Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Four weeks in

I can't believe that it has been almost four weeks since Mia started school! It has definitely been an adjustment for us all. Mia has settled into school beautifully. She accepted it completely, trots off happily every morning, and settles herself down in the classroom with some colouring without a backward glance. Harry is doing well too, he has settled well into Year 2 and is enjoying his new topics.

Mia in particular finds the time after school a bit of a struggle. I try to console myself with the thought that she's been behaving all day at school (or at least we've not heard anything to suggest otherwise!) but when she's back at home with me she can release a full day of pent up emotions in a safe environment. That doesn't always help when that couple of hours before tea can feel like a bit of a shouty battleground when they can't settle to anything. I try to have a couple of activities on hand so that they've got something to get on with, and I've also restocked and rearranged our after school busy boxes, which keeps them entertained for a little while at least.

I've been very much enjoying my new freedom, even if it does feel a little self-indulgent at times. I've been tidying and cleaning around the house, without small children assuming that I've left home and abandoned them if I move more than two rooms away. I've been decluttering like mad, and have taken bags and bags of outgrown books and toys to the charity shop. I've cleared out and swept the garage and packed all the summer things away for the winter.

I've also been out for coffee with friends and had grown up conversations that lasted for a good couple of hours without any interruptions. I've even managed to teach myself to crochet, and I visited my Mum by myself and we crocheted together for a whole morning without any distractions!

Blue and purple granny squares

At my desk, I've been writing and planning blog posts, and managed to earn a little bit of money by doing so. I'm also saving up cardboard boxes for an eBay selling spree, and of course many times I just sit quietly for a few minutes with a hot chocolate, enjoying the silence in the house.

I do miss the children when they are at school , and sometimes I feel quite lost. But of course there is still plenty of looking-after-children to be done, with homework and reading, lunchboxes, making dinner, tidying and general entertainment and amusement. I'm also going to be helping out with swimming and reading at the school in their respective classes. It will just take me a bit of time to adjust!

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Review - The YVelo Balance Bike from YVolution

Just a couple of weeks ago I published a blog post about baby and toddler things that I wish we'd bought, and high up on the list was a balance bike. I've been trying to teach Harry to ride a bike over the summer but he still only has a small bike with stabilisers and he just can't get the hang of it. But I've seen lots of small children zipping about on balance bikes, and then suddenly they are riding a real bike, without stabilisers, and they seem to transition instantly.

So with Mia approaching the age when she really ought to be thinking about learning to ride a bike, I was delighted when Yvolution offered me the chance to review the YVelo Balance Bike.

Building the YVelo Balance Bike

The balance bike arrived while the children were at school. Normally I leave the building of such things to my husband, but he was away so I thought I'd have a go myself, and to my relief I managed it pretty quickly without any problems. There weren't that many pieces to put together, and the instructions were very clear.

Adjust seat on YVelo Balance Bike

Then once built, it's really easy to adjust the saddle and the handlebars so it can grow with your child.

YVelo Balance Bike review

Mia was expecting a bike with stabilisers like Harry's, and when she first got on the bike she wasn't sure how to approach it. I found that the best way to get her used to using it was to actually let her ride it around the house (fortunately the layout of our house means that she can go around the rooms in a circle!), and she quickly worked out what she was doing after a bit of practice. But once she'd built up her confidence, she was flying about the house in no time and loving it.

Child on her balance bike

We ordered her a cycle helmet which arrived a couple of days later, and so we ventured outside and she was flying off in no time.

Child riding balance bike

She was absolutely thrilled with how fast she could go, much faster than Harry stuck behind with his little bike! She was getting on so well that we ventured further out down the road...

Review of the YVelo Balance Bike from Yvolution

I was amazed at how quickly Mia picked up how to ride the balance bike. After just a few minutes of using it properly outside she'd learned to coast along without her feet touching the ground, and it was brilliant to see how well she was working out the best way to balance while riding. It's definitely going to make the transition to a real bike much quicker.

The YVelo balance bike is very light when you need to carry it around to put it away. Mia has toppled off a couple of times but that's to be expected when learning to ride a bike and it feels safe and sturdy. I like that the bike was so easy to put together, simple to adjust the height settings and it's going to be easy to clean when it gets dirty. The hand grips are padded and the seat looks really comfortable, it also has a built in steering limiter so that the child can control how much they turn.

It's especially noticeable to compare it to Harry on his first bike, it's going to be a lot more difficult to get him to take the stabilisers off as he doesn't have the balancing instinct that the balance bike helps to build - I'm going to have to let him have a sneaky practice on the balance bike when Mia's not looking. I really wish that we'd had one sooner, I would definitely recommend getting one for toddlers and pre-schoolers!

I received the YVelo Balance Bike in exchange for this review, Amazon link is affiliate. The YVelo Balance bike is suitable for children aged 3+ with a maximum weight of 25kg and has a RRP of £59.99.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Sew Over It Knicker Kit from White Tree Fabrics

Recently I was very pleased to be invited to join the Blog Team at WhiteTree Fabrics. I was asked to choose a project to have a go with, and as I'm still quite a beginner when it comes to sewing I decided to choose a kit. After much deliberation I chose the Sew Over It - Knicker Kit (£12.50), because I thought that it looked like quite a quick and simple project.

Sew Over it knicker kit

The kit contains everything that you need to make your own knickers - a pattern, fabric, elastic, cotton and full instructions. You do also need a sewing machine to sew up the kit. I've never made anything using a sewing pattern before so it was great to have something simple to start with.

Sew Over It knicker kit review

I managed to cut out the pieces successfully - I wasn't sure what size to make so I went with Medium and they were just right (I'm a dress size 10-12 on the bottom). There is quite a bit of leeway though in the sizing I should think, as long as you measure the elastic correctly when you come to finish them.

Make your own knickers

Cutting out the pieces was the easy part! It took me a few read throughs of the instructions before I felt confident to begin sewing the pieces together, but I made sure that I wasn't disturbed and I took it slowly, and I was really pleased with myself when I was able to assemble the bits into something that resembled a massive pair of knickers! Sewing in the crotch lining was a little tricky and it took me a while to get my head around it as you needed to kind of twist it, but the instructions did make sense and if you had a little more experience in following a sewing pattern I don't think it would cause any trouble.

Knicker making kit pattern

The next part called for a zig zag stitch on the sewing machine to go all the way around the edges. I struggled with this a little bit as my sewing machine kept rolling up the fabric, even when I managed to change the foot to the special zig zag foot. So at this point I called in reinforcement and asked my Mum, very experienced with a sewing machine, to come and give me a hand. She was much speedier and more confident than me and she managed it without any trouble.

The last step is to sew in the elastic, again with the zig zag stitch. The instructions were clear but it was helpful to have my Mum there to show me how to stretch the elastic and keep the fabric taut while guiding it through the machine. Although I would have managed by myself, I'm not sure that they would have turned out so well!

White Tree Fabrics knicker kit

I'm very pleased with my frilly knickers! They fit well and they are very comfortable. It's a great little kit, very quick to make up if you know what you are doing, so probably best suited to someone with a little sewing experience. You could also reuse the pattern to make yourself a whole drawer full of knickers!

Sew Over It sewing kit from White Tree Fabrics

I received the knicker kit in exchange for this review.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Book review - Pom Pom the Champion by Sophy Henn

Pom Pom the Champion book cover

Pom Pom the Champion is a new picture book from Puffin, written and illustrated by Sophy Henn. It's a story about Pom Pom, a sweet little bear. One day when Pom Pom is bored his Mum suggests that they play a game, and Pom Pom is delighted when he wins. He decides that he rather likes being the winner, and goes on to win at all sorts of things - like packing his bag at the supermarket and reading his book in the library.

Pom Pom the Champion inside

But when he meets his friends in the playground he discovers that he can't win against them at everything, and suddenly it's not so fun any more. Luckily with the help of his friends he learns that you don't need to win every time and it's a lot more fun when you all play together.

Lots of toddlers and young children are competitive and want to win at everything, and so this book will definitely strike a chord with parents and children alike! It's a great one to share with a child that needs a bit of help understanding that you don't always need to be the best at everything.

I was sent this book to review, Amazon link is affiliate.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Stepping up our pizza making game with the G3 Ferrari Delizia Pizza Oven

Ram and I do love pizza. We've been making our own pizza for years - beginning with basic pre-made bases, moving on to making our own dough from mixes, then from scratch, both by hand and using the dough hook on my Kenwood mixer. We've even had great success with making pizzas on the barbecue.

Ultimately though our quest has all been about trying to replicate the most delicious pizzas that we've ever eaten, which we discovered on a trip to Naples some years ago and enjoyed again a few months back on our recent visit. This is the place to get them - L'Antica Pizzeria - and if you appreciate good pizza and are visiting Naples it's a must!

But with our recent purchase of a pizza oven, we have come very close to achieving pizza perfection, and it's been so successful that I had to share it here!

Making pizza in a pizza oven

Ram spotted the G3 Ferrari G10006 Delizia Pizza Oven on special offer a couple of months ago, and it didn't take much consideration before we bought it. We actually bought ours directly from Amazon Italy for around £64 as that was the cheapest at the time. This does mean that it has a continental plug on it, but we picked up a socket adaptor very cheaply.

Pre-heating the pizza oven takes about ten minutes, so you can turn it on while you are preparing your pizzas. We find it best to make all the pizzas in advance and so we've bought a couple of these
pizza paddles so we can get a production line going. The pizza oven itself comes with a divided pizza paddle which is makes it easy to drop the pizzas into place for cooking but is a little awkward to prepare the dough on as it comes apart when you are trying to stretch the dough into shape. This is the divided pizza paddle in action as Ram gingerly places our very first pizza into the oven (it took a bit of practice to make round pizzas!)

Review of the Ferrari Delizia Pizza Oven

When the pizza is in position you close the lid, and it takes about four minutes to cook the pizza. You don't use oil or anything, just flour, and it's very easy to take the pizza out using one of the pizza paddles, or just a wooden spatula. Here's the same pizza as it comes to the end of cooking:

Stonebaked pizzas at home

And here it is ready to eat! Yes it's a bit misshapen, but you'll have to take my word for it that it really is delicious!

Stone baked pizza from a pizza oven

Ram discovered the pizza oven on the Hot UK Deals website (which he stalks), and the original post has developed into a brilliant thread which shows some of the ways that people have been using the ovens that they've bought. There are also some great tips on how to use it, for example different dough recipes and the sorts of things that you can use it to cook. You can see the post here (be warned, there's a very good chance that after reading it through you'll want one too!)

If you enjoy making your own pizzas I'd really recommend getting one of these. We haven't bought a takeaway pizza since we purchased it, so that alone has made us back the money that we spent on it!


Amazon links are affiliate, but we bought the pizza oven ourselves.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Pom Pom Pig Keyrings

The theme for this months' Bostik Bloggers craft box was 'Back to School' and once again we received a lovely box of craft materials to inspire us.

Pom pom and Fimo pig keyring

With Harry I learned fairly early on that a keyring attached to his book bag was a great way to help both him and me identify it among the big pile in the box. I saw these really sweet Fimo and pom pom sheep keyrings, and so I decided that we'd change the idea slightly to make pom pom pig keyrings for our first craft.

Fimo and pom pom pig keyrings

To make the pom poms we used a pom pom maker set which has plastic templates to use for making the pom poms. It's not really necessary as you can just use cardboard rings, but it's quicker and less fiddly to get started and it makes the whole thing sturdier as you're working on it. We used the medium size template and some pink yarn to make the pom poms. I made sure that the yarn I used to tie up the pom pom was quite long and I left the long ends hanging so that I could use them to attach the keyring later on.

Then we used some pink and purple Fimo to make pigs heads. Mia needed a little bit of help but Harry was happy to make his own. When they had cooled down I used some Bostik Glue & Fix to attach the Fimo head to the pom pom. I was really impressed with this glue, it stuck the Fimo to the yarn brilliantly and dried quickly to a clear finish.

Bostik Bloggers pig keyring craft

To make it into a keyring I cut a piece of coloured ric rac and made it into a loop which I secured tightly with a few stitches. I threaded a split ring through the ric rac to make the hanging part of the keyring, then used the long lengths of wool to tie firmly around the other end of the ric rac loop. Then I used another dollop of the Glue & Fix to make sure that the sewn part of the ric rac was fully covered by the yarn.

Back of pom pom keyring

Mia is so proud of her keyring hanging on her new book bag!

Pom pom keyring hanging on book bag

We had plenty of crafty bits left over, and so next we used some scraps of fabric to decorate a pencil pot. I cut out some squares of two different patterned fabrics and gave them to Mia, along with plenty of glue. She stuck them all on, then I finished it off with some coloured ribbon and she found some foam letter stickers to spell out her name and her age. She is so proud of it! Once again I was really impressed with how well the Bostik Glue & Fix stuck the fabric and the ribbon.

Bostik Bloggers fabric covered pencil pot

The box of craft materials was provided to me free of charge by Bostik as part of the Tots100/Bostik Craft Bloggers Club. Amazon links are affiliate.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Book review - The Wolf Who Fell Out of a Book

The Wolf Who Fell Out of a Book is an original picture book by popular Belgian children's author Thierry Robberecht, and is new to the UK this Autumn.

The Wolf who fell out of a book by Thierry Robberecht

Zoe's bookshelf is packed so full of books, that one day one falls down to the floor and the wolf in the story jumps out. He's a scary and menacing character in his own book, but when he sees Zoe's unfriendly cat he tries to escape, and ends up racing through a series of stories, meeting other familiar storybook characters along the way.

The wolf who fell out of a book illustration

The book is illustrated by Gregoire Mabire, and I love the detail in the pictures and the lifelike characters. My favourite pictures are the ones of the bookshelf, it looks a lot like the bookshelves in our house!

The wolf who fell out of a book inside

The Wolf Who Fell Out of a Book will be published on 6th October 2015. I received a copy of this book to review, Amazon link is affiliate.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Pinterest wins! When Pinterest inspiration was a success.

I love reading posts like this one - 31 Horrendous Pinterest Fail Monstrosities. But I also love seeing the fantastic things that people have made when inspired by something that they've seen on Pinterest. It's not just filled with unachievable examples of crafting excellence, there are some fabulous ideas out there and Pinterest has definitely been a huge inspiration to me over the last few years. You can see some of my own Pinterest wins here - My Pinterest Wins, and I asked around for other people to share some of the things that they have made, inspired by Pinterest, that turned out really well.

Pinterest inspired successes

I've discovered some fantastic cake ideas thanks to Pinterest, like my rainbow cake and piƱata cake. Sonia at Mummy Constant spotted these carrot shaped carrot cake slices:

and made these fantastic cakes, based on the design but using her own recipe.

Carrot cakes shaped like carrots

Kath at Dreaming of a Craft Room made a fantastic birthday cake. Inspired by this pin:

she created this awesome birthday cake with a rabbit popping out of a hat!

Rabbit coming out of hat birthday cake

Debbie at An Organised Mess also turned to Pinterest for birthday party inspiration when she was organising a Lego Ninjago party. Even though the original pin only provided a photograph:

she was able to recreate the design and make her own fantastic invitations:

Lego Ninjago party invites

Pinterest is great for home decor ideas. Jenny at The Gingerbread House was inspired by this Playmobil Clock:

and made her own brilliant version using vintage Playmobil figures:

Playmobil figure clock

Kath at Dreaming of a Craft room used Pinterest for ideas when decorating her daughter's room, and found these fabric wall decals:

She recreated the method on her daughter's walls, and it looks wonderful!

Fabric wall decals

Rachel at The Ordinary Lovely was inspired by decorative pinboards like this one:

to create her own simple and lovely pinboard:

Simple corkboard inspired by Pinterest

My friend Cherry also turned to Pinterest for organisational ideas and saw this kitchen command centre:

She made her own version which is perfectly adapted to her family's needs, and I love the jam jars attached to the walls to hold pens and pencils!

Kitchen command centre inspired by Pinterest

Pinterest is filled with ideas for things that you can make for your children. My friend Debbie pinned these lovely ruffle skirts:

and used the tutorial to make some gorgeous matching skirts for her daughters.

Matching ruffle skirts inspired by Pinterest

Cerys from Rainy Day Mum pinned this tutorial for repairing a broken pushchair seat:

and used the instructions to make a replacement seat that looks much prettier than the original!

Pinterest inspired replacement dolls pushchair cover

Finally, Pinterest isn't just about arts and crafts. Joanne from Kids Days Out Reviews used Pinterest to plan a trip to the Lake District, and discovered Aira Force Falls.

They had a great visit, and her daughters were able to see their first waterfall.

Aira Force Falls, Lake District

You can see some of my own Pinterest wins here - My own Pinterest wins

You might also like to read about how Pinterest has changed my life!

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Book review - The Tiger Prowls - A pop up book of wild animals

The Tiger Prowls book review

The Tiger Prowls: A Pop-Up Book of Wild Animals is a new  book from Simon and Schuster, lovingly illustrated by Seb Braun and filled with inventive pop-ups by paper engineer Maggie Bateson.

Pop up whale inside a book

The book features a collection of some of the world's most iconic creatures, including the tiger, bear, elephant and giraffe. Each page contains a few simple yet lyrical lines about the animal and a stunning pop up that fills the page. My favourite was the beautiful blue whale, with a tail that flaps when you open and shut the pages, and Harry loved the tall giraffe, with a head that you can lift up and down.

The pages are thick and good quality, and it's a pleasure to turn them to find out what you will see on the next page. I think that it would appeal to both adults and children, and the pop ups are sturdy enough that you could trust a small child with the book. It would make a lovely gift for a new baby or toddler, and would also look gorgeous out on display in the nursery.

I was sent this book to review, Amazon link is affiliate.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Sorting out for September and continuing the #minsgame

The children have been at school now for a couple of weeks, and I've been trying to use my new found time productively. I've been spending time working on my blog, and I've also been trying to get the house in order.

I mentioned before that I've been decluttering for a while now, and something that particularly motivates me is playing the #minsgame, where each day you declutter the same number of items as days in the month. I've picked it up again in September, although as I keep playing I'm finding it harder and harder!

I am terrible for hoarding craft things, especially odd bits and pieces that I'm sure I'll find a crafty use for someday. Like this ribbon, salvaged from clothes, gifts, boxes of chocolates and stuffed into a drawer. I also collect pretty patterned paper, buttons, beads and sequins.

Ribbon stash clutter

An area that I don't have too much of a problem with is clothes. I decluttered clothes again when I was packing for our holiday in August. I always find packing for a holiday is a great way to declutter clothing because you can see what you've got and you get to the back of drawers to find the things that are outgrown.

I've also been taking advantage of the children being out of the house to go through their toys and books and remove all the things that they've grown out of. I did choose Mia's first day at school to go through their baby board books which with hindsight wasn't the best idea, I did find myself shedding a tear or two as I packed up some of their well loved board books. But the local charity shop had a bumper day when I turned up with all my bags (and I kept plenty of favourites)!

I've also been trying to organise their toys a little better. I recently bought this pocket organiser for the back of a door to go inside their toy cupboard and it's been brilliant, it's a great place to stash all the odd little bits and pieces that go with toys and keep them all together. I'm particularly pleased with how well it stores the Barbie type dolls, which along with a few of my old ones Mia is accumulating at an alarming rate.

Over the door hanger for Barbies

I spent a happy evening brushing their hair and dressing them in different outfits. Mia was delighted to come down in the morning and see them - she thought that they were all new dolls! It's amazing how they don't notice the things that they see every day, and it made me realise the importance of toy rotation and putting things away for a while so that they feel new when they come back out.

I've found that taking part in the #minsgame has made a huge difference to my decluttering, it's a system that really works for me. I'd definitely recommend giving it a go if you are trying to declutter! You can find out more information here - #minsgame

Amazon link is affiliate.
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