Wednesday 27 March 2013

Washi tape butterfly box

I can't remember where I first encountered washi tape, although I suspect that Pinterest was involved. Washi tape is basically pretty patterned sellotape, and it originates from Japan. I tried to buy some in my local Hobbycraft at the end of last year, but I could only find a couple of rolls and it seemed very expensive. Then we went on holiday to Orlando and I found lots, very cheap, in Michaels, so I bought myself a few rolls to have a play with. Of course, on my next trip to Hobbycraft I found that they had suddenly started stocking it, and now of course it's everywhere!

How to make a washi tape gift box

The tape had been sitting unused for too long while I looked for a project, when I re-discovered a blank cardboard butterfly box, another Hobbycraft purchase. I think that the box may be intended to be used for decopatch, but it was very cheap (about 50p) and I knew that I could do something pretty with it.

So I present my first foray into the world of washi tape - my butterfly box! The edges are covered with two different rolls of washi tape, and the top is painted with pink acrylic paint and decorated with a cutout of a butterfly from an old greetings card. I'm not sure what I'll use it for yet, at the moment it is just sitting in the bathroom looking pretty.

How to make a washi tape gift box

Now, everywhere I look around the house I can see items that would look a lot better with a coating of washi tape! My next effort was a simple washi tape frame, I've also made washi tape gift tags, and I've even made some special washi tape storage so that I can keep my favourite rolls on display.

If you are thinking about having a go with washi tape, I've found lots of inspiration in this collection of washi tape projects from Red Ted Art, or just search for washi tape on Pinterest and you'll find hundreds of projects!

Monday 25 March 2013

Crafting with the toddler that eats everything - a follow-up post

So the other day I posted about my crafting problems. I was having terrible trouble doing any of the crafty activities that we love with Mia, because she just kept eating everything that we were using. Thanks to the comments I was glad to see that I wasn't alone, and so I've come up with some alternatives that I've been trying out, to tide us over until she has learned that craft materials are not for eating!

Crafting with a toddler that eats everything


Bek suggested that we could make our own glue from flour and water. I have fond memories of my parents making this for us, when we visited our Grandma, who wasn't as well stocked with craft materials as we were at home. I looked about online and made up a recipe based on several different versions that I found.

I put two tablespoons of flour and one teaspoon of sugar into a saucepan, then added water gradually over a low heat, whisking continually. It thickened very quickly and became very lumpy, but by adding a bit more water I managed to make a paste. I gave it to the children with our usual glue spreaders, and to my surprise it worked really well. It stuck nicely, and would be particularly good for large scale gluing projects like papier mâché. It went lumpy as it cooled so you'd need to make it fresh each time, but it was definitely a success.

Crafting with a toddler that eats everything

Yes, Mia did eat quite a bit of it, but I tried a little bit myself and it was actually quite tasty so I don't blame her!


Bek also reminded me about homemade playdough. A little while back I found a great non-cook playdough recipe from The Imagination Tree for chocolate playdough, which was easy to make and very successful. It's still very salty, so you need to make sure that a child doesn't eat very much of it, but it must be better for her than the commercial alternative.

Paint and edible messy play

I found these sachets of custard powder and flavoured dessert mix in Asda, they were no more than 14p per sachet. Sainsbury's also do similar versions.

Crafting with a toddler that eats everything

I made up the custard powder with hot water as per the instructions and the dessert mix with cold water (if you were making it for an actual dessert you'd use milk but that's a bit of a waste when it's just for playing with!), and I put out a selection of different things to use with it.

Among other things we used bits and pieces from the toy kitchen, cars, ice cube trays and paintbrushes. It kept them both entertained for a very long time, and after that they both went straight into the bath, making this a fantastic activity which kept them happily occupied for an entire morning. It was a resounding success, and an activity that we have repeated several times over the last week!

So if you are experiencing the same problem that I am, I hope that you have found something here to inspire you while you wait for this phase to pass!

Friday 22 March 2013

Banana Muffins

We're on a bit of a health kick in this household. Both me and my husband have been dieting for a couple of months and we're both doing really well. I'm pretty much at my goal weight now (although a couple more lbs wouldn't hurt) and I've really missed baking, so I'm looking for some healthy treats that I can make that don't have too many calories.

Banana muffins
Image source My Darlings and Me, used with permission
I spotted these banana muffins from My Darlings and Me a few weeks ago and pinned them to try next time we had some bananas that were looking a little past their best. It's also a cake recipe that doesn't contain eggs, which is handy as don't always have any around.

Here is my effort, they were very easy to make, and they tasted delicious! I priced them up as around 150 calories each, which isn't too bad for a cake.

Banana muffins

Thursday 21 March 2013

Book Review - Winter Storms by Lucy Oliver

Normally the books that I review on this blog are children's ones, but when I was contacted by Lucy Oliver, the author of Winter Storms, and asked if I would like to review her book, I couldn't say no.

I have tremendous admiration for anyone that can write a book. I also love reading, love supporting books from new authors, and I knew that if I committed to writing a review then I would definitely be making time for myslf to prioritise reading and actually finishing the book!

Winter Storms is set in Cornwall, a part of the country that I love. The book tells the story of Carly, who broke up with her lover Daniel after blaming him for a sailing accident that forced her to give up the sport and put an end to her Olympic hopes. She stayed behind and built a new life for herself in the small Cornish village where they grew up, while he went on to find sailing fame. Carly's life is thrown into disarray when Daniel returns and hopes to pick up where they left off.

I very much enjoyed this book. The story flowed really well, and I really wanted to keep reading to see what would happen next. One thing that really struck me about the writing was the characterisation - the characters were fully rounded and developed, even the minor characters. The descriptions in the book are also fantastic, making the people and events totally believable. I'd really recommend it!

I was sent a Kindle copy of the book to review

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Crafting problems with young children

I'm starting to have a bit of an issue when I do crafts with the children. We often just do some simple things - we get out the glue and stick pictures onto coloured paper or we get out the paints and mix colours and paint toilet roll tubes and boxes. I also like getting out the play dough and the cutters.

The problem that I have is that Mia just tries to eat everything. If I give her a pot of glue and a glue spreader she will eat it as eagerly as if I've given her a bowl of ice cream and a spoon. If I give her a paintbrush she has it in her mouth within seconds. If I give her a lump of play dough she nibbles at it like biscuit dough.

I remember the first time I gave Harry all these things, they went in his mouth, I said "No, not in your mouth" and he never did it again. Mia has had all these things multiple times and it just keeps going in. I'm sure that it can't be doing her much good!

It's difficult because Harry can now occupy himself for a good amount of time, and I want to join in with him. But I have to remove Mia and put her down on the floor, where she whinges and tries to climb back up, meaning that our creative sessions keep having to be cut short. Now that she no longer naps I don't have any opportunities to do these things with Harry without her being around.

Any tips? Or do I just have to wait for her to grow out of it?

Update - I asked around for advice and received lots! So I wrote a blog post sharing the tips and you can read it here - Crafting with the toddler that eats everything!

Crafting problems with young children

Monday 18 March 2013

Trying out Postcrossing

Postcrossing is something that I had never heard of until I started compiling my Day Zero Project list. While hunting through other lists for inspiration I found it mentioned a number of times, and a visit to the website fuelled my interest. I’m very keen to teach Harry about geography, and I thought that receiving postcards from different countries would provide a good starting point, as well as perhaps introducing us to some countries that I didn’t know much about.

Postcrossing is basically an organised way to exchange postcards with other people across the globe. You set up an account, then as a new member you can initially send up to five postcards. When you choose to send a postcard you are given a random person to post to. I chose my first five straight away and was given the addresses for members in Russia, the US, Spain, Germany and Belarus.

I have quite a collection of postcards, some are free ones that I have picked up at the cinema but I also have plenty that I’ve bought in the past that just sit in a box and could be put to good use. When you choose to send a card you can view the recipient’s profile and see the sorts of postcards that they like to receive. I was able to find a card for each that I hoped would fit in with their interests.

At the Post Office I found out that it currently costs 87p to send a postcard anywhere in the world outside the UK. I didn’t think that was particularly cheap, but I thought I would give it a go and so off they went. Then we waited to see what we would receive in return.

Once your postcard has been received it is logged into the website. Once your first postcard has arrived you become eligible to receive a postcard of your own. You are notified that your postcard has been logged, and the recipient can send you a short message to say thank you.

We received our first postcard a couple of weeks later and over the next three weeks or so we received all five. I was really pleased with the postcards that we were sent. In my profile I asked for ones with a flavour of the country that they were being sent from, and they all obliged, along with some further information about their country, personal messages and even some cool stamps. We received postcards from Siberia, Belarus, Chicago, Taiwan and Finland.

When I sent the original postcards I purchased enough stamps to send five more, and having seen the lovely postcards that we received back I’ll definitely be sending some more out. I’m not sure how far I’ll take it after that, as it doesn’t work out as the cheapest of hobbies, but I’d definitely recommend giving it a go if you are looking to spark an interest in geography with your children!

Postcards received via Postcrossing

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Doing a jigsaw

I've recently started doing jigsaws again. After challenging myself to complete a 1000 piece jigsaw as part of my Day Zero Project and then being lucky enough to receive some lovely jigsaws as review items my interest has been reignited. I think it's because they appeal to my love of sorting and organising, and bringing order to chaos. 

Jigsaw pieces

Fortunately my Mum loves jigsaws too so I have a collection to borrow from, as well as a few old favourites that I've had for years. I find that I can work on a jigsaw and be completely absorbed, and yet my mind is still free to wander and think over ideas and problems.

It's much easier to have a jigsaw on the go now that the children are older and less likely to come along and wreck it. Harry has shown a real interest, and for the last couple of days he's sat at the dining table with me doing his own jigsaws. Mia tries to help by sticking pieces in at random, and holding pieces up to me to ask where they go. One day perhaps we'll all be able to sit down and do one together!

I've been trying to choose jigsaws that are a good size, but not too taxing. I've found that I can complete a 1000 piece jigsaw in less than a week, and it's really satisfying to finish one. It's also addictive, as I keep popping back to it at short intervals throughout the day when the children are occupied (before they come to find me and want to help).

Jigsaw pieces

Tuesday 12 March 2013

A trip to London

Last weekend we left Mia with my wonderful, accommodating parents and treated Harry to a couple of days in London. We have taken him before, but this time managing without a pushchair made a huge difference to our visit. Harry is also that bit older now, with a longer attention span and more stamina. We came back actually feeling that we had been on a holiday for once, instead of an endurance test with small children!

We stayed for one night in the brand new Premier Inn Waterloo, having managed to find a special Sunday rate. It was very nice, absolutely spotless and in a fantastic location for the London Eye and nearby attractions. We were on the 6th floor and we could see the top of the London Eye, the rooms on the 14th floor must have an amazing view! Best of all, Ram and Harry shared the double bed and I had the single sofa bed all to myself - my best night's sleep in years without a toddler waking me up throughout the night!

A trip to London with a small child

We began our visit at the Natural History Museum, starting with the dinosaurs. Harry was absolutely fascinated by the dinosaur skeletons, although not very sure of the moving, roaring Tyrannosaurus Rex at the end! We picked out a few other galleries to interest him. To be honest many of the exhibits were aimed at children a little older than Harry (he's 4) but he really enjoyed the Mammal hall and the Earth exhibits. My favourite area is Human Biology - most of the exhibits there are exactly the same as I remember them from visits throughout the years!

A trip to London with a small child

Then we took the tube to the hotel, checked in, and walked over to the London Sea Life Aquarium, chosen because it is included on our Merlin Passes. It's a really good aquarium, very large and with plenty to see. It was pretty busy even later on in the afternoon, but we were able to have a good look around. Something new since our last visit was the penguin experience which was set in a really well themed Antartic area.

We had our dinner at Pizza Hut. We've eaten at Pizza Hut a few times before, but we've always managed to hide the Ice Cream Factory from Harry, so he was thrilled to discover an ice cream machine that he could use to serve himself as much ice cream as he wanted. I even treated myself to a dessert - well it was Mother's Day!

A trip to London with a small child

In the early evening we went on the London Eye, another Merlin pass attraction. We've been on it a few times but never at night, and luckily there were clear skies so we had some lovely views. It was also pretty quiet too so we had plenty of room to move around in the capsule. Harry loved it, he enjoyed explaining to me how it all worked.

A trip to London with a small child

The next morning Ram popped out and brought us some breakfast back to eat in the hotel, then we checked out to be at the Science Museum as it opened. We ended up staying much longer than we expected - over 4 hours! In my opinion it is the best London museum for very young children. It has several areas to interest and entertain them - the Launch Pad, the Garden in the basement and the Pattern Pod, as well as lots of rockets, cars, planes and interesting models.

Harry spent most of the time in the Garden which is an area in the basement aimed at children ages 3-6. The star attraction is a large water table with boats to float around, along with jets of water and currents to push them into. I think he would have stayed there all day if he could, but it was time to return to Victoria Station for our train home.

A trip to London with a small child

We both found it very relaxing to be away with just the one child, especially when it was the less demanding older one. Of course we all missed Mia, but I knew that she was having just as much fun with Grandma and Grandad - riding on buses, tiring them out at soft play, and enjoying plenty of individual time. It meant that we could be led by what Harry wanted to do, rather than having to cut things short because Mia needed attention.

So, enormous thanks to my parents for letting us indulge ourselves and Harry for a couple of days!

Saturday 9 March 2013

Unruly, curly toddler hair

Mia's hair is a mess. We've not done anything with it as I wouldn't know where to start with cutting it. In complete contrast to my thin straight hair, it is thick and full of curls. When left to its own devices it sticks out in all directions. The day after I have washed her hair, her head looks twice the size.

When we are going out I usually try to tame it by scraping it back into two pigtails with clips around the side. This is much easier said than done - it takes several attempts and usually one of us is in tears by the end. I haven't managed to define a neat parting yet, and one pigtail is usually significantly larger than the other.

If Mia notices that she has clips in her hair then she will pull them straight out. I found three odd ones in her car seat yesterday which had been removed mid journey. She struggles to remove the hair bands, but by mid-morning she's been wriggling about enough that they have nearly fallen out anyway.

I've been doing my best with it, but I think I might need to investigate attending some sort of toddler hair-styling class, as you can see she wasn't desperately impressed with my efforts!

Messy toddler hair and what to do with it

Friday 8 March 2013

Day Zero Project - Write five guest posts for other blogs

I've written quite a lot about my Day Zero Project list - it's really inspiring me to do lots of things and I would definitely recommend giving it a go! One of the things on my list was to write five guest posts for other blogs, and I achieved that this week. So here are the posts that I wrote:

Two bloggers very kindly offered to host a guest post back when I originally blogged about it. For Smiles and Trials I wrote about my screen-free childcare fail and for Mum of Three World I shared a simple Spring flowers craft.

Kids Days Out Reviews pointed me in the direction of the Trunki blog, where I wrote a post about tips for flying with young children.

The final two guest posts were written in response to requests in groups that I saw - The Bump Wear Project and my pregnancy Mama Must Haves and Emmy's Mummy with some homemade bird seed cakes.

I really enjoyed writing all these posts, if you'd like a guest post from me then please just ask!

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Go Team Honk Snowdon - we did it!

I am back from a fantastic weekend away, and I am proud to announce that Team Honk did it - we climbed Snowdon!

I had a brilliant time, I met some wonderful people, and most importantly we raised a fantastic amount for Comic Relief.

We began the day by kitting ourselves up in the car park at the bottom - our feet comfortable in new hiking socks from Hi-Tec and our bottoms suitably clad in gorgeous lacy red underwear from Who Made Your Pants?, which brought us lots of attention!

Climbing Snowdon with Team Honk

The hike started off deceptively smoothly, along a nice even path past some pretty lakes. We stopped for a break next to one of the frozen lakes, enjoying some yummy brownies from Gower Cottage to take our minds off the steep path we could see looming in the distance. Then we braced ourselves as the going became really tough, first climbing up a slippery rocky path, then trudging uphill through the snow as we zig zagged up the mountain. It was tough going, and pretty treacherous in parts. I don't have many photographs as I didn't dare take my eyes away from my feet!

Climbing Snowdon with Team Honk

We were so lucky with the weather, it would have been very different if it had been misty or raining. As it was we had beautiful sunshine, and it was so warm that I didn't need nearly all the layers that I had packed. We ate our lunch on the summit - a filling packed lunch supplied by the Youth Hostel Association (who also treated us to a meal the evening before and breakfast before we set off).

Climbing Snowdon with Team Honk

It was an amazing feeling to be at the summit, there was such an enormous sense of achievement. I don't think any of us wanted to come down!

Climbing Snowdon with Team Honk

We walked back a different way, which was longer but less steep. Then Mummy Barrow met us at the bottom for congratulations and a well earned drink.

We were an amazing group of bloggers (and others!), and I feel privileged to have shared this experience with them all. If you want to read (and listen to!) what they all had to say about our trip, and see some fabulous photos, then have a look at these:

Mari at Mari's World
Kate at Kate Takes 5
Steph at I'm Counting UFOs
T at Mummy Barrow
Mari at Britmums
Hannah at CupcakeMumma
Kat at Kat A Pillar
Gemma at Hello It's Gemma
JallieDaddy at Whiskey for Aftershave
Mari at Mari's World - a vlog

We have raised an incredible £5200 so far!

Friday 1 March 2013

Simple Easter papier mache gift bowls

I've been meaning to try papier mache for a little while now with Harry, and I thought that making some simple little bowls would be a good way to start. Filled with treats, they would be a lovely gift for Easter or Mother's Day.

how to make simple papier mache bowls

The bowls are made using papier mache which is really easy to do, and you can make them into any shape that you like, as long as you are careful to make sure that you'll be able to remove them from the mould when they are dry!

Papier mache gift bowls for Spring or Easter

To make the paper mache bowls, first you need to choose a couple of bowls that are a suitable size. I'd recommend starting small as it can take longer than you think to cover them completely, especially if young children are involved! I used two small plastic bowls from Ikea. You also need some cling film, lots of small pieces of torn up paper and lots of glue. I used watered down PVA (white) glue.

Papier mache gift bowls for Spring or Easter

Cover the bowls in cling film, and smooth it down as much as you can. Then all you have to do is cover the bowl with glue and paste on pieces of paper in layers. You can use newspaper, but if you make the first and last layers using white paper it will be easier to paint afterwards. Be aware that if you are making this with young children you will end up doing most of the paper yourself! Allow it to dry a little in between layers, ideally by placing on a radiator. You will need at least eight layers to make it sturdy enough, but you can do as many more as you like depending on how thick you want your bowl to be.

When you have finished gluing the paper, allow to dry thoroughly before releasing the papier mache bowl from the mould - it should slide off easily. You may want to do a last layer of paper to overlap the rim of the bowl and give it a neater finish.

Then you are ready to decorate. We used poster paints - first we painted the bowl yellow then when it was dry we decorated with a sponge 'leaf' print and used cotton buds to make coloured dots.

There are so many different ways that you could decorate the bowls - you could add a layer of coloured tissue paper or napkins, add glitter and sequins, use dried flowers or leaves, glue on pictures from magazines or just paint designs using a fine brush. When it's finished you might want to add a layer of clear glue or varnish to seal it.

Papier mache gift bowls for Spring or Easter

Perfect for displaying Spring treasures, or for gifting Easter treats.

Papier mache gift bowls for Spring or Easter