Saturday, 30 August 2014

A visit to Caernarfon Castle

There has been a castle in Caernarfton since the late 11th Century, but in 1283 King Edward I began to replace it with the massive stone structure that still stands today. Situated by the sea and on the banks of the River Seiont, the castle is an imposing presence, with some fantastic views from the turrets.
Caernarfon Castle

On our recent holiday in Snowdonia we spent a fun morning visiting the castle. There is no structured tour, instead you are free to roam around and explore. There is plenty to discover, with lots of stone spiral staircases leading up to the high turrets, and places to walk along the walls. It's not particularly pushchair accessible, but you can just leave your pushchair outside while you go inside.

Caernarfon Castle

We also paid £1 for Harry to have a go at archery which he loved, he had the chance to shoot three arrows with plenty of help and he did pretty well. The knight helping out even said that he had a knack for it (although he probably says that to everyone!).

Caernarfon Castle

There are also a couple of permanent exhibitions in the castle. One about the investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969 which took place at the castle was very interesting, and there is also a large exhibit about the Royal Welch Fusiliers.  

Caernarfon Castle

You do need to watch young children carefully while you are walking around, as the ground can be uneven and it does feel a bit precarious. If you want to see everything you also need to climb up a lot of spiral steps which are very steep and narrow, and because Mia wanted to be carried we had to miss out a few of the towers. Having said that, it still felt as though we had a very good look around.

Caernarfon Castle

After we had finished visiting the castle we went for a short walk into Caernarfon which is a pretty little town. Unfortunately we were rained away, but it's definitely worth a visit if you are at the castle.

We parked for the castle in a large car park by the waterfront at the rear of the castle which cost £5 for the day. There are six on street parking spaces right outside the castle where you can park for free for up to two hours, and there were spaces free here when we arrived first thing.


Caernarfon Castle

As we were leaving Caernarfon, we made a brief stop at Segontium Roman Fort which is free to visit with plenty of free on street parking outside. The visitor centre is only open on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, but you are free to explore the fort yourself daily from 10am-4pm. If you want to learn more about the fort it's probably worth buying a guide book to take with you, as when the visitor centre is closed there isn't a great deal of information to help you interpret the site. But there are some stunning views from the fort and the foundation walls give you a good sense as to the size and scale of the original structures.

We received a complimentary family ticket from Cadw to explore Caernarfon Castle. A family ticket costs £20.25. Segontium Roman Fort is free to visit.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Mixing up the play dough

We bought the children some new play dough at the weekend and I made a mistake. Instead of stashing it away, I left it out on display and Harry saw it. I'm very strict with our play dough, and I only open one pot at a time. If both children want to play with it and they have a different colour each, they sit at opposite ends of the table and there is no mixing. They are only allowed a second colour if all traces of the first are put away.

Mixing up the play dough colours

Then this week I had a sudden realisation. Play dough is not that expensive. You can make your own very cheaply. The colours are designed to be mixed. Harry spends ages watching YouTube videos where people play with play dough sets and make all sorts of colourful creations. By only allowing one colour at a time I am stifling little imaginations. Furthermore, play dough will not be a part of this household forever. In a few short years there will no longer be any play dough in the house and I'll probably even miss it.

So I let Harry open up four whole pots of play dough and mix up the colours. I made sure that he understood that once the colours were mixed they wouldn't go back to how they were, and he didn't mind at all. So I watched through my fingers as he smooshed the colours together, copying models from suggestions on the packaging and coming up with his own designs.

Harry had a wonderful time. The world didn't end. He happily packed it all away himself ready for next time, and he was so proud of the things that he had made. And I was quite proud of myself too. So no more to play dough OCD!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Exploring Snowdonia with Attractions of Snowdonia

Family on holiday in Snowdonia

This week we've been enjoying a short family holiday in Snowdonia. For one day of our holiday, we were invited by Attractions of Snowdonia to spend a day exploring some of the local places to visit. Attractions of Snowdonia is a group of 27 different attractions in the heart of North Wales, and they have recently enlisted Deri the Roaming Welsh Dragon as a mascot. We were sent our very own Deri Dragon cuddly toy to take with us on our day out.

These are the places that we chose to visit:

Sygun Copper Mine

Sygun Copper Mine, Snowdonia

Visiting Sygun Copper Mine gives you the opportunity to explore the workings of the old mine on a self-guided audiovisual tour. The mine was abandoned in 1903, and the tour gives you a glimpse into the life of a Victorian copper miner.

You enter the mine through a long tunnel cut into the hillside, and at various points on the tour you can stop and listen to information about what you are seeing, with a few dressed mannequins along the way to help bring it to life. The main tour has quite a few steps, which you can avoid, although this will considerably shorten your visit.

It was pretty dark and cold inside the mine and I wasn't sure how the children would take it, but luckily they were both fine, and we were all able to climb up the stairs with no problems. I enjoyed the flexibility of a self-guided tour, as we could move at our own pace through the different areas if something wasn't holding Mia's attention. Inside the mines you can see some of the equipment and learn about the mining process. There are also caves that you can look into where you can see stalactites and stalagmites that have formed.

At the end of the tour you emerge blinking from the hillside to some beautiful views and a lovely little walk back down to the entrance. There's also a small museum with various interesting fossils and other historical artifacts.

Sygun Copper Mine, Snowdonia

If you are visiting with young children, do be aware that there are several long flights of steep steps and that the ground inside the mine is uneven. Children really need to be old enough to walk through the mine themselves, and it's quite cold inside with lots of puddles. Also make sure that you wear the hard hats which are provided, because it's very easy to bump your head! But I'd definitely recommend a visit for curious children.

Llanberis Lake Railway

Llanberis Lake Railway visit

If you want to see Snowdonia by rail you have several different options, even including a train ride to the actual top of Snowdon. For our visit we chose the Llanberis Lake Railway, because we liked the sound of the route around the lake and because the journey time - about an hour round trip - looked perfectly suited to our small children.

Llanberis Lake Railway visit

From Sygun Copper Mine it was about a half hour drive to the railway. Because we were combining our visit with a trip to the National Slate Museum we parked in the large Gwynedd Council car park (£4 for the day) and began our journey at Gilfach Ddu station. From Gilfach Ddu the train takes you into Llanberis, where passengers can also board the train, and then you backtrack for the main part of your journey alongside the beautiful Padarn Lake. You travel to the end of the line before turning back. The train track runs right along the edge of the lake, and the scenery really is lovely. It was a rather grey day, but we still saw people out canoeing on the lake, and walking alongside the train track.

Llanberis Lake Railway visit

On the return journey the train stops for a few minutes at Cei Llydan station, a pretty little stop where you can stay for longer if you like and catch a later train back. We visited on a rainy day and so we didn't stop for long, but because it was Bank Holiday week there was a Teddy Bear's Picnic activity taking place which was a lovely touch. Some of the staff were dressed up as bears, and all the children were given a voucher for a free picnic box filled with picnic food, which they very much enjoyed! The station was also decorated with bears, and a group of teddies enjoying a picnic on a bench.

If you have young children I'd definitely recommend a ride, the journey is a nice length for little ones and there is also plenty of opportunity to see the train in action as it moves from end to end of the train when it changes direction! If the weather had been nicer then we would definitely have stopped at Cei Llydan to eat a picnic, and enjoy the play area and the lovely setting.

National Slate Museum

National Slate Museum, Snowdonia

We finished our day with a visit to the National Slate Museum, located right next to Gilfach Ddu station and free to visit. Housed in the industrial engineering workshops for the former Dinorwig slate quarry, the museum tells the story of the Welsh slate industry, and is well worth a visit.

National Slate Museum, Snowdonia

There was plenty to see. The children particularly enjoyed climbing up to see the huge Water Wheel - the largest on the British mainland - which was used to power a great number of machines including drills and lathes that operated in the different workshops. Harry was also fascinated to watch a huge chainsaw cutting through a large block of slate, and I liked visiting the reconstructed Quarrymen's Houses - four houses which have been rebuilt at the museum, with each furnished in a style that reflects a different period significant to the slate industry.

National Slate Museum, Snowdonia

The rain held off for a quick trip to the playground at the museum, and then we ended our visit in the children's craft area where we paid £1 for Harry to decorate a piece of slate with pens and glittery stickers. It looks really good, and will make a lovely souvenir! There was also lots of colouring that children could do for free, and so Mia decorated a Welsh flag.

National Slate Museum, Snowdonia

We had a great day exploring these family attractions in Snowdonia! Keep an eye out over the next few weeks as I will be writing about some of the other places that we have visited on our holiday in Wales.

In exchange for this review we received a Deri cuddly toy, and complimentary admission to the Sygun Copper Mine and the Llanberis Lake Railway. The National Slate Museum is free to visit.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Ladybird Tuesday - The Postman and the Postal Service

Ladybird People at Work - The Postman

The Postman and the Postal Service comes from Ladybird series 606B - People at Work and was published in 1965. It looks like a fascinating series, and I've already featured another book from the series - The Nurse. The books in this series are written in more approachable language than some of the more detailed Ladybird books, and would be great reading practice for children learning to read.

Ladybird People at Work - The Postman

The book begins with a look at the very early days of the postal service, five hundred years ago, when the King's letters were carried by a special messenger in a bright red uniform, the very beginning of the Royal Mail. The book explains how the service gradually developed into a network of post boys, carrying other people's letters as well as the King's letters. They travelled by horseback, and every twenty miles or so was an inn where the post boys stopped to change their horses and eat. These inns because post-houses, the very first post offices. It's a really interesting history of the development of the postal service.

Ladybird People at Work - The Postman

The second half of the book covers the postal service as it was when the book was published, beginning with the purchase of a stamp and ending with the postman delivering a letter to the door, with plenty of rich detail along the way about the way in which letters are sorted, transported and delivered. I know that it's a process that would fascinated children - I remember well a trip to the local sorting office when I was a child! Although these days the system must be a lot more mechanical and computerised, I would imagine that many of the basics are still pretty similar. 

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, 24 August 2014

A crafty day in London and a mini fabric pinboard

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited along for a day of crafting by DryNites. I had a fantastic day of crafting with some like-minded bloggers. 

Scroll down to see how to make the mini padded pinboard in the picture below!

How to make a fabric pinboard

The venue for the event was Tea and Crafting, a lovely spot in Camden Town, appropriately described as a craft sanctuary. The room was beautifully decorated, with plenty of space for working but cosy enough for chatting.


Leading us in our crafting was Tamara Melvin, Great British Sewing Bee finalist. Tamara has been working with DryNites to create some craft projects which bring a grown up touch to childrens' bedrooms as they go through the bedwetting stage of development.

We were also joined by child psychologist Emma Kenny to chat to about any potty training or wetting issues that we might be having with our children. She emphasises that it's important not to continue to treat young children as babies, and instead of putting them to bed in a nappy you could consider using a more age-appropriate product like DryNites Pyjama Pants.

Drynites crafting event

We had the opportunity to make two lovely crafts for our child's room - a bedside lamp using some old toys and a padded pinboard. The lamp is a way to help your child feel comforted at night when they see their familiar toys beside them, as well as being practical for night time toilet visits. The pin board can be used to store your child's mementoes and mark their learning stages, to help them recognise that they are growing up. Both crafts can also be made with your child's help, so that they feel a sense of achievement and pride in the finished product.

Lamp Base and Shade

How to customise a lamp

For the lamp base we used a simple lamp which you can buy easily. I found a few old toys - a couple of cars and some plastic dinosaurs. Everything was sanded and then painted with Annie Sloan chalk paint - a few coats covered the items beautifully.

Drynites crafting event

While the paint was drying we decorated the shade. A piece of cardboard was cut to size, and then stars cut out with a craft knife. I chose some lovely spotty paper to put behind the stars before using a glue gun to stick it to the shade. Then I trimmed the edges with some blue ric rac. This was so easy to do, and I love the idea of your child helping to decorate the lamp shade, perhaps with stickers or their own drawings.

How to customise a lamp

Padded Pin Board

How to make a fabric pinboard

For the pin board, you need a piece of stretched canvas, some wadding or foam and a piece of fabric. I used a spotty pillow case that I bought in Asda, you could use any old fabric that you have around or perhaps some old clothing or sheets from your child's room. The fabric is stapled tightly around the wadding and the canvas. This was the first time I had used a staple gun and it was brilliant, I think I might well be adding one to my Christmas list!

How to make a fabric pinboard

Then we took some pieces of elastic and stretched them across the board in diagonal stripes, held in place with a split pin and decorated with some paper flowers. The stretchy elastic means that you can tuck away larger objects too, like small toys and keepsakes.

I was really pleased with both things I made, and it was so lovely to have the opportunity to sit down with some like minded people and really concentrate on what I was doing without any small interruptions! Then we finished the day with some delicious cupcakes!

Drynites cupcakes

In my goody bag among other things there was a lovely gift for the children - a Worry Eater . This little soft toy has a zip across his front, with the idea being that children write down their worries and zip them away. I think it's a lovely idea, you could keep him beside the bed and help your child write down things that are worrying them before they go to sleep. It also means that you can find out things that worry your child that you might have no idea about. I found out that Harry is worried about tornadoes and tsunamis thanks to a book we've been looking at, perhaps I need to think more carefully about our choice of bedtime reading!

Worry Eater stuffed toy and child

I also left with some DryNites products to try. Mia is still in nappies at night, and I find that she is often soggy in the mornings. That's because as children get older they need something a bit more substantial. DryNites Pyjama Pants are designed for older children, and should work much better for her until she becomes dry at night. I also received some DryNites Bed Mats which I have found to be brilliant, they are very absorbent and great for taking away with you if your child will be sleeping somewhere without a waterproof undersheet.

As well as the wonderful opportunity to spend the day crafting, I also received a goody bag and some DryNites products. Amazon link is affiliate.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Manchester - What to do?

You are planning a visit to Manchester; there is plenty to do to keep the whole family entertained, with lots of family friendly attractions and museums. I've picked out a few which I think look fantastic for some family fun.

When you visit a new city, a good way to orientate yourself and make sure that you don't miss anything is to take a guided tour, and in Manchester you can take an Open Top Bus Tour around the city. The tour takes two hours and is accompanied by a local guide, visiting sites in both the city centre and surrounding districts.

Even if you've never visited Manchester before you are bound to have heard of Old Trafford Football Stadium, the home of Manchester United.

There's a museum you can visit which is free until the end of August, and for an additional £18 you can book a tour of the stadium which allows you to visit the home dressing room, the tunnel and the Manager's seat in the dugout. It's a little way out of the city centre, so if you are planning a visit have a look at Hotel Direct for details of hotels nearby.

Football fans would enjoy combining a visit to Old Trafford with a trip to the National Football Museum. Located in the city centre, entrance is free but you can purchase credit to take part in Football Plus+ activities, with some hi-tech experiences for older children like a Penalty Shootout and a Match of the Day Commentary Challenge. Younger visitors can enjoy the Discovery Zone aimed at children aged 5 and under, and there are interactive objects and games throughout the museum. There is plenty here to keep football fans of all ages interested and entertained, with all sorts of football related artefacts and memorabilia.

The Legoland Discovery Centre is a completely indoor attraction, so perfect for rainy days. There are all sorts of Lego related activities, with rides, a 4D cinema, a Miniland built of Lego featuring local landmarks and plenty of opportunities to play with Lego bricks.

Legoland Discovery Centre, Manchester

You can build your own Lego racing cars and race them down a track, and younger children can construct in the Duplo village. The Legoland Discovery Centre is located inside the Trafford Centre.

The Manchester Museum of Science and Industry takes you on a journey through Manchester's heritage. It's located on the site of the former Liverpool Road Station, one of Manchester's most important historic sites.

Among many other exhibits you can go underground and walk through a Victorian sewer, learn about the Manchester cotton mills and see road transport and locomotives. There is also a 4D theatre. Entrance to the museum is free, and you could easily spend a whole day here.

If your children are obsessed with trams, buses and coaches then the Museum of Transport would definitely be worth a visit. It's located about a mile outside the city centre, with excellent public transport links. It's based in one of Manchester's earliest bus garages, adjoins the first tram depot, and has a large collection of restored vehicles from the county. There are also regular special events with chances to ride on some of the historic buses.

Children aged six and over might like to visit the CBBC Interactive Tour at MediaCityUK and visit the home of many favourite CBBC shows, including Blue Peter and Newsround. Children can try their hand at being a television presenter, and find out all about what goes on behind the scenes. Make sure to book in advance as capacity is limited!

With so much to do, Manchester is a great place to visit with the family!

This is a sponsored post

Thursday, 21 August 2014

A bracelet of story beads

I first encountered story beads on the blog Mudpies and Marmalade - Story Beads. It's a lovely post if you are interested in learning more about them. Basically, story beads are beads which are used as a prompt for telling stories, and they can be stored as a necklace or bracelet worn by the story teller.

A bracelet of story beads

I've been meaning to make a story bead bracelet for a while now, and I started collecting beads for it, but I'd been putting it off. I wasn't sure why at first, but then I realised it was because I was worried that I'd forget the stories associated with the beads. But I decided that it's not important, if I forget the stories I can just make up a new one! The stories can vary anyway according to the mood of the teller or the listener.

Story beads are also popular for helping children to remember famous stories like the Nativity or Thanksgiving. I've also discovered Great Story Beads, which are an amazing way of symbolising a story spanning 13.7 billion years. You can find plenty of fascinating information and ideas here - Great Story Beads.

A bracelet of story beads


I made my bracelet using some beads that I bought ages ago, and some that I received recently as part of some crafty goodies to review. The beads that I bought mainly came from the Brighton Bead Shop which I really love, I picked up some little silver charms that I like to represent certain things about me - an anchor for travelling, a feather for writing, a cupcake for baking. I was in Hobbycraft recently and noticed that they had a nice bead selection in there too, and that's where I bought the purple elastic that I used to string the beads together. Among other things, there is a little stone on the bracelet with a hole through it that I found somewhere, and an old bead that I found in the garden of our old house.

I deliberately made my bracelet while the children were around so that they could see what I was doing, and of course they both wanted to make one too. Luckily I had plenty of beads! Mia was happy just stringing away, but I encouraged Harry to think about the beads that he was using. I asked him what particular beads reminded him of, and I loved his responses. He chose one that had a large hole through the middle and said that it reminded him of a rabbit because they live in holes. He chose the sparkly ones because they reminded him of pirate treasure.

A bracelet of story beads


They are pretty cool bracelets! I've told Harry that if he sees me wearing my story bracelet then it means that I'm in the mood for telling stories so he can come up to me and ask for one.

A bracelet of story beads

I thought that I'd find it difficult to come up with stories for the beads, but it's not hard at all. Sometimes my stories are based around things that we've done together, and the children love stories about themselves or children just like them. I've used them as a way of helping them to remember things that we've done. It's a similar idea to the storytelling bottle caps that I made a couple of years ago, and that Harry still asks for today.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Ladybird Tuesday - Little Red Riding Hood

Ladybird Well Loved Tales - Little Red Riding Hood

The Ladybird book Little Red Riding Hood is from series 606D - Well Loved Tales. I think it's probably one that most of us owned at some point! According to the back of the book, the books are graded in reading difficulty, with Little Red Riding Hood being Grade 2.

Ladybird Well Loved Tales - Little Red Riding Hood

The story starts as all fairy tales should, with "Once upon a time", and Little Red Riding Hood sets off on her familiar journey through the forest. It's not a long story, but they manage to stretch it all out very well to make a decent book of the tale. It has the familiar "What big eyes you have!" and so on, and of course there is a happy ending to the story.

Ladybird Well Loved Tales - Little Red Riding Hood

I love that this book is interesting enough for an adult to read to a younger a child, and then simple enough for children to be able to read themselves as they start learning to read. Some of the illustrations are pretty scary, and I remember I was never very comfortable myself with the idea of Little Red Riding Hood and Grandma being cut out alive from the stomach of the wolf, but it's a great re-telling of a classic tale.

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, 17 August 2014

Lollibop 2014 at Hatfield House review

We had such a great time at Lollibop last year, and so I was really grateful that thanks to Little Tikes we received a family pass and the opportunity to experience the festival for a second year.

Day at Lollibop 2014

The venue changed this year to Hatfield House. We arrived around half an hour before the festival opened, and had no problem driving into the car park and parking. Parking cost £10.

We headed first to Tikes Town by Little Tikes, very easy to spot near the entrance. It was a large fenced off area, filled with Little Tikes toys - cars, outdoor play equipment and smaller toys like play kitchens, cars and diggers. Children took turns to play in small groups, with a very short queue and smooth handover. We visited again several times through the day because the children loved it here so much, it was really well organised with loads for them to do. I even got to sit in an adult sized Little Tikes car!

Day at Lollibop 2014

Nearby we also enjoyed the Duplo area, where the children could build their own constructions and take them into a special tent where a computer brought their creations to life. This part was a bit hit and miss to be honest, but the children were very impressed and kept running back in with their latest models!

Day at Lollibop 2014

The Thomas and Friends area was another very good part of the festival. If you could do without having your picture taken with Thomas then there were very few queues, and lots of little games that the children could play to win small prizes, like hooking a train and knocking down blocks.

Day at Lollibop 2014

We spent most of our day wandering around and exploring the different tents and activities, which we didn't find too busy. We spent some time watching chickens hatching from eggs in the Incredible Eggs tent, and making shapes from clay to stick to a tree in the National Geographic tent. In the Science Museum tent Mia held a bubble with some kind of cloudy gas inside and we saw some helium balloons being exploded.

One tent that we very much enjoyed was the Wizard School, with a Harry Potter theme. There were short queues for the children to make spiders, magic wands and a little pot of magic beans, and we were just in time to watch a magic show with Harry Potter and Hagrid. We also enjoyed the den making area, where we were provided with sheets and pegs, with ropes strung from trees to build between.

Day at Lollibop 2014

The Nintendo area had a cool slide which the children loved and a challenge where you had to collect stickers by doing different activities. We didn't manage it as the children didn't have the patience for it, but it did look like a lot of fun.

We arrived half an hour early at the main Lollibop Live stage to watch Justin Fletcher, easily the most popular performer, and we had a pretty good view. We were quite near the back but many people towards the front were sitting down on the provided benches and also there was a slight slope. We did still had to lift the children up to see though and it was quite uncomfortable with a large helium balloon in front of us that kept bopping us, so we didn't last the whole set.

I've read several other reviews of the day now, and everyone seems to have found different things to see. We spent all day there and felt that we'd seen it all, but I keep finding things that we missed, in particular the free Haribo passed us by this year! There is certainly plenty to do without watching any of the shows. We didn't spend any money at all once inside as we brought our own food.

Our only disappointment was the organisation of the Lollipalladium tent. I tried very hard not to promise anything in advance to avoid disappointment, but I did tell Harry that Andy Day from CBeebies would be there as he loves his dinosaur programme. Unfortunately the show was in the Lollipalladium tent, and it soon became clear that there was no way we were going to get in at all due to limited capacity and long queues all day. Fortunately our children weren't too bothered and we were able to distract them elsewhere, but I did see some upset people.

At the end of the day we found a face painting stand with no queue (included in the ticket price), so Mia had her face painted for the first time. She's never shown any interest before, but she loved it, she chose her design from the book and sat so still while the lady painted some pretty pink flowers. It looked really good!

Day at Lollibop 2014

We had a great day at Lollibop and I would love to return next year. We didn't really see any of the shows but we still found plenty to do in the tents across the festival. But at £82.50 for a family ticket (advance price for two adults and two children) plus £10 parking I do think that Lollibop need to improve it somehow so that everyone can see the acts that have been advertised, as they are the main incentive for the cost of the ticket.

We received complimentary tickets to Lollibop, with big thanks to Little Tikes.

Review - Crafting materials from Viking

Recently I was invited to choose some craft products to review from Viking. After a look through the Viking website I found a huge range of art and craft supplies, suitable for both adult and child crafts. I was completely spoilt for choice!

We've been having a lot of fun with modelling clay lately, but the clay that we've been using has quite a firm texture and is too difficult for smaller fingers to manipulate. The ModelAIR modelling material is really light and almost puffy in texture, and much better for younger children. I chose a pack of bright colours which contains red, blue, yellow and white, so you can mix it easily to make any colour that you need.

It's not sticky at all and doesn't make any mess while you are using it, and then it just needs to be left out for a few days to dry. When it is dry it stays really light and soft to the touch. We've not tried, but I would think that you could paint it pretty easily. There is loads in the box too, we've had a couple of crafting sessions already, with friends too, and there is plenty left over for another day. The children made some fantastic monsters, a clown fish and then some food for the monsters to eat! The finished models were sturdy enough to play with too.

Art and craft supplies from Viking

I'm always crafting with felt, and we do get through it very quickly, so I was pleased to find a huge pack of felt. This felt bundle really is gorgeous. There are 100 sheets with four sheets each of 25 colours. The felt sheets are really, bright, vibrant colours and the felt itself is lovely and thick.

Art and craft supplies from Viking

We used some of the felt to make a monster land for the monsters to live in. I just used a green sheet for the base then we talked about the things that we wanted monster land to have. Harry decided that they needed nests to sleep in and Mia wanted a pond. Later on Harry wanted some snow so I cut out lots of small circles of white felt and we sprinkled them around, it looked really good!

Art and craft supplies from Viking

Finally, we get through a lot of coloured card in this house, and so I chose a pack of 100 sheets of coloured card which will keep us going for some time. It's a lovely selection of colours, and although the description says pastel colours there are some nice bright shades in there too. I'm planning on getting my Cricut out for some more crafting soon, and this card will be perfect!

I received these products from Viking for the purpose of this review.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Hama bead elephants

This really has been a summer of Hama beads, and I've been enjoying them just as much as the children! As a #craftmerrily blogger I was sent lots of Hama beads and boards, including the Elephant pegboard which I have had my eye on for some time. I've been having a lot of fun coming up with some different designs.

This is the standard design which came with the set, Harry helped out with a lot of this one. This board does use up quite a lot of beads!

Blue Hama bead elephant


Then I changed the colours a bit to make a pink version of the elephant:

Pink Hama bead elephant


More confident now, I created a Hama bead Elmer elephant which I'm rather proud of, using a picture from the book as a guide:

Elmer elephant Hama bead craft


Fellow Hama bead enthusiast Kylie from Not Even a Bag of Sugar sent me a picture of her Hama bead Elmer which looks gorgeous in a frame!

Framed Hama bead Elmer elephant

Finally, I made Mrs Jumbo from Dumbo! I wanted to try Dumbo himself but I think that the board is the wrong shape for him, you'd need to make his ears bigger.

Mrs Jumbo from Dumbo in Hama beads


I now have a little parade of elephants across the top of our mantlepiece, and I keep thinking up new elephants that I want to make!

My Elephant pegboard was part of a Hama bead kit that we were sent by Craft Merrily. You can buy a pack of four pegboards at Craft Merrily which contains an elephant among other animals - Elephant, Giraffe, Lion and Camel Hama bead boards or you can buy a larger kit which contains these boards and others, along with lots of beads - Safari Hama beads giant gift box.
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