Thursday 30 January 2014

Hama bead heart hanging decoration

This post contains Amazon affiliate links

Valentine's Day is fast approaching, and so it's time for some more heart crafting! I bought some Hama bead heart pegboards especially for Valentine's Day, but instead of just making lots of hearts to stick around I thought I'd come up with a craft which displays some of the lovely Hama bead heart creations that we've made.

Hama bead hanging decoration for Valentine's Day

I used the small Hama bead heart pegboard (affiliate link) to make five small hearts. I used only pink and white beads and came up with a few different designs, but of course the possibilities are endless. Then I just needed some dark red ribbon that matched the colours that I'd used.

I ironed the hearts on both sides to make them nice and sturdy, but it's a matter of personal preference as to how much they are ironed. I tried to iron slightly less on the side that will be on display, as I personally like to show the definition in the beads. It also makes it easier when it comes to sewing the hearts onto the ribbon if you have clearly marked holes to sew through.

Hama bead hearts

I sewed the hearts firmly on to the ribbon at the top and the bottom, with about a 5cm gap in between them. If the holes have fused up it should be easy enough to push a large needle through to reopen them. Thicker ribbon is best as it will need to bear the weight of the hearts.

Hama bead Valentine's Day craft

To hang up the decoration I folded a small amount of the ribbon at the top back on over itself (about a centimetre) and sewed firmly down each side, to create a little pocket. I found a matching button which I glued over at the front to hide the stitching (glued because sewing it would sew up the hole), then the pocket can be hooked over a picture hook for hanging on the wall. Just be careful not to use too much glue so that it fills up the pocket and glues it together, and make sure that the glue has dried completely before hanging up the decoration.

Hama bead hanging heart decoration

Another way to display the Hama bead hearts is to create some Hama bead heart bunting. The hearts are simply strung together on some narrow ribbon to create bunting which can be hung around a fireplace or displayed elsewhere in the home.

Hama bead heart bunting on fireplace

I've used Hama beads to make lots of other Valentine's Day themed crafts, and you can find them all here - Hama bead crafts for Valentine's Day.

They include:

Hama bead heart hanging decoration
Hama bead heart spinning decoration
Hama bead heart photo frames
Mini Hama bead heart pins
Mini Hama bead hearts

Valentine's Day themed crafts using Hama beads

Tuesday 28 January 2014

The Britmums Carnival - 28th Jan 2014

This fortnight it's my turn to host the Britmums Carnival, and I'm really thrilled to be able to showcase such a fantastic collection of blog posts, on such a diverse range of topics. There is plenty to read, so do settle down and enjoy!

Firstly, travelling with the family. I love to travel, but it's not always easy travelling with young children, especially if your journey involves a flight. This fantastic crowd sourced post by Angie from Cakes Photos Life is packed full of brilliant tips for flying with children (link no longer available). Leyla at Motherhood Diaries has also put together her Top Ten Tips for Travelling with Tiring Toddlers (link no longer available), with some more great advice and tips.

If you are planning on exploring London with your toddler you will find plenty of inspiration in this post from A Baby on Board with Things to do in London When You're Two - definitely some suggestions there that I'll be remembering next time we attempt a family trip there! And somewhat further afield, Lucy from Lulastic and the Hippyshake has recently relocated to the other side of the world with her young family, and in this beautiful post she writes about their first few days in New Zealand (link no longer available) and a little piece of home.

Blogs can be a fantastic source of travel information if you are planning a holiday. Claire from Life, Ninja Killer Cat and Everything Else has put together a great resource if you are travelling to Florida. Her Ultimate Orlando Holiday Planner is packed full of useful tips. Mel from The Diary of a Jewellery Lover also shares her recent experience of a Christmas break in Prague, with tips for places to visit and the best things to see.

I really enjoy reading other people's travel stories for some travel inspiration, and I love this beautiful account from Over 40 and a Mum to One as she remembers a wonderful trip to Sri Lanka, learning about how tea is grown and produced. Gretta shares an account of an enjoyable and relaxing weekend break in the City of London.  Tigerlilly Quinn shares some wonderful photographs of the British coastline, sharing her post about West Bay - Our Week in Pictures (link no longer available).

There are also plenty of lovely images in this post from Rollercoaster Mum with an account of a visit to RHS Wisley.

Hellie's Corner brought back some holiday memories for me with her account of her US Road Trip (link no longer available) and I am definitely inspired for a future holiday by reading about Husky Dog Sledding in Finnish Lapland by Globalmouse Travels (link no longer available). Zagreb is another city that I would love to visit one day and this post from Chasing the Donkey with some Zagreb Highlights has made me think that it would be a great city break to enjoy with our young family.

Spending time living in a different country is a fantastic experience, and allows you a very different perspective. Oana at Mama's Haven has written about Greece: A Country of Dichotomies, having seen the country as a resident and not just a visitor. Aisha discusses the expat experience in her post Expats are Born Not Made: Discuss (link no longer available), with some really interesting thoughts and points for a discussion which is continued in the comments on the post.

I love crafting with the children, and at this time of year there are lots of special celebrations which you can learn about through craft. The Chinese New Year will begin on the 31st January, and Eileen at ET Speaks from Home has created a fantastic Pinterest board, with links to a whole series of her posts about crafts, food and culture. I particularly like her 3D paper cutting Chinese New Year craft. Lizzie at Me and My Shadow has the instructions for a brilliant firecracker decoration by junk modelling and over at In the Playroom you can find instructions for some sweet Chinese New Year cherry blossom fans.

It's also not long until Valentine's Day, and Helen at Kiddy Charts has shared her first ever craft post - a little love bird card. Ali has also been crafting for Valentine's Day, with some gorgeous heart cutouts made from handprints. At The Gingerbread House you can find a lovely toddler friendly Valentine's Day heart and wool craft, and at Treading on Lego, Jenny has shared some colourful Valentine's Day sun catchers. Red Ted Art has a simple video tutorial for some paper heart Valentine's Day decorations and Peakle Pie has shared a lovely Valentine's pasta heart hanging decoration (sorry no longer available). Citrus Spice and All Things Nice has made some gorgeous felt hearts which would make a perfect gift for a loved one, and her post contains a felt heart tutorial video.

It's pretty cold and wintry out there at the moment, and if you don't fancy going outdoors why not create your own snowy landscape indoors. For an indoor activity for babies and younger toddlers, Emma from The Egyptian Mummy shares some ideas for filling sensory bottles, something that I remember having a lot of fun making when mine were younger.

A craft that you do either for or with your child, these Potato Print T-shirts from Wild and Grizzly are simple to make and would make a lovely, personalised keepsake. Sharing some other craft projects with fabric, Kate at Crafts on Sea has made this lovely Cloud Cushion, and has put together a tutorial, it's simple with a fantastic finished product! 

Writing a blog is a great way to keep a record of those milestones in life. Watching your little ones growing up can be an emotional time. Pippa at Red Rose Mummy writes poignantly about The End of Breastfeeding and Bex at The Mummy Adventure shares a lovely post about seeing her son grow up and yet remembering that he is still Just a Little Boy.

Becky from A Beautiful Space has written about her Moments that Mattered in 2013 (link no longer available), a great way to reflect on the the best things about the year that has gone. Ellen at In a Bun Dance also reflects on the season that has just passed, and writes poignantly about holidays when you have children that spend their time between different members of the family (link no longer available) . And finally, a huge milestone is moving house. Sarah at Mum of Three World has recently moved, and with all that painting she has learned plenty of lessons in decorating!

If you are looking to save some money then have a read of this article from Frugal Family, with tips on how to save get a better deal on insurance with a little bit of research. 

A blog is a great way to share advice and things that you have learned with others. Michelle at Mummy From the Heart has put together a crowd sourced post on What Makes a Good Marriage, where bloggers share their tips for a successful marriage. In her follow-up post How to Have a Strong Christian Marriage she shares advice from Christian bloggers, with lots more thoughtful advice. Over at Mum on a Mission for a Better Life, Denise shares The Key to Happy Mornings, with some suggestions that I could certainly do with implementing!

If you are looking to learn more about how your children think and feel, Actually Mummy's daughter has started a new feature on the blog called Ask GG (link no longer available). If you have any questions that you would like to put to a 9 year old girl then do ask away, the answers are sure to be entertaining and insightful!

If you are looking for a way to shake things up in your family, then a screen free day is a great idea to help your children discover and rediscover some different interests. One way to get away from the screens is to spend some time outdoors, and even though it's winter it's still important to exercise outdoors. Healthier Mummy has written about How Much Exercise do Children need in Winter (no longer available), and has some great ideas for encouraging children to boost their fitness. You don't need to do anything too extravagant or expensive to make some changes, and I love this post from Baby Budgeting with some Simple Ideas for a Rich Life in January, part of a monthly feature on the blog. Mama  and More! has also made a resolution to simplify after writing about How my daughter's messy room taught me a lesson (no longer available).

It's important to stop and appreciate the little things in life, and Swazi at Chocolate is Not The Only Fruit shares all the small things that make her smile, a lovely record to keep. Louisa at More Than a Momma writes on her 40th birthday I am 40 hear me roar (no longer available), with a positive post about her achievements and how writing her blog helps her to share her highs and lows.

Last but not least, since I started reading blogs I have been inspired to try so much more cooking and baking, and the blogosphere is full of ideas for some delicious things to try. Mummy Mishaps has made some Chocolate Caramel Ritz Creams, and although salty crackers and chocolate might not seem an obvious combination, I can imagine that they are really tasty! 
This homemade healthy pot noodle from The Crazy Kitchen looks delicious, and would be great to make in advance for a quick lunch at home or work. 

I want to say thank you so much to all these bloggers for submitting their posts. I've really enjoyed reading through all the articles and seeing the amazing variety and talent that is out there in our blogging community.

Sunday 26 January 2014

Harry's 5th Birthday Party

Yesterday we held Harry's 5th Birthday party. It was quite an occasion for us, as it was the first time that we have organised a Birthday party for more than just family. I spent ages agonising over who to invite, not quite feeling able to trust Harry to remember all the people that he wanted to come. In the end we had about twenty children, a mixture of friends from school and friends that he has made outside school.

We went for a very popular option around here at the moment - the party took place at the local leisure centre, where you can hire the soft play area for an hour and then have a function room afterwards for the party tea. I don't know why I was so worried about it all, everyone turned up and as far as I could tell everyone had a great time. It was a really easy way to do the party, all the entertainment was taken care of and all we had to think about was putting some food together for the tea and making up the party bags.

Child's 5th Birthday party

Harry was a bit overwhelmed by it all. He was very excited to see all his friends arriving and having them all in one place, but once they were all there I think he was happy to just have them around him, rather than trying to play with everyone. He's a lot like me and finds large gatherings a bit too much after a while. I think that he liked being the centre of attention for a bit though, and I'm very glad that we made the effort for him this year.

I'm not sure what we'll do next year. I don't know that I can handle this kind of thing every year, especially once Mia cottons on and starts expecting the same! I know that there wasn't this level of expectation for a big party every year when I was growing up. I do quite fancy having a go at a more creative themed party at some point though, so we'll see!

Child's 5th Birthday party

Friday 24 January 2014

Trying a new craft - Decopatch Hearts

Recently I've been trying out a craft new to me - Decopatch. I'm always on the lookout for new crafts to try, and I often like to start a new craft by buying a kit, because then I know that I'll have everything that I need along with inspiration for my first project. I've been eyeing up the Decopatch materials on my regular visits to Hobbycraft but it all looked quite expensive, so when I was putting together my Christmas list I was pleased to find a Decopatch hearts kit. My original kit is no longer available, but you can find a very similar one here - Décopatch Love Kit (affiliate link). 

Decopatch is a modern update on the craft of decoupage. You basically use torn up pieces of pretty paper and glue to cover objects, for example frames, small boxes or solid letters which you can use to spell out a word. Many of the decopatch craft materials are sold under the French Decopatch brand but now that the trend has caught on you can buy decopatch materials all over the place.

Valentine hearts decopatch craft kit

The thing that had put me off decopatch in the past was the thought of tearing up the paper. I had looked at sheets of gorgeous coloured and patterned paper, and I thought it looked so nice as it was that I couldn't bear the the thought of ripping it up! But I'm pleased to say that I overcame my inhibitions, and once I had I was really pleased with how it looked.

My kit contains a selection of items to decopatch - two solid hearts on string, two solid small heart frames, two flat heart shaped frames with a heart centre, two flat hearts and two heart shaped boxes. It's all contained in a nice box which you can also decopatch. Then you have instructions, a pot of glue, two stiff brushes, some ribbon and five sheets of decopatch paper. It's a nice selection of things, with a variety of flat and shaped pieces.

I've had to hold myself back, because I've found that it's quite addictive and very easy, and once I started I didn't want to stop! Here's what I've made so far:

Valentine hearts decopatch craft kit

I'm going to find some small pictures to put inside the frames, I'm not sure yet whether that will be photographs of those dear to me or just pictures of things that I like!

Decopatch is a really easy craft, the paper is so thin and forgiving that you can use it to cover even the most awkward of shapes with a neat finish. The stiff brush is really good for getting into the corners, so if you are trying the craft I'd definitely recommend buying a proper decopatch brush (affiliate link).

When tearing up the paper, it's a good idea to tear it up into a selection of different shapes and sizes. I'd also recommend working in daylight if possible as it's very easy to miss small areas, although of course you can go back and fix it afterwards. The glue dries to a lovely, shiny finish, but you need to make sure that it has dried thoroughly otherwise the items will stick together, I've been leaving mine over a radiator for a couple of days.

Have you tried decopatch? I'd love to see what you've made, do leave a link in the comments if you have one!

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Harry turns 5

At the weekend we celebrated Harry's 5th birthday. Just a little family party at home on the day, with a few lovely presents and a green pinata cake.

Five years seems like a real milestone. Even though he is well settled at school, five seems so much more grown up. I've been looking back through his baby book and reminiscing about his birth (which I wrote all about here) and looking at his baby photos. I didn't start this blog until Mia was born, but I'm so grateful to have this record of these early years.

Harry has really grown up these last few months. I'm so proud of him, he's doing well at school and his reading in particular is coming along really nicely. He's a lovely little thing, generally very well behaved, he can play imaginatively for ages and fortunately, like me, he loves quiet activities like colouring, sewing and crafting.

He adores his little sister, and he's very patient with her even when she's in the way of his games. I love seeing them cuddle each other when we pick him up from school, they clearly miss each other.

Child blowing out birthday cake candles

Next weekend we are holding our first ever 'proper' children's birthday party at the local leisure centre, with an hour of soft play followed by tea. The invitations have been answered, the party bags are filled and the lunch boxes are assembled. Fingers crossed it's a success!

Thursday 16 January 2014

Simple Valentine's Craft - Heart Sun Catchers

These simple heart sun catchers are a great Valentine's Day craft for toddlers. They are really easy to make and you only need a few bits and pieces from the craft box to make some lovely heart themed decor to decorate your home for Valentine's Day.

Valentine's Day craft - Heart sun catchers

All you need is some thin coloured card, some clear contact paper (sticky backed plastic) and some collage materials, we used torn up red and pink tissue paper.

I used my Cricut Mini to cut out the heart shapes. There is a basic heart shape supplied in the designs that come with the machine, and when I logged in this time I had a free trial of the Love Struck 2010 cartridge which is where the slanted heart shapes came from (although you could easily recreate this shape by manipulating the free basic heart shape). Of course it is also easy enough to cut out a heart frame using scissors.

Once you have a selection of heart frames cut out, stick them down on the clear contact paper and cut around the edges. Then give your child the collage materials and let them stick them to the sticky paper. Even younger toddlers will easily be able to do this, and they will have a real sense of accomplishment from being able to create something pretty so easily. You might like to add a second layer of the sticky backed plastic on the reverse side, to keep it all nice and neat.

Valentine's Day craft - Heart sun catchers

Then stick them up in the window so that the light can shine through!

You can find more Valentine's Day crafts for toddlers here - Valentine's Crafts for toddlers

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Ladybird Tuesday - The Ugly Duckling

As well as the books in the Ladybird reading scheme, I also have fond memories of the books in the Ladybird series that told familiar nursery rhymes and stories. The Ugly Duckling is part of the Well Loved Tales, Series 606D. It is one of the most recently published books in the series, published in 1979.

Ladybird Well Loved Tales - The Ugly Duckling

The language of the book is both interesting enough for an adult to read to a child over and over, yet simple enough for young readers to read to themselves. It's quite a long story, and a lot happens to the little ugly duckling before he becomes a swan.

Ladybird Well Loved Tales - The Ugly Duckling

The illustrations are as charming as ever, and often drawn from the duckling's own point of view as he looks up at the things around him. You can't help but feel sorry for the poor old ugly duckling after all that he goes through in the story, moving around from place to place and always being rejected.

Ladybird Well Loved Tales - The Ugly Duckling

Of course the story has a happy ending. I'm not too sure about the message behind the story though. While on the hand it teaches a message of looking beyond what you see on the outside, and not judging a book by its cover, the ugly duckling is only happy and accepted once he has turned into a beautiful swan. It's still a lovely story though, and one that I'll be sharing with my children.

If you love Ladybird books, do pop over and visit Ladybird Tuesday, where Being Mrs C is assembling a really comprehensive catalogue of Ladybird books and reviews.

Below you can find links to all my Ladybird Tuesday book posts.

Snow White and Rose Red
Hansel and Gretel
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
The Three Little Pigs
The Old Woman and her Pig
Little Red Riding Hood
The Ugly Duckling
The Railway Children
A Little Princess
A First book of Aesop's Fables

A Ladybird Book about Knitting
More Things to Make - For Special Occasions
Easy to Make Puppets
Learning to Sew
Stamp Collecting
Tricks and Magic

Prehistoric Animals and Fossils
Stone Age Man in Britain
Great Civilisations - Crete
Charles Dickens
Lives of the Great Composers Book 1
Lives of the Great Composers Book 2
The Story of Music

Plants and How They Grow
The Ladybird Book of the Night Sky
Sea and Air Mammals
The Farm

The Story of Nuclear Power
The Motor Car
How it Works - The Computer
How it Works - The Rocket
The Story of Ships
The Postman and the Postal Service
People at Work - The Nurse

Understanding Numbers
Talkabout Clothes
Going to School
Teaching Reading

Stories of Special Days and Customs
Christmas Customs

Girls and Boys - A Ladybird Book of Childhood

Monday 13 January 2014

The London Transport Museum, Covent Garden

Last weekend we took both children up to London, and you can read about our trip here - Our first family trip to London. One of the highlights of our visit was the London Transport Museum. We visited with a four year old and a two year old. 

The London Transport Museum

On the way in, each child was given a leaflet which showed them the route around the museum, with boxes for them to stamp at numbered locations. They loved this, and it was a good way for them to get a sense of the size of the museum and the different things that they would see on their way around. There was also a stand with plenty of other activities for children to pick up to enhance their visit - we collected some postcards to colour in and a pop out bus to make when we got home. 

The London Transport Museum

The museum trail starts in 19th Century London, with a central exhibit showing the first horse drawn buses. You can even climb inside one of them. The display gives a good sense of just how messy the streets of London must have been with all those horses walking around! There is also a very interesting section on the London Watermen that ferried people across the river before there were as many bridges as there are now.

The part of the museum that we found the most fascinating was all about the building and use of the London Underground. There was a lot to read, and plenty of scale models which really brought the history to life. In particular, one model of an underground tunnel being built really fascinated the children, giving us a chance to look around the displays. There were interactive exhibits for little fingers, and in a room all about the history of marketing the London Underground, brilliant moving projections on the floor kept them amused for ages, chasing them around with other children!

The London Transport Museum

Harry has long had a huge fascination with trams, and so was delighted to find a couple of real trams on the ground floor, as well as a small model tram which moved backwards and forwards on a straight track. I'm not sure why he finds them so interesting, but it did mean that we had the chance to spend a good amount of time in this area and I learned a great deal about the history of the tram in London.

The museum is fairly compact in size, although there is plenty crammed in, so it's good for little legs that can't do much walking. There is a free cloakroom at the entrance where a small number of folded pushchairs can be left, and also a buggy park on the ground floor, although the museum is fully pushchair accessible with lifts.

There is a cafe on the ground floor, with additional seating where we could eat the food that we had brought with us. Next to this is a little play area with model transport for children to play in and a small wooden railway complete with underground. There is a toilet with baby change, and a feeding room.

We really enjoyed our visit to the London Transport Museum and I'd definitely recommend it if you are visiting London with children of any age. There was a huge amount about the history of public transport in London that we didn't know, and everything was presented in an engaging way that was easy to understand, and compelling.

The London Transport Museum

We received complimentary tickets to the London Transport Museum in exchange for a review.

Saturday 11 January 2014

Our first family trip to London

We've taken Harry to London a few times in the past, but had never braved a trip with both children in tow. At the end of the Christmas holiday, and with an inset day for Harry, Ram managed to find us a cheap night in a Travelodge and so we set off on the train with small child and toddler.

A first family trip to London

Our first stop was a river cruise. Again, always one to spot a good deal, Ram found us tickets for a cruise with City Cruises that ended up being free! It was a cold morning, and the boat was pretty empty, but we sat up on the open top deck so that we could see around. We travelled from Tower Bridge to Westminster, and there was an interesting live commentary to explain the sights that we were passing.

Then we headed to Covent Garden and the London Transport Museum. It really was excellent, and I'll be posting a detailed review in a couple of days. The children loved the chance to board some real London trains and buses, and we were all fascinated by the history of the London Underground. It's a fairly compact museum, so good for those little legs, but there is plenty crammed in and we learned a great deal. It was also very well organised for younger visitors, with activities to keep them occupied all the way around.

A first family trip to London

We finished the day at Hamleys. Not for purchasing, as it's far too expensive, but there is lots to see and you can have a look at the larger sets that you don't see in smaller toy shops. There are also some toys out to watch and play with, and we spent some time watching the Hexbugs running around in their plastic mazes. The children are still playing with the tiny Hexbug robots that they got for Christmas, and I see some Hexbug maze inspired crafting coming on.

A first family trip to London

We stayed overnight in the Covent Garden Travelodge, which like all hotels in the chain was very basic, but it did all that we needed to and was very conveniently located for the Underground. We paid a bit extra for the buffet breakfast the next morning, as we have more luck getting the children to eat if they can choose from a buffet, and there was plenty there to suit all of us.

The next morning we began our day at the Natural History Museum, arriving early to try and beat the crowds. Over Christmas we watched David Attenborough's Natural History Museum Alive on television, and Harry has been watching it continuously ever since. He was delighted to find himself in the museum, and was excitedly showing us all the exhibits that were featured. He has been to the museum several times in the past, but he definitely enjoyed this visit more, now that he has more awareness of the things that he is seeing. We visited our favourite areas - the dinosaurs are always popular even though both children are a little nervous of the animated T-Rex at the end of the exhibition! We had to find the dodo as well as that features in the programme.

A first family trip to London

Then we crossed over to the Science Museum, another favourite. The Garden area in the basement is aimed at children aged up to age 6, and Harry has spent a lot of time there in the past. We introduced Mia to the fantastic water table, and we spent some time here playing. Then we headed upstairs to Launch Pad, where there are interactive science exhibits aimed at slightly older children. It's a shame that this area is always so busy, because it can be difficult to have a proper detailed look at anything. The favourite area is the Big Machine, where children can move plastic pellets about using pulleys, lifts and so on.

A first family trip to London

There is also a nice, quieter area at the Science Museum where there are lots of old models on display. It's in the main room on the ground floor but it's accessed by a staircase/lift so it's easy to miss. There are some model trains, with buttons to press to make the wheels go around, and a really interesting collection of unusual educational models.

Travelling around the London Underground with a pushchair is not easy, and I'm not sure that we'll attempt it again. Although things are improving, and several of the stations that we used did have lifts, it is not easy to keep track of a folded pushchair, luggage, toddler and a small child in the crowded stations. Both children need to be helped on the escalators, and sometimes the trains were so busy that we had to really cram ourselves on, not comfortable for any of us. It was a real contrast to our experience in Berlin, where the U-Bahn was much more family friendly.

We had a really lovely couple of days up in London, and I'm glad that we gave it a go. There are some good deals to be had on cheap hotels if you look around, and once you are in London there is so much there that you can do for free. It might seem a bit of a mission with young children, but I'd definitely recommend taking them if you are able to get to London!

Thursday 9 January 2014

Chinese New Year craft - Dragon toilet roll tube puppets

Crafting for Chinese New Year is a lot of fun, because you can use bright colours, glitter and streamers, and there is lots of inspiration out there. I find that my Chinese New Year crafting tends to be influenced by dragons, and so we made some simple dragon puppets from empty toilet roll tubes.

Chinese New Year simple dragon craft from toilet roll tube

This has been the first year that I've managed to do some Chinese New Year crafting, as it's a festival that always creeps up on me after Christmas. But this year I took up a challenge set by Red Ted Art to share a Chinese New Year craft. I do like my toilet roll tubes, and so I decided to make some simple Chinese dragon puppets made from toilet roll tubes.

Chinese New Year simple dragon craft from toilet roll tube

To make these Chinese New Year Dragon Puppets you will need:

A toilet roll tube
Two large pom poms
Two googly eyes
Green paint
White card (for the teeth)
Tissue paper (for the tail, I used red but you could use any colour)
A lollipop stick
Scraps of collage material in dragon colours


First paint the toilet roll tubes in a dragon colour, we used green. Glue a googly eye to each pom pom. When both parts are dry, cut a triangle from each side of one end of the toilet roll tube to create a mouth. Glue the pom poms onto the head of the dragon. You will need plenty of glue to make them stick firmly. Leave it to dry.

Chinese New Year simple dragon craft from toilet roll tube

Then use collage materials to decorate the dragon. We used scraps of green paper and some small circles cut from gold card for gold scales. Cut some teeth from thin white card and glue inside the mouth.

Cut some long strips of tissue paper for the tail, and staple them firmly inside the back of the dragon at the top. Finally fix a lollipop stick at the bottom of the dragon's back. I used double sided sellotape with more sellotape to cover on top, as it needs to be stuck firmly so that the dragon can be played with. Then the children can fly their dragon about using the lollipop stick to hold on to.

Chinese New Year simple dragon craft from toilet roll tube

Some Chinese New Year Resources

Because this is our first Chinese New Year craft, we weren't familiar with the story behind Chinese New Year. I found a fantastic printable introduction over on the Twinkl website - The Chinese New Year Story (Twinkl subscriber resource). I printed it out to make a little book, in black and white so that it could be coloured in. The last page of the story book also makes a nice Chinese Zodiac colouring poster, which is marked with recent calendar years so you can use it work out the animal for the year that the children were born in.

I printed out a Chinese New Year word map (free download) to help Harry extend his reading vocabulary. Many of the words, such as the names of the animals, are ones that he uses regularly anyway. I also printed him a colour by numbers dragon (free download), as he loves colouring, and the sense of achievement that comes from working out which colours to use.

You can find more Chinese New Year crafts for toddlers here:

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Day Zero Project update January 2014

I started my Day Zero Project on the 21st November 2012. If you're not familiar with the idea, Day Zero is an on-line project that aims to make goal setting fun. You make a list of 101 things that you would like to do in the next 1001 days. Having this time constraint means that your focus and determination kicks in as you try to tick everything off before time runs out.

It's a method of setting goals that really appeals to me. Some of the things on my list can be completed in a matter of moments, others are very long term and will be a definite challenge to complete in the time available. Some are easy, and some require a little more effort. You can see my list over on the official Day Zero Project page here, or you can follow my progress on the dedicated page on my blog - Day Zero Project - which includes links back to the goals which I have blogged about.

I'm just over a year into the project and I have completed 43% of the list. I'm pretty chuffed with that, although I am aware that some of the things left on the list are going to be a challenge to get finished. In particular my two reading challenges - "Ask 20 friends to suggest a book and read them all" and "Read 10 classics I should have read but never got around to" - are going to take some time to work through.

I have really enjoyed the new things that I've tried out over the last year and a bit, and I'm aiming to remain focussed and tick off a good number this year too. I'm hoping to finish my cross stitch sampler, which will be a big one to have completed. I'm also going to be trying out some new evening meals for the family and joining in with the 52 Cook Books linky at Keynko, and I'm getting pretty close to achieving some of the other goals, like setting up a cleaning routine and a planner for my blog. There are a few crafty ones there too which I should be able to find the time to have a go at, like making a candle, as I already have everything ready that I need.

Have you heard of the Day Zero Project? I'd love to inspire someone else to have a go at the challenge, I've found it a lot of fun! If you make your own list, I would love to see it!

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Review - KOR GeoMag Tazoo magnetic construction set

Harry was recently sent a KOR Geomag Tazoo Paco (affiliate link) new magnetic construction set to try out. KOR are fantasy creatures which fell to Earth as asteroids after a geomagnetic storm, and the range comprises seven products split across two lines. In the Tazoo range are Beto and Paco - a couple of cute little creatures found in the sea and forest. The five creatures in the Proteon range are more action orientated, with more of an emphasis on fighting and survival.

KOR GeoMag Tazoo magnetic construction set review

These construction sets are aimed at children aged 5 and older, so at very nearly 5 Harry is at the younger end of the range, and this is definitely a toy that will grow with him.

The set consists of a small magnetic sphere which sits in the middle, and is surrounded by shaped magnetic pieces which attach to the magnetic centre to form a larger sphere. An outer layer is clipped on which makes all sorts of different shapes, the most basic being a simple a rugby ball. The set includes accessories which you use to make the basic creature, and extras so that you can make lots of different creatures. The pieces are really sturdy, I can't see them breaking.

Once you have built a basic shape, you can twist and turn the pieces, which rotate around the central sphere. This is where you can really start to get creative with the kit. It's a bit difficult to describe in words, so I've made a little video showing how the basic shape is assembled.

There is a little bit of a knack to putting the pieces together, so I'd recommend watching my video or the one that I have linked below. But once you've got it, it is easy to see what you need to do. The pieces slot together easily and Harry soon got the hang of it. He was happy to keep things simple, and use the accessories provided to make different creatures, using the add on pieces as all sorts of different things, from horns to feet. I can see that the set will grow with him, as he learns about the different ways in which it can be manipulated.

This detailed video shows you how you can make a few simple figures with just a few twists of the basic rugby ball shape.

All the seven unisex sets in the KOR Geomag range - Tazoo and Proteon - are compatible with each other. The Tazoo range is probably more suitable for younger children as the creatures are a little cuter. They are described as unisex toys, which I think is great, and I know that both the children will enjoy playing with it. Because all the sets are compatible it is a toy which can be added to over time, or you could buy a set for each sibling which they can play with together and use to build more advanced structures.

We were sent a KOR Geomag Tazoo Paco set to review. Amazon links are affiliate.

Sunday 5 January 2014

Five simple vegetarian soup recipes for a soupmaker

I love my new soup maker, so much that I blogged a review of it here - Andrew James soup maker review. But one problem that I have is that it doesn't have a huge capacity, and all of my soup recipes made a quantity that was too large to fit. So I've put together five really simple recipes which fit perfectly into my soup maker. They don't use too many ingredients, and are really easy to make, and taste delicious.

Each recipe makes four small portions or two large portions. Unless otherwise stated, just add all the ingredients into the soup maker and press start. My soups are all made with vegetable stock cubes, but I would imagine that you could use a meat based stock cube too.

Lentil and Carrot Soup

1tsp cumin seeds, toasted
Small pinch chilli flakes
100g dried red lentils
350g carrots, chopped
450ml stock

Tomato and Bean Soup

1 can chopped tomatoes
1 onion
1 carrot
Italian herb seasoning
350ml stock

Leek and Potato Soup

1 onion
1 small potato
1 leek
75ml double cream (half a small tub)
450ml stock

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

1/2 butternut squash
1 onion
1 carrot
1 tsp mixed spice
450ml stock

Spicy butternut squash soup

Lentil, Chickpea and Chilli Soup

1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
Small pinch chill flakes
1 onion
100g dried red lentils
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can chickpeas
450ml stock

Lentil chickpea and chilli soup

Because my soup maker blends the soup very smoothly, even on the chunky setting, for the Lentil, Chickpea and Chilli soup I reserve half the can of chickpeas and stir it in at the end for a bit of texture.

I hope that these recipes are useful, and if you have any others to share I would love to try them out!

Saturday 4 January 2014

The fantastic Twinkl resources

A few months ago, I blogged about Twinkl Teaching Resources (you can read my review here - Twinkl review). Since I wrote the review we've had such a lot of use out of the resources on the Twinkl site, and we have also very kindly been provided with some bespoke resources, so I thought that I would write an update post with some of the things that we've been using since then. Some of the resources are only available to Premium users, but there are also tens of thousands of resources which are completely free.

Over the summer I organised some theme days. We had a Dinosaur day, a Space day, an Antarctic day and an Under the Sea day. For each themed day I found resources that matched the topic that we were learning about. Harry is only 4 so we stuck with the simple ones, and among many other things I found themed pencil control worksheets, colouring pages that we used to make posters and games to print out and play. You can find links to the themed resources that we used in the individual posts.

Then in September Harry started school, and I was very excited to find that his entire classroom was filled with Twinkl resources. I looked on the Twinkl website for resources matched to the subjects that he was studying, and I founds loads. He spent a good few weeks looking at different nursery rhymes and fairy tales and there was plenty there to support his learning. In particular he liked the nursery rhyme sequencing cards that I downloaded, which he could cut out, colour, and then arrange in chronological order.

Harry is also making an excellent start on his reading and I've found lots of resources to support him. I really like these Home Word Cards (free download). They are a series of labels for common items around the home which I have printed, laminated and stuck up in his room and bathroom. Harry learned them really easily, and it's really funny to watch Mia trying to copy him, pointing at the letters and going 'b..b..b..bed!' I've also printed out some word mats for him to put on his wall. The Foundation Stage 2 Word Mat (free download) has all the key high frequency words that children should be able to read by the end of their reception year, and it's really useful to have a pretty and nicely arranged poster as a reference. There are lots of other word mats available for all different stages of reading and also plenty of themed ones too. Last month I printed out the Christmas word mat (free download), and he has picked up a lot from it.

We used a lot of other Christmas themed resources too - I found Christmas bingo and a Nativity word mat and game which I turned into a matching game to tie in with learning about the Nativity story. There are themed resources for all important dates and festivals, pretty much anything that you can think of!

The lovely people at Twinkl have also been kind enough to make Harry some bespoke resources. I do really like the wide range of pencil control worksheets available, and he now has worksheets that help him to trace out his own name, as well as those of other family members. They also made him a lovely reward chart, featuring his picture, which I am using to help persuade him to get dressed for school in the mornings without any fuss.

If you have a young child I would definitely recommend having a look at the Twinkl website. There is so much there, and you can tailor the resources for children of all ages, even those that are some way off starting school.

Child using Twinkl resources review

I was given a premium subscription in return for my previous Twinkl review and I have also received some bespoke resources. I was under no obligation at all to write this post, but I am such a fan of the Twinkl website that I wanted to share some of the lovely resources that we have found and enjoyed recently.

Thursday 2 January 2014

My word for 2014 - Simplify

Happy New Year! 

I was introduced to the idea of finding a word for 2014 by this wonderful post from Dorky Mum. You choose a word which you want to inspire you in the next year.

I don't really like to make New Year's Resolutions, instead I like to plan things that I want to achieve throughout the year. I've been making good use of my Day Zero Project list and I'm intending to continue my progress through the next year. I'll be working on an update of my progress shortly. But the word that I have chosen for 2014 is SIMPLIFY.

We are lucky enough to live in a good sized house with plenty of storage, and so it is tempting to keep things just in case, as they are easily tucked away. But I find lots of stuff around me overwhelming, not to mention difficult to clean around, so I aim to start the year by de-cluttering. We still have quite a lot of baby equipment that we are not planning to need again, and it is surprising just how much space that can take up. We need to look at selling it, or passing it on to others that can use it. I also need to get better at simplifying the children's toys, they have so many but there are plenty which are often forgotten about. I need to become better at rotating them, and also encouraging them to play with them in new ways.

I also need to get on top of the housework. I bought an app for my phone a little while ago which is excellent. It's based around the FlyLady system, so you have a series of small tasks to complete every day, which you can set as morning/evening routines, then each week you have a focus zone which is an area of the house that you deep clean and declutter. The app is completely customisable, only costs a couple of £ and I'd fully recommend it - it's called Home Routines. But of course it's all very well having the app installed and all set up to match me and my house, I need to actually use it! I prefer the little and often approach to housework, and it is getting easier to manage the housework around the children. If I can keep the house tidy and decluttered then it will be easier to keep clean.

Most importantly, I need to spend less time in front of my phone. I'm afraid that I'm checking social media far too frequently. I'm not going to give it up, because it is through social media that I maintain connections to other like minded people and I have gained a lot of support from that. As a stay at home Mum I can often find myself quite isolated. But it's easy to catch up every now and then, I don't need to be continuously checking my phone and I don't want my children to remember me with a phone barrier between us.

So that's just a few of the things that I'm hoping to think about over the next year as I keep the word simplify in mind. I'd love to hear what your word would be for 2014!

Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island