Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Hama bead Easter egg suncatchers

These sun catchers look really pretty on the window, and made with brightly coloured Hama beads they are a lovely way to welcome some Spring sunshine!

Hama bead Easter egg sun catchers tutorial

To make these sun catchers I used beads from the Hama beads box of pastel beads (affiliate link). This is a large tub with 10,000 beads in six lovely bright colours, plenty to keep you going and a nice change from the solid colours. It's worth keeping an eye on the price of this tub as I've found that it can vary widely, I always stock up when I see them on special offer!

The pegboard is the Hama bead Easter egg board (affiliate link), a nice sized board that can be used to make eggs in a variety of different sizes.

Hama bead Easter egg frames

I found that a border with three rows made a good sized frame. I ironed the design on both sides. When the beads are still warm it's easy for the egg to become a little out of shape, so be careful when you remove it from the board. After ironing, place the egg frame between two books or similar to keep it flat while it cools down (I use two cork mats and place the iron on top to hold them down). This will stop it curling and make sure that it cools to a nice shape.

Easter egg frames made using Hama beads

Then gather together some pieces of tissue paper. I have a big bag of coloured mini tissue squares (affiliate link) which I use for various crafting projects, so I went through and pulled out a selection of pastel colours which I thought worked well together. You will also need some clear sticky backed plastic.

Hama bead Easter egg frames with tissue paper

I found that the easiest way to make the sun catchers was to tape a piece of clear sticky backed plastic to the table, sticky side up. Then cover with the pieces of tissue paper. This is a really easy way for young children to make a sun catcher, as it doesn't matter if the pieces become crumpled and they stick down really easily. 

Hama bead Easter frame sun catchers

Then stick a second piece of sticky backed plastic over the top so that you have a nice smooth surface for each side of the sun catcher. 

Hama bead Easter egg frames

Cut each piece roughly to size for the frame, then use some white PVA glue to stick the Hama bead frames to the plastic insides.

Hama bead Easter egg craft

Leave to dry thoroughly, I found that placing the eggs on a radiator made sure that the glue was completely dry.

Hama bead Easter egg designs

Then when dry, cut to size neatly around the egg.

Hama bead Easter egg sun catchers

The egg can be stuck to the window easily using blu tack, or you might want to attach some ribbon or string to the egg through one of the holes in the top and hang from a window handle or suction hook.

I also used the Easter egg pegboard to make these Hama bead and paper plate decorations, and you can see all of my Hama bead projects on my Hama bead page.

Hama bead Easter egg sun catcher frame

This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Getting the garden ready for Spring

Last week we enjoyed some lovely weather, and today is officially the first day of Spring! It's a bit chilly and grey here today, but after the warmth of last week I was inspired to get out in the garden. I'm not much of a gardener and fortunately our garden is quite low maintenance - we don't have any shrubs that need cutting back and there's only one hedge out the front that needs a trim from time to time.

We do have quite a lot of paving slabs out the front and at the back and I'd been thinking for a while that they were starting to look a bit grubby, we've been living here for five years and never cleaned them. I remembered that my parents had a pressure washer and so I asked them if I could borrow it, and I was amazed at the difference! Here's the first area that I cleaned, the front path. I honestly thought that the paving slabs were grey, I had no idea that they were yellow underneath! It did a beautiful job of cleaning them.

Before and after jet wash front path

I've not finished everywhere yet, and the back garden is proving a lot tricker as there is some stubborn black lichen that I can't remove. I've given it a good go though and it's made a massive difference, I can't believe how dirty it had become. All the paving slabs have turned out to be yellow! I'm reluctant to use any sort of chemical cleaner as I don't want to damage the slabs so we'll have to live with the bits that I can't get rid of, but I'm definitely going to be doing much more regular cleaning!

Before and after jet wash of a patio

We have gravel all over the place in the garden, a wide border at the front of the house and then smaller ones all the way around the paths in the back garden. It gets full of weeds so I've been pulling them out and tidying up a bit - some of the areas had become a bit of a dumping ground for shells, cuttlefish, pine cones, and other bits and pieces that the children have gathered on nature walks and haven't been allowed to bring in the house. There have also been lots of weeds to pull up between the patio slabs, a job that I hate and really should keep more on top of.

My Dad has given our vegetable patch a good weed and dug in some manure for us so it's all ready for planting. I usually manage quite well with tomatoes, and last year we managed to grow two lovely pumpkins. Over the Easter holidays in a few weeks I'll take the children down to the garden centre and we can make a start on planting some seeds.

Vegetable patch in raised bed ready for planting

Our front garden has lots of daffodils already which is lovely, it's great that they just appear each Spring without me having to do anything! We only have a couple of small flower beds which need weeding and then I'll buy some bedding plants to put in them, I'm not very adventurous but we had some petunias once in all different colours that were really pretty so I might try those again.

I hope it's not too long before we have some proper sunshine and it's time to get out the garden furniture and the barbecue!

Daffodils in a pot

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Spring pen and pencil pot

This is a classic craft for a child to make as a gift for an adult, and this Spring themed pen and pencil pot is a great craft idea for Mother's Day!

Spring pencil pot craft

You need:

Three toilet roll tubes, or similar cardboard tubes
Paint in pastel colours
Green craft foam (you may also want a second colour for the base of the pencil holder)
Selection of pom poms, stickers, sequins etc.

Materials for making a pencil pot gift

To make the pencil pot:

First cut your cardboard tubes to size. I kept one in the original size, cut one about half size, and the third about halfway between the two. Then paint them in pastel shades of paint.

Wrap a piece of craft foam around the base of the longest tube and cut to size. Then cut it out to form grass and stem shapes like below. Do the same for the other two tubes but keep the lengths of the grass shorter.

Craft foam cut into grass shapes

When the paint has completely dried, cover the toilet roll with white PVA glue and stick the grass down firmly, leaving to dry. Secure the craft foam in place at the bottom with paper clips while it dries, and check for drips from the glue if you used a lot.

Painted toilet roll tubes with grass shapes

Then decide how you would like the tubes to be arranged together, you'll probably want the larger tubes at the back and the smallest at the front. Stick them together - I've found that the best way to do this is to use a stapler with first a staple at the bottom and then again as far inside as your stapler will reach. You can also use double sided tape or more glue. Make a base for the pencil pot using another piece of craft foam cut to size, or you can use cardboard. Glue the cardboard tubes onto the base with plenty of glue and leave to dry - if you can, try and place something heavy on the top or wedge the pencil holder in between two boxes so that it is held in position while the glue dries.

Spring themed pencil pot holder assembled

When the cardboard tubes are dry, use the stickers, pom poms, sequins and other embellishments to decorate. You could even finish with a coat of sparkly glue! When it's dry, your pencil pot is ready to use! You could present it as a gift filled with some lovely pens and pencils or other stationery.

Pen and pencil pot made from toilet roll tubes

Another lovely present for Mother's Day is a pom pom frame like the ones below - click to see how I made them! Mother's Day pom pom frames.

Mother's Day frame craft with pom poms

Monday, 13 March 2017

Hama bead Spring napkin rings

Spring is definitely in the air now, with flowers starting to appear and dare I say it a little more sunshine! So I thought that I'd embrace the season and get out the Hama beads to make some cheerful, colourful napkin rings to decorate the table for Spring. 

How to make Hama bead napkins for Spring

To make these Hama bead Spring coasters I used beads from the Hama beads pastel tub (affiliate link). It's worth keeping an eye on the prices of these 10,000 bead tubs as they can vary widely week by week, and when I see them on special offer I make sure to stock up! I really like the colours in the pastel set, they make a nice contrast to the more solid colours and they all work really well together.

To make the napkin rings you need to make strips of beads. I found that the width of the large board was the perfect size, and I created designs with a height of 7 beads.

Designs for Hama bead spring coasters

When you have laid out the beads on the board you need to iron them. Iron well on one side so that the beads fuse together, then pop the strips off the board. Turn them over one at a time and iron on the reverse, again making sure that the beads are well fused, but do make sure that the holes in the beads are still open.

Ironing Hama beads

While the beaded strip is still hot, gently wrap it around a cardboard tube so that it cools into a curved shape. This should be easy to do, and if you have ironed the beads well there will be no cracks.

Making curved Hama bead designs

Leave the curved designs to cool, don't worry if they come apart a little while they are cooling as you'll still be able to bend them back.

Curved Hama bead designs to use as coasters

To keep the strips of beads in a circular shape, I use some coloured thread to sew the ends together. As long as you haven't over ironed you should still be able to push a needle through the hole in the centre of the beads. It's easier if you do this shortly after you have ironed the Hama beads as they will still be slightly soft and pliable. As you can see, at the top and bottom I have taken the thread into the holes in the adjacent beads, as sometimes the corner beads can be a little more fragile and work loose.

Hama bead designs sewn together

Then your Hama bead napkin rings are ready to use! They can be used to hold napkins on the table, and they also make lovely holders for battery powered tea lights.

Hama bead napkin rings

You can find all my other Hama bead crafts here on my Hama beads page.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

How technology makes it easier to travel with children

A guest post by Ryan Tyson

Travelling with children presents its own set of challenges, from keeping the kids entertained to making sure everyone stays close. While family holidays are a bit trickier than adults-only trips, they’re also extremely rewarding when you introduce your children to new places and share thrilling experiences together as a family. Use these sleek gadgets to help you get to your destination hassle-free so you can enjoy all the perks of family travel without some of the fuss.

Convenient Child Locators Keep Them Close 

Gone are the days of child reins and other restrictive methods for keeping kids close. Today, you can keep tabs on your children hands-free using convenient locators. Most come in the form of a wearable watch or wristband. The locators pair with simple smartphone apps that allow parents to pull up the child’s location at any time. Many have “panic buttons” that children can press to alert parents when they’re lost or frightened.

You’ll find a broad range of added features available with these devices. The Omate Wherecom K3 is a feature-packed smartwatch for kids with entertaining features like music and photo storage. The Filip 2 lets you set up geofences so you’ll receive an alert when your child moves beyond the allowable perimeter. With a handy locator for your child, you’ll never suffer the panic of losing sight of one another in a crowded airport or busy holiday destination.

GPS Keeps You Right On Track 

GPS technology makes it easier than ever to find and reach your destination. This is ideal when you’re travelling with distracting pint-size passengers who make it easy to lose your train of thought. Make sure you’re equipped to make the most of your GPS features for simple, streamlined travel.

Sync your smartphone with your car’s Bluetooth to hear your directions through the car speakers instead of your phone. Pre-programme all your destinations before leaving so you can pull them up with a quick tap of the finger. Plan ahead and include a few rest stops, restaurants, and roadside attractions on your list of destinations for a long road trip, so you can navigate quickly to the right place when the kids get bored or hungry.

Mobile Boarding Passes Are Easier to Find 

Boarding pass on a mobile phone
Image via Flickr by British Airways 

You have enough to keep track of when you’re flying with kids without worrying about an envelope full of essential papers that will grant you admission to the plane. Forget about holding onto paper boarding passes for everyone in your party. Mobile passes are the easiest option, particularly for busy parents with small children in tow.

Using a phone like the iPhone 7, you can store your boarding passes in Apple Wallet for fast retrieval when you need them. Paired with a reliable network like T-Mobile, this setup will ensure quick access to essential info right on your phone.

Interactive Entertainment is a Tap Away 

Whether you share your smartphone with your children or you give them their own dedicated devices like kid-friendly tablets and gaming systems, the latest technology makes it easy to load up on safe, educational entertainment options for a long drive or flight. Make the most of your devices by choosing a few new games right before you leave. Don’t unveil these fresh picks until you’re on the road, so kids have something brand-new to play with when you need to keep them entertained the most.

Smart Splitters Share the Fun

If you have more than one child in your family, you’re probably familiar with the phenomenon of children always wanting what their siblings have. Let everyone share in the fun on a single device with a headphone splitter. Eliminate the squabble of turn-taking and let your children watch the same movie together on one screen. Just provide a separate set of headphones for each child and use the splitter to let them listen at once while your environment remains blissfully noise-free.

With the right devices, you can travel comfortably with children, minimizing the fuss that often accompanies younger travelers. Fill your travel kit with these essentials and start planning your itinerary.

This is a partnered guest post

Friday, 10 March 2017

Hama bead Easter Egg coasters

How to make Hama bead Easter coasters

I recently purchased a large box of pastel Hama beads (affiliate link). I love the pastel colours of the beads in this tub as they are really bright and cheerful, and a nice contrast to the more solid colours. With Easter approaching I thought I'd start with some Easter themed crafts, and so to begin with I made a set of four Easter Egg Hama bead coasters.

Hama bead Easter egg coasters designs

Each coaster measures 17 x 17 beads, which I found to be a good size for a glass or mug. The Easter Egg itself is a basic design (it's the same one that I used for my Mini Hama bead Easter eggs) with a colourful border.

Hama bead Easter egg coastesr

I made them using the large Hama bead pegboard. You could use the smaller square board, but it only has 14 pegs so you would end up with a smaller coaster. You would just lose some of the border though, there would still be room for the Easter egg design.

Coasters with Easter egg design

The coasters are perfect for an Easter party! You could also use them as Easter decorations - perhaps you could stick them up in a grid or a row for an eye catching decoration, or string them up together to make bunting!

You might like my other Easter Hama bead crafts - Paper plate Easter Hama bead decorations and Mini Hama bead cupcake toppers - and you can find all my Hama bead crafts on my Hama bead page.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

A VIP Cottage at Center Parcs, De Vossemeren review

Center Parcs De Vossemeren VIP cottage review

During February half term we spent a lovely week at Center Parcs De Vossemeren in Belgium. We booked VIP Cottage 251, paying a little extra at the time of booking to secure this particular cottage as it is very close to the Market Dome, Discovery Bay and the other main areas in the park.

Center Parcs VIP cottage 251

There is no daily cleaning in the cottages as there is in some of the UK parks. This means that things like dishwasher tablets (you are provided with three), bin bags and toilet roll are not replenished, so you'll need to bring your own along or buy it once you are there.

You are however visited with a daily supply of fresh bread which is lovely, and provided us with enough rolls and croissants to last for both breakfast and lunch.

From looking at the park map, almost every cottage at De Vossemeren will have a view across one of the lakes or streams. We had a beautiful view across a lake, and we saw some amazing sunsets. It was a little too cold to use the outdoor area during our stay in February, but it would be a lovely place to sit in the evening during the summer, and the cottages are very well arranged so that your patio is fairly private.

Center Parcs patio overlooking lake

We took the bedroom at the front of the cottage. It's worth noting that although the cottage is provided with a cot, neither bedroom is large enough to fit it (unless perhaps you rearrange the furniture quite significantly). We have had this problem at every Center Parcs that we have stayed in, fortunately we are now well past needing the cot but we've never had a room which would fit one without blocking a doorway.

Center Parcs bedroom

The children had the back bedroom which was probably slightly nicer with a lovely view and television. Again quite compact in terms of size, but both bedrooms have plenty of storage. The cottage was always warm, and there are plenty of radiators for drying swimwear.

Center Parcs bedroom review

The kitchen is fully equipped and had everything that we needed. The only thing missing that you might expect is an oven, although there is a fancy microwave with grill function. The VIP cottages are supplied with a kitchen pack which contains a towel and tea towel, cleaning cloths, a scouring sponge and matches. There is also no washing up liquid supplied so we brought some of our own along. You may also need extra bin bags for rubbish, although we used the plastic bags that our bread was delivered in.

Center Parcs De Vossemeren kitchen

There is a spacious living area with seating, and (not pictured) a large dining table with four chairs.

Center Parcs VIP cottage living area

There was only one toilet in the cottage, along with a separate bathroom containing a sauna, a walk in shower and a separate bath. The cottage was supplied with one toilet roll to start with, and you'll need to provide the rest yourself. VIP cottages are provided with a small pack of toiletries. The bathroom was not fitted with charging sockets for electric toothbrushes/shavers - obviously not the end of the world but it's the first place that we've stayed recently not to have them, fortunately ours all lasted the week!

The VIP cottages include a code for free wi-fi for up to four devices which we found to be fast and reliable. You can access the wi-fi in your cottage and also in the main communal areas like the Market Dome and Discovery Bay. There is a small supermarket on site for food and other bits which is well stocked and seemed reasonably priced, and there are larger supermarkets, including Lidl, in the nearby town of Lommel.

You can read more about what we got up to on our holiday at Center Parcs De Vossemeren here - A Holiday at Center Parcs De Vossemeren.

Here is a little video that I made of our holiday, with more of a look at the outside and inside of our cottage.


Finally, we have also spent two lovely weeks at Center Parcs Erperheide and I wrote a review of the very similar VIP Cottage that we stayed in there. You can find it here - VIP Accommodation at Center Parcs, Erperheide.

Monday, 6 March 2017

The Debenhams Big Lego Challenge

I have been invited by Debenhams to take part in The Big Lego Challenge along with a group of other families. I couldn't resist the opportunity to take part, especially as there is a prize on offer of even more Lego! We were provided with a Lego set and a timer, and asked to come up with the most adventurous creation that we could in just 15 minutes. I decided to ask Harry to take part in the challenge, as he really loves his Lego and has built some awesome things over the last few years.

The set that we were given was the Volcano Supply Helicopter. Harry knew what the pieces in the set would build, but I wanted him to try and come up with something different using the pieces, so I emptied them all out into a big pile and mixed them up.

Pile of Lego pieces

After a couple of minutes for him to contemplate the different pieces, I set the timer for 15 minutes and off he went.

Child contemplating a pile of Lego

He knew that he wanted to make some kind of vehicle, so he started by building the wheel base from the kit, then used the pieces from the helicopter to make a cabin to go on top.

Child building with Lego

The grabber pieces inspired him to make a vehicle that could pick things up, and so he decided to make a flying machine that would go the the dump and pick out pieces that could be recycled, then transport them to the recycling centre. He knew exactly how he wanted to build it!

Debenhams Big Lego Challenge

You can see a quick video below of him making his model and then talking about it and what it can do. He was very proud of his creation and I think it shows a lot of imagination. Since the challenge finished he has spent a lot of time refining it and adding to his model, and it was really fun for him to come up with something himself rather than building the kit in the usual way.


Here he is, very proud of what he built!

Child with his Lego creation

You can see the full Debenhams Lego range here - Debenhams Lego Store.

We were provided with a Lego set and a timer so that we could take part in the challenge.
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