Sunday, 30 November 2014

Book review - The Book with No Pictures

I've always found it difficult to engage Mia by reading a book to her. Harry loves picture books and even though he can read pretty well by himself now he still loves being read to. But as much as I try Mia has never been that interested in books. Although she loves looking through them by herself, if I sit down to read to her she's usually bored after a couple of pages. Until we received this book - The Book With No Pictures.

Book review Book with no Pictures

I can honestly say that this is the first longer 'story' book that I've read to Mia and it has held her attention from beginning to end. Which is surprising, as it's not a typical picture book at all! We've read it over and over together and Harry has joined us too. He perhaps understands the humour a little better but they both really love it.

The Book with No Pictures

The Book with No Pictures is exactly what it says. Written by US actor and comedian B.J. Novak (familiar in this household from the US Office), the book has no pictures at all and is instead only text.

B.J. Novak shares how he was inspired to write the book:

‘When I was reading books to children the actor in me started to realize that there was something very funny about the whole experience. This kid was handing me a script: “Here are your lines tonight. Please perform for my enjoyment.” I thought the funniest thing in that situation would be for me to have to say things I don’t want to say—things that the kid is making me say. So it came from there. If the adult had to say silly things, I knew the kid would feel very powerful and would feel that books are very powerful. Working backwards, I realized that if there were no pictures, it would be an even more delightful trick: The kid is taking a grown-up style book and using it against the grown-up.’

Reading the book aloud to the children is a really fun experience for both adult and child. Each time I read it the children demanded it again, and Mia was even joining in with the parts that she remembered! I wish I could have managed to take a photo of their little faces as they listened in delight to me reading and having to say all sorts of silly things.

The Book with No Pictures

The Book with No Words The Book With No Pictures will be published on 4th December 2014, and if you are looking for something a bit different as a Christmas gift I'd really recommend it. It's definitely a welcome change from the usual themed offerings!

We received a copy of this book to review, Amazon links are affiliate.

A 3D Hama bead gingerbread house

I've been playing with Hama beads for quite a while now and I decided it was time to attempt a 3D project, having seen some fab examples online. With the festive season already well under way I decided to try a little gingerbread house. My Hama bead gingerbread house is quite small, and it looks very sweet perched on the mantlepiece at Christmas. You can find the pattern for the pieces at the bottom of this post.

How to make a Hama bead gingerbread house

I actually based the design on the real gingerbread house that I've made the last couple of years for Christmas. The walls are designed with tabs that clip together, so there is no need for glue to hold them together and it's really solid. But I admit I was a little stumped when it came to the roof. Perhaps with a bit more though I could come up with way to make a similar interlocking design, but in the end I just made two rectangular pieces that slot together to form the ridge and then it just sits on top. It's fairly stable just balancing there but I'll probably add a bit of glue to keep it in place.

How to make a Hama bead gingerbread house

Because it's so small I'm thinking that it would look good with some ribbon attached to the top so that it could be used as a hanging decoration. Or I might pull out my mini Hama beads and use the same pattern to create some really tiny, delicate houses for tree decorations!

How to make a Hama bead gingerbread house

I have also made a flat Hama bead gingerbread house using the house pegboard, and you can find that and my other house designs here - Hama bead house designs.

These are the six pieces that I made for the gingerbread house.

How to make a Hama bead gingerbread house

Of course this has led me on to all sorts of ideas now. I'm even thinking about making a whole Christmas town to go under the tree! You could also make all sorts of scenery for a train set or car mat, perhaps with some of these Hama bead trees for a Christmas forest.

Do you enjoy crafting with Hama beads? You can find all my Hama bead blog posts on my Hama bead page.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Experiencing Frozen at Disney World Resort in Florida

We're pretty big fans of the Disney film Frozen in this house. The soundtrack is playing in the car almost constantly, most weekends the film is on at some point, and Mia can be found fairly frequently running about the house, knocking on doors and asking us if we want to build a snowman. So on our recent visit to Disney World in Florida I was keen to see just how much Frozen we could find in the parks. 

Plenty as it turned out! The main new Frozen attractions are found at Hollywood Studios. Here you can find the Frozen Sing-Along Celebration show.

Frozen singalong show, Orlando, Florida

The show takes place in an enclosed theatre. After a brief introduction by Anna, the show is led by two Arendelle citizens that retell the Frozen story with breaks for the songs. The central screen on the stage plays the clip from the movie along with the lyrics, with extra screens to the side also displaying the lyrics, and the audience all sang along enthusiastically. 

Frozen singalong show at Disney World Orlando

Towards the end all the characters appear and there is a final rendition of Let it Go with a few special effects. 

Frozen singalong show at Disney World Orlando

Close by you can find Wandering Oaken's Trading Post featuring a Frozen Snowground play area. Although there was a short wait it wasn't too bad and the children had a decent amount of time to play (there were timed play sessions). The snow was fairly realistic and there were plenty of spades, buckets and so on to play with. Unfortunately I'm not sure how much longer the play area and the Singalong show will be at the park as their run has already been extended, it may be that they close soon after Christmas. 

Playing in the snow play area at Disney World Florida

Just outside there is a Frozen merchandise shop. It's not the only place that you can buy Frozen merchandise of course, but there was an excellent selection all grouped together, and we found the prices to be cheaper than the Disney Store in Florida Mall, as well as offering products that we didn't see anywhere else. Many of the products were also better quality, Mia ended up with both an Anna and an Elsa doll and they were much nicer than their cheaper equivalents in Target. 

Frozen Elsa and Anna dolls for sale at Disney World

We always enjoy the Celebrate the Magic show at Magic Kingdom where the castle is beautifully decorated with a series of projects alongside music from Disney films. It usually takes place before fireworks when the park is open late. The show now features a lovely Frozen sequence and a chance for a Let it Go sing along from the crowds.

Elsa from Frozen projected onto the castle at Walt Disney World

If you want to actually meet Princess Anna and Elsa in person you can do so at Princess Fairytale Hall in Fantasyland, but you are probably going to be in for a long wait. We tried to get a Fastpass but there were no more left when we were able to log in. Perhaps if you are a hotel guest at Disney World Resort then you might have more luck. Even when we visited the park for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween party and most attractions had minimal waits, there was always a long wait for Anna and Elsa. By a long wait, I mean several hours, and there was no way that we were going to manage that.

Fortunately our children aren't too bothered about actually meeting characters in person. We were able to see the Princesses on our first day at the park in the Magic Kingdom Welcome Show - the short opening ceremony that takes place each morning as the park opens. We also saw them in the Festival of Fantasy Parade which takes place at Magic Kingdom during the day and of course they are also in the Frozen Sing-Along Celebration show. This was plenty for our children!

There are a couple more new Frozen events planned for the holiday season, unfortunately as we visited in October and early November we were too early for them. You can find more details on the Undercover Tourist blog, and it looks wonderful! In 2016 there will also be a new Frozen ride opening at Epcot which will replace the now closed Maelstrom ride.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Christmas Fimo and polymer clay crafts

I was contacted by Pandora's Crafty Box to see if I would like to review one of their new monthly crafting kits. The box that I received had the theme polymer clay, with instructions to make several festive projects. Unfortunately the subscription boxes are no longer available, but I thought I'd share the festive items that I made as I am really proud of them. 

I decided to start with some little snowmen earrings. The instructions were simple and easy to follow, nicely broken down into steps. The polymer clay was good quality and easy to work with and it didn't take me too long to make these sweet little snowmen! I don't actually have any festive earrings, so I'm looking forward to wearing them at some of our Christmas events this year!

Polymer clay snowman earrings

Then I turned to the tree ornaments and chose a cute owl decoration. There are instructions for three ornaments - an owl, penguin and reindeer. I think he's lovely, I do like handmade tree decorations and these are going to take pride of place.

Polymer clay fimo owl tree decoration

These crafts were made using craft materials and products that I received in a subscription box from Pandora's Crafty Box, unfortunately these subscription boxes are no longer available.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and Spinnaker Tower

At the weekend we were invited to try out some of the visitor attractions in Portsmouth. We decided to return to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and we enjoyed our first family visit to the Spinnaker Tower.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard


We started our day at the Historic Dockyard. We've visited a couple of times (you can read about one of our previous visits here) so we are pretty familiar with it and knew what we wanted to see. If you are visiting it's worth doing some advance planning, because there is a lot to do. As well as the three historic ships you can also take a Harbour Tour by boat, and there are also a number of individual museums on the site. We didn't do the Harbour Tour on this visit as the weather wasn't great, but it's a great way to see the harbour and there are always some interesting ships to see accompanied by knowledgeable commentary.

HMS Warrior


We began our day with a visit to the warship HMS Warrior, the first ship that you see as you enter the Historic Dockyard and which also greets you as you arrive in Portsmouth by train. She was the world's first iron-hulled and armoured warship powered by both steam and sail, although with new technology she very quickly became obsolete and has been used for various things before she was restored as a museum ship. She has been restored to how she was in 1861, and there is a lot to see across four decks. You are given a leaflet with deck plans and suggested touring route so you have plenty of help in interpreting your visit.

There are also crew and volunteers to answer questions. They were really friendly and helpful, and even offered the children the chance to have a go in a hammock, although they were far too suspicious and declined!

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard visit

HMS Victory

While our previous visits to HMS Victory have been self-guided, in the winter months the visit is by guided tour. Although we had enjoyed exploring the ship by ourselves, the tour really was fantastic as we learned a lot and our attention was drawn to things which we had previously missed.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard visit

There is quite a lot of renovation going on to the outside of the ship, and the topmasts and rigging have been struck, but it doesn't affect what you see inside. You can explore the crew's living areas on the ship, see the place on deck where Nelson was injured at the Battle of Trafalgar and then where he died shortly afterwards. You also visit the massive hold where food, drink and supplies were stored. My favourite area of the ship is the Great Cabin, Nelson's living quarters and where he apparently spent an entire two years without leaving those few rooms!

The Mary Rose

It is the Mary Rose which fascinates Harry in particular so we spent most of our time here. The Mary Rose was a Tudor ship, built in 1510, and in service for 34 years before sinking in 1545. The new Mary Rose museum opened in May 2013. Since the Mary Rose was raised from the seabed in 1982 there has been an ongoing process of conservation. Currently you can only see the Mary Rose through windows along a corridor as she continues to dry out, which means it can be a bit difficult to get a sense of the true scale of the ship. In a few years though it is planned for the walls to be removed and you'll be able to see the ship much better. The most impressive part of the tour comes towards the end  of your tour when you board a glass lift which takes you from the top of the ship to the bottom and gives you an amazing view.

Mary Rose ship behind glass

There are lots of exhibits spread across the three floors, based around the artefacts recovered from the wreck. Several key members of the crew are picked out, for example an Archer, the Carpenter, the Cook and the Purser, with skeletons on display alongside a reconstructed model. This is paired with fascinating information that has been gleaned from the remains, for example the geographical area in which the men were brought up and the work that they did for a living. The skeletons are displayed alongside the men's possessions, which have been remarkably well preserved and are fascinating to see. There is plenty of information to tell you all about them.

The museum is very modern and there are some interactive exhibits for children, for example little computer games that they can play and which teach them various things, both about the Mary Rose and about Tudor seafaring in general. There was a brass rubbing area which they loved, and Harry took great pride in his finished work.

Child doing brass rubbings

National Museum of the Royal Navy

Out of all the other attractions on site we particularly enjoyed the National Museum of the Royal Navy as it is well set up for younger visitors. There are ship models to see and plenty of interactive exhibits like a short lesson in Morse code. Harry was fascinated by these biscuits which we were told about during our tour of HMS Victory, and he loved using a magnifying glass to hunt for weevils.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard Museum

There is also a nice play area with a little ship for the children to play on, along with costumes and hats for dressing up fun. It's a large museum, so if you are visiting with young children it's worth concentrating on the areas that will interest them the most.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard Museum

The Spinnaker Tower


The Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth

When we had finished at the Historic Dockyard we headed for the Spinnaker Tower. It's a short walk away, and located in the Gunwharf Quays shopping centre. The tower is 170m in height and you can see it from all around. You ascend the tower in an internal lift, and once at the top there are three floors to visit.

It was quite a gloomy day when we visited, so I was concerned that the view wouldn't be great. Perhaps it wasn't quite as good as on a sunny day, but it was definitely worth the visit as there was still plenty to see. Most of the more interesting things to see are quite close by anyway, like the car ferries unloading and the ships moving through the harbour, so it doesn't really matter if you can't see a great distance. We could still clearly see the Isle of Wight in the distance.

The Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth

The highlight of a visit to the first viewing platform is a glass walkway where you can look straight down to the pavement below. Ignore the cross look on Harry's face, he was just annoyed that I was stopping his fun by making him pose for a photograph! I thought that the children would be worried about the glass floor with a huge drop beneath, but they absolutely loved it. In fact the walkway was full of children happily running about while the adults watched on nervously before venturing delicately across!

The second floor up is a cafe with a selection of coffee, tea and cakes, then the very top floor is open to the elements (albeit with big glass windows in front of you!) and offers the most impressive views.

The Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth

We finished our day in Portsmouth with a quick visit to the shops in Gunwharf Quays (we couldn't pass the Cadbury shop by!) and then stopped for pizza on the way home. A great day!

For more details about events, local attractions and where to stay, and a copy of the free visitor guide call the Portsmouth Visitor Information Service on 023 9282 6722 or email vis@portsmouthcc.gov.uk; details can also be found on website www.visitportsmouth.co.uk. Follow Portsmouth on Twitter for all the latest news and events @visitportsmouth; visit the city’s Facebook page or experience Portsmouth on YouTube searching for Visit Portsmouth. 

We received complimentary family admission to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and the Spinnaker Tower in exchange for this review.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Hama bead quilt style picture

Sometimes of an evening I quite fancy making something pretty with Hama beads (especially when they've been left out all over the table by the children) but I need some ideas. So I turn to my Hama bead ideas for me pinboard and I can always find something to inspire me.

Recently I pinned this gorgeous Hama bead rainbow quilt design made by Megan. It really jumped out at me as it was so bright and colourful, and so I used the basic pattern to make my own colourful picture to put in a little white frame that I picked up recently.

Hama bead quilt style picture

The frame is a very simple one (I buy frames cheaply at a local framing shop so I guess they are made with offcuts) and has no glass or backing. I just cut a piece of white card to the same size as the frame and then stuck the Hama bead design directly on to it with double sided tape. Because the design is quite large, after ironing I made sure to sandwich it between two heat proof mats for a few minutes to make sure that it didn't warp.

Colourful Hama bead design

I've put it in the bathroom, so it can make me smile when I'm brushing my teeth! Here's my board packed full of ideas for Hama bead creations that I might like to make. There are some really creative designs out there, including lots of 3D projects that I have my eye on!

Follow Jennifer Jain's board Hama bead ideas for me on Pinterest.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Christmas Crafting and play with House of Fraser

I was recently asked by House of Fraser to choose some products from the Arts and Crafts section of their online store to try out with the children in the run up to Christmas. I chose four great products to try out with the children, and here's what we thought!

Play Doh Perfect Twist Ice Cream (£20)

Play Doh has always been very popular in this house, and Harry (5) jumped upon this set as soon as he saw it. He loves watching Play Doh videos on the internet, and this was a set that he had seen demonstrated. It took me a few minutes to set it up, but it was pretty straightforward. It won't be fitting back into the original box though, as it's quite a large set!

Play Doh perfect twist ice cream set review

There are two main parts to the set which means it's a great one for a couple of children to play with at once. There is one extruder which you use to make the ice cream shape and then a second extruder with a slicer that makes little sprinkles. All around the base and down the sides there are little moulds which you can use to make additional decorations.

The set comes with five little pots of Play Doh. Three of these are Play Doh Plus which was a new product to us. It's softer than normal Play Doh and lighter. This means that it is a lot easier for little fingers to work with and to push through the extruders. Normally I have to help the children with this bit, but with Play Doh Plus even Mia (3) was able to work them easily.

The set also comes with some lovely accessories - dinky little ice cream cones, sundae glasses and spoons. To make an ice cream you place the cone beneath the first extruder. As you pull down the lever the cone spins around slowly to make a nice smooth ice cream shape. Then you place it between the second extruder to make little sprinkles. These didn't stick to the ice cream very well but were easy enough to push into place.

Play Doh ice cream maker set

Of course if you want to use the set properly you do need to be comfortable with mixing up the colours, not a problem for the children at all so I just have to let them get on with it! The main extruder was really easy to clean as the Play Doh is kept in a removable section which folds out. The sprinkle part was a little harder to clean as it's all enclosed but when it's dried out I'm hoping it will all fall out.

The thing that I really liked about this set is the role play possibilities. While Harry was having fun actually making the ice creams, Mia was more interested in playing with the finished ice creams, putting in her order and pretending to eat them. There are all sorts of games that you could play and I thought that the little accessories were fab.

Play Doh Disney Sofia the First Tea Party Set (£11.25)

Another set which is fantastic for role play is this Play Doh set from Disney themed around Sofia the First. I chose it with Mia in mind, but I think that Harry will have just as much fun with it!

Sofia the First Play Doh set

The set comes with three tubs of Play Doh, including some lovely sparkly pink and purple. It has a large Sofia doll which is covered in little Play Doh moulds. The base of her dress is a tray which you can use with an empty Play Doh tub to make a table. She also has a teapot and teacups. The teapot is a small extruder, so you can fill it with Play Doh to push 'tea' out into the tea cups. Sofia herself is hollow inside, making a handy place to store her accessories. I must admit that I'm not so keen on the small Play Doh moulds myself as I find them difficult to use but it doesn't seem to bother the children, Harry in particular really enjoys making the different shapes. Again, because it has lots of pieces it's a set that more than one child can have fun playing with at the same time. It would make a lovely gift for a little girl!

Disney Princess Fuzzy Felt Craft Set (RRP £10.99)

I have very fond memories of Fuzzy Felt from when I was little, and because Mia loves playing with her magnetic dress up dolls I knew that she would enjoy this set. The fact that it is Disney Princess makes it even more appealing. The set contains a purple background board and over 100 felt pieces spread over four individual sheets. One sheet is in full colour and contains the princess figures (Snow White, Belle and Cinderella) in their modest underwear. Each princess has her familiar ball gown and a few accessories like gloves, tiaras and a couple of items related to their story, for example an apple for Snow White.

Disney Princess fuzzy felt

Then there are three plain coloured sheets of felt shapes in pink, blue and yellow, with further items to help you tell the stories of the princesses, like woodland creatures, castles and other characters from the stories, as well as some extra bits of clothing and accessories. These coloured sheets aren't quite as nice, it would be better if all the pieces were in full colour, but it doesn't affect the story telling potential of the set.

Disney Princess fuzzy felt

Mia wasn't so interested in acting out the stories, although that may be because she's not so familiar with the films yet (that will come as she gets older!). She did enjoy dressing up the princesses though, and creating a larger scene with me, particularly with the animals like the rabbit and the cat. It's a lovely little set and I know that we are going to have lots of play out of it.

Disney Frozen Crayola Mess Free Colour Wonder (£6.50)

I first saw a Colour Wonder Crayola colouring book at a friend's house and was completely fascinated. It's a similar concept to the magic painting books that I used to have when I was younger, but it works a lot better. I have no idea how they work, I just know that they work really well! This pack contains an 18 page colouring book which has a nice selection of images from the Disney Frozen film. Then you also have a pack of 5 marker pens. Each marker pen is a different colour (they are chosen to match the sorts of colours that you'd be using for these particular pictures - light blue, dark blue, brown, pink and peach), but magically they all look white when you take off the lid, and on ordinary paper or any other surface they make no mark.

Crayola Colour Wonder Frozen set review

Amazingly however, when you colour in the pages in the book, the paper turns the correct colour - the colour of the pen that you have drawn with! The colours are really bright too, and there is no mixing or running of colours. This makes them perfect for when you are out and about and don't want the mess usually associated with felt tip pens. It's also great for little ones that you aren't quite ready to trust with real pens yet as they leave no mark on furniture, hands or clothes and it really is a brilliant system. Although I chose the set with Mia in mind, Harry is also a big fan of the film and enjoys the colouring just as much, so it's for both of them really!

Frozen Crayola magic colouring book

We had a great time trying out all these arts and craft products, and you can find the full range online at House of Fraser.

We received these items for the purpose of this review, prices correct at time of writing.

Ladybird Tuesday - The Story of Nuclear Power

It's a rather complicated book this week. The Story of Nuclear Power is from Ladybird Series 601, all books which discuss the achievements of man. Other titles in the series include The Story of Plastics which looks very interesting (currently the cover is on display in my Ladybird wall display, I'd love to read the actual book!), The Story of Furniture and The Story of Ships. The Story of Nuclear Power was published in 1972.

Ladybird The Story of Nuclear Power book

The book begins with a discussion on the need for nuclear power for us to have heating, lighting, cooking, radio, television and so on. Then it goes back to the very beginning when man used forces for power that exist in the outer regions of the atom. Then in the twentieth century, scientists began to wonder if there was anything smaller than the atom, and discovered the much greater forces that can be released from within the centre of the atom, which is what we mean by nuclear power. I'm not a very scientific person, and those couple of paragraphs in this Ladybird book explained the concept to me much more clearly than any science lesson at school!

Vintage Ladybird Book The Story of Nuclear Power

The book continues with a detailed look at early experiments, and how scientists from across the world came together to unravel the secrets of the atom and were able to control the release of the atomic energy. The world became aware of this new power with the dropping of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. 

Vintage The Story of Nuclear Power Ladybird book

The book takes a look at the future of nuclear power, for example in the Space Age. It suggests that the first planned use of nuclear engines will be to propel space ships shuttling between Moon and Earth orbits, although that hasn't happened quite yet!

The book is overwhelmingly positive in it's description of nuclear power. Atomic bombs are mentioned in passing with no hint of the huge loss of life and devastation that they cause. Perhaps this is because the book was written before nuclear power plant disasters like Chernobyl in 1986. I think that a book written today would be much more balanced about both advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power.

Although it is briefly mentioned that the used fuel elements are hot and radioactive, this is glossed over, giving the impression that they are somehow 'processed', with no mention of safety. Instead the book finishes with several pages of all the wonderful things that nuclear power will be able to do in the future, like powering cargo and passenger submarines across oceans and developing undersea food farms.

I'm joining in with Ladybird Tuesday at Being Mrs C. You can see all my previous Ladybird Tuesday posts here.

Monday, 24 November 2014

The Christmas Circus at Squire's Washington 2014

This Christmas, we were invited to attend the preview event Christmas Circus at Squire's Washington - a Christmas circus performance along with the chance to see Father Christmas. The Circus show takes place in a circus tent next to the garden centre. There is a vague plot to the circus show, with a story about some presents being stolen from under the tree and a search for Santa, which was used to tie the different acts together. The clown was very good, and the children thought that he was hilarious, especially when he pulled a poor Dad up from the audience and swung a watering can about. We also saw some exciting circus acts, including a trapeze and super hula hooping.

Squire's Christmas Circus 2014

At the end of course Santa is found, and he ushers everyone to an area behind the seating where the circus performers were handing out presents. It was all done very quickly so fortunately there wasn't too much waiting around, but it did mean that you didn't really get the chance to meet with Santa individually as there were a lot of people and stopping for a photo would cause a hold up. The children were delighted with their presents, the gifts handed out seemed to be ones that would suit young children of most ages and it seemed as though despite working quickly the assistants were trying to match a suitable gift to the child.

The circus show itself lasts for about 40 minutes, so it's a decent length show but not too long for very little ones. The whole experience lasts for about an hour.

We received complimentary admission to the preview event.

Friday, 21 November 2014

My holiday crafty purchases

I recently returned from an amazing holiday to the US. I'm afraid that you may be hearing rather a lot about it on the blog over the next few weeks. But instead of just travel reports I thought that I'd also share some of the fantastic crafty goodies that I picked up! I can't remember exactly where I bought everything, but I shopped in craft shops Michaels and Jo-Ann (both of which do amazing coupons that you can just show the cashier on your phone, you can sometimes save up to 50% off your most expensive item and 20% off your entire shop). I also found some little bits in Target and WalMart.

I know that most of these things can be sourced in the UK too, but they did work out cheaper and as I don't normally buy so many crafty things at once it was pretty exciting for me!

I bought washi tape, printed fabric tape and patterned Duck Tape. I just can't resist washi tape, especially when it's really cheap, and I found fabric tape, glitter tape and shaped tape.

Coloured duck tape and washi tape

Now I just need to find a way of storing it, as unfortunately my lovely washi tape holder is now woefully inadequate!

Patterned washi tape

I bought Perler beads which look to be the same as Hama beads, but they are stripy! I'm looking forward to playing with these and seeing how they look when they are ironed.

Stripy Perler beads

I also found some Cricut accessories cheaper than at home, including some Cricut vinyl which I've been after for a while. I'm not sure what I'm going to use it for yet but I've seen lots of cool crafts around that I'd like to try.

Finally I used one of my large discount coupons to buy a Smash Book. I think that I'm a bit late to these but I've read about them and they are pretty cool, basically they are just a scrapbook that comes with a fancy pen that has a glue stick on one end, along with a few other stickers, tiny sticky notes and tape to embellish with. I've already done a few pages with some mementoes and notes from our holiday, I'll share how I get on with it when I've completed some more!

New Smash book

Some links in this post are Amazon affiliate links, just in case I've whet your crafty appetite!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom, Florida, 2014

Disneyworld decorations for Halloween

This year we were on holiday in Florida for Halloween, and we were lucky enough to be able to attend Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Disney World Resort. Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween party takes place in the Magic Kingdom on selected dates every autumn in the build up to Halloween, beginning at the beginning of September with the final evening taking place on Halloween itself.

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween party

Entry to the party

After 7pm, the park is open only to guests who have purchased tickets for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. Obviously the park will be full of other guests that have been there during the day, so to distinguish the Halloween party guests you are given a wristband to wear. It seemed a fairly efficient process to make sure that only guests with a wristband were left in the park after about an hour or so, with plenty of checkpoints at the entrances to different lands and before going on rides, as well as regular spot checks. On entry you are given a map with Trick or Treat locations and the show schedule as well as your Halloween treat bag.

Decoration and theming in the park

Disney World was already beautifully decorated in autumnal and fall colours, with lots of orange and red and plenty of pumpkins. We noticed a few extra pumpkins that had appeared on the evening, like the large inflatable ones at the entrance, as well as special lighting, spooky smoke and projections. There were also lots of seasonal photo opportunities!

Disneyworld Halloween costumes

Costumes

About half the guests were dressed up, although not as many adults as children. Most of the costumes were store bought or Disney character costumes, but there were a few more original ones as well as couples and families wearing matching or complementary costumes. Although it was very warm earlier on it did become cooler later, so it's important to remember different temperatures when planning a costume. You aren't allowed to wear costumes that obscure your vision and they aren't supposed to be too scary. Most people were in fancy dress rather than traditional spooky Halloween costumes. We decided to go as a family of skeletons and fortunately found matching outfits before we left home by raiding the local supermarkets.

Disneyworld at Halloween

Dance parties

There were two character dance parties taking place, and we stopped for some of the Monstrous Scream-O-Ween Ball in Tomorrow land where the characters from Monsters Inc. were dancing away with guests. The music was pretty good too.

Mickey's "Boo-To-You" Halloween Parade

There were two parades, one at 8.15pm and one at 10.30pm, and we watched the earlier parade. The park seemed much busier than during the day (perhaps because not so many visitors were busy with the rides but were instead walking about) so we quickly realised that we'd need to be in position for the parade quite early, and we were waiting at least half an hour before it was due to start.

The parade was lead by a headless horseman which was pretty cool, then there were a series of themed segments - spooky characters based around the Disney Haunted Mansion ride, floats carrying Disney villains, a Harvest/fall dancing part and Halloween candy, with Goofy driving a huge candy machine. The parade was very good, although perhaps no more spectacular than the usual daytime parade. We usually find that Frontierland is a good place to watch the parades as it's not as busy as Main Street.

Disneyworld Boo Halloween parade

Candy

We discovered that Halloween in the US is mainly about the sweets. As you enter the park you are given a Trick or Treat carrier bag, which doesn't look that big but can hold a surprising amount, and adults are just as welcome to take part. You can use your own bags or containers too. We took a spare rucksack to decant our bags into which was a very good move. There are numerous Trick or Treat stations located around the park, and although you have a map really you just need to look for the easy to spot lit up pumpkins:

Disneyworld Trick or Treat sign

The Trick or Treat stands seemed to be positioned so that you could usually see at least one from wherever you were located in the park. There were also a couple of Trick or Treat trails where you could take in more than one stand at a time. The sweets given out were good quality, branded treats and handed out generously. Just one visit to each station in the park would easily fill your bag, but there is nothing to stop you going around and around, and you are limited really only by what you can carry! This was Harry's favourite part of the evening, not because he's especially into sweets (in fact I'm not sure that he actually ate any of them!) but he loved the experience as we've never been trick or treating before. This is just a tiny fraction of what we received between us:

Halloween candy from Disneyworld

Rides

Most of the rides were open and had minimal queues. The only ride we saw that was slightly different for the evening was the Haunted Mansion, where there was an actress in suitable attire outside entertaining the crowds along with atmospheric smoke and lighting. During the parade in particular the rides were empty (apart from the new Snow White Mine Train which always had a massive line!). When walking around though the park felt much busier than it had during the day.

Food

Not all the food venues were open, so it's probably best to check in advance if you are planning to eat a full meal at the park. We didn't buy anything to eat, but I saw that some of the venues were selling specialty food for the evening and there was plenty of snack food around to purchase like candy floss (cotton candy), ice cream and popcorn. You could also buy seasonal treats elsewhere in the parks around this time, I bought this lovely Halloween Minnie cupcake at Hollywood Studios later that week.

Halloween cupcake at Disneyworld
Characters

We don't really go in for meeting the characters at Disney World as our children are quite shy and also it takes up a lot of time waiting in line. However I know that for many people this is the highlight of the party, as some of the characters are dressed in special Halloween outfits and there are also characters about that don't appear very often.

Villains Mix and Mingle Live on Stage

This show took place four times throughout the evening on the stage in front of Cinderella Castle. We stayed in the same position for this show, and Celebrate the Magic and Hallowishes which followed straight after. We didn't have a great view of the show unfortunately as we were behind a tree, but it was a good show with plenty of characters, music and lighting effects on the castle behind.

Celebrate the Magic

At 9.15pm Cinderella Castle was decorated with projected scenes from Disney films alongside music for a spectacular show. This seemed to be the same show that is performed on non-Halloween nights, but we still enjoyed an extra chance to see it.

Hallowishes

The Hallowishes fireworks display took place at 9.30pm, almost immediately after Celebrate the Magic. The fireworks really were spectacular and we felt that they were better than the usual Wishes fireworks, definitely the best fireworks that we've ever seen at the Magic Kingdom

Halloween fireworks at Disneyworld

It was a late night for us all, we stayed a little while after the fireworks finished and left around 10pm. Mia was fast asleep in her pushchair by this point! But fortunately we'd had a few days of the holiday already to accustom the children to staying up a little later than usual.

As the park will be dark throughout the party you do need to be extra vigilant about keeping an eye on the children. It's a good idea to purchase some glow sticks or light up toys to attach to them, to make them easy to spot! Of course there are plenty on sale at the park or you can take your own along.

Ticket price and availability

We visited on the 23rd October 2014, and posters said that there were still tickets available for that night. Closer to Halloween however we saw several sold out posters, including on Halloween night. Although the event starts at 7pm, the park actually opens to ticket holders at around 4pm, so you have a chance to take in some rides first and then I believe at 7pm you can collect your treat bag and wristband. Ticket prices for the 2014 event varied according to the date that you visited, with prices increasing nearer to Halloween, as well as discounts for annual pass holders and advance tickets. So prices ranged from $66.03 for an adult advance ticket purchased for September to $82 for an adult ticket on Halloween night, and you don't need to purchase separate admission to the park. You can see this year's ticket price details as well as loads more useful information and tips here).

It's a pretty pricey night out, so you need to decide if it's worth it to you before booking tickets. Even if you are regular visitors to Disney World then it's a great opportunity to see a different side to the park. If you enjoy meeting the characters then there are many one off opportunities to meet and greet, and children (and adults) will enjoy taking home as much candy as they can carry. There really was a sense of something special taking place, and there was a fantastic and fun atmosphere throughout the park.

We were lucky enough to receive complimentary press tickets to the party. For more information about Orlando see the Visit Orlando website.
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