Friday, 28 February 2014

Crafting for Mother's Day with Baker Ross

I'm really excited to be a part of the Baker Ross Bloggers Network. Baker Ross sell all sorts of arts and craft materials, both basic craft supplies and more structured pre-packaged kits which help children to make some gorgeous gifts and keepsakes. You can purchase in bulk, if you are looking to buy products suitable for playgroups or community groups for example, or parents can buy smaller quantities for home use. As a parent, I can see so many materials that we would use. In particular, if we are even planning a party based around any theme, there are lots of great products which would really make it unique and provide some wonderful crafting and party bag supplies.

We received a huge box of craft materials to try out. So many that I can't fit them all into one post! So I'm going to start by taking a look at some of the products we received which are particularly themed towards Mother's Day, celebrated in the UK this year on Sunday, March 30th.

As an absolute minimum for Mother's Day I would hope to receive a card, and Baker Ross offer a number of different pre-printed cards for young children to colour. I really like these MUM Pop-Up Cards, because they are a little bit different and have plenty of space for children to colour. We decorated them with some pretty flower stickers and gem stickers. We were also sent some Mother's Day Face Cards which we've not got to yet but also look like being a lot of fun for the children to decorate. Both cards are each sold in packs of eight, at £1.99 a pack, which I think is very good value. They'd be a great craft for a group of children at a playgroup or similar, as young children can work on them without needing too much supervision.

Baker Ross Mother's Day cards

It's also lovely to receive a homemade gift on Mother's Day, and it's nice if it's something that you might actually use! These Heart Charm Bracelet Kits are really pretty, and Harry easily managed to put one together for me which he was really proud of. A pack of three bracelet kits costs £3.45, and there is a good selection of beads there that you could easily use in other projects too. I left Harry to make his by himself while I occupied Mia, but you could also take the opportunity to help your child think about planning a design in advance, and look at the colours and creating a pattern.

Baker Ross heart charm bracelet kit

For something a little bit more freestyle, children can decorate these Wooden Heart Magnets. I painted them red first myself using acrylic paints to make sure that they were evenly covered, then gave the children various stickers, pens and buttons to decorate them. They would make a lovely gift for Valentine's Day too, or a Birthday present for a special person. I've also kept some of them aside, as I can see a few more crafting possibilities for me to try myself!

Baker Ross wooden hearts

Finally, these Treasure Chest Foam Kits are girly enough that they would also make a pretty and practical gift for Mum, although I'm afraid that I won't get a look in at ours as they are already stuffed full with 'treasure' that the little ones have collected together! They were pretty easy to assemble, and came with plenty of bits and pieces to decorate them with. A pack of two costs £2.95, and you can also buy ten for £13.90 which I think is great value. I've been thinking that they would be fantastic for a pirate themed party - you could make them as a craft activity during the party, and then also use them as party bags for the children to take home, perhaps finding some chocolate coins or other suitable treasure to fill them with.

Baker Ross foam treasure chest kits

We also received lots more arts and crafts goodies which have been keeping us busy over the last few days, so do keep an eye out for my next Baker Ross post which will be all about Spring crafts. It's been nice to have actually seen some sunshine over the last few days!

We received a box of art and craft supplies from Baker Ross as members of their Bloggers Network.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Sleepless in Sussex

I remember agonising over my choice of blog name. I came up with some names that I loved, and rejected them because the blogspot URL was already taken. I wanted to steer away from anything that mentioned Mum or Mummy, or that referenced my family size, because I wanted something more permanent. For the same reason I didn't go with my favourite blog name - Sleepless in Sussex.

When I started this blog, toddler Harry screamed for several hours every night and then started his day before 5am. Mia was six weeks old with typical newborn sleeping patterns. For quite a few of those early months, entire nights were spent alternating between the two of them. But I knew, or at least I hoped, that it wouldn't last forever. Because one day I would be sleeping fairly consistently again, and that blog name would become redundant.

Harry did start sleeping through regularly when he was about three. He also began to sleep slightly later in the mornings, at least after 6am. Now aged five he does sleep through, and usually until around 6.30am. He is up in the night probably about once a week for various reasons, but compared to what we've been through with him in the past it's a breeze.

Mia however is still a bad sleeper. She wakes up at some point every single evening screaming, then again soon after we've gone to bed. If we're lucky then that's it, but at least three or four times a week she will wake several more times throughout the night. It's pretty exhausting. I'm sure it's all our fault, we do have the bad habit of settling her with a drink of water, so now she wakes and asks for a drink.

I'm just clinging on to the hope that when she reaches the magical age of three she'll settle down and we'll start to enjoy at least a few uninterrupted nights. To be honest I'm so used to the sleep deprivation now that I find it much easier to cope with than when I just had Harry, it's just a part of life now!

toddler sleep deprivation

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Making candles

Another activity that formed part of my Day Zero Project list was to make a candle. When I was little, my Dad used to take us into the school where he taught, and we used to make candles in his science lab. We made them by dipping a long wick into melted wax over and over again. It took ages, and the candles that I produced were generally triangular in shape because all the wax slid down to the bottom, but I was super proud of them, and we loved taking them out into the garden lit once it was dark.

Making candles using a kit

To make my candles I bought a candlemaking kit from Hobbycraft. There were several different ones to choose from, and I chose the basic candlemaking craft kit. It comes with a big bag of wax chips, some moulds, three different colours and some perfume, as well as the other bits and pieces that you need. The only extra equipment that you need is a saucepan for melting the wax and a spoon to stir, definitely best to buy a very cheap saucepan or sacrifice an old one, as you won't be able to use it for food again! If you don't want to melt the wax directly into the saucepan, you can rinse out an old tin can and rest that inside the saucepan.

It was a bit difficult to estimage how much wax was needed to melt, but at least if you do too much you can always re-use it. It reduces down in size quite a lot from the solid wax chips so you need more than you think. After a couple of attempts I found that the best way to melt was was to put it inside an old tin can which rests inside the saucepan which is filled with water and boiled. It took a lot longer to melt down than I thought it would - about 20-25 minutes for a couple of large handfuls of wax chips. It doesn't need to be stirred constantly all that time, but you do need to be there to supervise it.

A small amount of the colouring goes a very long way, as does the fragrance. I made yellow and red wax, and also attempted some stripy candles which turned out really well.

I'm pretty pleased with my finished candles, they are a little patchy and the instructions do suggest coating them with melted wax to make them a bit more shiny, so I may try that when I've melted up my next batch. They smell lovely too!

homemade candles

I've only made these four basic candles to begin with, but I'm definitely inspired and as it turned out to be very easy I'm going to be making more. The instructions come with some ideas for extending your candle making, and one idea that I like the sound of is to make a candle in a bold colour, then chop it up and put in the mould before surrounding with melted wax in a different colour for a bit of a contrast.

I would also like to make some more stripy candles, and I'll be melting down all my old candles to make new ones. The moulds included in the set are very good and can be used over and over, and looking online it's very cheap to buy the wick separately. You could also make your own moulds quite easily from old plastic containers. I'm so glad I pushed myself to try something new!

Monday, 24 February 2014

Books review - Thoroughly modern Miffy books

I love the Miffy books. I have fond memories of library trips when I was little, hunting in the wooden boxes for the little square books with the gorgeous yet simple illustrations. I'm not the only one, the Miffy books were first published in the UK in 1963 and hold a special place in the heart of many people in this country. Now the English translations of the classic Dutch Miffy tales have been updated to appeal to a modern British audience, and we were sent a selection of the new Miffy books to look at.

Updated Miffy books

The new translations are by award-winning UK poet Tony Mitton. They are designed to remain true to the books' original voice, and yet use contemporary language that will appeal to the modern young audience. The first mini hardback to be published is Miffy at the Zoo, with more stories to follow throughout the year. I don't have a copy of the original, but I managed to find a few pages online to compare. This new translation is definitely easier to read, the words flow very naturally, and most importantly it keeps the traditional small, square, hardback format.

Miffy at the Zoo book

Along with the new translations, there is also a brand new range of paperback story books, colouring, sticker and activity books. Miffy's Play Date is all about a scenario very familiar to all young children, having a friend over to play. Miffy and Grunty play and craft happily together, enjoy a snack, and tidy up together before Grunty has to go home. At the back of the book is a double page spread of stickers, three of which can be added by the child to each page of the story. It's a very sweet story, and even when the stickers have been stuck it can still be enjoyed over and over again.

We also received a copy of Miffy's Day Sticker Activity Book. This book contains over 50 Miffy stickers which can be used to solve a series of simple puzzles or just to add to a background scene. The puzzles are mostly very simple, with shape matching, counting and early number skills. Mia is 2 1/2 and was able to complete most of the puzzles with a little help which was great. I have found that some activity books are aimed at children a little older, while this book is geared perfectly to the Miffy audience.

Miffy sticker and activity book 

If you loved Miffy, your children love Miffy, or you want to share the Miffy stories with your children, then you can't go wrong with these books!

We received these three books to review, Amazon links are affiliate.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Babysitting and cross stitching

I babysat for a friend the other night. I quite like babysitting. The boys I sit for never wake up during the evening, so I don't need to worry about being disturbed. Mia wakes up every evening at some point between 9 and 10pm screaming, and even though she usually settles quickly it does mean that we can't really have anyone to babysit for us at the moment, as I'm not sure how she'd react if we weren't there. So it was nice to have a chance to sit quietly of an evening and know that I wasn't going to be disturbed.

I took the opportunity for a chance to work on my latest cross stitch. It's a small kit which I bought a while ago in the sale in Hobbycraft, it's actually a design for a large coaster and it comes complete with the plastic case and cork backing. When I opened it I found that it didn't actually include any embroidery silks which surprised me as kits usually do, perhaps that was why it was so cheap. Fortunately I have a good range of colours which I've picked up at various times so I should have all that I need. It's quite a pretty little picture and I like that it will be functional when it's finished.

Cross stitch bird house

This is the very last cross stitch kit that I have, so once it's finished I'll have to make the decision whether to buy a new kit or not. The trouble is that I find cross stitch kits so expensive as an initial purchase, even if they do take me years to finish!

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Beach themed day

This week is half-term, and it feels a bit like Harry's first real holiday from school. For his first half-term we spent most of the week away in Berlin, then over Christmas Ram was off work a lot, so I didn't really have to do much extra entertaining than normal. This week though it's mostly just me and the children, and as I really enjoyed the themed days that I planned over the summer I thought it was time for another. I let Harry choose the theme, and he went for Beach Day.

Beach themed day for children

I decorated the living room with my sarong that I always take to the beach and a few beachy inflatables. I wasn't sure that I was up to having sand traipsed throughout the house, so instead I thought I'd have a go at sand playdough. I always use the fabulous Four Minute Playdough Recipe from The Imagination Tree as a base for my play dough as it's so easy to make. This time I played around with it a bit, I substituted some of the salt for actual sand, then added quite a bit more sand and flour as it went very sticky. It didn't work as well as some of my play dough, but it did the job!

real sand play dough

To go along with the play dough I provided some shells, glass pebbles, little dolls wearing suitable beach attire and cocktail umbrellas. Both children loved the beach umbrellas and they each made up a beach scene. Harry then went on to make up some stories with the dollies.

I used these same figures for my Beach Sensory Tub a little while ago, which is another idea that would fit in perfectly with this theme - click the link to find out more!

Beach themed sensory tub

I like to include a baking activity as part of our themed day, so next we made some sand biscuits. We make biscuits a lot as I have a very simple recipe for basic shortbread that works very well. You just need 50g caster sugar, 175g plain flour and 125g butter. You can either rub it together by hand or mix it in the mixer, and if necessary add a splash of milk to form a dough. Roll out, cut out your biscuits and bake in the oven at 180C for about 15 minutes, remove when they start to brown. I dyed some sugar yellow to look like sand - all you need to do is add a few drops of yellow food colouring to a bowl of sugar and mix well. I prepared it the night before so that it had time to dry out, but that wasn't really necessary. We iced the biscuits will yellow icing and then sprinkled the coloured sugar on top to look like sand.

sand biscuits cookies

We used some more real sand to make a beach picture with sand. First we painted a sheet of thin card with different shades of blue and white paint to make the sea. Then when it was dry we used PVA glue to stick the sand on to make the beach. I printed out some pictures of children playing on the beach, and the children coloured those in, cut them out, and stuck them on their pictures.

Beach picture with sand

I couldn't have a themed day without featuring some themed Hama beads. I found some great under the sea Hama bead patterns. If you have transparent pegboards, you can print out the patterns and then place them underneath which makes it really easy for young children to create the designs. Otherwise these designs are very simple, so quite easy for children to copy.

under the sea Hama beads

I always turn to the brilliant Twinkl resources when I'm looking for themed activities, and I wasn't disappointed. I printed out a few worksheets for Harry which are all suitable for children in reception - a seaside scene labelling worksheet (free resource), a seaside word search (Gold resource), seaside spot the difference (Gold resource) and sea themed addition and subtraction colouring puzzle (Gold resource). He loves doing little puzzles like these, and it's a good (and fun) way to keep his learning going while he's off school, I was really impressed with how his maths skills are coming along.

I also found some blank postcard templates (free resource) to make some postcards which were brilliant. I printed one out for each child, and they decorated one half with some pictures cut from magazines and 'wrote' on the other side. Then I stuck the pieces back to back and laminated them. It was a good exercise for Harry in creative writing, I encouraged him to choose some pictures that he could pretend represented something he was doing on holiday, and he came up with a little postcard to send to Daddy. Mia loved copying him, she's very good at pretend writing. Harry's writing says "Dear Daddy. Fed a goat and I went on a bike love from Harry" based on the pictures that he chose for the front of his postcard!

making postcards

Finally I found some instructions for simple paper boats which you can find here - origami paper boats printable. I made them a couple and we floated them in the bath. I'm going to try and memorise the instructions because it's a handy thing to be able to produce for some quick entertainment!

We also had a beach lunch sitting on the sarong in the living room and pretending to be at the beach. I put out the food in (well washed) sand moulds for a bit of a change.

beach day lunch in sand moulds

I do like our theme days. It's a really good idea to have a long list of activities to at least try and fill the day, I had forgotten how long those afternoons can be when you are at home with small children.

If you feel inspired, here you can find the posts about our other themed days:

Space Day
Antarctic Day
Under the Sea Day
Dinosaur Day
Transport Day
Australia Day
Roman Day
Disney Frozen Day

And some tips on how to hold a themed day at home for children.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Some more mini Hama bead projects

I've really been enjoying my mini Hama beads lately. I blogged before about my mini Hama bead Christmas decorations, and for Christmas I was lucky enough to receive a big pack of the tiny beads and an inspiration book. The inspiration book is very helpful, because I've found that unlike the midi beads there aren't a lot of ideas out there online for the mini beads. They are obviously not so popular, or perhaps not so widely known about.

The mini beads are about a third of the size of the standard midi beads. You can also buy maxi beads which are very big and aimed at younger children, although mine have just gone straight onto the midi beads. They really are tiny, the only way to place them onto the pegboard is by using tweezers, and they can be a bit fiddly and susceptible to jolting out of position. Definitely one for older children and adults, the suggested age range is 10+.

The pack of mixed beads contains a very good selection of colours. You do have to be a bit careful, because many of the colours have very similar shades, so it's best to work in daylight if you can, or at least check over your design in daylight before you iron it! When ironing, you need to be very careful that the iron is not too hot and that you don't press for too long, as the little beads melt very quickly.

mini hama bead designs

I really like how they look when they are ironed. They remind me a lot of cross stitch, because the beads are about the same size as a stitch. You could easily use a cross stitch pattern for mini Hama beads. You can make designs that are a little more complex because they are so small, so using lots of shading with different coloured beads, and adding plenty of extra detail.

If you've tried mini Hama beads I'd love to see what you've created!

Please note that these aren't my own designs, the flowers and dragonfly come from a Mini Hama bead flowers kit, the violin and Easter egg are from the inspiration book ('Inspiration 13') and the owl design can be found here

Monday, 17 February 2014

Review - Baking with Fruit recipe book

Baking with Fruit is the latest recipe book that I have received as a Parragon Book Buddy. I love baking, but I don't tend to use a lot of fruit in my recipes so I was looking forward to trying out something different.

baking with fruit recipe book review

Baking with Fruit is part of the Love Food range of cookbooks. It contains a mixture of classic and new recipes using a wide variety of fresh fruit, covering cakes, pastries and desserts. Some of the recipes are simple and traditional, like 'Grandma's Cherry Cake'. Others are a little more adventurous and use more exotic fruit, for example 'Pomegranate Cheesecake', 'Yeast Cake with Mango' or 'Tamarillo Cake with Chocolate'.

I've been looking for a tasty apple recipe for some time now, as we have an apple tree in the front garden and so many of the apples go to waste each year. So I decided that I would try out the 'Apple and Cinnamon Cake', a simple recipe using ingredients that I already had in the house.

apple and cinnamon cake recipe

The recipe was easy to follow and worked perfectly. I really liked that I didn't need to go and buy any extra ingredients, although that was perhaps just lucky. I did cut down on the amount of apples quite a lot though and I'm glad that I did, I used four apples and that was plenty. I'm definitely going to be revisiting this recipe later in the year when our garden is full of them. It was really tasty! This is a great recipe book if you are looking to bake something a bit different, as well as a good reference for recipes that are more traditional, but perhaps with a bit of a twist.

apple and cinnamon cake

I received this book to review and the Amazon link is affiliate.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Review - PaediaSure Shake

PaediaSure Shake is a supplement drink, aimed at children who are fussy eaters. Specially designed for children, it contains a balance of 26 vitamins and minerals, with protein, vitamin D and calcium as well as iron, all things that children need in their diet in order to grow and develop.

If your child is a fussy eater it can be a worry that they are missing out on some of these essential nutrients. PaediaSure Shake is intended to form a regular part of a child's daily diet during their fussy eating phase while you work to establish healthy eating habits. It is aimed at children from aged 1 - 10 years. To help you support and encourage healthy eating with your child, there is a wealth of information on their website, with tips for healthy eating and a 12 week 'Back on Track' eating plan - PaediaSure Shake Fussy Eaters.

I was sent a tub of the PaediaSure powder to try. The powder is mixed with water at room temperature to make a milkshake style drink. We tried the vanilla flavour - strawberry and chocolate are also available. You use five scoops of powder to make up a serving. The number of recommended servings per day varies by age, a five year old like my son should have no more than three servings.

paediasure shake review

I would call Harry a fussy eater. He never showed much interest in food, right from the very first days of weaning. I feel that he eats very little, and he rarely complains that he is hungry. If I give him something that he doesn't like to eat, he just won't eat it. Although he does eat from all the food groups, he eats a limited range of food, and he's not adventurous at all. This is a problem when we eat out or if other people are preparing food for him, because he will not try anything that is unfamiliar. I accept that a lot of this is my fault, I have become lazy when it comes to making him food. I cook him things that I know he will eat, because he sometimes looks so very skinny and I want to be sure that he has enough to eat.

I do worry that Harry is missing out on some of these essential nutrients that he needs. But unfortunately, because he is so fussy about trying anything new, the shake was not a success for us. Harry was very good, and did try it, but he just had a sip and refused to drink any more. I passed it on to Mia (2) who was the same, one sip and then refused any more. I tried some myself and I can see that I would expect it to appeal to a child, as it has a pleasant, milky taste, and is very sweet. But because Harry is only used to drinking water and milk, it was just too much of an unfamiliar taste and texture for him.

One concern I do have is that if you gave a child too many shakes then it might fill them up so much that they don't want to eat any other food, particularly if they are on the small side with a small appetite. I think I would just stick to the one drink per day, and serve it away from mealtimes so that they are still hungry enough to eat proper food.

If you are worried about your fussy eating child then it wouldn't hurt to give these shakes a go, especially if you think that they would enjoy the flavour, as it would certainly give you peace of mind that all their nutritional needs are being taken care of. A 400g tub of Paediasure currently sells for £9.99 in Boots.

I am a member of the Netmums Blogging Network, a unique community of parent bloggers from around the UK who have been handpicked by the Netmums team to review products and brands on their behalf. I have been paid expenses and supplied with a product sample for this review but retain all editorial control. All my Netmums Reviews will display the Netmums logo within the post.

This is a Netmum's sponsored review.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Watching Mia's role play

I love watching young children, particularly toddlers, as they role play. I'm particularly interested watching Mia play, as I naturally compare her to Harry, and the differences have really surprised me.

Mia has grown up surrounded by toy cars and trains. She has always played with them a lot, but lately I've noticed how motherly she has become in her role play. Harry has a great attachment to Giraffe, that he takes to bed each night, but Mia seems to attach herself so much more to dolls and soft toys. She has her Teddy, and her Seahorse musical toy that she takes about with her. Since we brought home Percy Bear from nursery last week she has attached herself to a new Percy Bear, offered as a replacement as she was so upset when he had to go back. She also has a little doll which she plays with more and more.

She packs them all up in her dolly pushchair and pushes them about, copying the places that we visit with her in the pushchair - nursery, school, the playground. She hangs a little handbag from the handles, where she keeps the bottle of milk which she stops to give to them at periodic intervals. She also loves giving them medicine from a spoon, and her absolute favourite activity is tucking them all up in bed. I find my cushions and little blankets scattered about all over the house, with teddies underneath them. One day I went to tidy the living room after dinner and found all her little dolls house dolls neatly tucked up on the floor, I couldn't bear to disturb them.

Dolls house dolls asleep

At the moment she is also completely obsessed with birthdays. Probably because Harry celebrated his birthday over three weekends - with presents and a cake each time - she is constantly presenting me with a 'birthday cake' (usually a toy plastic plate with a felt strawberry on it, or something equally random) and singing me Happy Birthday, before instructing me to blow out the candles.

I'm sure that Harry wasn't so motherly in his role play, and I don't think that it's anything to do with me, because I don't feel that I treat Mia any differently. Harry had plenty of soft toys that he could have mothered in the same way, and he much preferred pushing his cars and trains about. But I do love watching her play!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Valentine's Day cross stitch heart

Happy Valentine's Day!

I mentioned in my last cross stitch post that I bought a few little kits in the sales after Christmas at Hobbycraft. They were supposed to be Christmas kits, but I managed to find some that were fairly general, one of which was this little cross stitch heart which I finished just in time for Valentine's Day.

cross stitch heart

It was quite refreshing to stitch something which I completed almost in one session. It wasn't as easy as I expected though being so small - there's some tricky back stitching in there!

I bought two other small kits, one is a gingerbread man and one is a cat. I suppose when I bought them I had in mind that the heart could represent me and Ram, the gingerbread man Harry (because he was learning The Gingerbread Man story at school at the time) and the cat Mia (because she likes pretending to be a cat). It would be nice if I could come up with some way of incorporating them all into a finished piece, either to be framed and hung up or maybe as a cushion or something. I'm not very good at deciding what to do with finished cross stitch pieces, I do like to have them on display but I also like quite a simplistic look to my decorating without too much clutter about.

It's something for me to think about, I'd love to hear suggestions if you have any!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

A massive cross stitch accomplishment

This week I was so proud of myself - I actually finished my cross stitch sampler! This has been an extremely long term project. I estimate that I've been working on it for about seven years, although of course not continuously! It's always been there in the drawer in the coffee table for me to work on a little bit at a time. I've blogged about it quite a bit too - beginning with the tale of the never ending cross stitch sampler, then an update in May 2013 and a nearly finished update in December 2013.

I left my name and the date until last, and finally I stitched those last little crosses.

Moira Blackburn Three Things sampler

This is a bit of a teaser photograph, because it is still folded up in the bag at the moment, I'll post a proper photograph of it when it is properly framed. It's the Three Things Sampler by Moira Blackburn, a design influenced by historical samplers and part of a lovely range of samplers. I remember the kit seemed quite expensive when it was purchased, but if you think about the amount of time it has kept me occupied for it represents excellent value!

Update - you can see a photograph of the finished framed sampler here.

Now I can't decide whether to start another long term project, or whether to concentrate on a few different crafts for now. I have a few tiny cross stitch kits which I bought in the sale after Christmas, so I'll still have some cross stitch to work on if I want to. I really like some of the cross stitch designs which are based upon ancient maps, and I'm also toying with the idea of creating my own design. My Mum gave me a book of cross stitch designs which can be used to stitch a family tree, and I like the idea of coming up with something like that, perhaps including a cross stitch depiction of our house. I'm busy collecting ideas over on my Cross Stitch Pinterest board!

Monday, 10 February 2014

The Adventures of Percy the Nursery Bear

I'm afraid that my heart did sink a little when I collected Mia from nursery last week and I discovered the existence of Percy Bear, who came to stay with us for a week along with his book of Adventures. I have heard about these bears from other Mums, along with the warning that they are a bit of an exercise in competitive parenting. This was borne out by the two books that accompanied him, packed with photographs and detailed descriptions of all the fun that he has had while staying with Mia's classmates.

Mia was delighted though, so I went along with it. Luckily we had an outing planned for the weekend anyway - a trip to the cinema - so Percy joined us and came along for pizza and ice cream afterwards. We don't normally let the children take their teddies out with us as I'm terrified of them getting lost, so Mia was very excited to be able to bring Percy along with us. I loved watching her chat away to him and tell him what we were doing.

Percy the bear eating pizza

I took plenty of pictures and managed to get some printed out for his diary. I didn't go into quite as much detail as some of the other parents had managed, but I think we did okay. We even baked biscuits especially so that Percy had something to write about.

Percy bear making biscuits

Does your child's school or nursery have a bear to bring home? What do you think about it?

Some #easyteam tips - how to re-use an old pair of tights

I'm a member of the Zanussi #easyteam, and from time to time I am sent some tips to share. This time it's all about old tights, which still have plenty of uses even when they are ripped!

  • You can fill the toe of an old pair of tights with lavender or potpourri to keep your wardrobe smelling lovely, or fill with mothballs to prevent damage to clothing in storage.

  • If you cut a loop from the leg you can use it as a hair band to keep your hair out of your face while you wash.
  • Put the end of a pair of tights over the hose on your vacuum cleaner to pick up a small lost item like an earring.
  • Use an old pair of tights to rub cat or dog fur off a duvet cover to keep your bed fur free. 

Zanussi has just launched a new Tumblr page where you will find lots more tips and can even submit your own. You can find it here - Zanussi Easy Tips Tumblr - for example the tip below, with instructions for making heart shaped eggs for Valentine's Day!

I was sent some materials to make a potpourri bag.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Hama bead heart frames

Hama beads are such fun to do, but it can be difficult to find ways to use or display the things that you make. These Hama bead heart frames are great for Valentine's Day because you can personalise them with a photograph of yourself or a loved one, or even just with a picture of something else that you love, perhaps a pet or even a place.

Hama bead heart frames

If you attach some magnetic strip to the back they can be stuck on the fridge, or you could make a hanging loop with ribbon. You could even embellish them for extra interest, maybe by adding buttons or sequins.

Hama bead heart frames

These Hama bead frames are all made using the large Hama bead heart pegboard, but you could also use the smaller heart pegboard to make smaller frames, or just use the centre portion of the large heart pegboard. I used red, white and pink for a Valentine's Day feel, but they would also look good in a mixture of colours or in a selection of colours that matches the decor of the recipient.

Hama bead heart frame

Hama bead heart frame

I ironed the beads firmly on one side to make sure that they were nice and sturdy, especially important when the width of the frame is only two beads. Then I ironed the front side slightly less, so that you can still see the definition of the beads and the shapes of the hearts.

This is a great Valentine's Day craft for young children because you can leave them to create their own designs. You don't need to stick to a rigid plan, just let younger pre-schoolers place the beads wherever they like, or just create a simple pattern of stripes or alternating beads. They are perfect to pop in an envelope along with your Valentine's Day card as a little extra gift.

If you enjoy crafting with Hama beads and have a heart pegboard you might also like my other Valentine's Day Hama bead craft - a Hama bead heart hanging decoration.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Review - Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy 3D

On Saturday we had the chance to attend a preview screening of Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy, which is due for release on the 14th February 2014.

Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy review

Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy is the latest in a series of Tinker Bell films. I've not watched any of them all the way through, but I know that Harry has enjoyed watching them, and I've picked up bits and pieces here and there from when they've been on. This latest installment tells the story of Zarina the inquisitive dust-keeper fairy, who leaves Pixie Hollow in disgrace after her experiments with pixie dust go wrong. She returns a year later to steal the important blue pixie dust, having teamed up in the meantime with the pirates of Skull Rock, who want to make their own fairy dust so that they can plunder the world's treasures in a flying pirate ship.

It's a light-hearted and fun story, with plenty of entertaining adventures. The story takes place before the action depicted in Peter Pan, and this film contains a few hints towards the familiar Peter Pan story, featuring the voice of Tom Hiddleston as the young Captain Hook.

Not only was this Mia's first trip to the cinema, it was her first 3D film. At 2 1/2 she is probably still a bit too young for the cinema, although we managed to keep her fairly still in her seat with a packet of chocolate buttons! Animated films always seem to work well in 3D and this was no exception, the 3D effects definitely add to the experience.

If you are looking for a film to watch with the children over half-term then I'd definitely recommend Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy, and it's not just one for little girls either, as Harry (5) really enjoyed it too!

Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy review

We received complimentary tickets to the preview screening.
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