Friday, 24 November 2017

Decorating the home with some Christmas paper crafts from Twinkl

Christmas printable decorations from Twinkl

If you need some fun and simple ways to decorate your home this Christmas, Twinkl Resources have a huge range of full colour printables which you can print and assemble for some easy Christmas crafting. Today I'm sharing a few of my favourites! Please note that these printables are all Platinum resources which means that you need a paid subscription to download them. Scroll to the bottom of this post for some links to some free Twinkl Christmas resources!

This Simple 3D Christmas Lights Decoration allows you to make some Christmas lights in three festive colours which can be strung together and used as bunting. Here you can see it across our fireplace, and it would also look great hung down the banisters or across the top of the room.

Christmas printable light bulb bunting

It was super easy to put together and looks really effective!

Christmas printable bunting from Twinkl

In the middle I have hung a 3D Christmas Wreath Display Printable. Once again, this printable was really easy to assemble and makes a great little Christmas decoration.

Printable Christmas wreath decoration

The children had a lot of fun making and playing with these 3D Christmas Fortune Tellers. They don't have any complicated cutting or folding, so even little ones can put them together once they've been shown how to, and they are great for Christmas role play or just to use as a decoration.

Christmas fortune teller puppets printable

Finally I had a go at some Christmas Origami Paper Crafts. There are lots of different designs to choose from, and they vary in complexity, so you can choose the design most suitable for the children or adults that you are working with. The finished pieces are very sweet and look lovely on display. You could also punch holes in the top and use them to decorate the tree, or embellish them further with glitter and sequins.

Christmas origami printables from Twinkl

If you want to try out Twinkl for free to see if a subscription is right for you, there are also lots of free resources available to download. For example, you can find some fab Christmas themed printables here - Free Twinkl Christmas Resources.

I have also previously shared some more Printable Christmas Decorations from Twinkl which includes crafts using both Platinum and free resources. 

I have been provided with a Platinum Subscription to Twinkl in exchange for sharing their resources across social media.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Disneyland Hong Kong for Halloween

Disneyland Hong Kong at Halloween

On our recent trip to Asia we spent a couple of days at Disneyland Hong Kong. We've been lucky enough to visit a few Disney parks around the world, so we were very keen to see how Disneyland Hong Kong compared. Our visit coincided with the Disney Halloween Time celebrations, which this year ran from the 14th September until 31st October.

It's a small park, and Hong Kong Disneyland doesn't host a separate Halloween event like Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party in Orlando. Instead all the Halloween attractions are included for all visitors. It's not such a big thing as elsewhere - we didn't spot any visitors in costume for example - but there was still plenty of extra theming and attractions with a spooky theme.

Disneyland Hong Kong at Halloween

Disney really does go to town on the seasonal decorations. There were pumpkins scattered throughout the park, as well as Autumnal wreaths and other Fall decorations. In Toy Story Land I loved the scary toy theme, and Main Street, U.S.A. was beautifully dressed with autumnal colours galore.

Disneyland Toy Story Land decorated for Halloween

There were two parades during the day - the Flights of Fantasy Parade and Mickey's Halloween Time Street Party. Both were excellent as usual, and we found that we didn't need to wait around for too long beforehand, we easily found somewhere to sit with a good view. The Halloween Time Street Party parade stopped for a while so that children could join in and play with some of the characters, and it was nice to see characters like Mickey and Minnie in their seasonal costumes.

Disneyland Halloween Parade Hong Kong

One particular attraction specific to Halloween was the Maze of Madness: The Nightmare Experiment Continues. This was a haunted house style attraction where visitors progress in a small group through a series of rooms, being entertained by different characters and special effects. There was plenty of audience participation, but the cast members were very good about not picking on anyone that wasn't enjoying the scariness. Harry found it a bit overwhelming as there was a lot of darkness with people jumping out at you, but he loved the magical effects. Most of the dialogue wasn't in English which did make it all a bit confusing for us, although it was generally pretty obvious what was going on.

Disneyland Maze of Madness for Halloween

There were some fun Halloween activities for younger children in the Halloween Time Festival Gardens. Children could decorate a bucket for trick or treating or have their faces painted, and in the evening there were dressed up cast members with some magical pumpkin cauldrons dispensing treats for children and adults alike.

Disneyland Hong Kong at Halloween Time

It was really fun to watch and the children were thrilled with their spooky Disney sweets.

Halloween sweets from Disneyland Hong Kong

The whole area was beautifully decorated, with plenty of opportunities for seasonal photographs! At night it all looked amazing, with pumpkins that lit up and coloured lighting effects, including projections on all the buildings down Main Street U.S.A.

Disneyland Hong Kong Halloween theming

In the evening, Villains Night Out! Chapter 2 took place. This was a parade of Disney villains and also incorporated a castle show with spooky projections and a live action show with plenty of smoke and fire. On our first evening we sat along the parade route and missed a lot of the action, so on the second evening we were more prepared and found ourselves a spot in front of the castle so that we didn't miss anything. Then later on in the evening we enjoyed the usual fireworks at the castle before the park closed.

Disneyland Hong Kong castle at Halloween

As always there was plenty of seasonal merchandise to purchase, both food and drink and gifts to take home. We are quite stingy I'm afraid when it comes to buying the merchandise, but we had a lot of fun looking at it all!

Disneyland Hong Kong Halloween merchandise

Finally, something that we've not encountered at other Disney parks was sticker collecting. Most of the staff members at Hong Kong Disneyland were carrying a little bag filled with stickers, and if you asked them they would give you some - usually one each but occasionally a handful - and we ended up with loads! Many of them were Halloween themed with Disney villains, and there were also some lovely Hong Kong Disneyland stickers - brilliant free souvenirs and great little gifts for friends back home.

Disneyland Hong Kong collecting stickers

I made a short video showing some of our Halloween highlights at Hong Kong Disneyland, including some of the Halloween Time festivities like Mickey's Halloween Time Street Party, Villains Night Out! and the Halloween Time Festival Gardens. Enjoy!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Filling up the calendar

It's that time of year again, when everything suddenly becomes very busy. I'm lucky to have friends across several different circles, and it's always nice to get a few people together for a Christmas meal or catch up. It's also a very busy time at school with lots going on. Especially this year because the children break up on the 15th December - a full ten days before Christmas - so there is plenty to be crammed in. It also means that the children are completely hyped up for Christmas, and then have over a week waiting around at home getting impatient!

I've managed to get most things scheduled in now, but there are still a few dates that we are trying to get sorted. I always get a bit anxious planning things far in advance, I worry that I'm going to end up double booked somehow, or forget about the regular activities like swimming lessons in my excitement to find a date that is free. But it does feel good to have everything scheduled in and to know what needs to be done and when.

I have stressful memories last year of 'bad week', the second week of December when everything seemed to collide all at once, coinciding with Ram spending the week travelling up and down the country. It looks as though we are headed for similar this year, with that week being a blur of Nativity plays, a swimming gala, carol service and several nights out. I'm trying to prepare better mentally this year, and at least now that the children are settled into the school the activities are a bit more familiar.

I am generally an organised person and I'm usually on top of things. We both have a Google calendar which is shared across our devices, although unfortunately the syncing can sometimes be a bit hit and miss, and it also doesn't link to the work calendar. At the beginning of the week I copy over our week's activities to the week to view calendar so we can all see what we are up to. It doesn't always help though - twice so far this term I've had to trek back to school with a forgotten swimming kit!

I'll be quite glad when this winter term has finished, although I am very much looking forward to all the lovely festive activities. I'm just hoping that we can have a bit of time to relax at home before the big day itself!

Open calendar, photo by Eric Rothermel

Photo credit Eric Rothermel via Unsplash

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Introducing the children to some classic books - Heidi and The Secret Garden

I'm really glad that both my children are now avid readers. I have so many happy memories of the books that I enjoyed when I was young, and it's been lovely to see my own children discovering them too. Recently I was sent a couple of classic books that I remember reading over and over when I was little, and I'm looking forward to seeing what my own children make of them.

Classic books for children - Heidi and The Secret Garden

Heidi: Lessons at Home and Abroad by Johanna Spyri is a timeless classic of Swiss literature. It tells the story of Heidi, orphaned at an early age and brought up by her mother's sister in Switzerland. Her Aunt is forced to send her to live with her grandfather, a recluse who lives alone up in the mountains. He is reluctant at first but Heidi soon wins him over and Heidi also learns to love her new surroundings. I love reading about their simple life together, and how they cope with the challenges that they face.

This new edition from Alma books is a brand new and unabridged translation by Peter James Bowman and illustrated by Susan Hellard. The book also comes with some handy notes at the end for readers - a summary of characters, a glossary and also some suggestions for other books to read with a similar theme which I thought was a really good idea, and it gave me some ideas for books to add to our collection!

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is one of these suggestions, and another classic that I remember reading over and over. The story follows Mary Lennox, orphaned after her parents die in India, and sent to live in a gloomy house in Yorkshire. Her new home is full of secrets, including a locked walled garden and a sickly cousin who is hidden away. Mary is a determined child, and with the help of the new friends that she makes she gradually she brings both the garden and the household back to life. It's a powerful story, and despite being first published over a century ago it's still an exciting tale for children today. This edition is illustrated by Peter Bailey and also contains some fun extra material for young readers.

I received these books in exchange for a review, Amazon links are affiliate.

Friday, 17 November 2017

My gorgeous Birthday presents

Just before we went on holiday I celebrated my birthday! It was a funny day as I was very busy doing the packing and getting last minute bits and pieces sorted for the blog - I celebrated in the evening with a trip to Asda to pick up a few things! But I did take some time to myself during the day to sit down with some cake and chocolates, and a couple of new episodes of Red Dwarf.

I received some lovely presents this year so I thought I'd share them with you, because if you read my blog you are likely a similar sort of person to me and it might give you some inspiration as you put together your Christmas list! So in no particular order, here are some of the lovely things that I received. Amazon links are affiliate, there's no extra cost to you but if you buy something through the link then I earn a few pennies :)

My brother bought me this awesome Cross Stitch Map which I had seen advertised constantly over my social media - I'm clearly firmly in the target demographic! It's a dark blue and white map printed on cross stitch fabric, and you can customise it however you like. As you can see I've got quite a way to go yet, but I've got lots of plans. I'm intending to use different shades of green to colour the countries that I've visited, then I'll mark out road trips and cruises in different coloured threads. I also want to add in extra pictures of landmarks or other things that represent that country to me. Although I guess it will never actually be finished!

Cross stitch map kit

Sticking with a crafty theme, my parents bought me a circular weaving kit which my Mum bought at a knitting show. It's from The Threshing Barn and comes with a metal hoop, lots of different textured pieces of yarn and some instructions. It's not something that I've ever tried before, so I'm looking forward to getting started!

Circular weaving kit

My sister bought me this fab mug that attracted a lot of interest over on Instagram - Little Miss Blogger. Perfect for my morning hot drink while I'm working! I've also seen around a Little Miss Social Media mug, maybe one to ask for next year!

A post shared by jenniferjain (@jenniferjain) on

Ram cleared out my Amazon wishlist with some book purchases, along with a couple of extras. I've already read The Year of Living Danishly and I enjoyed it very much, now I'm working my way through The Little Book of Hygge. I'm a couple of years behind the times on the whole Hygge craze but it's definitely a concept that appeals me as winter approaches!

Collection of books I received as gifts

The children bought me some Malteser chocolates which are always very much appreciated. Then Mia chose a lovely sparkly bracelet for me and Harry bought me some crafty bits and pieces for the craft box - I love getting things that they've chosen themselves.

Finally my friend bought me some lovely crocus bulbs that I need to get on and plant along with a bottle of wine. I felt very spoilt!

Crocus bulbs

Now people keep asking me what I want for Christmas and I have no ideas left!


This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Books for older children from Gecko Press

Today I'm taking a look at two fantastic new books from Gecko Press which would make great stocking fillers for older children.

Impossible Inventions: Ideas that Shouldn't Work is a witty and fascinating collection of ideas, plans and patents that will spark the imaginations of both young and old.

Impossible Inventions book review

The book is packed with ideas for inventions - both ancient and modern, some revolutionary and some that are simply impossible. There's a flying bicycle, passenger clouds and passenger birds, and my favourite, the Concentration Helmet. Each invention comes with diagrams showing it in action and notes. Some are purely fictional and hypothetical and others solve a definite need, particularly from periods when science hadn't yet caught up with the problem.

Impossible Inventions book review

It's a fascinating book to browse through for both adults and children!

Secondly, Follow Finn allows the reader to follow along with Finn through a story, completing search and find mazes and absorbing puzzles.

Follow Finn maze book review

Each double page spread in the story is packed with detail, and while going through the book the reader is given tasks along the way, for example to find Finn's clothes when he wakes up in the morning, to match keys to a lock, and to find the way through a maze. There are also a selection of objects which need to be found on each page.

Follow Finn maze book review

Some of the puzzles are easy and some are more challenging, making it a fun book to read together and great for chatting about together.

If you have younger children, they might enjoy these picture books from Gecko Press for younger readers.

I received copies of these books to review. Amazon links are affiliate.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Singapore Zoo and Night Safari

On our recent family holiday to Singapore we were invited to spend a day at the fabulous Singapore Zoo, followed by an evening exploring the attractions of the Night Safari

Singapore Zoo and Night Safari with the family review

Singapore Zoo

We arrived at Singapore Zoo around 1 pm, as we were combining our day with the Night Safari. The zoo shuts at 6 pm, and we found that we had just the right amount of time to see everything.

Singapore Zoo and Night Safari review

There's a small charge for a guided tram ride which you can use throughout your visit. We managed without, but it would be a good idea if you have younger children, as the day can involve a lot of walking. The tram takes a route which covers most of the park, and you can hop on and off at various stations for a closer look before getting back on again.

Singapore Zoo and Night Safari review

If you are visiting from a cooler climate like us, you need to be aware that it can be very hot and humid in Singapore. Make sure that you pack plenty of water (there are outlets selling drinks around the park, as well as free water machines for topping up your bottles) and wear light, comfortable clothing and shoes. We were lucky with the weather on our visit, but having been caught in a heavy shower and thunderstorm earlier in the week I made note that there were plenty of covered areas for shelter in a downpour! There are also many indoor exhibits which are air conditioned, always nice for a break from the heat.

We spent lots of time at the Free Ranging Orangutan Island which was fantastic, you could walk all around and underneath as the Orangutans moved above and around you. One thing that is really special about Singapore Zoo is how cleverly the enclosures are designed to remove as many barriers as possible between you and the animals, and it's great to watch them in a more natural environment.

Singapore Zoo and Night Safari review

In the Fragile Forest exhibit you can walk among free ranging creatures like these beautiful toucans, which we all loved.

Singapore Zoo and Night Safari review

We also spent a great deal of time watching the Giant Tortoises. They had just been fed and they made such a racket while they were crunching on their vegetables. They are such fascinating creatures.

Singapore Zoo and Night Safari review

Another highlight of our visit was the Elephants at Work and Play show which takes place twice daily. We watched the elephants carry out a range of tasks from delicately picking up a coin with their trunk to moving a massive tree trunk, all the while seeing the bond that they have with their riders, the mahouts. It was fascinating, and much better than the usual watching an elephant just walking around their enclosure. 

Elephants at Work and Play show, Singapore Zoo

There was so much to see, and you can get more of an idea from the short video at the bottom of this post. Finally I have to include a quick snap from the toilets which I loved - what a great view to have as you are washing your hands!

Singapore Zoo and Night Safari review

Night Safari

Singapore Zoo closes at 6pm and The Night Safari opens at 7.15pm with the first show starting at 7.30pm, so you have time to grab something to eat in between from a choice of food outlets. The two zoos are just a few minutes walk away from each other, and because the first show can be busy it's worth making sure that arrive early to secure your seats.

Singapore Night Safari review

Just outside the entrance there was a zookeeper with a snake that you could meet and touch, fascinating for the little ones! 

Singapore Night Safari review

Then we headed to the Creatures of the Night show - a 20 minute show which highlights the natural abilities of some of the most fascinating animals. We loved the show, it was a great mixture of fierce animals and the more cuddly and tame creatures, with plenty of humour. I wasn't able to take any photos as the amphitheare is kept dimly lit, but you can get a good feel for the show from the short video below!

After the show we boarded a tram for the Tram Safari Experience. This 40 minute tour takes you through six geographical zones of the world, with plenty to see along the way. The tram guide took us through what we were seeing and pointed out the animals that were hiding in the shadows. 

After the tram ride there are a number of self-guided walks that you can take through the zoo. It's dark, but there is dim lighting and staff to help you find your way. We took the Wallaby Trail, inspired by the unique wildlife of the Australian Outback and highland forests. The zoo is so well designed that especially at night you can't always make out the fences and so it really does feel at points as though you are right there among the animals, and there are also quite a few free ranging animals to spot. 

We also did the Fishing Cat Trail, featuring some native species from the jungles of Singapore. The walking trails are the perfect length, each one takes about twenty minutes but you can spend as long as you want enjoying the animals at the time of day that suits them best.

We had a great day and although it was long day it was fantastic to be able to combine both zoos in one visit. If you are visiting Singapore, whether with or without children, I'd absolutely recommend a visit, I definitely think that the zoos are one of the must-see Singapore attractions.

Singapore Zoo review

You can see more of the fun that we had at Singapore Zoo in the short video that I made about our day:

We were provided with complimentary family entry to Singapore Zoo and the Night Safari in exchange for this review. You can find full details, including entry prices and opening times, here on the Wildlife Reserves Singapore website, as well as further information about the other parks in the group - the River Safari and the Jurong Bird Park.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Pipe cleaner Christmas crafts for children

Festive Christmas crafts using pipe cleaners for children

This month the theme for my Bostik Bloggers craft box was Christmas, and as I've collected quite a few pipe cleaners from the last few boxes I thought I'd come up with a few ways to use them to make some simple Christmas decorations.

Decorated Christmas tree ornaments

Bostik Crafting for Christmas

To make these little Christmas tree decorations cut out small triangles from festive cardboard, mine measure about 12cm in height. If your cardboard is only coloured on one side you might want to cut out two triangles and glue them back to back - I used green glittery card on one side and gold card on the other. Use a hole punch to make a hole at the top for hanging.

Then use the Bostik Foam Pads to stick small decorations to the trees - I used little jewels and sequins. The foam pads give the embellishments a nice, raised effect. Use a sparkly pipe cleaner through the top to make a loop for hanging.

Simple Christmas tree decoration for children to make

Beaded snowflakes

Making a beaded snowflake decoration with children

First cut a long white pipe cleaner into three pieces, with one piece slightly larger than the other two. Twist the pieces around each other to make a snowflake shape, and use the longer end to make a round loop for hanging. Thread beads on to the ends of the snowflake - the textured surface of the pipe cleaner should hold them firmly in place. Finish the decorations with a white pom pom, secured firmly in the centre using a Bostik Foam Pad.

Beaded snowflake decorations for children to make

Jangly candy cane hanging decorations

Finally these pipe cleaner candy cane hanging decorations are really easy to make. All you need are two pipe cleaners in red and white, some bells and some string for hanging. Wrap the two pipe cleaners around each other to create a striped stick, bend over at the top, add a small bell at the bottom and tie some string to the top for hanging. Very festive!

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