I didn't really realise how bad it was until we had Mia. She didn't sleep through until she was well over a year, but that was nothing compared to what we went through first time round. If Harry had been the second I would have taken him to the health visitor or doctor to check that nothing was wrong, but at the time we just thought it was normal and put up with it.

I've spent much of the past few years surviving on very little sleep. I remember a lovely holiday to Cornwall when Harry was an older baby, which passed in a sleep deprived haze. On two of our wonderful holidays to Center Parcs, at least six months apart, I was up and awake in the living room with Harry at 4.45am each day, waiting in desperation for CBeebies to start. Fortunately on those holiday occasions I was able to catch up on sleep later in the day!

We'd just got Harry to the stage where he was sleeping through regularly and going to bed without a fuss, when Mia came along and it all started over again! But in the last few weeks I've noticed that more often than not, both children are sleeping through. And until a reasonable hour - Harry's clock tells him that it's morning at 6.45am, and Mia is rarely awake before that. Sometimes we are awake earlier - this morning Harry needed the toilet at 6.15am and didn't go back to sleep - but I can cope with anything after 6am easily if I've not been disturbed in the night.

I'm fully aware that we're just going through a good patch, and children like to keep you on your toes with frequent changes to their routines. I'm sure that we've got many bedtime battles to go through yet. But, with fingers firmly crossed, for the first time in a good long while I'm experiencing what it feels like when you are actually getting enough sleep!

I don't have any photos of sleeping children in beds, I've never
dared try it and risk waking them!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Needlework Days - October 2012

It's time for Needlework Days over at Feisty Tapas! I must admit that I've not been stitching as diligently as before for the last couple of months, but I do have some progress to show on my long-term work in progress!

Three Things sampler by Moira Blackburn in progress

I think that this is the first time that I have shown a photograph of the entire sampler, and it's coming along nicely. It makes it look so much closer to completion when the border goes all the way around, although it's deceptive because there is lots left to stitch. Of course the border didn't match when I came to join the two parts, but fortunately I only had to undo a little bit to find the mistake!

I'm working on the top left corner at the moment, just because there were lots of bits in the same colour. I like to finish off a colour of thread rather than leaving odd little bits lying around.

UPDATE - I finished the sampler in March 2014! You can see a photograph of the finished sampler here - Moira Blackburn Three Things sampler completed.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Goring Gap, Worthing

We live very near the sea, although we probably don't go down there as often as we should. One of our closest beaches is Goring Gap, near Worthing. Goring Gap is the stretch of coast between Goring and Ferring, and it is also a protected area, meaning that there are no buildings to the north for quite some distance, with some lovely views up over the South Downs. You can also park for free all year along the coast road. There is a large green stretch before you get to the actual beach. In the summer it's full of families having barbecues, but out of the summer season during the week or early evening it can be very quiet.

Goring Gap, Worthing

This was the first time that I had attempted a proper trip out without a pushchair. Mia is a really good walker - I remember desperately trying to coax Harry along the road, but Mia will trot along happily holding my hand, and she can walk for ages. There is a small wooded area, and she loved running about, in most of the pictures that I took of her all you can see is a little blur!

Goring Gap, Worthing

One one side of the grassy area there is a little wooded part with some interesting twisty trees for climbing. Harry can't get very high yet, but he loves trying. It's also a good place for collecting twigs and leaves.

Goring Gap, Worthing

Then we went up on to the pebbles on the beach. So much easier without a pushchair! It wasn't busy at all, which I like, although there were lots of dogs running about. We walked along to have a look at some fishing boats. Then they discovered the slope leading down to the green area and went running up and down it for ages.

Children playing at Goring Gap near Worthing

Goring Gap is a lovely place to visit, especially at this time of year when the weather is still nice and it's not too busy. Now I'm looking forward to more pushchair free adventures!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Pinterest cake - the one with Kit Kats and Smarties

I've been using Pinterest for quite a while, almost as long as I've been blogging. In that time I have pinned many things, and one of the very first things I pinned was this cake. I think that it will probably be familiar to most regular Pinterest users, in fact if you use Pinterest you probably have it pinned somewhere yourself! When I recently spotted a brilliant version by another blogger it reminded me that with Ram's birthday coming up it would be the perfect opportunity for me to try it out.

Pinterest Smarties and Kit Kat cake

In the end it is probably the most impressive, and yet easiest, cake that I have ever attempted. I just made a basic Victoria sandwich cake, with plenty of icing in the middle and on the top, and blobs around the sides to hold the Kit Kats in place. It doesn't matter if the icing is lumpy or poorly spread, as it is all covered up anyway. The ribbon holds it all nice and tightly together.

For reference, I used 18 Kit Kats and four tubes of Smarties. It could ideally have done with another tube of Smarties to achieve full coverage, but as long as you have icing underneath it's fine!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Beach and underwater themed sensory tub

I have long been in awe of sensory tubs. I first saw them over at Counting Coconuts, and have recently discovered that Anna at The Imagination Tree has some brilliant ideas for sensory play too. Basically it's a large tub filled with sensory materials - often with a base of rice or beans, then different objects, either for general play like spoons and cups, or themed around a particular topic.

A beach and underwater themed sensory tub for children

I thought that they seemed like quite a lot of work to put together, and would create a lot of mess. I also wasn't exactly sure how Harry would play with them. But we had some dried rice left over from making our Diwali rangoli the other day, and after letting him dig about with his toy diggers I decided it was time to give him a bit more structure.

I cannot fully describe my pride when, in just a few minutes, I produced this:

A beach and underwater themed sensory tub for children

It's made inside an old, shallow biscuit tin. I used the coloured rice that I already had for the sandy beach, then I dyed some more blue for the sea. I sprinkled glitter into the sea, and made some waves around the beach with shredded paper. I added shells, some beaded bracelets, and a few bits of pirate Playmobil from my old collection that Harry hadn't seen before. Then I found a couple of little dolls - we even had a mermaid - and a plastic dolphin. There are some random pom poms in there too for a different texture. It was quite a wrench giving it to Harry to play with.

A beach and underwater themed sensory tub for children

Can you see that gleam in his eyes? He was so excited, he had never seen anything like this before and he couldn't wait to get started.

A beach and underwater themed sensory tub for children

He was most fascinated by the treasure chest, and he just wanted to bury it in the sea so that the lady on the beach couldn't see it. There was a little spade in there to help with the digging. He played with this sensory tub for a lot longer than I expected, and he particularly loved it when I joined in and made up little stories with the dollies, which he then copied. In the end it didn't create nearly as much mess as I thought it would, and I loved putting it together. Harry played with it all for quite some time too, and I've popped the lid on to keep it for another day. I suppose it could have come off worse! I'm definitely going to have to come up with some more ideas, preferably ones that involve mixed up dyed rice.
A beach and underwater themed sensory tub for children

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