Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Ladybird Tuesday - Stone Age Man in Britain

The Ladybird book Stone Age Man in Britain is part of Series 561 - Adventures from History. At the time my copy was published in 1961 it was the only book in the Prehistory sub-category.

Ladybird Adventures from History - Stone Age Man in Britain

The book begins with an introduction to the world as it was before the Stone Age, although with no real timescale, just "thousands of years ago". It's specifically about Britain, after the glaciers receded and Britain became warm enough for the very earliest ever people to live here to move across from France (which was actually joined to Britain then).

Ladybird Adventures from History - Stone Age Man in Britain

The book describes a very basic early civilisation of cave men, with no metal, or pottery, although they did have the knowledge to make fire. They hunted wild animals like the mammoth and sabre-toothed tiger, animals which have now disappeared. Then about six or seven thousand years ago a new group of people called the Neolithic people arrived in England, a more intelligent civilisation with greater knowledge of weapons for hunting and a more developed brain. These were the Stone Age men, able to hunt with flint knives, fish, build houses and sew clothes.

Ladybird Adventures from History - Stone Age Man in Britain

The book describes the way that they lived and the skills that they developed in some detail. For example, the process of making a boat from a hollowed out tree trunk, the beginnings of farming, and finally the building of Stonehenge.

It's a really fascinating book, and as always the illustrations really bring the information to life. I know that the Stone Age is a subject that Harry will be covering at school at some point, and this will be a handy reference!

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, 28 September 2014

Review - PlayMais from Crafter's Companion

I was recently sent some PlayMais from Crafter's Companion to review with the children. It's not a crafting material that I'd heard of before, but you can choose from a wide range of sets, both themed sets with instructions to build particular things, or sets which just contain lots of the little coloured pieces. I chose the PlayMais Fun to Learn Numbers set, priced at £11.99, which contains over 550 PlayMais pieces, along with printed cards, a cutting tool and a sponge.

So what is PlayMais? Well it's actually very similar to packing peanuts, albeit in much prettier colours. The soft, squashy pieces are made of corn starch, water and food colouring, meaning that it is natural, safe, and 100% biodegradable. When you dampen the PlayMais pieces they become sticky, meaning that you can stick them to each other and to other surfaces, for example cardboard. Then when they have dried out they become hard and solid.

Playmais crafting with children review

PlayMais is recommended for children aged 3+ (although I think that younger children would also have fun with it if supervised!). I set both children off first with the number card activities.

Playmais crafting with children review

This whole set is themed around numbers, and it comes with a set of 14 cards. The cards each have a number and a picture, with coloured outlines for where you need to stick the pieces. Some of the outlines are smaller, some larger, and some are shaped, so there is plenty of scope for practising different designs. There are also four cards with shapes that can be pressed out to make a small train and carriages with little animals to go inside. We've not got to those yet but I know that the children will have fun making it.

Playmais crafting with children review

Mia loved putting her picture together. She wasn't particularly bothered about matching the colours but she was very proud of her finished picture. Harry did enjoy pressing the PlayMais onto the cards, but he had more fun using it to build his own 3D creations. He quickly saw that the pieces resembled bricks, and so with a thick piece of card as the base he built a sweet little house complete with doors and windows. I helped him with it and really enjoyed it, I think we'll be building more of these!

Playmais crafting with children review

There were loads of pieces in the set in a range of bright colours. Definitely enough to complete all the cards with some left over for free creating. It wasn't too messy, we did get a bit sticky but it was easily cleaned up. The PlayMais pieces are definitely biodegradable too, Harry enjoyed putting a couple in a bowl of water and watching them dissolve.

If you're looking for a fun new craft to try with the children then I'd definitely recommend PlayMais. There is a lot of scope for the things that you can create.

We received this PlayMais set to review.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Holidaying in Florida

As a family, our favourite holiday destination has to be Florida, and more specifically Orlando. I visited for the first time with my parents when I was a teenager, then Ram and I had a great holiday there back in 2011. I always knew that I wanted to take my own children there one day, and we've been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit as a family twice in the last few years.

In a few weeks time we are lucky enough to be heading out to Orlando again for another fantastic family holiday, and we can't wait. We are returning to the accommodation that we have stayed in for our last two trips, so we are familiar with the area which makes it much less daunting when it comes to leaving the airport in what feels like the middle of the night with two small, grumpy children!

On our first trip to Orlando it was all about Disney World. We spent two weeks exploring the Disney theme parks, and that was pretty much all that we did. The children were small, but we took it slowly with plenty of breaks. We arrived early at the parks and saw as much as we could before they got too busy, then headed back to the villa in the afternoon for a rest. Sometimes we returned to the parks later in the afternoon and sometimes we just relaxed by the pool.

Memories of holidaying in Florida

On our second holiday we also did a Disney cruise as part of our trip, so we didn't feel the need to spend all our time at Disney. Instead we visited some of the other tourist attractions in the area and we discovered some really wonderful places to visit. They were cheaper than the Disney parks and also much quieter, and it was so nice not to have to queue for everything! We particularly enjoyed Dinosaur World and Gatorland, and the Kennedy Space Center was another very good day out.

Family at Dinosaur World, Orlando, Florida

On our upcoming holiday we are going back to Disney, and this time we're also going to be visiting Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. I'm very much looking forward to visiting the new Diagon Alley attraction at Universal Studios and travelling on the Hogwarts Express between the two parks. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride at Magic Kingdom is also a new attraction since our last visit, completing the Fantasyland expansion, and it looks really good. We'll be there over Halloween, and I'm interested to see how differently it is celebrated in the United States, I think that it's going to be a lot of fun!

I'm hoping to fit in some shopping too. I love visiting the American craft stores and seeing all the different products that they sell, I've already started a list of things to look for. We might even have time to do some clothes shopping too, although that's not always easy with the little ones in tow!

Have you visited Florida? If you are looking for a holiday in Florida, check out the Cosmos website for cheap package holidays and deals.

This is a sponsored post.

Hama bead Roman mosaic border designs for children

How to make Hama bead Roman mosaics

Recently I held a Roman themed day, and one of our activities was making Roman mosaics from Hama beads. We do love Hama beads, and they seemed like the perfect way to recreate a Roman mosaic! I left my son to come up with his own design, but I knew that I wanted to revisit the idea myself and come up with some Roman mosaic designs. Here are the patterns that I came up with, based on real mosaic photographs found in a guide book for Fishbourne Roman Palace.

Firstly I looked at circular designs. I thought that these would make a nice frame, either as a standalone design with a photograph or drawn picture inside, or else a child could come up with their own Hama bead picture to fill the centre circle. (The dot in the centre is just to help with positioning the design centrally on the large circular peg board).

Hama bead Roman design

Hama bead Roman design

Hama bead Roman design

Once I have ironed my larger Hama bead pieces I find it a good idea to leave them for a few minutes between two cork heatproof mats with the iron rested on top as a weight. This ensures that as they cool down they stay nice and flat, as there can be a tendency
for them to bend.

Hama bead Roman design frames

Above is my finished frame. The mosaic picture inside the frame on the right is a postcard that I bought from the archaeological museum in Naples, it's a mosaic found at Pompeii. Below is the finished frame around a picture of a mosaic from Fishbourne Roman Palace. I think it looks pretty good!

Hama bead Roman mosaic frame

Next I had a go with the large square peg board and made some borders, again inspired by real Roman mosaics from my books. I think that these designs would also make nice borders for a frame around a mosaic design or picture.

Hama bead mosaic designs

I think that the designs look good with two contrasting colours. For my designs I've used brown and flesh coloured Hama beads, but you could also use black (or any other darker colour) and white.

If you enjoy using Hama beads to make patterns rather than pictures you might also like my Hama bead Rangoli patterns which I designed for Diwali. I have created large Hama bead Rangoli and small Hama bead Rangoli.

You can also find all my Hama bead projects for both children and adults on my Hama bead page.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Review - My Friend Cayla interactive talking doll

Recently we were sent a My Friend Cayla doll to review. My Friend Cayla is an interactive, talking doll and she's expected to be one of the most popular toys this Christmas. She's about 45cm tall and comes with a brush and mirror so that you can style her long blonde hair. She's not just a doll to play with though, she's completely interactive and powered by Bluetooth technology. Her main selling points - she can answer questions, understand and chat, tell stories and play games.

Review - My Friend Cayla talking interactive doll

My Friend Cayla is powered by three AA batteries (not included) which seem to be lasting well. She's pretty easy to set up, you just insert the batteries and download a free app to your smart device. Then turn her on and connect her to the device via Bluetooth. She needs to remain reasonably close to the device, and you can't use it for anything else while she's being played with. You also need to have an internet connection, preferably WiFi, while you are playing with her.

In the settings you can change your doll's name and your location. You can also set how chatty she is and add any banned words to a list so that she won't use them.

Through the app itself you can play noughts and crosses (tic tac toe) with Cayla, the only game currently available (although more are promised for the future). She's a worthy opponent, and she won't always let you win. She has one story to tell you, about a trip to the botanical gardens with her mother, and you can look through her photo albums with her.

Review - My Friend Cayla talking interactive doll

There are seven photo albums to choose from, for example Holiday, At the Zoo and At the Farm, and they do take a few minutes to go through, you can select a picture and Cayla will tell you more about it. They are fun, but it would be nice to see a lot more content within the app, especially some more games, as when you've done these the novelty does wear off.

I made this little video of Harry using some of the features within the app:


Cayla's main selling point however is the option to chat with her. As well as general conversation with Cayla, about her likes and dislikes for example, you can ask her general knowledge questions, which she will use the internet to answer. Some of the sample questions I have seen are things like 'What is the capital of France' or sums like 'What is two plus two'.

This is where we really struggled. When you first turn her on, Cayla says 'Hello' and then launches into a conversation about something relevant to a young girl, like trying out different types of food or owning three leotards for gymnastics. This usually ends with her asking you a question, like your favourite type of fruit, but then ignoring any answer that you give or just continuing the conversation with another statement on her chosen subject.

When she is listening her heart pendant lights up, and this is the only time that you can talk to her. When the light is out she is thinking. Sometimes she will wait for quite a while with no light, so you can't do anything with her, even if she has just asked you a question which you want to answer. Sometimes even when the light was on there was no response to anything that I said. I found that if she appeared stuck it was a good idea to turn her off and back on, and then she might be more in the mood for conversation. If she's left alone she'll start talking about things that she does or that she likes. When we did manage to get her talking we had some surreal conversations. For example:

Cayla: What is your favourite fruit?
Harry: Apples
Cayla: (silence)
Me: Bananas
Cayla: I love dogs!

Me: What is the capital of France?
Cayla: That's not appropriate.
Me: What is the capital of Spain?
Cayla: How are you coming up with these?
Harry: What is the capital of England?
Cayla: My Mum likes to drink tea.

Me: What is your favourite colour?
Cayla: I don't have a best friend necklace, but maybe someday we can have matching necklaces.

Many of the questions that I asked her were answered with the response that the question was too difficult, she didn't know, or she would have to ask her teacher. To be fair she did answer a couple of questions correctly, I did manage to get her to tell me that two plus two was four, she told me the capital of France in the end, and she told me all about the Mona Lisa. But there were many more occasions where she couldn't answer my questions.

You can see an example of her conversation in this video that I filmed of Harry playing with her. I accept that his voice is rather squeaky and some of his questions are perhaps not obvious or direct enough (they are based on things that she was talking about before I started filming) but this is pretty typical of the chats that we've been having with Cayla.


I did spend a lot of time looking online for advice, but I couldn't find any way of improving it. Even when I talk to her (in my standard, Southern accent) asking the questions suggested in the instructions and on-line tutorial videos, she very rarely gives me a relevant answer.

However, both my children love Cayla and they keep on asking to play with her. I think you can see in the videos that Harry is really affectionate towards her, he was stroking her, patting her and so on. Mia loves brushing and styling her hair (Cayla is her first doll with proper hair to brush) and she found Cayla hilarious whatever she said. I'm not sure how long the novelty is going to last though, especially as they can't set her up to play with by themselves.

I do think that the manufacturers have made some bold claims about the doll, and for us unfortunately she didn't live up to those expectations. She was fun to play with, and the technology is promising, but I think there is a little way to go yet.

I received a My Friend Cayla doll for the purpose of this review, as well as a second doll to offer as a giveaway prize. My Friend Cayla retails for around £60-£80. 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Simple magic tricks to make and perform for children



Harry has been very interested in magic tricks lately. We've seen a couple of little magic shows, and he has been fascinated watching magic trick videos on YouTube. Most magic tricks take a lot of time to practice, which is difficult for little ones, so I researched a few super simple tricks that take little preparation and young children can easily learn to perform themselves. They look really effective too!

Simple magic tricks to make and perform with children


Harry loves performing his magic tricks, although he gets just as much enjoyment from showing people how they were done! Here is his repertoire of magic tricks:

The disappearing coin trick


You need:

A plastic, clear cup or tumbler
Coloured card
A coin
A handkerchief or small cloth

To make the props:

Draw around the rim of the plastic cup on to some coloured card and cut out the circle. Glue the coloured circle firmly across the top of the glass. Use the remainder of the coloured card as the base for the trick.

Simple magic tricks to make and perform with children


To perform the trick:

Explain to your audience that you will be making a coin disappear. Take your coin and place it on the base sheet of coloured cardboard. Place the handkerchief over the glass so that it is completely covered, then move the handkerchief covered glass and place it on top of the coin. Remove the handkerchief, and the coin has disappeared! Make sure that you clear away the props for this trick quickly though before your audience spots what is going on, and make sure that the upturned glass always remains on your base sheet of coloured cardboard.

A coin through the hand


You need:

Two coins that look the same

To perform the trick:

This trick is very easy even for young children, and it looks really effective. It does need a little bit of practice, and it's much easier to demonstrate rather than explain in writing. We learned how to do it from this video:


The magic floating toilet roll tube


You need:

A toilet roll or kitchen roll tube (or a plastic/styrofoam cup)
Decorations

To make the prop:

Firstly you need to prepare your toilet roll tube. Make a small hole in the back of the tube about halfway down which is large enough to fit your thumb. Then decorate the tube using felt pens, stickers, coloured tape, paint and so on.

Simple magic tricks to make and perform with children


To perform the trick:

Stand facing your audience and hold the toilet roll tube with a hand on each side. Push one of your thumbs through the hole in the back of the tube, making completely sure that your audience can't see it. Then with a bit of practice you can move your hands away from the tube and move it using just your thumb, so that it looks as though it is floating in the air. Make it fly away from you and pretend to chase after it. It might help to watch the trick being performed first, like in this video:


The classic cups and balls trick


This final trick is a bit more complicated for little ones, but an adult can pick it up really easily and it's great for impressing the children with. Again, it's one that you need to learn from a video. I taught myself quickly and I've been showing it off ever since!


There is a wealth of videos on YouTube with magic tricks for all ages and skills, it's definitely worth having a go at learning some!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Ladybird Tuesday - Charles Dickens

The Ladybird book Charles Dickens is from Series 561 - Adventure from History. It's a large series featuring books about many notable historical figures. I've also looked at Nelson from this series and I have quite a few more in my collection. Charles Dickens was published in 1965.

Ladybird Adventures from History - Charles Dickens

The inside covers of the book feature a series of cartoons depicting famous figures from Dickens' works and the title of the book in which they appear, for example Scrooge and Fagin. The book is arranged in the typical Ladybird style, with a page of (fairly dense) text on the left and accompanying illustration on the right.

The book begins with Dickens' early life in Chatham and London, where he had many experiences that would later feature in his books. It's interesting to read about a few of these and which stories they featured in, for example the year and a half spent working in a solicitor's office where he met many unusual people and gained knowledge of the law, both of which provided him with plenty of material for his books.

Ladybird Adventures from History - Charles Dickens

I like that the books in this series are written in a really conversational tone, and are filled with anecdotes about their subject. There are also little notes of a general historical nature, for example when Dickens' wedding to Catherine Hogarth is mentioned it is accompanied by a description and illustration of the sort of clothing that people wore then, and a note that the long dresses of the women must have got very dirty because of the muddy streets. A page about a railway accident in which Dickens was involved includes information about the trains that people travelled in at the time, along with a picture to help the reader imagine the scene.

Ladybird Adventures from History - Charles Dickens

The story of Charles Dickens' is brought to life really well, intertwining biographical details with information about his books and stories. I've only read a couple of his books, but as the Ladybird book points out, many of his characters are familiar to me because they are constantly referred to in popular culture. It's a really interesting book!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding Numbers
Talkabout Clothes
Going to School
Teaching Reading

Stories of Special Days and Customs
Christmas Customs

Girls and Boys - A Ladybird Book of Childhood

Monday, 22 September 2014

The MAD Blog Awards 2014

The MAD Blog Awards 2014

This year, I was so thrilled to be a finalist in the Craft category of the MAD Blog Awards. Along with the other finalists, including the other fab blogs in my category - Along Came Cherry, Little Button Diaries, My Little 3 and Me and The Imagination Tree - I was invited up to London to a glamorous awards ceremony. I didn't win, that honour goes to the very well deserving Little Button Diaries, but I can honestly say that I'm not upset at all. I really was so excited to find myself a finalist that I already felt like a winner.

I arrived in London early and met up with some other bloggers at Wagamamas. Here I was really pleased to meet Jo from Kids Days Out Reviews. We've chatted online a lot, and I've contributed a couple of guest posts to the blog, and it was great to finally meet in person.

After lunch I headed to the Royal Garden Hotel for my hair and make up appointment. I haven't had my hair and make up done since my wedding, so it was a big treat for me. It was carried out by the Powderpuff Girls, and they spent plenty of time making everyone look glamorous. I had no idea what I wanted, and so she plaited my hair across the front and put it up at the back with plenty of curls. I don't normally wear make up so I decided to go with something very bold - full on smoky eyes that I could never have managed myself! I loved my new look for the evening. I posted the picture below on Facebook and I received more likes and comments than I did when I posted the first photographs of my babies!

The MAD Blog Awards 2014

Before the awards began I met up with Jo for a drink in the hotel bar, then gradually we bumped into more and more bloggers and we made our way downstairs for the drinks reception. I was so pleased that my friend Swazi from the great Chocolate is not the only fruit had won a ticket to the evening, it was lovely to see her. I also caught up with bloggers that I've met before and bloggers that I had heard of but not had the opportunity to meet yet.

The MAD Blog Awards 2014

At dinner I was sat with Kara from Chelsea Mamma that I often seem to bump into at events, and we also share a local connection. I met Emma from Adventures of an Unfit Mother and caught up again with Katie from Hurrah for Gin. We enjoyed a delicious dinner, and then it was on to the actual awards. The awards were presented by Dr Ranj, famous in our household from CBeebies Get Well Soon, and he was a great host. When it came to my category I was so excited to see my blog appear on the screen and hear him read out my blog name as a finalist.

The MAD Blog Awards 2014

I may not have won myself, but I was so pleased that Jo won the Family Travel category with Kids Days Out Reviews. It's a fantastic blog with masses of brilliant content and she works very hard on it. It was absolutely a worthy winner, and she even mentioned me in her acceptance speech!

I made it my mission for the evening to have my photo taken with Dr Ranj, and I lined up Swazi to help me manage it. She did brilliantly, spotted her opportunity and took a fantastic photo! There is a less tipsy official one around somewhere, but I think that I like this one better, do I look a bit star struck?

The MAD Blog Awards 2014
Photo thanks to Swazi

We finished off the evening with a go on the life size Operation game. You may notice than in every photo of me I'm clutching a wine glass very tightly which probably affected my concentration somewhat, not that I was tipsy of course!

The MAD Blog Awards 2014
Photo thanks to Jo

It was a fantastic night, I had a brilliant time and I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to be there. I think that the stats that were shown on the screen after the awards really prove how proud I was to be a finalist. Thank you so much to everyone that nominated me and then went on to vote for me, I'm so grateful to you all.

The MAD Blog Awards 2014

Friday, 19 September 2014

Hama bead covered pen holders from jam jars

Recently I was ironing a larger square Hama bead piece, and I noticed how flexible it was before it had completely cooled. So that gave me an idea for another Hama bead craft - Hama bead jam jars and pencil holders!

Hama bead covered pen holders from jam jars


Materials

Old, clean jam jars or similar containers
Large square Hama bead pegboard
Hama beads
Glue

Instructions

First you need to wash the jars and remove the labels. I've found that the easiest way to remove labels is to spray them with WD40 and leave for a few minutes. Most labels will peel off straight away, some may need a couple of applications. Then wash the jar thoroughly in soapy water.

Use the square peg board to create your design. A design made using one large square Hama bead peg board will not be enough to go all the way around the jar. You can get round this by making two separate pieces and sticking them together or by clipping two boards together (they are designed so that you can do this) to make a longer strip. I just made shorter designs that don't go all the way around my jars.

I went with a simple geometrical pattern, you could also use pictures or words to denote what will be stored inside the jar. Just bear in mind that your design will end up being reversed, so take care with text! You may notice lots of yellow in my designs - for some reason I have ended up with a disproportionate number of yellow Hama beads. I suspect that the large boxes of mixed beads do not contain an equal spread across the colours!

How to iron Hama beads

Iron well on just one side, taking special care to iron to the edges of the design. When you remove the beads from the board the strip of beads will be very floppy. Place the jar on its side and drape the beads over the top so that they will cool to the shape of the jar. If you are working with a long strip that will wrap all the way around the jar then you might want to secure it in place with an elastic band while it cools. When the beads have cooled the strip of beads will still be flexible enough that you can remove it from the jar.

How to make curved Hama bead craft

I glued my strip of beads to the jars using normal white glue, or you could use a glue gun to make it extra secure. Here's the finished jar!

Hama beads wrapped around a jam jar


I made as many storage pots as I had jars lying around! I used a large pasta sauce jar, a chocolate spread jar and a smaller container that held dried yeast. You could also use the ever versatile toilet roll tube, with a cardboard base. They'd make great gifts for Mums from little ones, perhaps filled with flowers or chocolates. They'd also make a great desk tidy gift.

Hama bead covered jam jars craft


Crafts on Sea

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

My new desk

Lately I've been feeling a lot more productive, both with my blogging and my crafting. I just feel more organised, and also more inspired. It might sound strange to say, but a lot of that is because we recently decorated our downstairs study and bought a new desk to house our second PC.

My new desk from Ikea

The original idea was to have a desk that Ram could use when he works from home, with a large screen and space at the side to plug in his work laptop. We spent a lot of time agonising over the choice of desk, and eventually settled on the Ikea Micke desk in white. It is quite compact, with a cupboard on one side to house the computer tower, and two shallow but large drawers. We also bought the Micke add-on unit to go on top. It has some small shelves on one side, and a magnetic whiteboard at the back which I really liked, although in the end the new monitor fills up all the space so we can't actually use it!

I'm afraid that I've rather taken over this area of the house. I prefer to do my blogging work at a proper PC, because I need a full keyboard to type on and I like having the space to lay out all my folders and notebooks that I use to keep track of everything. I've filled up the shelves with some of my crafty bits and pieces, and I like having them around to inspire me while I work. The desk is in a good location too, it's tucked away a little bit from the rest of the house but it's still central, so I can sometimes sneak in five minutes of computer time with the door open before the children notice that I've gone. When Ram is working at home he can shut himself away for some peace and quiet.

The nice white desk makes a good background for taking crafty photographs. The shelves are a bit of a mess but I like having them filled with things that I've made like my felt button tree picture, my washi tape holder and ribbon covered box. There are also some Hama bead projects lurking there, including ones made by the children which make me smile.

My new desk from Ikea


I'm really enjoying sitting down at my desk and getting on with my work. I love writing my blog, and I spend a great deal of time on it. I'm lucky enough to receive products and experiences through it that we wouldn't have had otherwise. So I'm trying to become more organised, treat it more like a job and schedule in the time for writing posts, leaving plenty of time for doing other things. I've even started working on an editorial calendar!

My new desk from Ikea

Do you find that your environment makes a big difference to the way you work?

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Ladybird Tuesday - The Old Woman and her Pig

The Old Woman and Her Pig is part of the Ladybird Series 606D. Although the Series is titled 'Well Loved Tales', I must admit that this story is a new one to me! It was published in 1973. They are graded in terms of reading difficulty and this book is in Grade 1, the easiest level. Even so it still seems quite a challenging book to me, it's certainly not aimed at very early readers.

Ladybird Well Loved Tales - The Old Woman and her Pig

The story is about an old woman who finds a crooked sixpence, which means good luck. She uses the money to buy a pig, but on the way home the pig refuses to jump over the stile. So she calls upon a dog to bite the pig to make him jump over the stile, but the dog refuses. The story continues as the women searches for ways to build a string of stubborn animals and inanimate objects which will set in motion a chain of events culminating in the pig jumping over the stile. 

Ladybird Well Loved Tales - The Old Woman and her Pig

The nature of the story means that it has plenty of repetition, as each required action is repeated several times. It's also a way of telling quite a complicated story in just a few words, making it appealing to young readers. In the end, everything works out as it should, and the woman is able to get home with her pig. 

Ladybird Well Loved Tales - The Old Woman and her Pig

This is another great book to share with children today, I know that my son will enjoy reading it as it's just the right level for him. The illustrations are fantastic too, the expressions of the characters are just brilliant, they really capture the emotions!

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, 14 September 2014

Crafting with Sugru - a round up of ideas

A round up of different crafts using Sugru

A few months back I was sent some Sugru to review- a fantastic substance that that can be moulded by hand, bonds to almost anything, and sets overnight to form a flexible, silicone rubber. As well as using Sugru for a multitude of fixes around the house, I also came up with some crafty ideas which I have rounded up in this post.

My first Sugru crafting project was a Sugru beaded holder for my washi tapes. I knew what I wanted to make, but I was finding it difficult to keep the pencil upright, and held firmly in position. A blob of Sugru holds the pencil to the base lid perfectly, and then I used another strip around the base of the lid as a decorative feature, with some pretty beads pressed in to it.

Sugru beaded washi tape holder

Sugru comes in a range of bright cheerful colours, and you can also mix the colours to make different shades - you can find a Sugru mixing colour chart on their website. I love the original colours, and I used the bright blue for this Sugru beaded keyring upcycle. I took an old keyring and used Sugru to cover the original design, then decorated it with coloured wooden beads.

Using Sugru to upcycle a keyring craft

I made this funky Sugru coaster using some of the new festive Sugru colours.

Sugru coaster craft

Sugru is also great if you want to glue things together that are tricky to stick with other types of adhesive. These salt dough fairy wands are very top heavy, and it would have been difficult to stick the star onto the stick using glue. A little ball of Sugru has kept them firmly in place and able to stand up to being waved around while spells are cast.

Using Sugru to make fairy wands

Leyla from This day I love...has made a fab tutorial video showing how to make an iPad case using Sugru and an old book. You can also see written instructions here.



Leyla also used Sugru to make a snowman to go inside a Frozen snow globe.

You can also find loads more Sugru craft ideas on the Sugru website. There are some fantastic ideas here, like multicoloured beads, Sugru stamps and upcycling some vintage finds using Sugru. I also love this article about ways to improve your crafting kit using Sugru.

I'll be updating this post with any future Sugru projects that I come up with. If you've made something crafty with Sugru then please do feel free to leave a link in the comments below to make this a helpful resource for other crafters!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Review - Science4you science kits for children

If you ask Harry what he wants to be when he grows up, his immediate answer is 'a scientist'. This stems from the fact that whenever he asks me anything complicated I say "ask Daddy, he's the scientist". Not that I'm completely ignorant when it comes to scientific manners, but Ram does at least have a degree in a scientific subject! So the chance to review some simple science kits for children was a great opportunity for Harry to have a go at being a scientist himself. He very much enjoyed getting into character, what with the state of his shirt after school he certainly looks like he's been in the lab all day!

Review - Science4you science kits for children

We were sent two kits from the Science4you range. The first kit that we looked at was Science4you Water Science. The recommended age range is children aged 6 and older, Harry is 5 1/2. He is nowhere close to being able to do the experiments by himself, but we had a lot of fun doing them together. Mia was also around while we were working on this kit and she was pretty entertained by a lot of the experiments too, especially those involving bubbles!

Review - Science4you science kits for children

The Water Science kit contains materials and instructions to carry out 27 experiments. The kit doesn't contain every single thing that you will need, although most of the materials are easily available from around the house. Some of the experiments can only be done once, and others can be done over and over again. The booklet included with each kit is very comprehensive, with detailed instructions and plenty of additional information to help explain the science behind the experiments.

Review - Science4you science kits for children

I think that I was just as surprised as Harry when the first experiment worked! You just need to put some water into the beaker, place a piece of paper over the top and then quickly flip the beaker over. Harry was absolutely fascinated that the water stayed in the beaker when it was upside down, with just a piece of paper holding it in, and we had a lot of fun waving it about, placing it over each other's heads and so on, without spilling any.

Review - Science4you science kits for children

Putting cut white flowers into dyed water and watching them change colour is a classic experiment, but we've not tried it before, and the results were pretty impressive. The flowers acquired a blue tinge within minutes, and the next day were beautifully blue. Another experiment that took a few hours to work was the water beads. I've seen these often used in sensory play for little ones but never actually used any myself. The tiny beads absorb water and turn into little jelly balls which are a lot of fun to play with and have been bouncing about the house ever since.

Review - Science4you science kits for children

We also did experiments using plastic bottles, tubes, straws, bubbles, syringes and more. I will admit that I couldn't get all of them to work first time, which Harry fortunately accepted because of course I'm not a scientist. The instructions also include the scientific explanations for the experiment, it helps if you understand it a little bit yourself as they are quite complicated and I needed to try and explain it to Harry in a way that he could understand.

The second kit that we looked at was Science4you Slimy Factory Slippery Slugs. This kit has a recommended age range of 8 years and older. This wasn't a problem for us at all as we were doing the experiments together but we did scoot Mia out of the way as the experiments involved quite a bit more concentration, as well as substances that I wouldn't want a younger child to be playing with. Here are the contents of the kit:

Review - Science4you science kits for children

Unfortunately there were a couple of bits missing from the kit, but I contacted the company and received replacements within a few days.

The Slimy Factory Slippery Slugs kit lets you carry out 17 experiments. Because this kit is aimed at slightly older children it is a little more complicated. For the first set of experiments you need to make Sodium Alginate and Calcium Chloride solutions. It's pretty basic, and just involves a bit of measuring and adding water, but to little ones it does feel like you are carrying out some real, scientific experiments.

You can use the Sodium Alginate in the diluted Calcium Chloride to make little blobs in a variety of different colours. The solutions keep for a while so you don't need to do it all at once. Harry loved using the pipette to make some fake 'fish eggs' as you can see in the video below. You can use a similar method to create 'worms' and 'tadpoles'.


Another experiment uses 'magic powder' to make your own bouncy ball, which Harry loved doing. Once it's ready you can use it for several other experiments in the kit, for example measuring how far you can bounce the ball, along with instructions on how to create a table for recording results.

Finally an experiment that both children enjoyed was making a jelly seahorse. You just need to mix up the special powder with some hot water, pour it into the mould and leave it for a couple of hours. I must confess that the first time we tried this I read the instructions wrong and added too much water which didn't work, luckily the kit contains enough powder to make two seahorses!

Review - Science4you science kits for children

When you remove the seahorse from the mould you have a jelly seahorse which you can keep soft by storing it in a zip lock bag. I made a quick video just to show that Harry did manage to do most of it by himself, under supervision!


Harry didn't get much of the actual scientific explanations involved with these kits, but then I didn't expect that. At his age it's enough to see the sorts of things that you can do, without needing to know all about why. He'll cover these topics at school in a few years, for now it's just about having fun, and he certainly had a lot of that!

These were both great little kits and would make a nice alternative to a toy as a gift. It's nice to buy them with the intention of actually doing them with your child, not just to supervise but also so that you can explain a little bit about what is going on using the instruction book to help.

We received these two kits to review.
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