Monday 29 February 2016

My Sky Blanket in February #skyblanket2016

My Sky Blanket is now complete! Here is a link to the completed Sky Blanket

Here is how my blanket progressed throughout the year - JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugust, September, October, November and December.

If you have found this page because you would like to make your own Sky Blanket, you might like these posts:

Sky Blanket progress in February

It's the end of February already! I'm still very much enjoying taking part in the #skyblanket2016 project, where a group of crafters are creating a blanket by reflecting the colour of the sky each day, whether by crochet, knitting, quilting, or any other means. This was my January update.

Here is how my blanket is looking at the end of February:

Sky Blanket progress in February

There have been a few interesting sky features to incorporate. On the 3rd February we were treated to a beautiful sunset, although unfortunately I was driving so I couldn't take a photo. It was really dark orange, almost brown, but then with pinky bits higher in the sky. I already used a pink button in January so I went for the orange, luckily I have lots of buttons in my stash that I can choose from!

Sky Blanket progress in February

On the 7th February I looked out of the window to see an amazing sky, it was half blue, half grey, divided by a rainbow down the middle!

Sky Blanket progress in February

So for the first time I used two colours across my row. I started with grey and then made most of the row blue (as the sky was blue for much of the rest of the day) and then used some of my rainbow ribbon to mark the divide.

Sky Blanket progress in February

Then the next day was very windy when Storm Imogen hit us. Fortunately it passed without any major damage bar a knocked over plant pot, but it was definitely the windiest that I remember for a while. The wind also meant that the sky changed throughout the day from grey to blue. So I decided to try and mark it with a wavy stitch and did the first row in grey and the second in blue.

The grey row goes two double crochets, two trebles and one which I think is a double treble, then two trebles and two double crochets. Funnily enough I had exactly the right number of stitches in my row to fit it exactly, otherwise I would have just stopped half way through. Then the blue row is two double trebles, two trebles and a double crochet, then two more trebles and two double trebles. Basically filling in the gaps. It did mean that technically I had done two rows for the day, but I wanted to have the row complete. Perhaps if the next day had been light blue I would have counted it, but as the next day was dark grey I couldn't!

Over the February half-term we went away for a week to Center Parcs in Belgium. I debated bringing the blanket with me, but decided in the end to leave it behind, as it is starting to take up quite a bit of space along with all the different coloured balls of yarn. I missed it though! But while we were away we were treated to our only snow of the year!

Sky Blanket progress in February

It was just a sprinkling, but without any other prospect of snow, or at least not until much later this year, I did a snowy white row with groups of three half trebles.

Sky Blanket progress in February

And I was able to catch up with the blanket on the day that we returned!

Sky Blanket progress in February

The blanket is still feeling a little bit like a wide scarf at the moment, and I'm a bit worried that it's not wide enough for a blanket, although I've stretched it out across a single bed and it looks fine. But I'm looking forward to watching it grow and feel a bit more blanket like!

Sky Blanket progress in February

There was a group of us taking part in the Sky Blanket project throughout 2016, and you can find us across social media, in particular Instagram, using the hashtag #skyblanket2016. The project was started by Bug, Bird & Bee, The Boy and Me and You Little Sew and Sew.

If you aren't sure if a Sky Blanket is the project for you, you might like this blog post with some more ideas for a year long craft project.

With many thanks to Make it Coats for supplying me with the yarn for this project.

Friday 26 February 2016

VIP Accommodation at Center Parcs, Erperheide

Over February half-term we spent a second wonderful holiday at Center Parcs, Erperheide. You can read all about our first holiday at Easter last year, and about our second holiday to Center Parcs, Erperheide here. I also wanted to write a little review of our accommodation. I have had so many responses to my previous post and to my other social media updates, and it seems as though lots of people are interested in staying at a Center Parcs on the continent, so hopefully I can share some useful information.

Review of VIP Accommodation at Center Parcs, Erperheide, Belgium

The reason that we chose to visit a Center Parcs abroad is because although we have had some lovely holidays at Center Parcs in Elveden Forest and Longleat in the past, now that the children are at school we've found that the holiday prices for the UK parks are ridiculously high. If you book in advance, staying at a park on the continent is a great deal chaper, even once you've added in the cost of the Eurotunnel ticket and any extra petrol.

We chose Erperheide in Belgium because we didn't want too long a car journey once we'd reached Calais. The other park we've seen with a similar driving distance is De Vossemeren which we also hope to visit one day. We went for Erperheide in the end because the play facilities seem at the minute better suited to our little ones (aged 4 and just 7).

We have stayed in the same cottage on both of our holidays - Villa number 514. It's in a great location as it's close to the entrance and car park, and a few minutes walk from both the Market Dome (for the swimming pool) and the Baluba soft play centre. Because it's so central it does perhaps lose some of the forest isolation feeling, but it's perfect for us as we didn't have bikes and the children aren't up to too much walking. To secure our particular villa we used one of our Toppings vouchers - vouchers that you receive when you book your holiday that you can also use towards activities when you arrive.

VIP Cottage at Center Parcs Erperheide

It's a VIP cottage which is the most expensive, but we found that it was worth the small extra cost.

The main perks and extras for staying in a VIP Cottage are:

The cottage has a sauna and DVD player. The beds are made up and towels (two bath towels and two hand towels per person) are included (but you'll probably want to pack extra beach towels or similar for the swimming pool). In the kitchen there is a kitchen package containing a kitchen towel, tea towel, sponge, matches, cleaning cloths and three dishwasher tablets. There is also a small toiletries pack. The villa also comes with a canvas shopping trolley that you can use to bring purchases back from the shop on site (or carry anything else about with you!).

Living area at Center Parcs Erperheide

The biggest perks for us with the VIP package are free wi-fi for up to four devices during your stay (as we can't get free 3G in Belgium on our phone packages), and fresh bread rolls delivered daily. Every day at around 8am a carrier bag was delivered to our villa containing enough bread for us all for breakfast and lunch, often with some left over. There were always lots of  plain bread rolls, both soft and crispy ones. On a few days we received croissants and one day we had some lovely fruity bread. The leftovers went for feeding the ducks!

Bread delivery at Center Parcs

The VIP villas also seem to have nicer patio furniture outside and from looking around are perhaps a little more modern and more recently updated with regard to furnishings.

There is no daily cleaning service in the villa like there is in the UK parks (I believe that there is a weekly service if you are staying longer than a week). This means that the toilet roll and dishwasher tablets are not replenished, so you'll need to bring some with you or you can buy them at the local Lidl or the shop on site. You'll also need to bring washing up liquid for things that can't go in the dishwasher. It might be a good idea to take extra bin bags as the bin is small and you'll probably fill it up quickly. A large bin bag for recycling is provided, and the daily rolls are delivered in a carrier bag which you can reuse as bin bags.

I didn't really take any photographs of the accommodation on our first visit as it was always in such a mess! So this time I sneaked in first and snapped some quick photographs while the children were being unloaded from the car.

VIP Cottage at Center Parcs Erperheide in Belgium

There is no oven in the cottage but there is a hob with four gas rings and a fancy microwave which you can probably use to cook most things. There is a dishwasher and the kitchen is fully stocked with everything that you might need. There's a toaster, kettle and what seemed to be a couple of coffee machines (not my area of specialty!) There is a safe above the fridge/freezer. The only thing that I'd take if you had very little ones is some plastic plates and cups if they can't be fully trusted yet with glass and china.

The villa was always very warm and there are plenty of radiators. The bedrooms aren't very big with only narrow spaces around the sides of the beds. Both beds are also single beds pushed together, and although they have one fitted sheet they have two separate single duvets. The cottage is provided with a cot but it would be impossible to fit it into either bedroom with you, so it would have to go out in the living area.

VIP Cottage at Center Parcs Erperheide in Belgium

A tip when it comes to making a booking - register with the UK site but check out the prices on the websites from different countries as the prices do vary. We've found the French site to be the cheapest. If you register with the UK site your booking confirmations should be in English but some of your e-mails and welcome letter will be in the language of the country you booked via (and they will assume that you come from that country when they greet you!) Also book in advance for cheaper prices.

Accommodation at Center Parcs Erperheide

I'm very enthusiastic about Center Parcs, Erperheide as we've had such lovely holidays there, so I'm happy to answer any questions that you might have if I can. Please do leave a comment and I'll get back to you as quickly as I am able.

Center Parcs Erperheide VIP Accommodation

If you are interested in a holiday to Center Parcs, Erperheide, you may like to read my other posts:

First holiday to Center Parcs, Erperheide
Our second holiday to Center Parcs, Erperheide
Our third holiday to Center Parcs, Erperheide
VIP Accommodation at Center Parcs, Erperheide

Another Center Parcs in Belgium which we have visited is Center Parcs, De Vossemeren:

Our holiday to Center Parcs De Vossemeren
VIP Accommodation at Center Parcs, De Vossemeren

If you are looking for things to do in the area you might enjoy:

Plopsa Indoor, Hasselt
The Duinengordel dune belt

And finally I've also written a blog post with lots of tips and advice for visitors from the UK that are interested in staying at a Center Parcs in Belgium. 

We visited Center Parcs, Erperheide for a week during  February half-term 2016. We paid around £500 for our break, plus about £100 for the Eurotunnel crossing. 

Wednesday 24 February 2016

A day at Plopsa Indoor Hasselt

A family day out at Plopsa Indoor Hasselt

We've recently returned from our second stay at Center Parcs, Erperheide in Belgium, and this time we decided to venture off site and spend a day at Plopsa Indoor Hasselt. It's about half an hour drive from the park and we chose to visit on a Monday.

Plopsa Indoor Hasselt, Belgium

As the name suggests, most of the attraction is housed indoors in a large warehouse style building. But it has been decorated and themed wonderfully, and so it feels really welcoming and friendly, with lots going on and lots to see. Everything felt well maintained and the whole place was spotless.

It was a quiet day when we visited and so not all the attractions were open at the same time, but we just had to wait outside and someone would soon be over to open it, and it was great visiting when it was so quiet. We just kept an eye out to see what was open and rotated around. Harry is a bit timid when it comes to rides and he prefers the slower ones, and fortunately there were several that he enjoyed. Although even on the carousel he wanted to sit on one of the static seats! We had a nice ride on the top deck and it's a good spot to look out over the rest of the park.

Plopsa Indoor Hasselt, Belgium

Mia is a little more adventurous and happily tried out all the rides, loving every minute. There's a good selection including slower roundabout style rides, a rocking pirate ship, swinging chair ride and a small drop ride. The fastest ride is the Wickie Coaster which Mia really loved. All the rides were quiet enough that we could go round again and again without waiting.

Plopsa Indoor Hasselt, Belgium

Quite a large area forms a small indoor lake. Harry and Mia loved the raft that they could pull along themselves to go over the lake. I was a bit nervous at first as I had visions of them getting stuck in the middle and having to wade in and rescue them, but they worked it out brilliantly and spent ages going back and forth, giving each other rides!

Plopsa Indoor Hasselt, Belgium

Also on the lake were some little boats which I was quite relieved to find were for children only! This was Harry's absolute favourite activity, and he was able to spend as long as he liked powering himself about by turning the handles in the sides. There's a big play pirate ship in the water too and I could see that he was having a fantastic time imagining himself sailing about in the sea.

Plopsa Indoor Hasselt, Belgium

Nearby is an enormous ball pit which connects up to a large tree house themed soft play area that the children spent ages in. I couldn't really see what they were up to but it looked like a lot of fun!

Plopsa Indoor Hasselt, Belgium

Next door is the long wavy slide, one of the longest in the country, which goes from the top corner at the highest point almost all the way across the building. Great fun!

Plopsa Indoor Hasselt, Belgium

A couple of times during the day the Bumba show was performed, with separate shows in Dutch and French. We chose the Dutch show as I thought that I'd have a better chance of translating, but as it turned out I didn't need to, as it was very visual and the children easily understood what was going on. We aren't familiar with the Bumba clown character and to be honest it's probably aimed at children a bit younger than ours, but it was a sweet little show and they both enjoyed it, it was also nice to have a bit of a sit down after all their running about!

Plopsa Indoor Hasselt, Belgium

There are also a few attractions outside although they weren't all open as it was a cold day and it was pretty empty. We didn't stop outside for long but we did have a lot of fun on the climbing tower. It's a lot harder than it looks (I was the only one that managed to get to the top!)

Plopsa Indoor Hasselt, Belgium

We ended up staying for most of the day at Plopsa Indoor, and had a brilliant time. The children loved it, everything was perfectly suited to them with a good mix of rides and other attractions. The fact that it is mostly indoors is great for cooler and wet days and also gives a sense of security for parents as it's all enclosed. With slightly older children I would think that you could easily sit in the large cafe in the middle with a drink and let children roam around by themselves.

Plopsa Indoor Hasselt, Belgium

We'll definitely be coming back if we return to Center Parcs Erperheide!

Thank you to Plopsa Indoor Hasselt for providing us with complimentary entry in exchange for a review. Children under 85cm tall are free, children between 85cm and 1m are 9.99 Euros, and anyone over 1m is 18.75 Euros, or 17.75 if booked online. Parking is right outside and costs 6 Euros. Season tickets are also available, and it's something that we'd definitely consider if we were locals! 

Find out more information and opening times on the Plopsa Indoor Hasselt website.

Monday 22 February 2016

An A - Z of crafts that I'd like to try

Just for fun, I thought I'd make a list of some of the crafts that I'd like to try one day! Some of them I've dabbled in before, some are crafts where I have a specific project in mind, some are crafts that I've been wanting to try for a while and others are completely new!

An A to Z list of crafts that I want to try

Are any of these on your list?

A - Artist Trading Cards or ATCs - I've made these in the past and actually used to take part in postal swaps in the old days of Yahoo groups. If you aren't familiar with them they are small cards, sized for US baseball cards 64mm by 89mm. People turn them into miniature artworks, by drawing, painting, collage, textiles, all sorts creative things and then they are either kept or swapped. I'd like to have another go at making some.

B - Bead weaving - My Mum recently bought me a bead loom from Tiger, it looks quite fun and simple to try out.

Bead loom from Tiger

C - Cake decorating - I am very envious of people that make beautiful cakes for their families, like the amazing Minecraft cake below that my friend Debbie made for Harry. I've never used fondant icing, it's really something that I need to try.

Minecraft birthday cake

D - Drawing - I used to be quite good at drawing back in the days of A-Level art, something I should definitely have another go at.

E - Embroidery - I enjoy cross stitch but I've never tried any sort of embroidery that is a bit more open ended or involves learning to do different stitches. I really love the free embroidery that people do on sewing machines.

F - Felting - I'd been wanting to try needle felting for a while but I don't have the materials and to be honest I'm not really sure what I'd make, but I watched Kirstie Allsop doing it in her television programme once and I thought that it looked quite fun.

G - Glass - I've tried and enjoyed simple glass painting but I love the idea of making a stained glass window using pieces of coloured glass.

H - Hama beads - Of course regular readers will know that I'm quite prolific when it comes to crafting with Hama beads, but there are still lots of ways of using them that I'd like to try. In particular I'd like to try some 3D Hama bead creations.

I - Ink - I've never really tried working with inks but I've seem some lovely ink drawings that I'd like to try.

J - Jewellery making - I'd love to make myself some jewellery, perhaps a nice bracelet with lots of chunky beads on or some little earrings.

K - Knitting - I've had some success with knitting but never really been that good at it. It would be nice to improve my skills a little bit and maybe learn some different stitches.

L - Lampshade making - I'm not sure why lampshade making appeals, especially as we don't have many lamps in the house. I think I read an article once about a lampshade making course that inspired me.

M - Mosaic making - I often mention my mosaic kit which is waiting to be finished.

N - Nail art - As a teenager I used to love painting my nails, back when I had all that time to sit around and wait for them to dry. Things have moved on in the intervening years and there are all sorts of fun products around to make nail painting easier, as well as all sorts of tutorials and pictures to help with designs.

O - Origami - I've tried before but never really got on with it as I'm not very good at following the written instructions. But YouTube has shown me that there are all sorts of video tutorials about that I might find easier to follow.

P - Paper cutting - I love some of the detailed art work that you can make by cutting paper and mounting it on a contrasting coloured background.

Q - Quilling - Quilling is a very cheap craft to try and doesn't need much in the way of special materials but it looks as though you can get very creative with it. I'm just not sure what I'd do with the finished pieces, I think I'd want to make something larger rather than lots of tiny things.

R - Rag rug making - I started a rag rug many years ago but never got very far with it, now I have a little more patience I'd like to give it another go, just not sure I've got enough fabric!

S - Scrapbooking - I'm not sure it's as popular as it used to be, but years ago I used to stalk Scrapbooking forums even though I've never actually tried it in the proper way. I do make various journals and my smash book, but not really anything with actual photographs in it.

Smash book page Disney

T - Typography - I'd like to have a go at calligraphy, and also try some of those lovely posters that have different words in to make up pictures and so on.

U - Upcycling furniture - Nothing fancy, but maybe just painting some old bits of furniture that we have around to make them look a bit prettier.

V - Violin - Not a craft exactly, but I have my old violin sitting around upstairs and I really need to get it out and play it again, I used to be quite good!

W - Weaving - When I was little I remember making a little mat from weaving across a piece of cardboard and I really enjoyed it. A little while back I made a cardboard box loom for Harry and he loved it, we should do that again!

X - X stitch - I've done a fair bit of cross stitch in the past, like my vintage sampler, but one project that I'd really like to try is making up a family tree of my own design. It will be quite a big project though!

Three Things cross stitch sampler

Y - Yo Yo Quilt - A yo yo quilt is made using circles of fabric and I think that they look pretty cool, maybe one day I'll have enough fabric to make one!

Z - Zips - I'd love to make some little zippered pouches for storing things or taking on holiday but I've no idea where to start with putting a zip in, I'm sure I could learn!

So where should I start?

Friday 19 February 2016

Playing the piano

As a teenager I had piano lessons once a week. I enjoyed them very much, although my teacher was a little old-fashioned, so from memory I spent most of my time on our home piano playing sheet music that I had chosen myself! It had been years since I touched a piano, but I held on to all my music in the hope that one day I'd own one, and finally it's happened!

A couple of weeks ago we bought a digital piano - the Casio PX-860. Inspired by a small keyboard that we were given just before Christmas which Harry took to straight away, we decided that it would be great for him, and Mia too in time, to start piano lessons. I like to think that I'm quite musical and the children seem to be too, they can both sing in tune quite well and they have a definite interest in learning how to play.

Casio PX-860 digital piano

Of course the piano was for me as well, although it's been years since I last touched one. Digital pianos weren't around back when I was learning and so I was a little suspicious of them - I thought that they were basically large keyboards but with bigger keys and a nice wooden surround. So when we went along to a local piano shop to try one out I was very impressed. 

It looks and feels just like a real piano. The keys are weighted and you can alter the sound of the note by how you press the key - a gentle touch for a softer sound or a heavier touch for more emphasis. There's even a difference in how the keys feel on the very lowest and highest notes, just like a real piano. But digital pianos are guaranteed for years, don't need tuning, and although they are heavy they can be moved around the house fairly easily.

Playing a digital piano

I've really enjoyed getting out my collection of piano music. In the days before Amazon you were a little more limited in the type of sheet music that you could easily purchase. I can't remember exactly where I used to buy mine, it must have been in the local music shop, but I've got some great Britpop books as well as individual songs, and it's like a time capsule into my mid-teenage years. 

Collection of 90s sheet piano music

When I first sat down at the piano I was a little daunted by how much I'd forgotten. But after playing for a short while every day I'm surprised by how quickly it's all coming back to me, and I'm building up quite a repertoire of classic Oasis as well as a bit of Beethoven and Pachelbel. Even Ram has shown an interest in learning to play!

Did you learn a musical instrument when you were younger? Have you kept it up?

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Visiting The London Dungeons with small children

When we bought our Merlin passes at the beginning of the year, we knew which attractions would be most likely to interest our little ones, and to be honest the London Dungeon wasn't one that we'd really considered. We thought that at just 7 and 4 they were a bit too young and it's really recommended for ages 12 plus. But we had to collect our passes from the main desk there, which involved me and the children hanging around in the entrance for a little while. To my surprise Harry in particular was really interested and was desperate to visit straight away. We couldn't fit it in on that trip, so when we had a day out in London a couple of weeks ago we decided to see what they thought of it.

Visiting the London Dungeons with small children

Ram and I visited together a few years ago when it was in a different location. The format is still the same - you go around as a group through a series of different rooms which are hosted by actors, mostly playing historical characters, that give you some information about particularly gruesome parts of London's history. There are also plenty of special effects to bring it to life, and make you jump! I must admit that it's not a format that particularly appeals to me - I do spend the whole time hiding at the back hoping that I'm not going to be picked on!

We were in the first group of the day and although the visits are timed we were straight in. It was quite a large group and so sometimes it was a bit difficult to get near the front so that the children could see. I think because it was quite dark the other visitors couldn't necessarily see that there were small children there to let them through, and they were too nervous to head for the front without us. They were easily the youngest in the group, the only other children were older teenagers.

Visiting the London Dungeons with small children

There are a couple of rides on the tour. The first is The Tyrant - a boat ride which is a journey along the Thames to the Tower of London. Harry was a bit scared during this as it is very dark, and I think because the entrance is like a theme park ride he was expecting it to drop down a waterfall at any minute! But it's actually very tame, just a bit noisy. There is a height restriction on the ride, and guests smaller than 1 metre can't ride.

The second ride comes at the very end - Drop Dead: Drop Ride to Doom is a freefall drop ride. Unfortunately the minimum height restriction is 1.4 metres so the children weren't able to go on it (although to be honest I think we would have struggled as Harry in particular was looking pretty fearful as we approached). 

Visiting the London Dungeons with small children

My favourite room was the Ten Bells Pub, where the landlady told us all about Jack the Ripper with a few surprises along the way! Harry was particularly interested in the Guy Fawkes story and Mrs Lovett's pie shop, and Mia was just happy tagging along and taking it all in. There was lots to keep them interested, with the scary bits broken up by comedy. Although the children were a bit nervous at first, once they realised that it was only funny scary rather than dark scary they were fine.

The tour finishes in a recreation of an old pub, where you are given a token that you can exchange for a drink. We were first through as we'd skipped the drop ride so it was nice and empty, and a good opportunity to sit down for a rest while a piano played to itself next to us.

In general, as long as they were close to us, the children enjoyed the visit. They were a little scared of the dark and unexpected things jumping out at them, but nothing that will traumatise them for life. If we had been buying separate tickets then I would probably have waited until they were older so that they could get a little bit more out of the attraction, but as an extra Merlin pass activity I'm glad that we took them.

Photographs courtesy of London Dungeon. We visited using our Merlin passes. Entry prices start at £19.95 but if you are interested in visiting it's worth checking the website as there are lots of different ticket options available, including advance purchase tickets and combination tickets with other Merlin attractions.

Monday 15 February 2016

Ideas for a year long craft project

Ideas for a year long craft project

I'm really enjoying working on my Sky Blanket, a year long craft project where each day I'll crochet a row of a blanket inspired by the colour of the sky that day. It's also got me looking ahead to what I'll do when the blanket is completed, and thinking about other long term craft projects that focus on recording something about each day.

So I'm sharing some of the ideas that I've found in the hope that it might inspire both myself and others for a future project!

Sky Blanket

I worked on my Sky Blanket along with a group of other bloggers and crafters, sharing our progress across social media using #skyblanket2016. When planning my blanket I was very much inspired by the knitted blanket that I saw over at This Little Space of Mine - The Story of the Knitted Sky Blanket. Although mine is going to look quite different as it is crochet and stripy, it's lovely to see a completed blanket made by someone else in the UK, and this post has lots of fab in progress photographs.

Here's the finished blanket - it's fantastic!

Knitted Sky Blanket
Photo credit This Little Space of Mine
Weather Blanket

My sky blanket is fairly simple, mainly sticking to blues and greys, but I have loved seeing how creative some of the other participants are being, using all sorts of different shades that they've spotted in the sky, including sunrises, sunsets, and different stitches to reflect the texture of the sky. It made me think about how you could expand the theme to really try and capture the weather each day as well as the colour of the sky. For example, I love the idea of including a glittery yarn or thread to reflect rain, big puffy stitches for snow, yellow circles for sunshine, fluffy yarn for fog and so on.

The blanket below from Eclectic Enchantments is a brilliant example:

Textured Sky Blanket
Photo credit Eclectic Enchantments
Temperature Blanket

On a similar note, something that I am definitely considering making is a Temperature Blanket, or perhaps for a change of scale reducing the size and making a Temperature Scarf. I'd start by choosing a key with a different colour for temperature brackets, probably choosing the highest temperature each day or perhaps at a certain time each day. The thing that appeals to me about this project is that you an easily look up historical data, so if you miss a day then you can catch up. You could also even go back and knit or crochet a blanket based on a year in the past, perhaps the first year of a child's life or any other year with particular significance.

This is a useful blog post if you are considering a temperature blanket, including tips as well as a scale and pattern - Crocheted Temperature Blanket at Stitching in the Woods - and this is picture of her beautiful blanket so far:

Crocheted temperature blanket
Photo credit Stitching in the Woods
Mood Blanket

I also like the idea of using knitting or crochet to reflect my mood for the day, although I find that my mood changes so frequently it might be a little difficult to keep track of it! It looks as though the idea was started back in 2014 by Stacey Wentford-Hall, and you can read a great article about her and the group of crafters that completed a blanket back then - Crochet Mood Blanket 2014. If you search online there are some fab examples where crafters have not only completed a coloured square based on their mood, but also decorated the squares to incorporate other things that happened during the day.

Roll of the Die Afghan

With a Roll of the Die blanket you roll a die to decide the colour for each row, starting with a selection of six complementary colours. I like this idea for a truly random blanket or scarf.

Daily photography

Moving on from knitting and crochet, I do love the idea of taking a photo each day and there are various social media challenges which involve sharing a daily photo. I think that I'd also want a tangible reminder though, and so I'd get them all printed or made up into a photo book that I could look back on, probably with some text to explain why I'd chosen that picture along with when it was taken and who it featured.

Trying out a new technique every day or week to make a larger project

I quite like the idea of trying out something new everyday, and something that particularly appeals to me at the moment is trying a new knitting or crochet stitch each day and putting them all together to make something. I'd really like to attempt a new granny square pattern each day, or perhaps each week, then join them all together for a blanket.

Finishing up those works in progress

Finally, this would probably be more suited to a monthly challenge, but I'm sure that I could find at least 12 unfinished craft projects that I could schedule in, so that one would be completed each month!

I hope that I've shared some ideas to inspire!

You can also find some fantastic tips here - How to plan a year-long crochet temperature project - with valuable tips for all sorts of conceptual craft projects.

Have any of these projects inspired you? Or do you have any more ideas? I'd love to hear them!

Thursday 11 February 2016

Felt cut out Easter Card

Felt cut away Easter card

This month the theme for my Bostik Bloggers crafting box was Easter. With a card blank supplied, Mia and I decided that we would make an Easter card, and with a bit of help from me with the cutting she was able to put together a very sweet little card using shapes cut from foam and pink felt.

You need:

Craft foam
Craft knife and cutting mat
Coloured felt
Card blank and envelope
Washi tape
Other embellishments - flower stickers, buttons, sequins and so on
Bostik Fast Tak Multi-Purpose Spray Glue


Cut the craft foam into an Easter egg shape that will fit neatly onto the card blank. There are plenty of templates online that you can resize and print. Then cut a piece of felt to the same shape but very slightly smaller.

Let your child use a biro to mark out the areas that they would like you to cut away, then carefully use a craft knife or scalpel to remove them.

Felt cut away Easter card

Use the spray glue to stick the felt to the foam shape. Because the felt is porous you need to apply a first layer of glue and wait for a few minutes. Then apply a second layer to the felt and a layer to the foam, wait another couple of minutes, and press the surfaces together. Then use the spray glue to mount the Easter egg onto the card blank.

Decorate the card with washi tape and other embellishments, we used some lovely little fabric flower stickers, and you have a sweet little Easter card.

Felt cut away Easter card

The box of craft materials was provided to me free of charge by Bostik as part of the Tots 100/Bostik Craft Bloggers Club.

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Mother's Day 2016 crafts with Baker Ross

Mother's Day is a great opportunity for children to get creative and make their Mum a card or a gift, and Baker Ross has a huge selection of craft kits which children can use to make Mum something special. We were sent a few of them to try out, and here's how we got on.

Self Portrait pictures

We used some Self Portrait Blanks as the basis for the children to make a picture of themselves, which was a fun activity for a play date. I'm not sure why Mia saw herself with a purple face! These would also be great for a classroom where each child could make their own face and have them all displayed together on the wall. Then you could write a message to Mum on the back.

Wooden key holders

I've always found key holders to be a really practical way to keep keys stored safely, and I love how these Flower Wooden Key Holders can be personalised to make a lovely, useful gift. As there were three we made one each, mine for the kitchen and the children made one each for their bedrooms to use for hanging up some of their smaller treasures.

We started by painting the wooden key holders, using a mixture of acrylic and poster paints. The poster paint needed a second coat to avoid it looking streaky. Then when they were dry we decorated them with felt tip pens.

Painted wooden keyring holder from Baker Ross

I think that we all did a brilliant job, it was nice to have a go at doing some of the crafts myself for a change!

Melted bead tray

Melted fuse bead tray for holding small items

I'm quite an expert when it comes to fuse beads, so I was interested to see how the Baker Ross Flower Fuse Bead Kits worked out. Unfortunately I'm afraid that we didn't have a lot of success with them when used in the proper way with a pegboard, being made of cheaper plastic they were quite slippery and fiddly to use, and not as good as the branded beads. Possibly I'm a bit too fussy, as I've seen pictures of other people using them without any trouble.

However we were still able to put the beads themselves to good use in a simple but effective craft project - making a fuse bead tray. It's very easy to do, all you need is an oven proof container the same size as the tray or bowl that you want to make. Give it a light coating with some oil then place the beads inside so that they form a single layer across the bottom of the container and as far up the sides as you like. Make sure that there are no gaps between the beads. If you want you can place them all facing the same way, or perhaps try to create different patterns or groups of colours.

Child crafting with melted Hama beads

Then place into the oven at around 180C for about five minutes, keeping a close eye on it while it's in there. The beads will start to melt and the holes in them will get larger. Take it out and leave it to cool before removing the beads. They should pop out easily, and when they have cooled completely you will be left with a sturdy bowl. Any loose beads can be secured with a quick dab of white glue. My new tray will take pride of place on my desk!

I received these products as a member of the Baker Ross Bloggers Network.

Monday 8 February 2016

Ideas for a themed Minecraft party

The other week Harry turned 7, and for his party this year I offered to host a Minecraft themed party. He was delighted with the idea, and so I did the best that I could to give him a fun party! It was the first time that we'd held a party for friends at our house so I was a little bit daunted, especially when we ended up with 16 children coming round, but it went really well, I had some great helpers, and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Ideas for a themed Minecraft party

The planning started well before Christmas when I began coming up with ideas for Minecraft party bags. I was a little stumped at first, but once I got started I came up with lots of ideas, so many that you can find them all in a separate post - ideas for Minecraft party bag fillers.

Ideas for a themed Minecraft party

The day before, we began decorating. I saw these fab balloon and crepe paper spiders over at Adventure Mummy and made one for the hallway and one over our fireplace.

Ideas for a themed Minecraft party

I also bought green crepe paper in two different shades and cut long strips which I hung from our living room and study doors to make vines. These were very popular and after the party have been transferred to the children's bedrooms where they are still hanging! On the door you can also see the fab Minecraft pig which my friend's husband printed out for us. We used him to play Pin the Tail on the Pig with named strips of pink paper. I also hung bunches or green and black balloons around the house.

Ideas for a themed Minecraft party

The part of the party that I found the most difficult was coming up with games to play. As well as the Pin the Tail on the Pig I did a pass the parcel and I made up a scavenger hunt by printing out and laminating Minecraft pictures which the children had to find hidden around the house. This was really popular!

We also played the chocolate game, where the children sit in a circle around a bar of chocolate and take it in turns to roll dice. If they rolled a six they had to put on a hat, scarf and gloves, then use a knife and fork to eat as much chocolate as they could. They managed really well with it!

I also printed out some Minecraft colouring sheets and left them on the coffee table with some colouring pencils and crayons (not felt tips!) and they were really popular. In our downstairs study I put out our large boxes of Lego and Duplo and this was also a good idea. It gave some of the quieter little ones somewhere that they could retreat to if they needed some peace.

For food and drink I went for standard party buffet fare. I did buy some cookies as I know that they are in Minecraft, and I also found some boxes of snacks in little block shapes like flapjacks which fitted the theme.

For the birthday cake, my friend made Harry this magnificent Minecraft cake. It's covered in little squares of fondant and it must have taken her ages! On top of the cake is a little Minecraft figure which fitted perfectly.

Ideas for a themed Minecraft party

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