Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Ladybird Tuesday - Girls and Boys, A Ladybird Book of Childhood

It's that strange time of year between Christmas and New Year, and I'm cheating a little bit with my Ladybird Tuesday post today. I'm going to look at a book which I received as a Christmas present - Boys and Girls: A Ladybird Book of Childhood. Although it was only published in 2007 it seems to be currently out of print. My Mum managed to track down a second hand copy for me, which is in excellent condition.

Boys and Girls: A Ladybird book of Childhood

It's a large, hardback book, and it's divided into chapters which reflect many of the topics that the Ladybird books are famous for - including 'at home', 'things to do' and 'special days'. It is stuffed full of vintage illustrations from the books and unedited full page extracts, featuring the familiar Ladybird typeface. It's the sort of book that you can dip in and out of rather than read through in one go.

Boys and Girls: A Ladybird book of Childhood

At the end there is a short introduction to the Ladybird Key Words Reading Scheme, and a complete list of all the Ladybird books published, divided by series, from the 1940s to 1980s. During this time, 646 Ladybird titles were published, in 63 series.

I'm slightly too young to have enjoyed a true Ladybird childhood. For me, the nostalgia in Ladybird books comes from memories of reading the older books, and having them read to me, when I was little. A great deal of the book did strike a chord with me though.

A large number of the pages are titled after different types of experience or activity, with a list of things that would have been noticed by a child. My favourite page is titled 'being ill', accompanied by a picture of a small child in bed cutting out pictures from a catalogue. Some of the things on the page - 'My bedroom looks different in the daytime', 'Lunch on a tray', 'A box of tissues and a bucket by my bed' and 'Fall asleep even though it's light' - reflect perfectly things that I remember from childhood. It's a real nostalgia fest.

Boys and Girls: A Ladybird book of Childhood

There are also short articles contributed by famous Ladybird book fans and a detailed account of themes found in the books and the volumes that are best known for reflecting them. It's a full and rich history of both Ladybird books and the period in history that they represent, and if you have an interest in Ladybird books I'd definitely recommend tracking down a copy - as a start there are several copies available through second hand sellers on Amazon.

Boys and Girls: A Ladybird book of Childhood

If you're looking for another wonderful Ladybird related item I can also recommend Postcards from Ladybird which is a collection of 100 vintage Ladybird covers reproduced as postcards. I received them as a gift recently and use four of them in a small photo wall which I blogged about here.

 

Amazon links are affiliate.

If you love Ladybird books, do pop over and visit Ladybird Tuesday, where Being Mrs C is assembling a really comprehensive catalogue of Ladybird books and reviews.

Below you can find links to all my Ladybird Tuesday book posts.

Snow White and Rose Red
Hansel and Gretel
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
The Three Little Pigs
The Old Woman and her Pig
Little Red Riding Hood
The Ugly Duckling
The Railway Children
A Little Princess
A First book of Aesop's Fables

A Ladybird Book about Knitting
More Things to Make - For Special Occasions
Easy to Make Puppets
Learning to Sew
Stamp Collecting
Tricks and Magic

Prehistoric Animals and Fossils
Dinosaurs
Stone Age Man in Britain
Great Civilisations - Crete
Charles Dickens
Nelson
Lives of the Great Composers Book 1
Lives of the Great Composers Book 2
The Story of Music

Plants and How They Grow
The Ladybird Book of the Night Sky
Sea and Air Mammals
The Farm

The Story of Nuclear Power
The Motor Car
How it Works - The Computer
How it Works - The Rocket
The Story of Ships
The Postman and the Postal Service
People at Work - The Nurse

Understanding Numbers
Talkabout Clothes
Going to School
Teaching Reading

Stories of Special Days and Customs
Christmas Customs

Girls and Boys - A Ladybird Book of Childhood

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Christmas 2013

We've had a busy few days, and now Christmas is over. We had another lovely Christmas this year, spending the day at home and visiting friends and family on each side. We counted down to Christmas following the daily antics of our Elf on the Shelf which was definitely a hit with the little ones. Harry was well hyped up for Christmas, helped by all the activities that he took part in at school - the Nativity play, a trip to the pantomime, Christmas party and the carol service. I made two smaller gingerbread houses this year, one for each child, which they decorated themselves.

Family Christmas 2013

On Christmas Eve we went out into the garden to watch the International Space Station fly overhead, made more magical by convincing the children that it was Father Christmas going past in his sleigh. Then we scattered reindeer food, and put out the stockings, mince pie and carrot.

They received one large present each - Harry a Playmobil cargo plane and Mia a dolls house - which they were absolutely delighted with. Then I kept their stockings small and simple, and of course they received presents from family too. They both received some lovely books which I'm looking forward to reading with them.

Family Christmas 2013

Family Christmas 2013

The surprise hit present of the day was a couple of tiny Hexbugs, which cost about £2 each. We hadn't encountered Hexbugs before, they are little robotic creatures that run about and are an absolute bargain for the amount of play value. Harry spent ages constructing a maze for them out of Duplo to run around in, and I can see lots more fun to be had.

Family Christmas 2013

And as for me, among my lovely gifts I was lucky enough to receive some crafty things that I'm looking forward to trying out!

Family Christmas 2013

Our Christmas dinner is a little untraditional as we don't really eat meat so we don't go for a turkey. Instead we had roasted vegetables and party food. I don't want to spend Christmas cooking, so we go for easy options that just need to be heated up. Harry was beautifully behaved at the table, Mia a little more fidgety, but we still enjoyed a special family meal. We made our own crackers this year which were a big success, and a good way to use up some of those party bag fillers that we've collected through the year!

It has been lovely to spend some family time together, and we still have another week with us all at home, so I may be a little quiet over here for a few days, but I have plenty coming up, including some book giveaways, so keep an eye out!

I hope that all my readers enjoyed a lovely Christmas :)

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The adventures of our Elf on the Shelf

Since he arrived at the beginning of the month, Elfiegoy and his antics have been a huge success. Harry and Mia loved hunting for him every morning, and were thrilled enough even to just see him move around from place to place. There were a few days though where I did get a little more creative, and here are some of my favourites:

When Ram and I arrived back from our surprise trip to Paris, Elfiegoy brought the children a note to say how well behaved they had been, along with some Christmas chocolates.

Elf on the Shelf ideas

I've seen lots of elves bathing in marshmallows so I thought this would be a fun one to try out, he looks very comfortable! I had to use a safety pin to attach his arms behind his back, fortunately as the children aren't allowed to touch him it wasn't obvious!

Elf on the Shelf ideas


Harry was beginning to wonder where all the Christmas chocolates were disappearing to after he had gone to bed, so he woke up one morning to discover the answer!

Elf on the Shelf ideas

It was inevitable that Elfiegoy would get the Hama beads out at some point, here he is making a Hama bead Santa. I toyed briefly with the idea of having him tip all the beads out of the container, but that might have been going too far!

Elf on the Shelf ideas

Finally, today was Elfiegoy's last morning with us. He appeared in the Christmas tree along with a note and two presents. The note read - "Dear Harry and Mia. I have had a lovely time staying with you this Christmas. Tonight it will be time for me to go back to the North Pole. I have left you a present to help you get ready for Christmas. Make sure that you have a bath tonight and wash your hair, and stay in bed until the sun comes up [on the Groclock] on Christmas morning, because you don't want to disturb Father Christmas! I will see you again next year, love from Elfiegoy." In the parcels were some new pyjamas for them to wear tonight, a Christmas tradition which I started last year.

Elf on the Shelf ideas

It's been a lot of fun having Elfiegoy to stay with us, I'm so glad that we started this tradition. It was a bit last minute, so next year I aim to be a lot more prepared and come up with some more fun things for him to do!

Did you have an Elf on the Shelf this year? What was the best thing that he got up to?

Monday, 23 December 2013

Simple Childhood Christmas crafts

One of my favourite things about Christmas is all the crafting that goes along with it. I remember lots of Christmas crafting fun when I was growing up, and I'm having a great time re-visiting it all with my little ones. These are some of the favourite crafts that I remember from when I was little, all really simple and can be done with things that you have around the home.

Paper snowflakes

Use something circular, like a small plate, to draw a circle onto some white paper and cut it out. Fold in half a couple of times, then use scissors to cut out shapes from the folded paper. Unfold to discover a beautiful snowflake! You can experiment to see what types of cuts work best, and you might like to try folding the paper into six instead for a more authentic snowflake. Harry loved this activity, and produced a blizzard of snowflakes to stick up around the room.

You can try using different coloured paper, and then decorating with with felt pens, glitter or sequins. You could also make snowflakes from a dark coloured paper, and stick tissue paper on the backs to make sun catchers for the window. As a bonus, the tiny triangles all over your living room will make it seem as though it is really snowing! And if you want to take your paper snowflakes to the next level, try this fantastic paper snowflake tutorial.

Toilet roll and cotton wool snowman

I loved making these when I was little. Simply take an old toilet roll and cover with cotton wool. Use a larger ball for the head, or cover a ball of scrumpled up newspaper with cotton wool, then decorate with buttons, googly eyes, pom poms pipe cleaners or scraps of card.

Toilet roll and cotton wool snowman craft

Paper chains

We always made our own paper chains at Christmas when I was little. I think that we used to buy packs which came with a gummy edge to stick together, but I've also made them with old wrapping paper, stapled or sellotaped together. If you can't remember how to make them there is an easy tutorial here - how to make paper chains, they look so festive strung around the room!

Stained glass window decorations

When I was growing up, our front door was made up entirely of glass panels. Every year my Mum would lead us in creating a stained glass window display. There must have been at least twenty panels, and each one would have it's own design cut out from card and backed with coloured tissue paper. It looked fantastic when the light from the hallway was shining out! Our front door is entirely solid with just some frosted glass so it doesn't work in our house, but you can easily make stained glass patterns and pictures for any window in the house. Just use a craft knife to cut out your design, and scraps of tissue paper to cover it on the back.

Gift tags made from old Christmas cards

I always save my old Christmas cards and cut them up to make gift tags for the next year. I even bought a pair of pinking shears especially to add a little bit more interest. Since having the children I've also used old Christmas cards to make new cards and collages.

Gift tags made from old Christmas cards


What Christmas crafts do you remember from your childhood? I recently asked some of my friends to share their favourite Christmas crafts and you can find lots more ideas here - Classic Children's Christmas crafts.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The end of Harry's first term

It has come round so quickly, and on Friday Harry broke up for Christmas. I can't believe how well he has come on. In terms of his learning, he has gone from not even recognising all his letters to reading books with proper words in. I don't know how he compares to his classmates, but I'm certainly impressed with how well he's doing. He also looks so grown up now, and so at home in his school uniform. He's had a busy week, with a Christmas party, a trip to the pantomime and a carol service, and I'm sure that he's ready for a break - although he will insist on being kept occupied!

I remember reading a blog post a little while ago which I enjoyed very much about the 'end of term art bundle', and today brought home his own very first art bundle. We had a great time looking through it and it was lovely to find some of the things that he's been working on, especially his painting and drawing. They also do a lot of work on the computers which is good to see. Fortunately I'm fairly ruthless when it comes to keeping artwork, so I've had a good sort through and only kept the pieces which I particularly like or which I remember him talking about after school.

The end of term art bundle

So his uniform is in the wash, lunch box away in the cupboard, and now we have two weeks of school holidays, with Christmas preparation and crafting, probably far too much indulgent food and time to spend with family.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Simple paper plate Christmas wreath

These paper plate Christmas wreaths are a really simple Christmas craft for children, and would also make a great project for a large group of children. You might even be able to find some green paper plates, which would make them a lot easier and quicker to make!

Christmas wreath from a paper plate craft


You need:

Paper plates
Green paint
Green glitter
Glue
Bits and pieces to decorate - we used red and white pom poms, cut up pieces of green pipe cleaner and scraps of green paper and tissue paper
Ribbon to decorate and hang

Instructions:


Making these wreaths is a two step process, as you need to wait for the base layer of green paint to dry. If you don't have time to wait for them to dry, you could leave out the paint layer and just collage the decorations on to the wreath. I like to paint first because I find that little ones often don't have the patience to cover the entire wreath, and the green underneath looks nicer than plain white.

First, cut the centres out of the paper plates. I find the easiest way to do this is to fold the paper plate lightly in half and cut out the middle that way. Then paint with thick green paint. While the paint is wet you might want to sprinkle some green glitter across them before it dries for a glittery finish.

Then when the paint is dry, stick the collage materials all over the wreath. I found some ribbon in my ribbon stash to make a bow for the top, then we used BluTak to stick them to the doors of the children's bedrooms, you could also punch a hole in the top and use ribbon to hang them from a door or the Christmas tree.

Christmas wreath from a paper plate craft

A lovely decoration for your child's bedroom door this Christmas!

Friday, 20 December 2013

When chicken pox struck

We've been dreading chicken pox for years. We actually thought that Harry had already had it, especially as he had survived it doing the rounds for years at nursery and pre-school. But I tucked him up in bed as normal one evening, then when I went in to kiss him goodnight later, he was red hot. We managed to get some Calpol into him, and as we did so we saw the first spot. There was no doubt this time, it was a proper blistery spot.

Fortunately I think he got off quite lightly. He got lots of spots, but they didn't seem to bother him. He was very tired, but was happy to just lie on the sofa and watch television for a couple of days. He was a bit freaked out by the spots though and he didn't want anyone to see them, I had to get him dressed with both our eyes shut. This meant that he refused to go in the bath or put on any calamine cream, but luckily he didn't seem to suffer with any itchiness.

Then we were in limbo, knowing that there was an excellent chance that Mia would get it, and sure enough, almost exactly two weeks later, I found the first spot after her bath. Poor little Mia really suffered. We had to take her to the emergency doctor because two days later her eyes had swollen and she couldn't open them - he diagnosed infection and prescribed anti-biotics. Fortunately, although miserable, it was a fairly short-lived illness, and the next day she was feeling much better, and up and about like usual.

So we are left feeling enormous relief now that particular childhood milestone is out of the way, although I do keep hearing horror stories of children that get it over and over again!

When chicken pox struck

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Hama bead snowflake bunting



I started making this Hama bead snowflake bunting ages ago, but I only got around to actually hanging it up this weekend! I love how Hama beads look, but the trouble is that you can easily end up with lots and lots of creations and nothing to do with them. Making Christmas decorations means that you can display and enjoy them regularly, and Hama beads are so versatile that you can make all kinds of things.

How to make Hama bead snowflake bunting for Christmas

These Hama bead snowflakes could also be used for coasters at Christmas time, or you could just stick them up around the house for some seasonal decorations, or perhaps on a window in lieu of some real snow!

How to make Hama bead snowflake bunting for Christmas

The Hama bead snowflakes on this bunting are made using the small hexagon and small circle pegboards. I loved coming up with the different designs, I do like making symmetrical patterns and the pegboards lend themselves perfectly to snowflakes. Here they are ironed and ready to go:

How to make Hama bead snowflake bunting for Christmas

I used a large needle to thread them onto some thin red cord, threading through the holes created by the melted beads. I find that the sooner after ironing the better, as the beads are softer when they are still slightly warm. I threaded through two holes across the top so that they would lie nicely flat. I always struggle to find somewhere to hang bunting, but Harry spotted the perfect place, across the front of our fire guard (please note that we never use this fireplace, you should not hang any type of bunting above a fire that is in use)

How to make Hama bead snowflake bunting for Christmas

I think it looks really festive, and the blue and white are a lovely contrast to the other Christmas colours that we have in our decorations.

If the pictures aren't clear enough to see the pattern, here are the designs that I used for my Hama bead snowflakes.

How to make Hama bead snowflake bunting for Christmas



You could also take out the background and make these as standalone snowflakes. They would need to be well ironed so that they didn't fall apart, but then I think they would look lovely as hanging decorations for the tree. You can also buy sparkly Hama beads that would work really well for decorations.

All my Hama bead crafts can be found here - Hama bead crafts page

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Ladybird Tuesday - The Rocket

I think that I may have got a little carried away when I found How it Works - The Rocket in a big box of vintage Ladybird books. It's not a subject that I know a huge amount about, and for a children's book it's very complicated!

Ladybird How it Works - The Rocket

How it Works - The Rocket is part of Series 654. There are some fascinating sounding books in this series, including The Aeroplane and The Ocean Liner. Although rather dated now - The Rocket was published in 1967 - I'm sure that many of the fundamentals are still the same and the information is still relevant to budding engineers today.

Ladybird How it Works - The Rocket

Although it was imminent, this book was written before the first Moon landing. The rockets described in this book are not just used for space travel, they are the rockets launched on Guy Fawkes night, boosters in fighter aircraft, to send equipment to ships in trouble and as missiles. Rockets at the time the book was written were also used to send satellites into orbit, sometimes for scientific purposes such as measuring radiation, for radio and television, or for studying weather.

Ladybird How it Works - The Rocket

The book goes into a great deal of detail about how the rocket is propelled into space. We learn about the principes of rocket propulsion, types of propellant, combustion chambers, valves, injectors...I'm afraid that even though I tried to follow it, a great deal of this book went well over my head!

I'm glad to find that it's not just me that found this book complicated. Being Mrs C, who is a lot more knowledgeable about this subject than me, has also written about this book and you can read her post here - The Rocket.

If you love Ladybird books, do pop over and visit Ladybird Tuesday, where Being Mrs C is assembling a really comprehensive catalogue of Ladybird books and reviews.

Below you can find links to all my Ladybird Tuesday book posts.

Snow White and Rose Red
Hansel and Gretel
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
The Three Little Pigs
The Old Woman and her Pig
Little Red Riding Hood
The Ugly Duckling
The Railway Children
A Little Princess
A First book of Aesop's Fables

A Ladybird Book about Knitting
More Things to Make - For Special Occasions
Easy to Make Puppets
Learning to Sew
Stamp Collecting
Tricks and Magic

Prehistoric Animals and Fossils
Dinosaurs
Stone Age Man in Britain
Great Civilisations - Crete
Charles Dickens
Nelson
Lives of the Great Composers Book 1
Lives of the Great Composers Book 2
The Story of Music

Plants and How They Grow
The Ladybird Book of the Night Sky
Sea and Air Mammals
The Farm

The Story of Nuclear Power
The Motor Car
How it Works - The Computer
How it Works - The Rocket
The Story of Ships
The Postman and the Postal Service
People at Work - The Nurse

Understanding Numbers
Talkabout Clothes
Going to School
Teaching Reading

Stories of Special Days and Customs
Christmas Customs

Girls and Boys - A Ladybird Book of Childhood

Monday, 16 December 2013

Review - Galt toys craft kits and Pirate Pursuit board game

Galt toys are a brand with 175 years experience in toys and education. They produce all sorts of different toys and games, including craft, science and puzzle toys, and I was offered the chance to review some of the different things in their range. Knowing how much my children love this kind of thing, I chose an Activity Pack Value Bundle. It contains six different activity packs, and they are great to have in the cupboard for rainy afternoons, as well as being fantastic stocking fillers or birthday presents.

I knew that Harry would be fascinated with the idea of making his own bouncy balls, and I wasn't wrong. The kit contains some special granules and two moulds, one large and one small. We had enough to make three small balls and one large one, although we did have a bit of spillage. You just pour the granules (which also glow in the dark!) into the moulds, then place in cold water for a couple of minutes to set before removing and leaving the balls to dry out.

Review- Toys and activity kits from Galt toys

I was really impressed with how well this kit worked, as I must admit that I was a bit sceptical! The process was easy enough for Harry to make them himself under supervision, and the finished balls were solid, colourful and very bouncy!

Next we tried some plaster of Paris, which I've not done for years. The Cute Cupcakes kit includes the plaster, a mould and some paint and glitter. You need to find an old bowl and spoon for mixing the plaster. It mixed up easily, and Harry had a go at spooning it into the moulds with a little bit of help from me.

The moulds popped out easily and were ready to paint. The quality of the paint was very good, and in a pleasant selection of colours. There was plenty of paint and the moulds are reusable, so I may be buying some more plaster so that we can make up another set or two. I think that Harry did really well and he's so proud of his cupcakes.

Review- Toys and activity kits from Galt toys

We also received the Pirate Pursuit board game. The object of the game is to be the first to fill your loot bag with treasure, which you collect by moving around the board using a die.

Review- Toys and activity kits from Galt toys

Easy enough, until you land on a space marked with the pirate galleon! Then you wind up the pirate ship and it races around the edge of the board, ready to steal the treasure of the player whose colour it lands on! It makes the game really exciting for little ones, and I made a short video of the pirate ship in action:


It's a simple game, perfect for little ones like Harry that are just starting to play board games. Even Mia could play along for a short while - she tried to join in with throwing the die, although she really preferred just watching the pirate ship race around! Pirate Pursuit is currently on sale for £15.99, a price which I think compares very favourably to similar high quality board games on the market.

We received the Activity Pack Bundle and Pirate Pursuit board game to review.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Christmas Mini Hama beads

We are still loving Hama beads in this house! I only recently found out that you can also buy Mini Hama beads, with a suggested age range of 10 years+. The standard size are the Midi beads, and it's a little harder to find somewhere selling a good selection of the Mini beads. I found the best selection of kits online at Craft Merrily and I bought two packs. I chose a Christmas set because I thought they would make nice Christmas decorations, and a second set with sweet little roses and other flowers.

Mini Hama bead craft for Christmas


When they arrived I was very surprised with how small the beads were after working so much with the Midi beads - they are about a third of the size, and really, really tiny! Really the only way to manoeuvre them on to the peg board is by using tweezers, and it's very fiddly. More than once I managed to knock the board and send them scattering, and I found out that it is very important to keep them out of reach of fascinated small children!

Mini Hama bead craft for Christmas

They looked a bit uneven when they were on the board, but once they were ironed (very carefully, and on a cooler setting than normal!) they became a lot smoother. I've started with the Christmas set, and made a lovely little Angel and Father Christmas. I've made one of each and there are plenty of beads left over, definitely enough to make another set. I've just propped them up in the Christmas tree for now, but I might attach some ribbon to them so that they can hang up. 

Mini Hama bead craft for Christmas

I think that I particularly like the mini Hama beads because they resemble cross stitch, which I love to do. but it takes me a long time. It's very satisfying to complete a picture in one go. If you love Hama beads too I'd recommend having a look at the Mini beads, they are a grown up version of a children's craft!

Are you a Hama bead fan? You can find all my Hama bead crafts here!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Ladybird Tuesday - The Story of Ships

I'm not quite sure why this Ladybird book appealed to me, I don't have a particular interest in ships. But there was something about it when I saw it in a charity shop recently, and so I picked it up.

Ladybird Achievements Book The Story of Ships

The Story of Ships comes from Series 601, the 'Achievements' series. It was first published in 1961, alongside other titles such as The Story of Flight and The Story of the Motor Car.

Ladybird Achievements Book The Story of Ships

It's an extremely comprehensive look at ships and shipbuilding over the years. The book begins with the very first boats - a hollowed out log which led to the first canoe. These boats became ships when the sail was developed, meaning that they could travel far longer distances. The book suggests that the very first ships were build more than five thousand years ago, by the ancient Egyptians. There are some lovely illustrations of early ships from countries across the world, similar and yet with their own distinctive features.

Ladybird Achievements Book The Story of Ships

It's fascinating to follow the history of shipbuilding through both the words and pictures. The final page of the book hints towards the ships of the future, in particular those that will use atomic power to enable them to sail for long periods of time without refuelling. Although talked about in the book as an exciting, and imminent, development I don't think this is something that has really taken off. There is also only a very brief mention in the book of using ships for transporting cargo, and only in reference to the Royal Merchant Navy. Also only a couple of ocean liners are mentioned - The Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth, with no hint at how cruise ships would increase in size and popularity over the next few decades.

If you love Ladybird books, do pop over and visit Ladybird Tuesday, where Being Mrs C is assembling a really comprehensive catalogue of Ladybird books and reviews.

Below you can find links to all my Ladybird Tuesday book posts.

Snow White and Rose Red
Hansel and Gretel
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
The Three Little Pigs
The Old Woman and her Pig
Little Red Riding Hood
The Ugly Duckling
The Railway Children
A Little Princess
A First book of Aesop's Fables

A Ladybird Book about Knitting
More Things to Make - For Special Occasions
Easy to Make Puppets
Learning to Sew
Stamp Collecting
Tricks and Magic

Prehistoric Animals and Fossils
Dinosaurs
Stone Age Man in Britain
Great Civilisations - Crete
Charles Dickens
Nelson
Lives of the Great Composers Book 1
Lives of the Great Composers Book 2
The Story of Music

Plants and How They Grow
The Ladybird Book of the Night Sky
Sea and Air Mammals
The Farm

The Story of Nuclear Power
The Motor Car
How it Works - The Computer
How it Works - The Rocket
The Story of Ships
The Postman and the Postal Service
People at Work - The Nurse

Understanding Numbers
Talkabout Clothes
Going to School
Teaching Reading

Stories of Special Days and Customs
Christmas Customs

Girls and Boys - A Ladybird Book of Childhood

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Whisked away to Paris!

I've known for a little while that Ram was planning something for our anniversary this week. He told me to keep a few days free in my diary, and when Harry came down with chicken pox last week and he was starting to fret, he admitted to me that we were going away for a night. He'd organised for my parents to come down to look after the children, and a friend to do the school run. He has also been planting seeds in my mind for the last few months which led me to believe that we were going to Nottingham, where we first met.

So even on Tuesday, when we arrived first thing at Ebbsfleet International station, I was still convinced that we were taking the train up through St Pancras to Nottingham. Even when he took me over to the Eurostar desk and took out the passports - I still thought he was winding me up! So I think I was still in shock as we sat in the departures lounge a few minutes later poring over a map of Paris!

I've been lucky enough to visit Paris a few times in the past, and it's also where we spent our first holiday together, although that was quite some time ago! My favourite art gallery is the Musée d'Orsay, and Ram had booked us tickets. It's a magnificent art gallery, housed in a former railway station and home to the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world. We spent quite some time here, visiting all my favourites. 


Whisked away to Paris for our anniversary

Then we took a walk down the Champs-Élysées, currently playing host to a vast Christmas market. Christmas markets in the UK tend to be based around the traditional German model but the Christmas markets in Paris had a definite French feel, with meat and cheese alongside luxurious soaps and cashmere. We walked all the way to the Arc de Triomphe and climbed to the top for some fantastic views across Paris. Then we headed to our hotel, stopping to see the Eiffel Tower on the way which was very close by. I think that you can still see my stunned expression in this photograph!


Whisked away to Paris for our anniversary

After a rest we headed to La Défense, the business district of Paris, for an early dinner at Vapiano. Vapiano is a pasta and pizza restaurant chain that we discovered on our recent trip to Berlin, and this time we had the luxury of a lovely meal without small children in tow! We enjoyed some delicious pizza, then headed down the steps to explore the Christmas market in the square below.

Whisked away to Paris for our anniversary

We finished the evening by returning to the Champs-Élysées Christmas market at night. This time we walked down the other side of the road, where there were fewer stalls and more entertainment, like ice-skating rinks and animated scenes as well as more food and drink.

On our second morning we enjoyed a lovely lie-in before heading to the Louvre. Again it's a while since my last visit, and it seemed to have doubled in size! Something I don't remember seeing in the past was the fascinating medieval foundations of the Louvre palace, all preserved underground. 


Whisked away to Paris for our anniversary

I do like a mosaic, the impressive one below is a floor mosaic from the Church of St. Christopher in Lebanon, from AD575. You can't possibly see everything that the Louvre has to offer in one visit, and even if you just concentrate on the areas that interest you most it can still be quite a trek, we certainly felt as though we'd had a workout by the end of the morning! 


Whisked away to Paris for our anniversary

Then it was lunch, and after some lovely pasta we went for a wander. We went into Galeries Lafayette, the large and beautiful department store, popped by the Paris Opera and took a trip to visit Notre Dame. We ate waffles near the Pompidou Centre, then it was time to head for the Gare du Nord and catch our train home. 


Whisked away to Paris for our anniversary

We had two brilliant days in Paris, and I think that I'm still in a daze! I was sat at toddler group on Thursday, hardly able to believe that the morning before I had been wandering around the Louvre. Thank you so much to Ram, what a fabulous anniversary surprise!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Review - Katsuma, the Moshi Monsters Trunki

As regular readers will know, we travel quite a lot with our little ones, and when Harry was three we bought him a Trunki. Both children love it, and so I was delighted when I was asked if I would like to review one of the new Moshi Monsters Trunki suitcases, as it meant that Mia would be able to have one of her own.

Trunki suitcase for children review

I chose the Katsuma Trunki, which is bright orange and based on a monster which is a cross between a cat and a satsuma. I was very pleased when I first opened the Katsuma Trunki to find that the opening catches are different on this newer model and are much easier to open than on our old Trunki. You just need to squeeze in the button to release the catch.

Trunki suitcase for children review

We have found our Trunki fantastic when used as hand luggage. In most cases a Trunki fits within the size guidelines for plane hand luggage, although it is recommend to check with the airline before flying. The appeal of the Trunki lies not so much in its usefulness as a suitcase, but in the way that it can be used by a child. It can be used as a seat while you are standing around waiting, it can be propelled across the floor by the child, and you can use the sturdy strap to pull a small child along. The long strap also makes it comfortable for an adult to carry for longer distances.

Airports are vast places, generally with smooth floors, which makes them ideal for Trunkis. Harry's Trunki has been particularly invaluable on our trips to the US, where you can easily spend over an hour waiting in a queue at immigration with jet lagged, exhausted children that have been cooped up in a plane for an entire day. It's so nice to have somewhere that they can sit and rest as you pull them along a few centimetres at a time.

Trunki suitcase for children review

I must admit that when actually flying I don't really use the Trunki for things that need to be accessed during the flight, as a reasonable amount of space is needed to open it fully and aeroplanes are cramped. Instead we use it to pack things for the children that we will need when we arrive, such as pyjamas, cups and spare clothing. Harry has always loved helping to pack it, and will happily fill it with some of his favourite toys. Because it has hard sides it's also very useful for keeping our own things in that we don't want to get squashed, like small electronic devices.

When we are travelling by car we let Harry pack his Trunki himself, so that he can keep all his things separate from ours. It gives him a sense of independence, and he loves being given a list of things to pack, like four t-shirts or two pairs of trousers. There are a couple of hidden compartments in the Trunki too which really appeal to little ones and a handy elasticated pocket which is perfect for a few cars or small toys. One side of the Trunki has elasticated straps which hold everything in place.

Trunki suitcase for children review

Having had a Trunki for a few years now, I can attest that they are very durable. Our older Trunki has been pulled about across airports and roads and it's in excellent shape. I would definitely recommend one if you travel with small children, and I know that Mia will be very excited on our next holiday when she has a Trunki of her very own!

We received a Katsuma Trunki to review, and I have also based this review on our use of our original Trunki that we bought a couple of years ago for Harry. Amazon links are affiliate.
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