Thursday, 30 January 2014

Hama bead heart hanging decoration

Valentine's Day Hama bead craft



Valentine's Day is fast approaching, so it's time for some more heart crafting! I bought some Hama bead heart pegboards especially for Valentine's Day, but instead of just making lots of hearts to stick around I thought I'd come up with a craft which displays the lovely Hama bead creations that we've made.

I used the small Hama bead heart pegboard to make five small hearts. I used just pink and white beads and came up with a few different designs, but of course the possibilities are endless. I never buy ribbon as I seem to acquire loads of it anyway, this dark pink ribbon was round some pajamas that I received for Christmas!

I ironed the hearts on both sides to make them nice and sturdy, but it's a matter of personal preference as to how much they are ironed. I tried to iron slightly less on the side that will be on display, as I personally like to show the definition in the beads. It also makes it easier when it comes to sewing the hearts onto the ribbon if you have clearly marked holes to sew through.

Hama bead small hearts


I sewed the hearts firmly on to the ribbon at the top and the bottom, with about a 5cm gap in between them. If the holes have fused up it should be easy enough to push a large needle through to reopen them. Thicker ribbon is best as it will need to bear the weight of the hearts.

Hama bead hearts



To hang up the decoration I folded a small amount of the ribbon at the top back on over itself (about a centimetre) and sewed firmly down each side, to create a little pocket. I found a matching button which I glued over at the front to hide the stitching (glued because sewing it would sew up the hole), then the pocket can be hooked over a picture hook for hanging on the wall. Just be careful not to use too much glue so that it fills up the pocket and glues it together, and make sure that the glue has dried completely before hanging up the decoration.

Another way to display your Hama bead hearts would be to create Hama bead heart bunting, perhaps similar to this Hama bead snowflake bunting which we made before Christmas.

Hama beads hearts hanging decoration

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Britmums Carnival - 28th Jan 2014

This fortnight it's my turn to host the Britmums Carnival, and I'm really thrilled to be able to showcase such a fantastic collection of blog posts, on such a diverse range of topics. There is plenty to read, so do settle down and enjoy!

Firstly, travelling with the family. I love to travel, but it's not always easy travelling with young children, especially if your journey involves a flight. This fantastic crowd sourced post by Angie from Cakes Photos Life is packed full of brilliant tips for flying with children. Leyla at Motherhood Diaries has also put together her Top Ten Tips for Travelling with Tiring Toddlers, with some more great advice and tips.

If you are planning on exploring London with your toddler you will find plenty of inspiration in this post from A Baby on Board with Things to do in London When You're Two - definitely some suggestions there that I'll be remembering next time we attempt a family trip there! And somewhat further afield, Lucy from Lulastic and the Hippyshake has recently relocated to the other side of the world with her young family, and in this beautiful post she writes about their first few days in New Zealand and a little piece of home.

Blogs can be a fantastic source of travel information if you are planning a holiday. Claire from Life, Ninja Killer Cat and Everything Else has put together a great resource if you are travelling to Florida. Her Ultimate Orlando Holiday Planner is packed full of useful tips. Mel from The Diary of a Jewellery Lover also shares her recent experience of a Christmas break in Prague, with tips for places to visit and the best things to see.

I really enjoy reading other people's travel stories for some travel inspiration, and I love this beautiful account from Over 40 and a Mum to One as she remembers a wonderful trip to Sri Lanka, learning about how tea is grown and produced. Gretta shares an account of an enjoyable and relaxing weekend break in the City of London, and gorgeous photos accompany this account from HPMCq of coastal walks in Cornwall. Tigerlilly Quinn also shares some wonderful photographs of the British coastline, sharing her post about West Bay - Our Week in Pictures.

There are also plenty of lovely images in this post from Rollercoaster Mum with an account of a visit to RHS Wisley. I also love this post from Gingerlillytea - Let's Decorate a Lonely Tree - as Keri-Anne tells the story of her daughter's Christmas adventure in the woods.

Hellie's Corner brought back some holiday memories for me with her account of her US Road Trip (link no longer available) and I am definitely inspired for a future holiday by reading about Husky Dog Sledding in Finnish Lapland by Globalmouse Travels (link no longer available). Zagreb is another city that I would love to visit one day and this post from Chasing the Donkey with some Zagreb Highlights has made me think that it would be a great city break to enjoy with our young family.

Spending time living in a different country is a fantastic experience, and allows you a very different perspective. Oana at Mama's Haven has written about Greece: A Country of Dichotomies, having seen the country as a resident and not just a visitor. Aisha discusses the expat experience in her post Expats are Born Not Made: Discuss, with some really interesting thoughts and points for a discussion which is continued in the comments on the post.

I love crafting with the children, and at this time of year there are lots of special celebrations which you can learn about through craft. The Chinese New Year will begin on the 31st January, and Eileen at ET Speaks from Home has created a fantastic Pinterest board, with links to a whole series of her posts about crafts, food and culture. I particularly like her 3D paper cutting Chinese New Year craft. Lizzie at Me and My Shadow has the instructions for a brilliant firecracker decoration by junk modelling and over at In the Playroom you can find instructions for some sweet Chinese New Year cherry blossom fans.

It's also not long until Valentine's Day, and Helen at Kiddy Charts has shared her first ever craft post - a little love bird card. Ali has also been crafting for Valentine's Day, with some gorgeous heart cutouts made from handprints. At The Gingerbread House you can find a lovely toddler friendly Valentine's Day heart and wool craft, and at Treading on Lego, Jenny has shared some colourful Valentine's Day sun catchers. Another beautiful Valentine's Day craft is these simple tissue paper cards from Mummy Alarm. Red Ted Art has a simple video tutorial for some paper heart Valentine's Day decorations and Peakle Pie has shared a lovely Valentine's pasta heart hanging decoration. Citrus Spice and All Things Nice has made some gorgeous felt hearts which would make a perfect gift for a loved one, and her post contains a felt heart tutorial video.

It's pretty cold and wintry out there at the moment, and if you don't fancy going outdoors why not create your own snowy landscape indoors. Rebecca has made a fantastic Winter Olympics small world play scene, complete with a little video of it in action! Another winter themed craft is these lovely snowy sight word discovery bottles from The Fairy and the Frog, a great way to help children with those tricky new words. For an indoor activity for babies and younger toddlers, Emma from The Egyptian Mummy shares some ideas for filling sensory bottles, something that I remember having a lot of fun making when mine were younger.

Playing with coloured rice is another great indoor activity for this time of year, and Tami from Mummy of Two has shared some fun in their tuff spot with Coloured Rice Sensory Play. We also spend a lot of time reading when it's too cold to play outside. Crafting is a great way to bring a book to life, and I love these Percy the Park Keeper woodland animals that Kirsty at Damson Lane has made to act out the story of One Snowy Night.

A craft that you do either for or with your child, these Potato Print T-shirts from Wild and Grizzly are simple to make and would make a lovely, personalised keepsake. Sharing some other craft projects with fabric, Kate at Crafts on Sea has made this lovely Cloud Cushion, and has put together a tutorial, it's simple with a fantastic finished product! There is also a lovely post from BuddyBlanQuilts about this wonderful carnival themed quilt which has a beautiful story behind it.

I love crafting with washi tape myself, and this DIY Washi Tape Desk from Hollybobs looks amazing, what a great feature for a room. And Amanda at the Family Patch has set herself a crafting challenge, she is spending nine months making time each day crocheting items to sell at a charity auction. In this Nine Months of Crochet Video Update (no longer available) she shares some of the beautiful projects that she has completed so far, so inspiring!

Writing a blog is a great way to keep a record of those milestones in life. Sarah at Boo, Roo and Tigger Too writes about her son starting pre-school, a big change in their household. Watching your little ones growing up can be an emotional time. Pippa at Red Rose Mummy writes poignantly about The End of Breastfeeding and Bex at The Mummy Adventure shares a lovely post about seeing her son grow up and yet remembering that he is still Just a Little Boy.

Becky from A Beautiful Space has written about her Moments that Mattered in 2013 (link no longer available), a great way to reflect on the the best things about the year that has gone. Ellen at In a Bun Dance also reflects on the season that has just passed, and writes poignantly about holidays when you have children that spend their time between different members of the family . And finally, a huge milestone is moving house. Sarah at Mum of Three World has recently moved, and with all that painting she has learned plenty of lessons in decorating!

If you are looking to save some money then have a read of this article from Frugal Family, with tips on how to save get a better deal on insurance with a little bit of research. Another way to save money is to make your own beauty products, and the wonderful thrifty blog Wonderthrift has the recipe for a zingy DIY New Body body scrub which is good enough to eat! Finally, another way to make sure that you get the most from your pennies is to not simply throw away food that is past its best, and Maggy at Life at the Zoo shows us that even brown bananas can be used to make a delicious berry smoothie.

A blog is a great way to share advice and things that you have learned with others. Michelle at Mummy From the Heart has put together a crowd sourced post on What Makes a Good Marriage, where bloggers share their tips for a successful marriage. In her follow-up post How to Have a Strong Christian Marriage she shares advice from Christian bloggers, with lots more thoughtful advice. Over at Mum on a Mission for a Better Life, Denise shares The Key to Happy Mornings, with some suggestions that I could certainly do with implementing!

If you are looking to learn more about how your children think and feel, Actually Mummy's daughter has started a new feature on the blog called Ask GG. If you have any questions that you would like to put to a 9 year old girl then do ask away, the answers are sure to be entertaining and insightful!

If you are looking for a way to shake things up in your family, then a screen free day is a great idea to help your children discover and rediscover some different interests. Suzanne at 3 Children and It writes about the results of their Screen Free Day, which was a really positive experience for them. One way to get away from the screens is to spend some time outdoors, and even though it's winter it's still important to exercise outdoors. Healthier Mummy has written about How Much Exercise do Children need in Winter (no longer available), and has some great ideas for encouraging children to boost their fitness. You don't need to do anything too extravagant or expensive to make some changes, and I love this post from Baby Budgeting with some Simple Ideas for a Rich Life in January, part of a monthly feature on the blog. Mama  and More! has also made a resolution to simplify after writing about How my daughter's messy room taught me a lesson (no longer available).

It's important to stop and appreciate the little things in life, and Swazi at Chocolate is Not The Only Fruit shares all the small things that make her smile, a lovely record to keep. Louisa at More Than a Momma writes on her 40th birthday I am 40 hear me roar (no longer available), with a positive post about her achievements and how writing her blog helps her to share her highs and lows.

Writing a blog also gives you the opportunity to raise awareness about issues that are important to you. Liz from The Mum Blog visited the HQ of Kids Company. In Humbled by Camila Batmanghelidjh she writes about what she has learned about the very important work that the charity does.

Last but not least, since I started reading blogs I have been inspired to try so much more cooking and baking, and the blogosphere is full of ideas for some delicious things to try. Mummy Mishaps has made some Chocolate Caramel Ritz Creams, and although salty crackers and chocolate might not seem an obvious combination, I can imagine that they are really tasty!

This homemade healthy pot noodle from The Crazy Kitchen looks delicious, and would be great to make in advance for a quick lunch at home or work. Another healthy snack is these lovely Cranberry Flapjacks from Mari's World, I can see myself enjoying one of these as a mid-afternoon treat.

I want to say thank you so much to all these bloggers for submitting their posts. I've really enjoyed reading through all the articles and seeing the amazing variety and talent that is out there in our blogging community.

I do hope that you will take the time to read through and comment on some of these wonderful posts. If you'd like to join in with a future Britmums Carnival you can see the upcoming schedule here, or perhaps even apply to host it for yourself one month.

BritMums - Leading the Conversation

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Harry's 5th Birthday Party

Yesterday we held Harry's 5th Birthday party. It was quite an occasion for us, as it was the first time that we have organised a Birthday party for more than just family. I spent ages agonising over who to invite, not quite feeling able to trust Harry to remember all the people that he wanted to come. In the end we had about twenty children, a mixture of friends from school and friends that he has made outside school.

We went for a very popular option around here at the moment - the party took place at the local leisure centre, where you can hire the soft play area for an hour and then have a function room afterwards for the party tea. I don't know why I was so worried about it all, everyone turned up and as far as I could tell everyone had a great time. It was a really easy way to do the party, all the entertainment was taken care of and all we had to think about was putting some food together for the tea and making up the party bags.

Birthday party

Harry was a bit overwhelmed by it all. He was very excited to see all his friends arriving and having them all in one place, but once they were all there I think he was happy to just have them around him, rather than trying to play with everyone. He's a lot like me and finds large gatherings a bit too much after a while. I think that he liked being the centre of attention for a bit though, and I'm very glad that we made the effort for him this year.

I'm not sure what we'll do next year. I don't know that I can handle this kind of thing every year, especially once Mia cottons on and starts expecting the same! I know that there wasn't this level of expectation for a big party every year when I was growing up. I do quite fancy having a go at a more creative themed party at some point though, so we'll see!

Do you do a big party for your child(ren) each year?

party bags

Friday, 24 January 2014

Trying a new craft - Decopatch Hearts

Recently I've been trying out a craft new to me - Decopatch. I'm always on the lookout for new crafts to try, and I often like to start a new craft by buying a kit, because then I know that I'll have everything that I need along with inspiration for my first project. I've been eyeing up the Decopatch materials on my regular visits to Hobbycraft but it all looked quite expensive, so when I was putting together my Christmas list I was pleased to find a Decopatch Love/ Hearts Kit from Amazon, which at £15 I thought was quite reasonably priced. I was lucky enough to receive the kit for Christmas, and I've been enjoying having a play with it.

Decopatch is a modern update on the craft of decoupage. You basically use torn up pieces of pretty paper and glue to cover objects, for example frames, small boxes or solid letters which you can use to spell out a word. Many of the decopatch craft materials are sold under the French Decopatch brand but now that the trend has caught on you can buy decopatch materials all over the place.

Decopatch craft kit


The thing that had put me off decopatch in the past was the thought of tearing up the paper. I had looked at sheets of gorgeous coloured and patterned paper, and I thought it looked so nice as it was that I couldn't bear the the thought of ripping it up! But I'm pleased to say that I overcame my inhibitions, and once I had I was really pleased with how it looked.

My kit contains a selection of items to decopatch - two solid hearts on string, two solid small heart frames, two flat heart shaped frames with a heart centre, two flat hearts and two heart shaped boxes. It's all contained in a nice box which you can also decopatch. Then you have instructions, a pot of glue, two stiff brushes, some ribbon and five sheets of decopatch paper. It's a nice selection of things, with a variety of flat and shaped pieces.

I've had to hold myself back, because I've found that it's quite addictive and very easy, and once I started I didn't want to stop! Here's what I've made so far:

Decopatch hearts kit



I'm going to find some small pictures to put inside the frames, I'm not sure yet whether that will be photographs of those dear to me or just pictures of things that I like!

Decopatch is a really easy craft, the paper is so thin and forgiving that you can use it to cover even the most awkward of shapes with a neat finish. The stiff brush is really good for getting into the corners, so if you are trying the craft I'd definitely recommend buying a proper decopatch brush.

When tearing up the paper, it's a good idea to tear it up into a selection of different shapes and sizes. I'd also recommend working in daylight if possible as it's very easy to miss small areas, although of course you can go back and fix it afterwards. The glue dries to a lovely, shiny finish, but you need to make sure that it has dried thoroughly otherwise the items will stick together, I've been leaving mine over a radiator for a couple of days.

Have you tried decopatch? I'd love to see what you've made, do leave a link in the comments if you have one!

Amazon links are affiliate.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Harry turns 5

At the weekend we celebrated Harry's 5th birthday. Just a little family party at home on the day, with a few lovely presents and a green pinata cake.

Five years seems like a real milestone. Even though he is well settled at school, five seems so much more grown up. I've been looking back through his baby book and reminiscing about his birth (which I wrote all about here) and looking at his baby photos. I didn't start this blog until Mia was born, but I'm so grateful to have this record of these early years.

Harry has really grown up these last few months. I'm so proud of him, he's doing well at school and his reading in particular is coming along really nicely. He's a lovely little thing, generally very well behaved, he can play imaginatively for ages and fortunately, like me, he loves quiet activities like colouring, sewing and crafting.

He adores his little sister, and he's very patient with her even when she's in the way of his games. I love seeing them cuddle each other when we pick him up from school, they clearly miss each other.

birthday cake

Next weekend we are holding our first ever 'proper' children's birthday party at the local leisure centre, with an hour of soft play followed by tea. The invitations have been answered, the party bags are filled and the lunch boxes are assembled. Fingers crossed it's a success!


Saturday, 18 January 2014

Cheese and Spinach Bread Bake

I'm joining in again with Mary from Keynko and attempting to cook some new evening meals for me and my husband. This week, I made a Cheese and Spinach Bread Bake. Unfortunately this one wasn't a hit with my husband as he's not keen on eggs and it resembled an omelette rather too much for him. I liked it though, and it would be quite easy to scale it down into a single portion (or eat his portion the next day like I did!).

The recipe comes from Asda Magazine and is a very new addition to my collection of recipes, it's only from the January 2014 edition. The original recipe serves 4, and I simplified it and adapted it to serve 2, so here's how I made it:

Ingredients:

Olive oil
2 leeks
180g bag of spinach
2 slices of bread
2 eggs
80g cheese
230ml milk
6 cherry tomatoes

Method:

Fry the leeks in a large saucepan in some olive oil for about 5 minutes until they are soft. Add the spinach and stir until it has wilted. Drain off as much liquid as you can and set aside.

Lightly grease a large ovenproof dish. Cut the bread into 2cm cubes. Use the cubes from one slice to line the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle over half of the cheese.

Add the leek and spinach mix over the top of the bread and sprinkle over the rest of the cheese.

Beat the eggs and the milk together. Add some black pepper. Pour it into the dish over the cheese and top with the remaining bread cubes. Cover and refrigerate for half an hour.

Uncover, arrange the cut cherry tomatoes and remaining bread on the top, then cook in the oven for approximately 45 minutes at 180C, slightly lower for a fan oven. Cook until the top is golden and the inside is fully set.


The original recipe claims 415 calories per serving but I worked mine out to be 584 calories per serving which is on the high side. Important to me at the moment as I'm watching the calories after Christmas! I'm joining in this week with the 52 Cookbooks linky, it's a great way to dust off those old recipe books and try out some new ideas.

Keynko

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Simple Valentine's Craft - Heart Sun Catchers

These simple heart sun catchers are so easy for young children to make, and they look so pretty stuck up in the window as a sweet Valentine's Day decoration.

Valentines Day craft for kids heart suncatchers


All you need is some thin coloured card, some clear contact paper (sticky backed plastic) and some collage materials, we used torn up red and pink tissue paper.

I used my Cricut Mini to cut out the heart shapes. There is a basic heart shape supplied in the cartridges that come with the machine, and when I logged in this time I had a free trial of the Love Struck 2010 cartridge which is where the slanted heart shapes came from (although you could recreate this shape by manipulating the free basic heart shape). Of course it is also easy enough to cut out a heart frame using scissors.

Once you have a selection of heart frames cut out, stick them down on the clear contact paper and cut around the edges. Then give your child the collage materials and let them stick them to the sticky paper. Even younger toddlers will easily be able to do this, and they will have a real sense of accomplishment from being able to create something pretty so easily. You might like to add a second layer of the sticky backed plastic on the reverse side, to keep it all nice and neat.

Children's Valentine's Day craft - heart suncatchers


Then stick them up in the window so that the light can shine through!

If you are looking for Valentine's Day crafts to do with the children then you might like these other crafts:

Easy Valentine's Day collage bunting
Valentine's Day gift boxes from toilet roll tubes

You can find more heart themed ideas for young children here - Heart Crafts and Activities

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Tuscan Bean and Roasted Butternut Risotto

I don't have many recipe books, they are something that I browse through in bookshops but don't have the desire to collect. You can read my old and frankly rather pathetic Cookbooks Listography entry here, and although I've collected a couple more recipe books since, I still have very few.

What I do have, however, is a bulging folder stuffed with recipes that I have collected and cut out from magazines, mainly of the free supermarket variety. I also have a challenge on my Day Zero Project list to cook ten new meals for the family, and the wish to join in with Mary from Keynko with her 52 Cook Books linky, encouraging people to cook some recipes from their cook book stash.


I think that the 52 Cook Books linky is a fantastic idea, and although I'm not going to be able to manage every week I'm hoping to join is as often as I can. For my first recipe, I made Tuscan Bean and Roasted Butternut Risotto. This recipe came in a pamphlet that Harry brought home from school, I think it's an example of the sort of meal that they give them for school dinners. The quantity says to serve four children, I found it made two reasonably sized adult portions.


This was actually the first time that I had made risotto, which is disgraceful really when I'm cooking vegetarian meals and it is so versatile. I found it pretty easy and quick to make, and it's fairly reasonable when it comes to calories, which is important to me at the moment! We enjoyed the meal, and although it probably won't make it on to our regularly cooked meals, it did give me some ideas for how I could cook different versions of the dish, and I'm definitely going to try risotto again.


Do you have a stash of recipes that you've been meaning to try? Why not join in the challenge? Now I'm off to go through the clippings and find something to try next week!

Keynko

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Ladybird Tuesday - The Ugly Duckling

As well as the books in the Ladybird reading scheme, I also have fond memories of the books in the Ladybird series that told familiar nursery rhymes and stories. The Ugly Duckling is part of the Well Loved Tales, Series 606D. It is one of the most recently published books in the series, published in 1979.


The language of the book is both interesting enough for an adult to read to a child over and over, yet simple enough for young readers to read to themselves. It's quite a long story, and a lot happens to the little ugly duckling before he becomes a swan.


The illustrations are as charming as ever, and often drawn from the duckling's own point of view as he looks up at the things around him. You can't help but feel sorry for the poor old ugly duckling after all that he goes through in the story, moving around from place to place and always being rejected.


Of course the story has a happy ending. I'm not too sure about the message behind the story though. While on the hand it teaches a message of looking beyond what you see on the outside, and not judging a book by its cover, the ugly duckling is only happy and accepted once he has turned into a beautiful swan. It's still a lovely story though, and one that I'll be sharing with my children.

I'm joining in again with Ladybird Tuesday at Being Mrs C, and you can find all my other Ladybird Tuesday posts here.

Monday, 13 January 2014

The London Transport Museum, Covent Garden

Last weekend we took both children up to London, and you can read about our trip here - Our first family trip to London. One of the highlights of our visit was the London Transport Museum. We visited with a four year old and a two year old. 

London Transport Museum for families

On the way in, each child was given a leaflet which showed them the route around the museum, with boxes for them to stamp at numbered locations. They loved this, and it was a good way for them to get a sense of the size of the museum and the different things that they would see on their way around. There was also a stand with plenty of other activities for children to pick up to enhance their visit - we collected some postcards to colour in and a pop out bus to make when we got home. Since coming home I've had a look around the website and discovered some more brilliant educational resources, both to use during your visit and for when you get home, which you can find here - London Transport Museum Learning

London Transport Museum, Covent Garden

The museum trail starts in 19th Century London, with a central exhibit showing the first horse drawn buses. You can even climb inside one of them. The display gives a good sense of just how messy the streets of London must have been with all those horses walking around! There is also a very interesting section on the London Watermen that ferried people across the river before there were as many bridges as there are now.

The part of the museum that we found the most fascinating was all about the building and use of the London Underground. There was a lot to read, and plenty of scale models which really brought the history to life. In particular, one model of an underground tunnel being built really fascinated the children, giving us a chance to look around the displays. There were interactive exhibits for little fingers, and in a room all about the history of marketing the London Underground, brilliant moving projections on the floor kept them amused for ages, chasing them around with other children!

London Transport Museum Covent Garden

Harry has long had a huge fascination with trams, and so was delighted to find a couple of real trams on the ground floor, as well as a small model tram which moved backwards and forwards on a straight track. I'm not sure why he finds them so interesting, but it did mean that we had the chance to spend a good amount of time in this area and I learned a great deal about the history of the tram in London.

The museum is fairly compact in size, although there is plenty crammed in, so it's good for little legs that can't do much walking. There is a free cloakroom at the entrance where a small number of folded pushchairs can be left, and also a buggy park on the ground floor, although the museum is fully pushchair accessible with lifts.

There is a cafe on the ground floor, with additional seating where we could eat the food that we had brought with us. Next to this is a little play area with model transport for children to play in and a small wooden railway complete with underground. There is a toilet with baby change, and a feeding room.

We really enjoyed our visit to the London Transport Museum and I'd definitely recommend it if you are visiting London with children of any age. There was a huge amount about the history of public transport in London that we didn't know, and everything was presented in an engaging way that was easy to understand, and compelling.

London Transport Museum, Covent Garden

February Half Term Activities at the London Transport Museum

If you are planning to visit the London Transport Museum during the February half term (Monday 17th February until Friday 21st February) there will be some special family events taking place:


  • Pop-Up Stories 
  • Storytime: 11am and 2pm - Join Jemima and her cat on an outrageous journey through London adventures, with the help of our Illustration exhibition. 
  • Make and Take: 11.30 and 2.30 - Discover exciting pop up techniques to make a picture telling one of your favourite London stories.

We received complimentary tickets to the London Transport Museum in exchange for a review. Children aged 17 and under are free to visit the museum, and an adult ticket is £15. If you are travelling to London by train, the London Transport Museum is currently included in the 2FOR1 promotion, and you can find out more details here - 2FOR1 offers by train.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Our first family trip to London

We've taken Harry to London a few times in the past, but had never braved a trip with both children in tow. At the end of the Christmas holiday, and with an inset day for Harry, Ram managed to find us a cheap night in a Travelodge and so we set off on the train with small child and toddler.

London on the train with small children

Our first stop was a river cruise. Again, always one to spot a good deal, Ram found us tickets for a cruise with City Cruises that ended up being free! It was a cold morning, and the boat was pretty empty, but we sat up on the open top deck so that we could see around. We travelled from Tower Bridge to Westminster, and there was an interesting live commentary to explain the sights that we were passing.

Then we headed to Covent Garden and the London Transport Museum. It really was excellent, and I'll be posting a detailed review in a couple of days. The children loved the chance to board some real London trains and buses, and we were all fascinated by the history of the London Underground. It's a fairly compact museum, so good for those little legs, but there is plenty crammed in and we learned a great deal. It was also very well organised for younger visitors, with activities to keep them occupied all the way around.

London Transport Museum

We finished the day at Hamleys. Not for purchasing, as it's far too expensive, but there is lots to see and you can have a look at the larger sets that you don't see in smaller toy shops. There are also some toys out to watch and play with, and we spent some time watching the Hexbugs running around in their plastic mazes. The children are still playing with the tiny Hexbug robots that they got for Christmas, and I see some Hexbug maze inspired crafting coming on.

London Hamleys

We stayed overnight in the Covent Garden Travelodge, which like all hotels in the chain was very basic, but it did all that we needed to and was very conveniently located for the Underground. We paid a bit extra for the buffet breakfast the next morning, as we have more luck getting the children to eat if they can choose from a buffet, and there was plenty there to suit all of us.

The next morning we began our day at the Natural History Museum, arriving early to try and beat the crowds. Over Christmas we watched David Attenborough's Natural History Museum Alive on television, and Harry has been watching it continuously ever since. He was delighted to find himself in the museum, and was excitedly showing us all the exhibits that were featured. He has been to the museum several times in the past, but he definitely enjoyed this visit more, now that he has more awareness of the things that he is seeing. We visited our favourite areas - the dinosaurs are always popular even though both children are a little nervous of the animated T-Rex at the end of the exhibition! We had to find the dodo as well as that features in the programme.

London Natural History Museum

Then we crossed over to the Science Museum, another favourite. The Garden area in the basement is aimed at children aged up to age 6, and Harry has spent a lot of time there in the past. We introduced Mia to the fantastic water table, and we spent some time here playing. Then we headed upstairs to Launch Pad, where there are interactive science exhibits aimed at slightly older children. It's a shame that this area is always so busy, because it can be difficult to have a proper detailed look at anything. The favourite area is the Big Machine, where children can move plastic pellets about using pulleys, lifts and so on.

London Science Museum

There is also a nice, quieter area at the Science Museum where there are lots of old models on display. It's in the main room on the ground floor but it's accessed by a staircase/lift so it's easy to miss. There are some model trains, with buttons to press to make the wheels go around, and a really interesting collection of unusual educational models.

Travelling around the London Underground with a pushchair is not easy, and I'm not sure that we'll attempt it again. Although things are improving, and several of the stations that we used did have lifts, it is not easy to keep track of a folded pushchair, luggage, toddler and a small child in the crowded stations. Both children need to be helped on the escalators, and sometimes the trains were so busy that we had to really cram ourselves on, not comfortable for any of us. It was a real contrast to our experience in Berlin, where the U-Bahn was much more family friendly.

We had a really lovely couple of days up in London, and I'm glad that we gave it a go. There are some good deals to be had on cheap hotels if you look around, and once you are in London there is so much there that you can do for free. It might seem a bit of a mission with young children, but I'd definitely recommend taking them if you are able to get to London!

We received complimentary press tickets to the London Transport Museum, but everything else we paid for ourselves.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Chinese New Year craft - Dragon toilet roll tube puppets

Crafting for Chinese New Year is a lot of fun, because you can use bright colours, glitter and streamers, and there is lots of inspiration out there. I find that my Chinese New Year crafting tends to be influenced by dragons, and so we made some simple dragon puppets from empty toilet roll tubes.

Chinese dragon from toilet roll tube

This has been the first year that I've managed to do some Chinese New Year crafting, as it's a festival that always creeps up on me after Christmas. But this year I took up a challenge set by Red Ted Art to share a Chinese New Year craft. I do like my toilet roll tubes, and so I decided to make some simple Chinese dragon puppets made from toilet roll tubes.

Chinese New Year craft

To make these Chinese New Year Dragon Puppets you will need:

A toilet roll tube
Two large pom poms
Two googly eyes
Green paint
White card (for the teeth)
Tissue paper (for the tail, I used red but you could use any colour)
A lollipop stick
Scraps of collage material in dragon colours

Instructions:

First paint the toilet roll tubes in a dragon colour, we used green. Glue a googly eye to each pom pom. When both parts are dry, cut a triangle from each side of one end of the toilet roll tube to create a mouth. Glue the pom poms onto the head of the dragon. You will need plenty of glue to make them stick firmly. Leave it to dry.


toddler painting

Then use collage materials to decorate the dragon. We used scraps of green paper and some small circles cut from gold card for gold scales. Cut some teeth from thin white card and glue inside the mouth.

Cut some long strips of tissue paper for the tail, and staple them firmly inside the back of the dragon at the top. Finally fix a lollipop stick at the bottom of the dragon's back. I used double sided sellotape with more sellotape to cover on top, as it needs to be stuck firmly so that the dragon can be played with. Then the children can fly their dragon about using the lollipop stick to hold on to.

Chinese New Year toilet roll tube dragon


Some Chinese New Year Resources

Because this is our first Chinese New Year craft, we weren't familiar with the story behind Chinese New Year. I found a fantastic free printable introduction over on the Twinkl website - The Chinese New Year Story. I printed it out to make a little book, in black and white so that it could be coloured in. The last page of the story book also makes a nice Chinese Zodiac colouring poster, which is marked with recent calendar years so you can use it work out the animal for the year that the children were born in.

I printed out a free Chinese New Year word map to help Harry extend his reading vocabulary. Many of the words, such as the names of the animals, are ones that he uses regularly anyway. I also printed him a free colour by numbers dragon, as he loves colouring, and the sense of achievement that comes from working out which colours to use.

More Chinese New Year Crafts

You can find some more fantastic Chinese New Year crafts from other bloggers that have taken up the challenge below:

Chinese New Year Crafts from Red Ted Art
Dragon Shadow Puppet from Kids' Chaos
Candy Cane Horse from Domestic Goddesque
China Themed Day from Family Days Tried & Tested
Junk Modelling Fire Cracker Decoration from Me and My Shadow
Chinese New Year tea light holder from The Gingerbread House
Chinese New Year Crafts Roundup from Diary of the Evans-Crittens
Chinese New Year Table Decorations from Crystal's Tiny Treasures
Toilet roll tube horse from Pink Oddy

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Day Zero Project update

I started my Day Zero Project on the 21st November 2012. If you're not familiar with the idea, Day Zero is an on-line project that aims to make goal setting fun. You make a list of 101 things that you would like to do in the next 1001 days. Having this time constraint means that your focus and determination kicks in as you try to tick everything off before time runs out.

It's a method of setting goals that really appeals to me. Some of the things on my list can be completed in a matter of moments, others are very long term and will be a definite challenge to complete in the time available. Some are easy, and some require a little more effort. You can see my list over on the official Day Zero Project page here, or you can follow my progress on the dedicated page on my blog - Day Zero Project - which includes links back to the goals which I have blogged about.

I'm just over a year into the project and I have completed 43% of the list. I'm pretty chuffed with that, although I am aware that some of the things left on the list are going to be a challenge to get finished. In particular my two reading challenges - "Ask 20 friends to suggest a book and read them all" and "Read 10 classics I should have read but never got around to" - are going to take some time to work through.

I have really enjoyed the new things that I've tried out over the last year and a bit, and I'm aiming to remain focussed and tick off a good number this year too. I'm hoping to finish my cross stitch sampler, which will be a big one to have completed. I'm also going to be trying out some new evening meals for the family and joining in with the 52 Cook Books linky at Keynko, and I'm getting pretty close to achieving some of the other goals, like setting up a cleaning routine and a planner for my blog. There are a few crafty ones there too which I should be able to find the time to have a go at, like making a candle, as I already have everything ready that I need.

Have you heard of the Day Zero Project? I'd love to inspire someone else to have a go at the challenge, I've found it a lot of fun! If you make your own list, I would love to see it!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Review - KOR GeoMag Tazoo magnetic construction set

Harry was recently sent a KOR Geomag Tazoo Paco new magnetic construction set to try out. KOR are fantasy creatures which fell to Earth as asteroids after a geomagnetic storm, and the range comprises seven products split across two lines. In the Tazoo range are Beto and Paco - a couple of cute little creatures found in the sea and forest. The five creatures in the Proteon range are more action orientated, with more of an emphasis on fighting and survival.

kor geomag tazoo review

These construction sets are aimed at children aged 5 and older, so at very nearly 5 Harry is at the younger end of the range, and this is definitely a toy that will grow with him.

The set consists of a small magnetic sphere which sits in the middle, and is surrounded by shaped magnetic pieces which attach to the magnetic centre to form a larger sphere. An outer layer is clipped on which makes all sorts of different shapes, the most basic being a simple a rugby ball. The set includes accessories which you use to make the basic creature, and extras so that you can make lots of different creatures. The pieces are really sturdy, I can't see them breaking.

Once you have built a basic shape, you can twist and turn the pieces, which rotate around the central sphere. This is where you can really start to get creative with the kit. It's a bit difficult to describe in words, so I've made a little video showing how the basic shape is assembled.


There is a little bit of a knack to putting the pieces together, so I'd recommend watching my video or the one that I have linked below. But once you've got it, it is easy to see what you need to do. The pieces slot together easily and Harry soon got the hang of it. He was happy to keep things simple, and use the accessories provided to make different creatures, using the add on pieces as all sorts of different things, from horns to feet. I can see that the set will grow with him, as he learns about the different ways in which it can be manipulated.

This detailed video shows you how you can make a few simple figures with just a few twists of the basic rugby ball shape.


All the seven unisex sets in the KOR Geomag range - Tazoo and Proteon - are compatible with each other. The Tazoo range is probably more suitable for younger children as the creatures are a little cuter. They are described as unisex toys, which I think is great, and I know that both the children will enjoy playing with it. Because all the sets are compatible it is a toy which can be added to over time, or you could buy a set for each sibling which they can play with together and use to build more advanced structures.


We were sent a KOR Geomag Tazoo Paco set to review. Amazon links are affiliate.

Book review - Marshmallows Made Marvellous

As a Parragon Book Buddy, I receive a monthly recipe book to review. This month I have received a copy of Marshmallows Made Marvellous, which is part of their Love Food cookbook range.

Marvellous Marshmallows book review

The recipe book contains 28 marshmallow recipes. They are all based around the basic recipe - Basic Vanilla Marshmallows. Once you have mastered the technique you will be able to make any of the different types of marshmallow in the book. Then you can try your hand at one of the more adventurous marshmallow recipes in the book - how about White Choc and Peppermint Marshmallows or Pumpkin and Pecan Marshmallows!

There is a detailed introduction to the book, which explains how marshmallows are made and contains plenty of tips for success. There are just a few essential ingredients required - sugar, egg whites, gelatine and a mixture of icing sugar and cornflour to prevent sticking. Most of the equipment needed will be found in a well stocked kitchen, and you will also need a sugar thermometer.

Marvellous Marshmallows book review

If you want to try marshmallow making then this book would be the perfect introduction, and with such a wide range of recipes it would definitely allow for lots of experimentation. It would also be a great gift for a baker friend that is always looking to try out new techniques.

Marshmallows made Marvellous book review

I received a copy of this book to review. 
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