Monday 30 October 2017

Blog post ideas for Winter

As the nights draw in and the chill descends, are you looking to fill your blog editorial calendar over the winter months? Here's some inspiration to help you through! Do note that I've avoided any mention of Christmas...that's a whole other blog post!

* What do you love about winter?

* What do you hate about winter?

* How do you know that winter is on the way?

* Where is your favourite place for a frosty Winter walk?

* Share a recipe for your favourite winter meal or comfort food

* Share your favourite warming winter drinks

* How do you make your home cosy for winter?

* What are your favourite winter outfits - share your cosy knitwear picks

* Do you decorate your home for winter, not just Christmas? Share your ideas and inspiration

* What are your winter family traditions?

* Share some favourite winter family films to snuggle up together with

* What is your winter travel wish list? (you can see my winter travel wishlist here!)

* Share your favourite winter memories - is it just me, or did it snow every year when I was little? I have many fond memories of being taken to school on a sledge and building enormous snowmen.

Small children nearly in the snow

* Tips for keeping warm, both at home and out and about

* Write a winter themed poem or short story to share on your blog

* Share your top winter gear picks for the family - snowsuits, wellies, hats and so on

* Cheer yourself up with some sunny memories - share some pictures from your last summer holiday and share plans for the next one

* If you have a few winter themed posts from previous years then combine them into a round up - for example crafts, recipes, days out

* Did you write any blog posts over the last year that could do with an update? For example a home renovation project, moving house, a new addition to the family

* Write about a television series or two that you've been binge watching lately

* What do you do in that period between Christmas and New Year?

* What are your New Year's resolutions and goals? How did the ones from last year go?

* Do you have any New Year's decluttering or organising tips to share?

* What were your top performing blog posts of the last year?

* What were your favourite blog posts from the last year?

* What projects do you have lined up for the year ahead? A list of unfinished craft projects, any DIY that needs to be done around the house?

* Looking a little way ahead, perhaps you have some Chinese New Year or Valentine's Day posts that you could start to write - recipes, crafts and so on.

If you've enjoyed this post, you may like some of my other lists of blog post ideas:

Blog post ideas for craft bloggers
Blog post ideas for travel bloggers
Blog post ideas for Spring
Blog post ideas for Summer
Blog post ideas for Autumn
Blog post ideas for Christmas

Finally, I've gathered many of these ideas together to form an entire year of blog post inspiration!

Image credit Ryan Pohanic via Unsplash

Friday 27 October 2017

Collecting stickers

Last month I was playing the Minimalism Game again, and found myself hunting through forgotten cupboards and shelves on my discarding mission. As part of the process I unearthed a treasured possession - my old sticker album - and I thought I'd share some pictures with you! By co-incidence, on the same day over on Twitter I spotted a post from Bugs and Fishes sharing a sticker album that looks remarkably similar, so do head over there for more vintage sticker love!

Vintage school sticker collection album

You'll notice that I've written my class on the front of the album, because it was taken into school to swap with my friends. From memory the entire class joined in, and values were quickly assigned to stickers according to how rare and desirable they were. I was in Year 8 when I was sticker swapping, so around 12 to 13 years old - I wonder whether young teenagers today are still into swapping stickers, I'm not sure!

My vintage sticker collection in an album

My favourite stickers were probably the furry ones. When I bought my stickers they were sold on rolls, from which you could tear off individual perforated sheets. Each sheet measured around 5cm square and held four or five smaller stickers, or sometimes a sheet held one larger individual sticker. Usually each sheet on the roll was the same, but sometimes there were different stickers alternating. I seem to remember each sheet costing about 10p, perhaps 20p for the special ones, and I would buy several sheets at a time with my pocket money. 

My vintage sticker collection in an album

There was a particular gift shop in the town where my Grandma lived which was a great source of stickers, because they were different to the ones in my home town. When we went to visit I would try and make a special trip, and usually bought a couple of each sheet, one for me and one for swapping. Some of the girls brought in entire rolls of stickers that they had somehow acquired, so these were all shared around. You'll notice a few stickers above and below with Trolls on - another craze going on at the same time!

My vintage sticker collection in an album

My preferences changed at some point towards the foil ones. One a later page of my album I've stuck in some more recently that the children were given, and that I couldn't resist adding to my collection!

My vintage sticker collection in an album

When Harry was a toddler I ended up with lots of packets of emergency vehicle stickers. We used them for crafting when he was little, and I stuck some of my favourites into the album to keep as a memento. The stickers below are pearly ones that I was also rather fond of, and I think you'll see that overall I was particularly drawn towards cute animal stickers!

My vintage sticker collection in an album

The children love looking through my album, although I'm on edge when they have it, as it's rather delicate now. Mia has her own sticker album but it's not a very good quality one, I need to see if you can still buy something similar to these. Perhaps she can start her own sticker swapping craze at school!

Did you have one of these albums when you were at school? Are you like me and tempted to start up sticker collecting again?

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Finding my restorative niches

A few years ago I shared a book that made a huge impression on me - Quiet by Susan Cain. Something that has stuck with me was the concept of the restorative niche - a term for the place that you go when you want to return to your true self. It can be either a physical location that you visit, or a temporal one, a way of taking a break from what you are doing. In particular, it's a way for introverts to recharge.

I find that I get very tired when I'm around lots of people, even when they are good friends and family, and I need time to myself in my head where I can switch off from everything. In the past I would turn to a book but I've found lately that mindlessly scrolling through social media on my phone serves much the same purpose - I need to redirect myself back to a book so at least it feels a bit more productive!

Things are much easier now that the children are at school and I have time to myself during the day. I find it very difficult when they are both around even if they are occupying themselves, I am on edge all the time as things can descend into chaos very quickly. During the weekdays I can take plenty of time to myself which helps my mental health considerably.

I've always enjoyed walking, and where I can I'll walk instead of driving. I find that with no distractions my thoughts can run free, and I can work through problems or make plans. Going for a run is similar, except my thoughts tend to turn to working out how much longer I need to keep running for and whether to take a shortcut or not! Swimming is great for switching off too, especially when the pool isn't too busy and I don't have to concentrate on picking a path through other swimmers.

In terms of a physical location that act as a restorative niche for me, it has to be the sea. Whether a windswept pebbly beach near our home or a sandy tropical paradise, I love walking along hunting for treasures in the seaweed or just staring out to sea watching the waves. I'm very lucky that we live so close to the coast and I can visit pretty much whenever I want!

Worthing beach at sunrise

As Harry gets older I've started to notice my traits in him. When we get home from a play date or a long day out, he'll disappear off by himself for some quiet time. He'll either be sitting putting some Lego together and whispering to himself under his breath, or hidden away somewhere with his book. I've learned to build restorative niches into his day if we are out and about - for example taking a book along with us if we are going somewhere busy like a wedding or a party that lasts longer than a couple of hours and finding him a quiet corner to tuck himself away.

Do you feel the same? How do you build restorative niches into your day?

Monday 23 October 2017

How I use Trello to plan a holiday

As I've mentioned here before, I'm a big fan of Trello for planning projects, using Trello as a blogger and also to organise the rest of my life. We have a big trip coming up towards the end of the year, and I thought I'd share how I have been using Trello to plan the things that we want to do and see.

Using Trello to plan a holiday

I began by creating a new board for the holiday, and activated the Calendar Power Up. You do this by Selecting 'Show Menu' on the right, select 'Power-Ups' and scroll down to find 'Calendar'. Click Enable and the calendar will be added. Now when you are on the main board screen you will see the 'Calendar' option in the top right. Clicking here will open a calendar, which will display the cards which have been allotted a Due Date.

I started by creating a list for Fixed Dates. Here I entered in the details of our flights, setting the Due Date for the date of arrival or departure and adding in the times. In the comments I entered the airport names and addresses, flight numbers, and any other important information. This meant that when I looked at the board in Calendar view I could see the days that we would be travelling and know which dates were free.

Then I created a second list for Accommodation Details. I made a card for each hotel, and in the comments I added reference numbers, addresses, and any other relevant information.

This holiday is a two stop trip, with a week in Hong Kong and a week in Singapore. To start my planning I created a card for each location called Hong Kong - General things to do and Singapore - General things to do. I began to do my research about the things that we wanted to do, and added in some notes into the comments box.

I had soon built up a selection of different attractions and I was able to see which ones would occupy us for an entire day and which could be combined with others close by. I discovered that two museums we are keen to visit in Hong Kong are free on Wednesdays and can be combined to fill a day. So I created a new card for the museums and gave it a Due Date of the Wednesday that we will be in Hong Kong. We are planning two days at Disneyland Hong Kong, so I created two cards, one for Day 1 and one for Day 2. I researched the best days to visit and gave each card a Due Date, so my Hong Kong plan was beginning to fall into place.

So far I have one more fixed date for the Singapore part of our holiday, so again I created a new card for the Singapore Science Centre and assigned the Due Date.

Trello holiday planning calendar view

As you can see, the calendar view is really useful for planning the individual days of a trip. If you change your mind, you can drag the cards around while you are in this view and the Due Date will change accordingly.

Then I moved on to creating separate cards for each attraction or group of attractions, stored under separate lists for Hong Kong and Singapore. I still kept the general cards, and I'm using them to note down things that it would be nice to do if we find the time. I've also created a new list for Dining that I'm looking to my husband to fill - along with the children he's a bit of a fussy eater so I'm hoping that he's going to do some research and find some places that are going to be suitable! He'll create a new card for each one, and in the comments we can store information about address and opening times.

I've brightened the list view up a bit by finding some suitable images to drop in so I can see it all at a glance! All you need to do is copy and paste the image into the comments. As we start to firm up our planning I'll allocate a Due Date to each attraction so that they appear on the calendar. Behind each card I've stored further information, for example location, opening times, prices, booking references, and any other useful information.

Trello holiday planning list view

Trello can be easily accessed using the app, so I'll make sure that we both have it installed and logged in on our phones and on any tablets that we take with us. I will also copy and paste some of the information out to print so that we have a hard copy - I still don't trust technology 100%!

I hope that this post has inspired you to give Trello a go when it comes to organising your next holiday or project - there are so many different ways that you can customise it to find a way that works for you!

If you want to read about how I use Trello in other areas of my life you might enjoy these posts:

How I use Trello as a blogger
How I use Trello to organise my life

Sunday 22 October 2017

Book review - The Line by Keri Smith

I always love a creative challenge, so I was delighted to accept a copy of the latest book from Keri Smith to review - The Line (affiliate link). I've had a lot of fun working with one of her previous books, Wreck This Journal, and so I knew it would be the kind of thing I'd enjoy.

Book review - The Line by Keri Smith

The premise of the book is very simple. Take a pencil and start at the beginning with a line. You just go through the pages one at a time, taking your line with you.

The Line book by Keri Smith

The book starts off simply as you get used to the process, moving the pencil slowly, quickly and in different directions, following the instructions as you go. There's plenty to read as well to make you think, and the whole process is very relaxing.

The Line book review by Keri Smith

Some of the pages can be completed quickly, but as you progress further into the book you need to stop and think a little more and the tasks become more interesting. I have a little way to go with the book yet, and I'm really interested to find out where my line will take me!

I received a copy of this book to review.

Friday 20 October 2017

Personalised letters and videos from Santa with Elfi Santa

Christmas might seem a little way away yet, but it won't be long before the season is in full swing. I love the build up to Christmas, we do lots of crafting and baking along with festive days out, it's a really special family time. As a parent, it's really fun to be able to be able to add a little more magic for the children, and there are lots of ways that you can do this.

One fantastic way would be to treat your child to a letter or video direct from Santa which is completely personalised to them - and Elfi Santa have been working with Santa since 2013 to bring smiles to lots of small faces at Christmas time!

A Standard Letter from Santa via Elfi Santa currently costs just £3.99. There are 28 templates on the website that you can use to give you a start, and then each one can be edited, not just with a few details about the child - you can change the entire text of the letter. You can add extra details, for example things that your child has done well this year, write about their hobbies or particular achievements at school, or you can write the letter as a reply to one that they have sent to Santa themselves.

There are even some suggested letter templates that you can use after Christmas, and some which are aimed at adults. The letter will be printed on themed writing paper with a hand-pressed gold stamp and can be delivered anywhere in the world. You can also upgrade to the Gold Letter which offers additions such as a postcard or sticker for the door.

Elfi Santa personalised letter from Santa

To really bring the magic of Christmas alive, you can also create a personalised Santa Claus Video for your child. There are four different video templates that you can choose from, costing £12.99 or £7.99 if you choose a video for an adult. Santa will greet your child by name, and you can personalise the video in many more ways depending on the theme that you've chosen, for example you can add photographs of the child, of their house or their gift, their age, and whether they have been good or bad. You can also make a short free video for your child and there is the option of a joint video for two children.

A video from Santa would be perfect for a child that is starting to waver when it comes to Father Christmas, or perhaps a child that needs a little extra motivation to behave well in the run up to Christmas!

If you are visiting here from the US, you can find the sister website for US customers here - Elfi Santa

This is a collaborative post. Prices correct at time of publishing.

10 + things to pack for a long haul flight with children

Flying long haul with young children? It's not something that many people relish. As survivors of several long flights with little ones, I thought I'd share some things to pack that make the whole experience that bit easier. This list is intended for those with children that are past the nappies and bottles stage, but not yet able to occupy themselves independently for a whole flight.

Ten plus things to pack for a long haul flight with small children

A rucksack. We've experimented with numerous carrying options, and have had most success with a small zip up rucksack for each child. They fit easily under the seat in front allowing easy access, and a child can carry it safely around the airport.

Teddy or comforter. Far too valuable to be placed in the hold luggage, and very useful if you are hoping that your child will sleep on the plane.

Sleepwear and a spare top. I always pack sleepwear for the children in hand luggage. It means that if we arrive at night time, whether planned or unplanned, I can get the children ready for bed straightaway without having to hunt through suitcases. A spare top is always useful for any accidents, or if your luggage goes astray.

A water bottle. We take empty bottles that we can fill up once we have passed security. Just be careful when you open them for the first time on the plane as sometimes the pressure build up can cause them to leak.

Plenty of snacks. Ideal snacks don't take up much space, won't melt, are durable, won't leak, don't mind being squashed, and are filling. I like to take chewy bars, breadsticks, raisins, Cheerios and so on, and I also make up their usual packed lunch with sandwiches and so on that they can eat along with their first meal (ours are never keen on the airline food). Lollipops are also good, and children can suck on them during take off and landing if they are having trouble with their ears.

Tablets and headphones. On an long haul flight you'll likely have some kind of in-flight entertainment, and it's worth first steering children towards that, so that you can save your batteries. But it's also good to have something on hand that you know will entertain your children, so load it up with some of their favourite films and television programmes.

A notepad and pens. I'm a bit wary of taking too many pens and pencils on a plane, as they inevitably end up dropped on the floor and are difficult to retrieve. But plenty of plain paper is a must - you can encourage the children to write a holiday diary, or else there are lots of pen and paper games that you can play together. You can also add a few colouring or activity books, I have a selection that only come out for holidays. I'll also sometimes treat the children to a magazine of their choice at the airport, bonus if you can find one with a free toy!

Card games. We have a few favourite card games that we take away with us, Dobble and Top Trumps are excellent, or else just a simple pack of playing cards. These are better for older children that have the dexterity to keep hold of the cards without spilling them everywhere.

A travel pillow or cushion. Airlines will often provide these, along with a blanket, but they aren't always very comfortable. For our latest trip we've bought some neck pillows for the children that will support their heads and keep them snug.

Baby wipes and tissues. It's much easier to mop up your own spillages than to have to wait for a busy crew member to bring you some napkins! You probably won't need to cart about a whole pack of baby wipes, but it's handy to decant a few into a plastic bag just in case.

Plastic carrier bags. Always useful, for collecting rubbish, storing dirty clothes, or just corralling things together if you run out of space.

Books. When children are on to chapter books you can save a lot of space, as one book will entertain them for longer than a toddler's picture book. They are also good for waiting around at the airport for a short period, when you don't want to be unloading tablets and headphones.

What else would you pack? Add your suggestions into the comments below!

Image credit Beasty via Unsplash.

Wednesday 18 October 2017

After school clubs and downtime

As a young teenager I was very busy. Most days I would have some kind of club or activity at lunch time, after school, and then often in the evening too. I'm very glad that I had so many opportunities for activities that broadened my horizons and introduced me to new opportunities. In particular at school I was involved in musical activities - instrument lessons, orchestra, choir and so on, and I have fond memories of the shows that I performed in and the trips that I went on.

However I did always feel that my days were very full, and I remember the feeling of relief if an activity was cancelled, and the joy of some unexpected free time. My children are still young, and since they were babies I've always been reluctant to sign them up for too many clubs and classes as I know that they need time to themselves as well.

So at the moment sometimes I feel that they are woefully under scheduled compared to their playmates. They both have a swimming lesson after school once a week, and Harry has a weekly after school piano lesson. This year Harry has joined the school choir and Mia has begun a Speech and Drama club, luckily both of these clubs take place at lunchtimes and need little involvement from me.

This term Harry has also signed up for a Creative Writing club after school. I'm really glad that he's interested, and he certainly has a talent for writing, but it does mean a long day for him. Mia started an after school sports club last term and we had to stop because she was just too tired, she would come home in tears.

I really treasure the two afternoons a week when we have no activities after school and can just come home, get the children changed (often straight into their pyjamas!) and they can play together for a little while before dinner. It's one of the reasons that I'm terrible at organising playdates - I'm very protective of our free, unscheduled time after school.

Child with a piano exam certificate

As they get older they will have even more opportunities offered to them, and along with peer pressure I'm sure they are going to want to do more and more. I want to encourage them of course but I'll just try and be mindful that they aren't ending up too busy and still have plenty of time to relax!

How do you balance offering your child enriching activities, and letting them have time to just chill out at home?

Monday 16 October 2017

How I use Trello to organise my life

I like to think I'm an organised person. I am generally on top of what needs to be done and when, and I like to work ahead of myself by writing lists and making plans to help keep things under control. I wrote a blog post recently about how I use Trello as a blogger, and I thought I'd expand on that with how I also use Trello to organise some of the other aspects of my life.

How I organise my life using Trello

Trello is an online organisational tool that uses cards, lists and boards to keep track of individual tasks and projects. I have lots of boards, some which are in regular use and some that I open less frequently. I'm always creating new boards for things that I'm working on, and I have shortcuts on my bookmarks bar for those that use most often.

The board that I open first every day is my To Do board. I use this board every evening to create my to do list for the next day. Each task is represented by a card. I have a number of tasks relating to my blog and social media that I carry out daily, and these are coded with an orange label. Daily housework tasks have a yellow label, and blog related tasks have a blue label. Anything with no label is a one off task, and I delete it when I've done it.

I have daily and weekly lists. At any one time I usually have a daily list for the current day and the following day, and a weekly list for the current week and the following week. When I've completed a recurring task I drag it across to either the next day or the next week. On a Sunday evening I'll set up the next weekly list.

I create additional lists as I need them, for example I currently have a list for things that I need to do before we go away in a few weeks, and a list of things that I'll need to schedule in for when we get back. I also have some general monthly lists for tasks that aren't urgent. Obviously my lists are personal and represent what works for me, but here's a sample!

Using Trello to organise my life - sample screen shot

You may notice that I have a counter next to the list title showing how many cards are in this list. This is a Google Chrome extension called CardCounter that I have installed, I find it really helpful. You may also notice that next to the name of the board it says 'Jain Team' rather than my name. This is because it is a shared board with my husband so that in theory I can allocate tasks to him, although in reality he doesn't pay much attention!

I also have lists elsewhere on my board for short term and long term projects, as well as crafty ideas that I want to try sometime, and lists for other things as they come up, for example ideas for the school holidays or books that I want to read.

I find it really helpful to work through my lists, and really satisfying to delete and drag away cards as I finish a task. I hope that this post has inspired you to give Trello a go, I really do find that it helps me!

If you want to see how I also use Trello elsewhere in my life you might enjoy these posts:

How I use Trello to plan a holiday
How I use Trello as a blogger

Saturday 14 October 2017

Celebrating Halloween with young children

Celebrating Halloween has definitely changed from when I was little! We had no build up to Halloween, no shops full of themed food, decorations and costumes. All that happened was on Halloween evening we shut all the curtains, and ignored the door bell if it rang. I don't ever remember dressing up myself or taking part in any kind of Halloween themed activity.

Celebrating Halloween with young children

These days you can't avoid Halloween, and it's become a really fun celebration. There are so many things that you can do with little ones, and so I thought I'd share some ideas.

Staying at home

When my children were younger we always had Halloween fun at home. I would do a few crafts with them, like toilet roll tube Halloween creatures, and we had some hand-me-down costumes that I put them in. There are lots of different ways that you can teach children how to make a monster, and they don't have to be at all scary. There are also lots of alternative Halloween ideas which don't involve leaving the house.

Related post - Hama bead crafts for Halloween

When the children were a bit bigger I organised a small Halloween party at home. If you want to really impress them you can find lots of Halloween decorating tips here, and the shops are full of creepy accessories. I kept the food simple with some Halloween themed cakes and biscuits but you can really go to town and there are some fab ideas for Halloween food, like these awesome witch fingers.

Food ready for a Halloween party

Going out Trick or Treating

I was always totally against the idea of taking the children out trick or treating until we moved to a new estate and saw what a big deal it was. Hundreds of children around here go out, supervised by their parents, and lots of houses make a real effort to join in. People really welcome the children with some amazing and creative decorations, and people are quite happy to ignore the houses that don't want to take part.

Children dressed up for Halloween

Celebrating further afield

Many local attractions will have some kind of special activities going on for Halloween. The big theme parks run events that last for weeks, like Legoland Halloween, and are very popular. A few years ago we were lucky enough to be able to go to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Disney World Resort in Florida and it was fantastic. But if you can't get that far there's bound to be a local farm or school which have something going on - even our gym is hosting a Halloween party!

Disneyworld decorated for Halloween

I hope that I've whetted your appetite for some Halloween fun this year! If you are still looking for some more inspiration, you might enjoy this A-Z of Halloween with even more craft and recipe ideas.

Thursday 12 October 2017

A menagerie of stuffed animals

A couple of years ago for Christmas we bought Mia a doll. It was a fancy one with batteries, she sucked from a bottle and cried with real tears. We thought that she'd love it, as she's always shown motherly tendencies, but after the initial excitement she didn't show much interest.

It turned out that she would rather demonstrate her maternal instincts towards her ever increasing collection of stuffed animals. We have them stored in a drawer in her wardrobe, in a cardboard zoo themed box on her bookshelf, and alongside her in her bed. She has so many there that when I go to tuck her in at night she has often half fallen out, evicted from her own bed by a huge pile of cuddlies.

Stuffed toys in a zoo themed box

She has a stuffed toy to represent animals from across the animal kingdom, which comes in very handy on school dress up days when a particular creature is needed to supplement a costume. She has also adopted my own remaining stuffed toys, including some Beanie Babies that I collected at a time when we all thought they'd be worth something someday. I hope they won't be, because they are certainly no longer in mint condition!

Occasionally when I'm having a sort out I skim a few off that I've not seen her play with for a while and hide them in my wardrobe. Generally she's asked for them back within days. She maintains an encyclopedic knowledge of her collection, she can remember where they came from or who gave them to her, their names, and also their likes and dislikes.

It wasn't until this summer that we introduced her to Build a Bear, and I'm not quite sure how we managed to keep her away for so long. She spent some of her own pocket money on her first bear, and then she acquired a second on a more recent trip with Ram (who having seen her devotion towards the first, spoiled her with a second).

Child reading a book to her teddy bear

This new bear ('Fluffy') has become her constant companion, and in lieu of receiving the class bear to bring home she has been taking photographs of Fluffy around the house, printing them out, and writing about him in a notebook.

She has also encouraged Harry to appreciate and grow his own collection. Previously he was content with just Giraffe, now he also has his own small band of furry friends that accompany him to bed at night. Counted among their number are two large fluffy slippers, that he would rather cuddle at night than wear on his feet.

I love seeing Mia's devotion to her little animal friends, and the imaginative games that she plays with them. I'll be very sad indeed when this stage of her childhood is over, although I'm sure she'll continue to treasure them all for some time yet!

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Firework crafts for Bonfire Night

Remember remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot....

Firework crafts for children for Bonfire Night

Are you looking for some firework crafts to entertain the children while you wait until the evening fireworks, or prefer a warmer and quieter alternative to hanging around to watch a display? You are in the right place! Here's a selection of simple firework crafts and activities that you can do with young children.

First up, why not make your very own Fireworks display in a box. The fireworks will last a lot longer than when they are in the sky, and you can get really creative with different sparkly materials to make your own display.

Firework display in a box craft

Very young children might be too little to take out to watch fireworks, but you can still have fun at home with a Firework themed sensory tub. All you need is a base material - I used dyed black rice - and some sparkly and fun accessories. Add a couple of spoons and some divided containers and the children will be kept busy for ages. Just remember to pop down an old table cloth or similar to try and contain the mess!

Firework themed sensory tub for toddlers

A slightly messier craft, but a lot of fun, are these Paper plate glitter fireworks paper plate glitter fireworks. Paint the paper plates black to make a background and add some coloured sparkly glue. Then drip white glue onto the plate to form a firework shape, and sprinkle liberally with glitter to make your fireworks. They look great hung up on a wall or window!

Paper plate glitter fireworks craft

Finally, you could make some cardboard tube fireworks. Cover some old cardboard tubes with black paper and fill with some pipe cleaner fireworks for a brilliant table centrepiece or decoration. It's really easy to make, and children can have lots of fun customising their fireworks.

Cardboard tube firework craft

I hope I've inspired you to get crafting this Bonfire Night!

Monday 9 October 2017

Cardboard tube firework craft

I decided that with Bonfire Night not too far away I'd use some glittery cardboard, foam stars and sequins to make a simple firework craft.

Cardboard tube firework craft main

You need:

Cardboard tubes
Black paper, even better if it has sparkly bits in it!
Coloured pipe cleaners
Star foam stickers, or you can make your own cutouts from coloured cardboard
Black tissue paper
Bostik White Glu
Bostik Glu Dots

Materials to make cardboard tube fireworks


First cover your cardboard tubes in black paper. Cut a piece of the paper to size then glue firmly in place with the Bostik White Glu. As the paper that I used to cover the tubes was quite thick, I also secured the ends in place with a couple of staples to make sure that it was held in place. You might want to use paper clips around the top and bottom while the glue dries to keep it all in place.

Glittery cardboard tubes and pipe cleaner fireworks

Then prepare your fireworks. I found that a length of pipe cleaner about 15cm long worked well for each firework. I used pipe cleaners in red, orange and yellow but any colours would do, and sparkly ones would look fantastic! Use a Bostik Glu Dot to firmly stick the foam stars to the ends of the pipe cleaners. I find that the Glu Dots work really well on the pipe cleaners as they stick firmly to the textured surface.

Bostik Glu Dots for crafting

Then use some tape to secure your pipe cleaner fireworks inside the cardboard tube. Try and position them at different intervals and heights to add a bit of interest. Then scrumple up some black tissue paper and stuff it into the top of the tube to hide the ends of the pipe cleaners. Finally finish off your firework craft with some sequins glued to the outside of the tube with some White Glu.

Cardboard tube firework craft tutorial

These cardboard tube fireworks make a great Bonfire Night decoration, and you could use them as a fantastic table centerpiece for your Bonfire Night party!

If you are looking for firework crafts, you might enjoy some of my other crafts:

Fireworks display in a box
Paper plate firework craft
Firework themed sensory tub

The box of craft materials was provided to me free of charge by Bostik as part of the Tots100/Bostik Craft Bloggers Club.

Saturday 7 October 2017

BritMums Live 2017 #BML17

At the weekend I attended the BritMums Live blogging conference, marking the fifth time that I've attended. I've always enjoyed myself and found the conference really helpful and inspiring, so I was very excited to be able to come along again. This year there were some significant changes to the event, with a new date and a new venue on the Southbank and with a much smaller and more intimate feel. It was also the first time that I didn't stay overnight - with Ram's birthday the next day I didn't really feel able to, so I just travelled up for the day - made much easier by the fact that Waterloo station is a much more straightforward train journey for me!

As part of the BritMums team I helped out with registration, which was fun as I was able to see people arriving and match some faces to names. There was a full breakfast spread on offer, and plenty of mingling.

BritMum's Live 2017 badge

For the last few years I've spent most of my BritMums Live time chatting, and then ending up forgetting to attend any of the sessions. With a smaller event and a smaller brand hub there was less to distract me, and so I made much better use of my time.

After arrival it was straight into the sessions. I started with the 'YouTube Deep Dive'. The session was in two parts, with a more general first half and then the second more specifically aimed at parent YouTubers. There were lots of really good examples with different ways of using YouTube, and I picked up some useful tips. Mainly that I need to get more consistent! Jules Fournier said that if you have a schedule then your viewers will always know that there is new content, and although they may not look for it as soon as it is published they'll remember it when they are next on YouTube, and that made a lot of sense to me. My YouTube use has been a bit sporadic of late and I don't plan my content at all, so I need to come up with a more consistent schedule.

After the break I attended 'Smash your goals with focussed blogging' with Aby Moore from You Baby Me Mummy. Aby definitely knows her stuff, and she covered a great deal. She talked about the importance of first setting goals and then drilling down on the individual tasks which will help you to accomplish them. I don't have any blogging goals set, apart from vague ones like 'get more people to read it' so I could definitely do with sitting down for a good thinking and planning session. Aby also talked about how much time we waste when we hop about from task to task, something that I'm definitely very guilty of!

Next I went to 'Instagram & Instagram Stories: How to maximise, what to avoid & top-notch storytelling'. The session was a chat with Alice Judge-Talbot and Harriet Shearsmith about how they use Instagram and what they've found works for them. I do love Instagram but I'm sometimes a bit hesitant to post as I feel that I want my images to be perfect and I'm not the best photographer. I've never dived into Instagram Stories and this session has given me the push to give it a go, I just need to make the leap to getting started!

Lunch was very nice with a good selection of hot and cold food which you could help yourself to. There were also some delicious cakes and other snacks throughout the day!

I mentioned that the brand hub was much smaller, and I must admit that none of the brands that were present really interested me. There were travel brands, and of course I do write about travel, but I don't have enough of a travel niche that I felt they would be interested in me. There was quite a long time set aside for brand presentations, and I didn't go to any of them as I didn't really want to be sold to. But I did discover the fantastic Jennie Maizels and her Sketchbook Club table, and I spent a happy hour or so sitting here working on a water colour bird picture.

BritMums Live 2017 #bml17 blogging conference

Jennie uses a technique with pencil to transfer pre-printed images into your sketchbook, which you can then colour with watercolour or pencil and embellish with ink or gel pen. I loved using the watercolours, I've not done proper painting for years and it was really relaxing. 

BritMums Live 2017 #bml17 blogging conference

I was very proud of my finished bird! I took him home to show Mia and she was impressed too, she was inspired to add a few decorations of her own to my page so I have designated it a shared sketchbook with pages that we can work on together.

BritMums Live 2017 #bml17 blogging conference

In the afternoon I attended 'Understanding and using Google Analytics'. This was quite a basic session, but as I'm pretty hopeless at using Google Analytics I found it really helpful. I came home with a few things to try. For example I've found out how to find my most popular posts, not just overall but also from past seasons, so I can see which types of seasonal posts have done well in the past and use that to influence future content.

BritMums Live 2017 #bml17 blogging conference

Finally I stayed for 'Do's and Don'ts of Working with Brands' with BritMums co-founders Susanna Scott and Jennifer Howze. There was some really useful information about the things that they are looking for when they choose bloggers for campaigns, for example engagement, original content and the overall look and feel of your blog.

BritMums Live 2017 #bml17 blogging conference

Unfortunately I wasn't able to stay for the BiBs Awards party with City Cruises as I needed to get back home, but to be honest I was exhausted at this point anyway as I always find blogging conferences very draining! So I grabbed my goody bag and headed home before it got too late, with my head spinning and full of new ideas!

Thursday 5 October 2017

Dressing up your Elf on the Shelf this Christmas

Unfortunately the patterns for these items are no longer available. I have kept this post up for Elf on the Shelf knitting inspiration.

A few years ago we started the Elf on the Shelf tradition in our household - a small Elf that joins our family in the run up to Christmas and has fun around the house overnight. Last year our original Elf was joined by a lady Elf friend, and the two children delighted in running downstairs every morning to see what they had been up to!

Our Elf is always very well dressed, thanks to my Mum. She has been creating knitting patterns for her knitted Elf sweaters for a couple of years now. She made three different designs and they are all lovely.

Knitted sweaters for your Elf on the Shelf

I think that her designs are so lovely that I thought I would share them! Below is the ballerina outfit, complete with a wrap around sweater and legwarmers! It would be fantastic to impress any little ballerinas that you have in your house.

Elf on the Shelf ballerina knitted outfit

This little knitted bag is really sweet, and you could use it for the Elf to carry a small treat or letter for your child if they've been particularly good. Or perhaps you could give it to your child to leave out for their Elf with a small gift inside, and see if they bring something back.

Elf on the Shelf with simple knitted bag

Below you can see the knitted bag, swimming costume and skirt. I'm planning on having our Elf appear in the morning in her swimming costume on the day that my children have their swimming lessons, I think they'll love that!

Elf on the Shelf knitted accessories patterns

Elf on the Shelf skirt and bag knitting pattern

Finally I quite fancy one of these cosy onesies myself! And the little doll is really sweet, you could customise it to match a doll that your child has.

Elf on the Shelf knitted onesie and doll

Here are some of the other outfits that she has designed. I think it would be lovely to knit the soccer outfit in your team's colours!

Elf on the Shelf knit a football kit pattern

The sweater and trousers look really comfy and you could make them in all different colours, perhaps making an outfit to match with one of your child's!

Elf on the Shelf how to knit a sweater and trousers

You may also enjoy my previous posts where I share some other ways that you can dress up your Elf this Christmas:

How to Customise your Elf on the Shelf
Knitted Sweaters for your Elf on the Shelf