Friday, 16 August 2019

The Design Works Christmas ABC Sampler - I finished it!

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links

One of my summer goals was to complete a project which I've been working on for a little while - my Design Works Christmas ABC Sampler. I'm pleased to say that it's finally finished! I always intended to have this sampler finished and framed to display ready for Christmas 2019, and so I'm well ahead of schedule!

Christmas cross stitch sampler

It's a large sampler, as you can see from the picture. The sampler was fun to stitch, with lots of sweet little Christmas pictures and bright, cheerful colours. Some of the areas were quite complicated, in particular the red and green parts where some of the colours are very similar. It was worth it though, the different shades of colour give a really lovely effect. The gold metallic thread was also much more difficult to work with than I expected although it does look really good and will make the sampler sparkle under the Christmas lights. It has lots of beads in it too, I hadn't worked with beads before and found them a little fiddly but again they really do add plenty of extra interest to the finished project.

Christmas ABC cross stitch sampler

I'm very grateful for the help of my Mum in mounting and framing the sampler! I don't want to display it all year round so I won't be hanging it up on the wall. Instead I'll bring it out with the Christmas decorations and I'll either prop it up as it is now or buy a stand for it, although it's quite big and heavy so I'll need to make sure that it's a sturdy one.

Design Works Christmas ABC Sampler completed

Now it's time to move on to the next project on my to be completed list - the Persian Tiles crochet blanket. I've not set myself a deadline yet (I do like to motivate myself by setting crafting goals!) although it would be wonderful if I could complete it by the end of the year - I've still got lots of work to do on it though!

Monday, 12 August 2019

Ad - The Lego Brick Animal Trail at WWT Arundel

We received complimentary admission to WWT Arundel and lunch in exchange for this blog post.

This weekend we headed over to WWT Arundel to explore the wetlands, and to take part in a Lego brick trail adventure. There are currently 14 giant Lego brick animals to find, as well as other Lego related activities. The Lego trail is included as part of the normal admission price, and Lego Brick Workshops can be booked for £10 each, which includes a Lego owl model to take home.

Feeding the ducks at WWT Arundel

Our first stop was the hand feeding bay, where for just 20p you can buy a generous handful of bird feed. There was plenty for both children to have fun feeding the ducks and spotting all the different types of birds. We also found our first Lego animal, an appropriately located mallard duck! To help you find the Lego animals as you go around the centre you can download the Lego Brick Trail Map in advance, and we easily managed to find them all!

Lego brick animal trail at WWT Arundel

Next we headed for the Wetlands Discovery Boat Safari. This guided electric boat takes you on a ride through a watery wetlands trail. We saw dragonflies and damselflies, plenty of fish, as well as ducks and swans. It was really interested to learn a bit about the history of the area, and our guide was happy to answer our questions.

Boat ride at Arundel WWT

The Lego animals scattered throughout were fascinating to see as we are a house of Lego fans, and as well as information about the creature depicted there were also interesting facts about the models, like the number of bricks used and the time taken to build.

WWT Arundel large Lego frog

There are a couple of play areas to keep the children busy, with fun and challenging equipment in lovely natural settings. 

WWT Arundel children's play area

We took a lovely walk along a boardwalk through the reeds along wooden decks and bridges. It was really peaceful and we enjoyed following the rustling noises in the undergrowth and seeing what we could spot.

Lego squirrel model at WWT Arundel

We finished our day with some pond dipping at the Pond Explorer Station. We were greeted by a friendly guide who explained what we needed to do, and we had fun dipping our nets and seeing what we could find. There were pots and magnifying glasses to examine our finds further, along with identification guides to help.

Pond dipping at WWT Arundel

We had a really lovely day out at WWT Arundel, there was lots to do and the Lego brick animals definitely added to our fun. I'd really recommend a trip here if you are looking for a family outing!

The Lego animals will be at the centre until the 1st September, so you have plenty of time left to plan a visit over the school holidays.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Finding 'me time' during the summer holidays

During term time I'm on my own in the house quite a lot. I do my work, go to the supermarket, meet with friends, go to the gym and keep up with the housework, as well as just generally pottering about enjoying my own company before it's time to collect the children from school. I like being at home, and I'm quite happy to spend time by myself. So it's a big adjustment for me when the summer holidays come along, all eight weeks of them, and I no longer have any time at all to myself.

Even when the children are busily occupied doing something that keeps them quiet and out of the way, whether that's playing together, reading, or on their tablets, I'm always on edge because I know that at any moment I'm likely to be interrupted. I find it difficult to concentrate on anything because I can't be guaranteed a long stretch of time to complete a task.

However, I really love having the children around during the holidays, and I wouldn't change it for the world. I know that I'm very lucky to have this time with them, and I do genuinely enjoy spending time in their company. But sometimes I find it a bit overwhelming!

Kids playing in the garden

Here are some of the ways that I can find a few minutes to myself:

Working in the garden - the children aren't very fond of gardening so they are quite happy to leave me to it and not disturb me, in case they get roped in to help.

Giving my uninterrupted attention for a set period - I've found since the children were little that if I spend some time doing an intensive activity with them, when it's finished they will go off and play by themselves for a bit. For example, baking together or working on a craft kit. It's like they reward me for my time by giving me a little bit of time to myself back!

Using a clock - They both have Fitbits now, which has really helped with their understanding of time. So I can tell them that at a certain time we will do something fun together, if they can occupy themselves until then.

Reading - We all love to read, so I've built a reading den in the living room with an old plastic Wendy house and some blankets. By scheduling it in as joint reading time, rather than when they just happen to pick up a book, I'm more likely to have some time when I can read to myself too.

Going to the gym - This isn't something that I can do with the children of course, but if my husband is around then I can get out to the gym first thing or in the evening for a bit of a break.

Movie nights with Daddy - Many evenings my husband will watch a film with the children after dinner, and now that they are older they are both more likely to last through the entire film. So I have a bit of time to myself in the evening to do some work (or scroll aimlessly through Facebook!)

How do you carve out those precious minutes for yourself when you need a short break over the holidays?

Friday, 2 August 2019

Craft ideas for play dates

This post contains Amazon affiliate links

Over the summer holidays I often find myself hosting other children along with my own at home for a few hours. Sometimes the children are happy to play together, and other times it's nice to have an activity planned for them. I particularly like doing crafts with children, and making something that they can have fun creating and then take home as a keepsake. I've shared lots of ideas on my blog over the years, and so I thought I'd pick out a few that work brilliantly as play date crafts for a small group.

We often get the Hama beads out when we have visitors, but many of our peg boards are large and take a long time to complete, not to mention they use up lots of beads. So I try and steer keen visitors towards smaller projects that will be finished in time for them to take home. I'm especially fond of using Hama beads to make magnets, like these Hama bead emoji magnets. All you need is the beads, a square pegboard, and some magnetic tape (affiliate link). Once the design is completed and ironed just stick a couple of magnetic strips to the back and it's ready to go, no waiting around for glue to dry.

Hama bead emoji magnet designs

Hama beads also make great keyrings, like these Minecraft themed Hama bead keyrings. If you keep some keyring blanks (affiliate link) on hand you can quickly assemble any small beaded creation into a simple keyring.

Hama bead Minecraft themed keyrings

We've also had a lot of fun using shrink plastic (affiliate link) when we've had friends visiting. You draw your design on the plastic sheet, then place in the oven for a few minutes and watch it shrink to a sturdy, thick piece of plastic which can be used as a magnet or key ring (make sure to punch a hole before baking if you want to add in a key ring).

Another easy craft which is great for play dates is diamond painting. I bought a set of small diamond painting kits (affiliate link) which contains a variety of different cute animal designs. Because they are small they don't take too long to finish, and can easily be completed before the child gets bored. Each design also uses only a couple of colours of bead, so they aren't too complicated. It's a great way to keep a small group of children quiet around the table for a little while!

Simple diamond painting for children

If you don't want to keep lots of craft supplies around the house but still want to have some activities on hand, there are lots of craft kits that you can buy which will entertain lots of children at once. I've always found Baker Ross good for craft kits, especially themed and seasonal ones, or Hobbycraft often has some cheap craft kits like pottery painting or mosaic art.

I hope I've given you some ideas for making play dates a bit more interesting this summer!

Monday, 29 July 2019

Brading Roman Villa, Isle of Wight

We had a lovely week in the Isle of Wight earlier this month, and another of the places that we really enjoyed visiting was Brading Roman Villa, so I thought that I'd share what we got up to. Brading Roman Villa is considered one of the finest Roman sites in the UK, and is mainly preserved undercover so it's a good choice for a rainy day. We paid £25 for a family ticket and our visit lasted for a few hours.

The West Range of the Villa is preserved in the museum, with walkways so that you can have a good look around it. Outside you can see the North and South Ranges marked out with chalk outlines as well as a Roman garden. I must confess that we felt that the mosaics aren't as spectacular as some that we've seen elsewhere, but the layout of the museum gave you a good overview of the structure of the villa, and there was plenty of artist's impressions and information to help you understand how the villa would have looked in Roman times.

Brading Roman Villa mosaics indoors

The children are both interested in the Romans, and thanks to studies at school and their own reading they are able to identify characters from the myths and legends that they could spot in the mosaics, as well as identifying different objects from Roman life. But when visiting a museum like this they do need to have some additional child friendly activities to keep them interested, and luckily Brading Roman Villa provided quite a few of these. 

Children doing a mosaic activity at a Roman Villa

They spent ages working on these mosaics, and behind them you can see a toy model of a Roman villa which they also enjoyed looking at, with Mia desperate to recreate one for herself when we got home!

Brading Roman Villa kids activities

There were also dressing up costumes, and various puzzles to complete as you went around, like reassembling the layers of artefacts excavated from the well on site. This also meant that us adults could spend time reading the information boards without interruptions!

Dressing up as Romans

The children also loved creating some different realistic and mythical Roman figures, and putting together a large jigsaw puzzle representing one of the mosaics on the floor. These activities really kept them interested as we explored the remains, and definitely meant that we made the most of our visit.

There was a special exhibition running during our viist, Hoards, which was included in the entrance price. It's a touring exhibition featuring various hoards of valuable objects which have been discovered, and there were some fascinating objects and stories behind them to learn about.

Brading Roman Villa activities for children

We visited on a Saturday and we didn't see any other children, which makes me think that perhaps the villa is marketed more towards an adult audience. But if your children are studying the Romans at school or just generally interested in Roman history, then I'd recommend a visit to the villa.

Related post - Tapnell Farm Park, Isle of Wight

Saturday, 27 July 2019

We bought the children Fitbits

A couple of weeks ago we treated the children to a Fitbit each. Although Ram and I do exercise regularly, I often think that the children don't get active enough. We can't walk to school as it's several miles away, although I do make them walk to the road that I park in. But they aren't the most athletic of children, and I can't imagine that they get particularly involved in PE lessons at school. Aside from swimming lessons they aren't interested in doing any sports clubs.

I've had a Fitbit for a few years now, and I find it really interesting and motivating to keep track of my steps. For the first year after I started wearing it I managed to reach my step goal of 10,000 steps every single day, and although I'm not as obsessive about it now I do feel better when I've made that goal.

Fitbit Ace worn by children

A great deal of deliberation went into purchasing the Fitbits. The children don't have phones so they need to connect to a tablet, and they have small wrists so it needed to be one designed for children. I was keen to go for the Fitbit brand because then we could share our stats and enter challenges together, and we eventually settled on the Fitbit Ace. This is an older model, so it was a reasonable price.

The children were so thrilled when they arrived. They soon worked out that they could 'cheat' the step count by waving their arms around, although I don't mind because it still feels like a form of exercise! Mia also discovered that when Harry challenged us to a step goal day challenge she could adjust her goal to one step and complete the challenge before she even got out of bed! But they've become used to them now and are using them as they are intended, checking in their step counts with each other and with me throughout the day.

I'm really enjoying how it has been encouraging them to get out for a walk. At the moment in our town there is a brilliant initiative called Beat the Street running. Electronic boxes have been placed at regular intervals across several towns in the area, and you can use a map to find them and swipe them with a special card to collect points. We've really enjoyed going out for some walks together, and many of the boxes are at playgrounds which is added motivation. I've found that because they have such small legs, their step count racks up much faster than mine does!

Beat the Street box in Worthing park

I'm very interested to see what their step count looks like once they are back at school. It's only a small school but there are lots of steps up and down so it may well add up quite quickly! I'd definitely recommend a fitness tracker if you want to see how active your children really are, and take literal steps to improve.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Tapnell Farm Park, Isle of Wight

We loved visiting the Isle of Wight as a family. We found so much to do that our week was filled, and there's plenty left for our next visit! One of our favourite days was spent at Tapnell Farm Park. We looked at various options for a longer family friendly day out, and chose Tapnell Farm Park over the other contenders, Blackgang Chine and Robin Hill Country Park, because we felt that it offered better value for money. We paid £37.80 for a family ticket, saving ourselves a couple of pounds on the gate price by booking online the night before.

Tapnell Farm Park outdoor go kart track

We had read that the park can be quite busy and so we arrived as it opened, but as we were able to time our visit before most schools had broken up for the summer we found it very quiet. We headed first for the pedal go karts, with an outdoor track for older children and adults. There are go karts in all shapes and sizes, ones that children can ride themselves and ones with seats for younger children to be pedalled around. It's a wide track with beautiful views and plenty of room for overtaking if things start to get competitive!

Tapnell Farm Park indoor aerial runway

We visited on a lovely sunny day, but the indoor play barn is a great place to spend time if the weather isn't too good. There are a couple of long zip wires side by side so that you can race your friends, and a brilliant straw bale play zone for exploring with tunnels and dens.

Tapnell Farm Park straw play barn

There's also a climbing wall with several different routes that children can try, which was pitched perfectly and not too easy or too difficult.

Tapnell Farm Park indoor climbing wall

There are plenty of animals at the farm to visit. Indoors there are pet animals like rabbits and guinea pigs, which are available to stroke at certain times of the day. Outside you can see traditional farm animals in the paddocks, like sheep, pigs and goats, as well as a Wallaby Walkabout area where you can get close to the wallabies. So close in fact that we were trapped inside for a while as a wallaby refused to move out of the way to the exit!

There are also plenty more play areas outside, including colourful tyres and two large bouncy pillows, one for younger and one for older children.

Tapnell Farm Park coloured tyre play area

Children can race a cart down the Sledge Slides, practice football skills by aiming balls at targets, and play farm themed Mini Golf (this costs an additional £1 per ball from a vending machine).

Tapnell Farm Park, Isle of Wight

We were lucky with the weather when we visited, but I think that even on a rainy or cold day there would still be plenty to do. It was also a lot of fun for adults too, it wasn't just about sitting around watching the children enjoy themselves, and we also had a go at many of the activities! We spent several hours here with a picnic lunch, and definitely feel that we got our money's worth. I'd really recommend it if you are looking for somewhere fun to visit with the family in the Isle of Wight!

Isle of Wight day out at Tapnell Farm Park

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