Friday 30 March 2018

Packing light for family travel - some tips

I like to think that I'm quite an expert when it comes to packing for the family. Although my husband is capable of piling up the clothes and toiletries that he will need, I'm the one responsible for most of the extra bits and pieces, along with everything that is needed for the children. When you are travelling with small children it really is much easier if you can limit the amount of stuff that you are dragging around with you. So here are my top tips for packing light when it comes to family travel.

Packing light for family travel - some tips

* My key packing tip is to have a good packing list. I have a list which I keep as a Word document, updated and added to over the years. It is organised into categories - clothes, toiletries, electrical items, food and so on, and it contains every single thing that we might possibly need. When I start packing for a trip the first thing that I do is print out the list and then go through it with a pen and cross off all the things that we don't need. Like sun cream for a winter break or beach towels for a city break. There are lots of lists online that you can use for inspiration but it's much better to make up your own personal list which you can customise to suit the occasion.

* If you are not travelling by car, take only one large suitcase per adult. Ones with a pull along handle are ideal, so you can pull the suitcase with one hand and hold a child's hand with the other. This can be a little awkward if you also need to be pushing a pushchair, in which case one adult will have to pull two suitcases while the other pushes and keeps an eye on any additional children.

* Split all your clothes and toiletries between the suitcases, so if one gets lost on the way you still have at least a few clothes per person to keep you going.

* Some items of clothing like underwear, need to be changed daily, but other clothing can last a day or two. I usually allow a clean top per person per day, and clean bottoms every few days. I take one pair of pajamas for each week of the holiday - if they get dirty a child can easily wear a t-shirt and underwear to bed. If you plan to wear several outfits per day, for example to dress for dinner, you can recycle clothes, you don't need to pack several complete outfit changes for each day. At the end of the day, I put clothes that still look fairly clean to one side rather than throwing in with dirty clothes, in case they are needed again later in the holiday.

* Choose clothes that work together. All of our tops match all of our bottoms.

* Only take towels if you know that you won't be able to rent or borrow them from your accommodation. In my experience most hotels will provide towels in exchange for a deposit, and it saves a lot of space. If you aren't sure if towels will be provided, it's easy enough to buy some at your destination if you need to.

* Always decant toiletries into smaller containers. I often don't bother taking soap or shower gel as it's almost always provided, and think about what toiletries are really necessary, for example, the whole family can easily share the same shower gel or shampoo. I take one mini hairbrush for the whole family to use.

* Save space when packing chargers by buying a USB charging station (affiliate link). Then you don't need to take bulky plugs, you can make the most of the limited sockets in your accommodation, and you can charge lots of devices at once which saves time. Some things like a Kindle or electric toothbrush may have enough charge to last the holiday so you don't need to pack the chargers.

* It's easy to wash clothes on the go, which can save a lot of space. You may be staying somewhere with laundry facilities, or else you can just wash things out in the sink and hang to dry. If you are staying somewhere warm then clothes can easily dry in just a few hours.

* Give your children a space limit when it comes to packing books, toys and teddies. Now that my children are older I give them each a small rucksack which they can pack as they wish, with the understanding that they are responsible for carrying it. When they were younger I packed their things in with ours, so that I didn't need to worry about a child and their bag.

* You don't need as many toys for young children as you think you do. When mine were little I used to pack a bag of about thirty Duplo bricks and a few toy cars, and they would play with them for ages. Take plenty of paper and some pens, a few small books, and you are sorted.

* Shoes can take up so much space in a suitcase. I usually aim for just two pairs - the largest pair to wear and a spare in case of rain and puddles.

* Pack clothes in plastic bags, then you can roll them up and squeeze out excess air to save lots of space.

I hope that these tips were helpful, if you have any more I would love to hear them!

Photo credit Pete Bellis via Unsplash

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Needing to keep busy before we go away

I was talking to a friend the other day about how much I have to do at the moment. We are going away over Easter and I have a massive list to get through before we go away. But as I was going through it, I realised that actually, the majority aren't important at all. Most of them, no-one would even notice if I didn't do them. When I really thought about it, the only thing on the list that was absolutely vital was packing, everything else was just to make me feel better.

For example, I always like the house to be clean and tidy when we go away. It's even more important this time as we have family staying when we get back, so I need to make sure that the guest room is tidied, dusted, hoovered and has clean sheets and towels. It needs to be done of course, but really, a quick tidy, changing the sheets and running the hoover around doesn't take that long.

And although I like the house to be spotless when we are away, the minute we come home there are suitcases and their contents dumped everywhere and dirty washing all over the place, I don't have time to appreciate the hoovered floors and clear surfaces. I think that deep down what I'm really doing is imagining something happening to us while are away, and dealing with the anxiety about that by making sure people don't think that we live in a pig sty!

Another thing that I fret about before we go away is making sure that my blog and social media are scheduled with some content to post while I'm away. This means coming up with the ideas well in advance and finding the time to get them written up so that a new post will appear every few days. But does it really matter if I'm not pushing out content constantly? Lots of blogs I read only publish once a week, many even less often, and it means that I look forward to and appreciate their content rather than just having my Feedly filled up with a stream of generic blog posts that I just scan through. Again, I think it's just my anxiety coming out, that if I take a break people will forget who I am and no-one will ever read my blog again.

The truth is that I really like having a long to do list. I've written before about how I use Trello to organise my life, and I have groups of tasks which need to be done daily, weekly, and as one offs. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to drag a task to the next day or delete it completely, and it makes me feel that I've had a productive day if I've ticked plenty of things off the list. It's also a way of measuring my worth as a stay at home Mum with children that are out of the house for most of the day, knowing that on the surface at least I've achieved something worthwhile.

Do you have a big to do list? How many things are actually vital to have completed?

Never ending to do list
Photo - Glenn Carstens-Peters via Unsplash

Monday 26 March 2018

Some great Minecraft crafts for children

My children love Minecraft, and they would play it all day if I let them. But now and then I like to drag them away from the screens for some crafting. There are some great ideas out there, and so I thought I'd pull together some different Minecraft themed crafts.

Minecraft crafts for children round up

I recently helped my son to make a selection of Hama bead Minecraft keyrings to give out to his friends. There are lots of different designs online which you can use, and I found a good selection here - Minecraft designs for Hama beads.

Minecraft Hama bead keyrings

The pixellated design of the Minecraft world lends itself perfectly to Hama or perler bead crafting, and there are so many different elements in the game that you could use. These Minecraft keychains are made to look like some of the different swords in Minecraft, another really simple yet effective design that can be customised to use your favourite colours.

Minecraft Hama bead sword keychains
Photo - Red Ted Art

All of these Hama bead pieces could be used to make magnets or as an embellishment for a card. I think they'd also look very cool mounted in a shadow box frame for the wall.

Talking of shadow boxes, a piece of Minecraft inspired decor that I love is this Minecraft inspired wall art. It's really easy to make and it looks amazing, it would be perfect for a child's bedroom, or to hang in the place where Minecraft is usually played.

Minecraft inspired wall art with scrabble tiles

Photo - The Gingerbread House
Some other great Minecraft wall decorations are these Large Wooden Minecraft Characters which are really easy to make and only require a few materials. There are lots of other Minecraft room decor ideas over there too, it's definitely worth a look if you really want to indulge your child's love of Minecraft!

Going back to Hama beads, if you are looking for something a little more complicated I really love this Perler Bead Minecraft Moneybox. I always love to make something which has a practical purpose, and it looks amazing.

Minecraft Hama bead block money box
Photo - Red Ted Art

For my son's Minecraft party I put together some Minecraft themed party bags which I was very proud of. One simple craft which was very popular was these Minecraft bookmarks. They are just printed, laminated, and a coordinating ribbon added to the bottom. The printables that I used below are sadly no longer available, but you can find similar ones here, including Minecraft bookmarks that you can print and colour - Free Minecraft bookmark printables. They'd make a lovely gift for a friend!

Minecraft printed bookmarks craft

Another great party bag or present idea would be a Minecraft in a Jar gift. You just need a few little toys and sweets in Minecraft colours gathered together in a decorated jar.

Minecraft gift in a jar idea
Photo - The Gingerbread House

If you children want to act out their Minecraft games in real life, it's easy to make them some simple props, and they also make great decorations for a Minecraft themed party. You can find all sorts of ideas here - DIY Minecraft Party - Swords, Torches, Pickaxes and More!

Or if you want something for the children to work on by themselves, show them this Easy Minecraft Bookmark video from Red Ted Art, and let them have a go!

Finally, if you want to take your love of Minecraft into the kitchen, why not make some Gingerbread Iron Golem Biscuits. They look delicious, and this would also be an ideal activity for a themed Minecraft day!

Minecraft iron golem biscuits
Photo - The Gingerbread House

You might also like my blog post about the themed Minecraft party that I held for my son, it was a big success! And if you have a young Minecraft fan in the house, you might like my list of gift ideas for a Minecraft fan.

Friday 23 March 2018

Minecraft challenges for Easter

My children love Minecraft. They could play for hours (and I must admit that they often do) and although they are full of their own ideas they love it when I come up with suggestions for them. With the Easter holiday approaching, with their help I have put together a list of Easter themed Minecraft challenges to keep any Minecraft fans busy!

Easter themed Minecraft challenges

* If you have your own world in Minecraft that you play in regularly, decorate it for Easter. Use pastel coloured blocks and plant lots of Spring flowers.

* My children love using the blocks to create pixel art. You can do a Google image search for Easter pixel art designs, or try something like my Hama bead Easter egg design. You could make Easter eggs, Easter chicks or the Easter bunny, or like my son just make a big sign reading 'Happy Easter'

* Build a large Easter egg with something inside it - maybe a chick or some Easter sweet treats.

* Come up with an Easter egg hunt for another player. There are lots of different ways that you could do this. The most simple would be to hide Easter eggs around your world. My son created the egg hunt below using item frames to display different coloured eggs - I've been told that there are ten to find in this picture, but I can't spot them all!

Minecraft Easter egg hunt idea

* Another Easter egg hunt idea is to create a trail following clues, similar to one that you might make for children around the house. It's best to have a defined area for the hunt so that the player doesn't stray too far. You can use signs to write the clues, and hide the eggs inside crates.

* Build an Easter trail, where a fellow player can follow a path through trees or buildings, spotting eggs and flowers as they go.

* Build an Easter themed train or boat ride which takes the user through an Easter themed wonderland.

* Come up with the best way of making a 3D egg and then create different versions using different colours and patterns.

I hope that you enjoyed this list and found something that inspired you to do some Easter creating in Minecraft - if you have any other ideas I'd love to hear them!

You might also like my list of Minecraft Christmas challenges.

Minecraft Easter challenge ideas

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Hama bead coaster designs

I love crafting with Hama beads, both with the children and myself. I even have a Hama beads page on this blog! I particularly like making something which has a purpose, and I've found myself returning to making Hama bead coasters several times, often based around a seasonal theme. So I thought I'd share some of the Hama bead coasters that I've made over the last few years, along with some other lovely designs that I've spotted around the internet.

Hama bead coaster designs

These Hama bead Diwali coasters are based on rangoli designs and make great decorations for Diwali. They were some of my very first Hama bead designs and I loved coming up with different ways to fill the pegboard, choosing colours that I felt went well together. Although I made them at Diwali they would also suit occasions throughout the year and could be made using all sorts of different colours.

Hama bead rangoli for Diwali

I made these Halloween Hama bead coasters for a Halloween party with the children, and they also make great Halloween decorations. Again using the circular pegboard, I loved the challenge of fitting different designs into the space available, and working with the curved bead placement.

Halloween Hama bead coasters

These Autumn leaf Hama bead coasters use the square pegboard and a selection of Autumnal colours to produce two different leaf designs. They look lovely lined up against my windowsill, I do love the vibrant colours.

Autumn leaf Hama bead coasters

Finally another seasonal design, some Easter egg Hama bead coasters. Again using the square pegboard and making use of a selection of beads in pastel colours. The egg design is based on the one that I used for my mini Hama bead Easter cake toppers, and it's a simple shape that can be customised in lots of different ways, for example with strips, spots and small flowers.

Easter egg Hama bead coasters

If you are looking for more Hama bead coaster designs, here is some fab inspiration:

Hama bead coasters with flowers

Happy Hama beading!

Monday 19 March 2018

Some of the books that I can read over and over again

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I recently I had a big sort out of my bookcase. I used to have a smaller fiction bookcase but I donated it to Harry, as his book collection continues to expand. So I needed to reorganise my bookcase to fit everything in, and I took the opportunity for a sort out. You can see how I got on in my speed decluttering video below!

I'm quite good at passing on books once I've read them, especially fiction books as I only rarely re-read them. But there are certain books that I've read over and over again and that I know I'll definitely go back to, and so I thought I'd share some of them. Most of my copies are quite old and almost falling apart, and in editions that are now out of print.

So in no particular order, here are a few of my favourites:

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier - I love the descriptive language that makes me want to savour every word, and the story which is full of twists and turns.

The Loving Spirit by Daphne du Maurier - Perhaps one of her lesser known books, it tells the story of a Cornish family and the village that they live in over several generations.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver - The story of a missionary family living in Africa beginning in the 1950s and told from the perspective of five different women.

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth - The story of an Indian woman and her mother's efforts to find her a husband, with a full cast of characters.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell -  A true classic, set during the American civil war with a story that never fails to grip me.

On The Beach by Nevil Shute - Although I've enjoyed many books by Nevil Shute this is my favourite. It is set in Australia and follows the remaining survivors of a nuclear war that has destroyed the rest of the world as they wait for the inevitable deadly radiation to reach them.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro - The story of a group of young people in an alternative present where people are cloned to serve as organ donors. I do like books that make you think, and this one definitely does.

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain - I first read this at secondary school when we were reading books about World War 1 and I've returned to it many times since. It's the biography of Vera Brittain who was born in 1893 and it shows the devastating impact of the war on both her life and that of her family and friends.

Life Of Pi by Yann Martel - The adventures of Pi, a teenage boy, the solitary human survivor of the sinking of the cargo ship which was carrying a selection of zoo animals. His thoughts and ponderings gave me a lot to think about, and I love the fact that you are never quite sure what is real.

 A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett - I read this as a child and I've read it many times. It's a children's book but deals with adult themes and it's a story I could lose myself in again and again.

I was trying to work out what it is about all these books that particularly appeals to me, as it's quite an eclectic list. They are all set in different historical periods, in various locations around the world. One thing they have in common is that none are set in modern times, and most of them span a long time period, sometimes many generations.

I do like a family saga with lots of different characters to follow, and many of these books feature female characters - girls, young women and mothers. Another similarity is that as I've re-read them different characters and predicaments have spoken to me - for example my perspective on things has definitely changed since becoming a mother.

I'd love to know if I've mentioned any of your favourite books, and if there are any other books that you think would appeal to me based on my list!

Child reading books on the bed
Photo credit - Annie Spratt via Unsplash

Contains Amazon affiliate links.

Monday 12 March 2018

Blog post ideas for Spring

I'm definitely starting to feel that Spring is on the way. After some freezing temperatures it seems to be slightly milder, and there are plenty of Spring flowers popping up. I especially love seeing the mornings and evenings get lighter! So I thought I'd share some Spring themed blog post ideas, to help fill those editorial calendars over the next few months.

Blog post ideas for Spring

* Ten things that you love about Spring. I love making lists, and choosing your favourite things always makes you feel lovely and positive!

* Do a garden update to start the year - what is growing in the garden at the moment, what signs of Spring are there?

* What are your garden plans for the year? If you don't have a garden perhaps you are growing things on the windowsill, or you have an allotment, or a garden of a friend or family member that you can share.

* Do you have a vegetable patch? What will you be planting and growing this year?

* Write about a walk that you take regularly, for example the school run or the walk to work, and take photos of the changes that you can see. This is a good one to update throughout the year as we go through the seasons.

* Do you Spring clean the house? Why, or why not?

* Do you have any Spring cleaning tips or hacks to share?

* What other things do you Spring clean? For example, do you Spring clean your blog?

* What is happening locally? For example Farmer's Markets, open lambing at local farms, Easter Egg hunts. If you visit something you could write an individual review, or list a roundup of activities, perhaps themed by type, location or audience.

* Share a Spring or Easter themed craft - whether it's something to do with the children or decor for your home.

* Share a seasonal recipe or two.

* How are your New Year's Resolutions going? Share an update, and if they've fallen by the wayside make plans to get back on track.

* Look ahead to the summer holidays, what do you have planned?

* Have you made any seasonal purchases lately? Share your favourites in a blog or vlog.

* Do you pack away your warm jumpers and coats for the winter? What new seasonal clothing have you bought so far?

* Share some Spring flowers that you've bought recently - I know that I can never resist those £1 bunches of daffodils!

* Does what you eat and drink change as the weather gets warmer?

* How does your routine change as Spring arrives? Do you spend more time outdoors, find it easier to exercise, go to bed later?

* If you've been having a Spring declutter or clearout, share some of the treasures that you've discovered - old school work, sticker collections, sentimental items.

* How do you know that Spring has arrived? For me I think it's the smell of freshly cut grass and a feeling of warmth in the air!

I hope I've inspired you!

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 Summer
Blog post ideas for Autumn
Blog post ideas for Winter
Blog post ideas for Christmas

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

Photo credit - Rodion Kutsaev via Unsplash

Friday 9 March 2018

Decorative bird planter sticks

Bird themed planter sticks craft

This month, the theme for my Bostik box of craft materials was flying, and so having spotted some colourful feathers and pointy sticks in the box, I decided to make some bird themed decorative planter sticks for my houseplants. Scroll to the bottom of the post for the video tutorial.

How to make bird planter sticks for houseplants

To make the bird planter sticks you need:

Thick cardboard (I used corrugated cardboard from a box)
Wooden skewers
Paint or coloured pens
Strong tape
Googly eyes
Coloured paper
Embellishments - sequins, buttons, doilies etc.
Bostik White Glu
Blu Tack Micro Dots

Birds on wooden sticks craft

You can see how I made them in the video tutorial below:

You can find lots more crafts to celebrate Spring here!

Simple crafts to celebrate Spring

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

Wednesday 7 March 2018

What I love and loathe about Facebook

I joined Facebook in April 2007. It was just after our wedding, and friends and relatives were sending me notifications that they had shared photos there. I didn't do a lot with it back then, before smartphones it wasn't as easy to share photos and I didn't feel that I needed to find old friends. Besides, not many people were on it back then anyway. After the wedding photos there are a few updates from our honeymoon, a few excited updates as friends started appearing, the sharing of an old school photo and birthday greetings.

I didn't get into using Facebook regularly until I started my blog in 2009. I realised it might be an idea to make a Facebook page, and I also heard on Twitter about Facebook blogging groups that I thought it might be worth joining. I went a bit mad adding loads of other bloggers, and I found that they were all busy away over there sharing their posts and chatting. It was quite overwhelming at first as I wasn't used to so much activity, I remember I didn't know what the etiquette was when it came to liking posts and comments!

Recently I decided that I was getting a little bit too addicted to my phone, and Facebook in particular. I have a lot of friends, I follow a lot of pages, and there is always something new to distract me which in all honesty adds very little value to my life. Stepping back a bit has made me see Facebook in a new light, and I thought I'd share a list of the things that I love and loathe about Facebook.

I Love...

Keeping up with friends. I love seeing holiday photos, day out photos and photos of every day life. I like seeing what people are doing, being inspired by places to visit or activities to try.

Seeing achievements. I love seeing little ones being awarded Star of the Week, people running marathons or even just going for a jog around the block, crafty projects people have worked on.

Feeling connected to people. Receiving a comment or even just a like on one of my photos reminds me of a friend, and if it's from someone I've not spoken to in a while it may inspire me to follow up with them.

Interesting articles that pop up from time to time. Every now and then I'll read an article either from a page I follow or shared by a friend that really resonates with me and makes me think it was worth the read.

All the different groups. I try to limit it but I'm in quite a few groups for my various interests and hobbies as well as for local affairs. I love having somewhere that I can get inspiration, keep up to date with news and ask questions.

I Loathe...

That I can open up the app just to quickly check my notifications and before I know it half an hour has gone by.

Those click bait articles that I can't resist. I'm a particular sucker for the photograph ones - '16 pics that require a second look' type things. I've tried clicking on the 'hide' button at the side but they keep coming from different sources.

The fact that the interesting articles that do pop up from time to time are hidden amongst so much that isn't interesting to me.

All the groups that I can't make myself leave because I'm worried about missing something. I'm in several groups on the same topic that cover the same themes and even though there is so much overlap I just can't decide which ones to leave.

Finding myself reaching for my phone and opening Facebook whenever I have a spare few minutes, I need to learn to curb the impulse!

Feeling inadequate. I'm quite good at remembering that Facebook isn't real life. But there have been occasions where I've been a little envious of people's mad social lives as they are out and about checking in to exciting places with lots of friends. I need to remind myself that I very rarely check myself in anywhere, and that just because something isn't on Facebook doesn't mean that it didn't happen!

Facebook open on phone
Photo credit - William Iven via Unsplash

One surprising thing that I found when I stopped checking Facebook so regularly was that the less I checked it, the less I felt the urge to. It's almost as though I was carrying half finished conversations from groups or general newsfeed chat around in my head, and by checking in throughout the day I was trying to keep caught up with everything. Once I cut down to just checking once or twice, I could see completed discussions, not every single comment or update. The algorithm also changed based on my usage to show me more from actual friends and family. I started to get little summary updates from groups in my newsfeed, which had never shown up when I was regularly popping in and out. And I found that I didn't miss anything at all, a quick check from time to time was enough to keep me caught up.

I'm hoping that I can move forward with a much healthier Facebook relationship!

Tuesday 6 March 2018

Review - Make it Medley jigsaw puzzle from Ravensburger

This week I've been very much enjoying completing the Make it Medley jigsaw puzzle from Ravensburger. This 1000 piece puzzle is a complex design featuring all sorts of different crafty bits and pieces, and as you can imagine it's right up my street!

Ravensburger Make it Medley jigsaw puzzle review

This is one of Ravenburger's 'Perplexing Puzzles' - a series of photographic puzzles with themed and incredibly intricate images for you to piece together. Make it Medley features beads, sequins, threads, cotton reels, feathers and lots more, beautifully arranged with lots of little details to find.

Ravensburger Make it Medley jigsaw puzzle review

Although billed as perplexing I didn't find the puzzle too difficult. I do have a brilliant jigsaw board which makes sorting the pieces very easy, but because the puzzle has lots of distinctive sections it was quite easy to work out where a piece went. This made putting the puzzle together a real pleasure - there were plenty of smaller areas that I could work on at a time with really interesting colours and textures.

Ravensburger Make it Medley jigsaw puzzle review

 I really enjoyed completing this puzzle, and it would make a great gift for the crafty person in your life!

Ravensburger Make it Medley jigsaw puzzle review

I received this jigsaw puzzle in exchange for a review.

Monday 5 March 2018

Twinkl Green Week 2018

From the 5th to 11th March 2018, Twinkl will be holding Twinkl Green Week, an event aimed at supporting educators and children to think about environmental issues, and how they can take positive steps to lessen their carbon footprint and be more green.

Twinkl have provided a wide range of resources for subscribers which aim to teach children about a range of important enviromental issues, including plastic, recycling, reusing, reducing and endangered animals. Many of these resources are themed to tie in with the new eBook The Messy Magpie which can be found here - The Messy Magpie eBook (Twinkl subscriber resource). The book introduces us to Morris the Magpie as he discovers the damage that his habit of collecting rubbish has caused to his forest, and follows along with him as he learns about recycling.

My children both loved reading the book and I printed them out some of the related activities. When it comes to printing, Twinkl provide ink saving alternatives which save both ink and money and I always choose these as there is only a slight difference in quality which makes no difference to us. Also, many of the resources are provided as digital Powerpoint presentations which require no printing at all for classroom use.

Twinkl The Messy Magpie board game

While the story was still fresh in our minds we started with the Messy Magpie Board Game (Twinkl subscriber resource). It's a simple game to play, you just need to work your way around the board to the recycling centre. But on the way you need to answer some questions about the story, a great way to test reading comprehension and make the game more competitive!

Harry has been learning about grid references at school, so I was pleased to find these Messy Magpie Grid References Activity Sheets (Twinkl subscriber resource). Children need to go to each grid reference and colour in the square accordingly. Harry's not normally one for colouring, but he loved the challenge of working out what colour he needed to use.

Twinkl Green Week resources

Mia on the other hand loves colouring, so I printed her some colour by number sheets based on simple sums which were just the right level for her. We started with the Addition Facts up to 20 Maths Mosaic Activity Sheet (Twinkl subscriber resource) and she was delighted to watch the picture take shape.

Twinkl educational resources for Green Week

We also have the Subtraction Facts up to 20 Maths Mosaic Activity Sheet (Twinkl subscriber resource) ready for another day, and she requested the Messy Magpie Word Search (Twinkl subscriber resource) which contains lots of related words, great to keep little ones occupied for a few minutes.

Twinkl resources for teaching about the environment

There are so many resources that there is sure to be something to suit your child's current interest or support a topic that they are learning about at school. For example, Harry has shown quite an interest in recycling recently, so he was really interested in this Recycling Symbol Detectives Activity Sheet (Twinkl subscriber resource) which can be used to identify products around the house that are suitable for recycling.

You can find all the resources here - Twinkl Green Awareness Week, and although these resources require a subscription to download there will also be some free resources released through the week.

I am a Twinkl blogger and have been provided with a Platinum subscription.

Sunday 4 March 2018

World Book Day 2018

I do love World Book Day - it can be a bit of a hassle coming up with a costume, but luckily these days the children have ideas of their own as to what they'd like to be! I insist that they dress up as an actual book character from a book that they've read, and preferably own. I also like to spend as little money as possible!

This year, Harry decided that he wanted to be George from George's Marvellous Medicine, which he has read several times and recently had been reading to Mia. 'Excellent' I thought! He already went as George once before at his old school, and you can't really think of a much easier costume, all that is required are normal clothes along with a bottle of medicine and a spoon. But with the weather being so cold this week the children were urged to dress appropriately for the temperatures, and inspired by his cousin dressing as a unicorn in her unicorn onesie I remembered the random wolf onesie that we bought years ago in the sales. It's a little tight on him now but he was desperate to wear it so I dug out my old Ladybird Red Riding Hood and he went along as the Wolf, he was lovely and snug.

World Book Day costumes for children

My friend suggested Mia the Bridesmaid Fairy from the prolific Rainbow Magic series as a costume for Mia, having bought her the book for her birthday. Mia was thrilled at the suggestion, although the outfit did cause us a few arguments. She doesn't currently have a pink dress in her wardrobe, and the bad weather meant we had to cancel a planned shopping trip. I pulled out a lovely spotty pink T-shirt which she wanted to wear with white tights. I had to be a little strict and say that she couldn't go to school with her pants out on show, so we reluctantly compromised on some white shorts underneath to preserve her modesty. She refused to make any concession to the freezing temperatures apart from a little cardigan, so I packed her some warmer clothes in case she changed her mind once exposed to the outdoors at break time.

To accessories her costume I bought some cheap artificial roses from Hobbycraft to make her a little bouquet, some wide ribbon to sew a bow for around her chest, and I painted a thin stick silver for the wand. She refused a flower for her hair and she wouldn't wear her fairy wings either, but luckily she was very pleased with her costume and wore it proudly.

What did your children dress up as this year? I'm always on the look out for ideas!

Friday 2 March 2018

March - Lately I've been...

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Thank goodness February was a much shorter month than January, that really was the month that I thought would never end! Life is a bit more back on track now which is good, and I'm hopeful that once this cold spell has finished we will start to see some warmer and more cheerful weather. I love Spring! So here's what I've been up to lately:

Thinking about

How cold it is! Unfortunately our boiler broke around the middle of the month and we were left without heating for ten of the coldest days of the year. We coped by just heating one room at a time using electric heaters, and keeping the doors shut and avoiding the other rooms as much as possible, all sleeping in one room at night. It was mostly fine, but towards the end we were getting pretty fed up. It was such a relief to have a nice new boiler and I'm really appreciating the lovely warmth, especially this week.


This month I've been alternating between two of my long term craft projects. The one that I've spent most time on has been my ABC Christmas sampler (affiliate link). I started in the middle, and I've now completed O for Ornaments, T for Tree, U for Unwrap and Y for Yule Log, with just the beads left to add. I've made a good start on S for Santa, and then I want to move on to X for Xtra Special, which will mean that a large section of the bottom left will be finished. I'm still keeping with my deadline of finishing by Christmas next year though, as I think that adding in the beads will take a bit of time and to count it as finished by Christmas this year I'd need to have it finished and framed by the end of November at the latest - I'm not sure that is realistic!

Christmas cross stitch sampler in progress

I've also been making very good progress on my Persian Tiles crochet blanket. I've finished six of the large octagons and five squares. So I have another ten octagons to complete, another four squares, twelve large and four small triangles, and then of course the border. I could finish it more quickly if I got on with it, but to be honest I'm rather enjoying working on it, and I don't want to rush it! I'm a lot more confident with the pattern for the octagons now, they look a lot more complicated than they actually are. They are full of mistakes, and I've done quite a bit of fudging in places to get the stitch counts right, but I'm hoping that because they are so detailed it will all look fine.


Thanks to recommendations from my Mum I've just started watching Inside No. 9 and Black Mirror. I like both series because each episode is independent from the others, so you don't need to remember any details from one to the next, and they've both entertained me not just during the watching but also given me things to think about afterwards.


I've been doing very well with cutting down a bit, I've not eaten nearly as many biscuits and I've also been avoiding crisps and chocolate for the last couple of weeks. I'm not doing so good at eating less cake though, I diverted Harry from his slime making to following some actual recipes and he has kept me supplied with homemade cake and biscuits.

Travelling to

Apart from a weekend in Warwick at the beginning of half-term I've not been out and about much. I never feel like going out unless it's necessary when it's so cold.


I had a good sort out of my bookcase recently and made sure that all my favourite fiction books are now prominently on display so that I can see them and pick them up. I'm currently re-reading Rebecca for probably the fifth or sixth time. I've also been browsing through some of my favourite decluttering books to remind myself of my more minimalist aspirations.


Now that YouTube has taken away my monetisation (you can find my channel here if you want to help me out! - Jennifer Jain) I've been feeling a bit deflated when it comes to making videos. It wasn't as though I earned a massive amount, but it was certainly an encouragement, and it feels like a shame because from time to time one of my videos actually does quite well, so I do feel as though some of my content at least has a value. I have another video which I need to finish editing and publishing, but I need to have a think about the sort of content that I want to produce, as it's all a bit of a mixture at the moment. And of course work on getting my subscriber number above that magic 1000.

Looking forward to

This term seems to have gone so quickly, it's a very short term. Over Easter we are returning to Center Parcs Erperheide in Belgium for a week and I'm really looking forward to it. We love Center Parcs, and every time we go the children have increased their swimming confidence so they get so much more out of it. The activities at the parks abroad are so much more reasonably priced so we'll have a few things to do and I'm looking forward to spending lots of time together as a family.

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Thursday 1 March 2018

Things to do in Kauai with the family

We visited Hawaii as a couple before we had children, and although it is a great place for a couples holiday there is also plenty to do to keep the children entertained. Kauai is the fourth largest of the Hawaiian islands, with some amazing scenery and hidden beaches, as well as water activities, shopping and dining. I've picked out some of the best activities and attractions in Kauai if you are planning a trip with the family.

Things to do in Kauai with the family


If visiting with the family you'll probably want to stay on the more densely populated East Coast where you'll find a huge range of accommodation near to the family friendly beaches. There are lots of larger hotels and resorts, or you might prefer to look at some Kauai beach rentals. This would give you the option of self-catering, which always works well for us as our children are quite fussy and we never do all inclusive deals justice when it comes to the food and drink.

Getting around

Kauai is not very well served with public transport, and so travelling around the island with the family is much easier if you can rent a car. Although there are buses, the network doesn't cover all the main tourist spots, and it's much easier to explore further afield if you have your own transport. It's especially important when travelling with small children - you need more flexibility and can't spend too long waiting around for a bus. You also want to avoid too much walking to get to places.


Kauai is regarded as having more coastline filled with beaches than any of the other Hawaiian islands. With the family it's best to stick to the safer, more popular beaches, and you can find a list of the lifeguarded beaches on Kauai here. These beaches are located all around the island and will also usually have the facilities like toilets and showers which make a visit to the beach much easier with small children! Poipu Beach is particularly popular with families as it is a shallow sandy beach perfect for young children, and there is also a playground along with toilets and showers.

Although there are many hidden beaches around the island, make sure you are wary if you are tempted to visit a more secluded beach. Not all the beaches are safe for swimming and there can be dangerous rip currents and unexpected waves, definitely do some research before diving it.

Things to do with the family in Kauai
Photo credit Leo Rivas via Unsplash

Water activities

Children that are confident in the water will enjoy the chance to try out snorkelling. There are some reefs close to the shore, and Anini Beach in particular is excellent for snorkelling, although be aware that this isn't a lifeguarded beach. Poipu Beach also gives you the opportunity to see a wide variety of fish and turtles, although get there early before it gets too busy. If your children aren't confident swimmers then you could try a glass bottomed boat ride.

Turtle swimming in Hawaii
Photo credit Jeremy Bishop via Unsplash

Older and more adventurous children might also enjoy the chance to try kayaking, surfing or windsurfing amongst many other different activities, and there are lots of local companies which run different water activities around the island. I particularly love the look of a glass bottomed kayak tour, which even runs at night so that you can see the underwater world by darkness and is suitable for children aged three and over.

Na Aina Ka

Na Aina Ka is a botanical gardens and sculpture park. It can only be visited by tour, and if your children are aged 13 and under then you need to pre-arrange a children's tour which lasts about 2 hours. Tours can be booked in advance, or there may be space available on the day. Once a month the Children's Garden opens for Keiki Day which takes place on one selected Saturday per month and would be well worth a visit if it coincides with your stay. Find out more information here - Na Aina Ka.

Kauai Mini Golf

Kauai Mini Golf is in Kilauea at the north of the island. As well as a golf course it's also a botanical garden, and your journey around the holes takes you on a journey from the original native plants, through to plants introduced from various other countries, then on to the plants that you find in Hawaii today. The course is accompanied by water features, and nets are provided to fish out your mis-aimed balls.

Kilauea Point Lighthouse

You'll find Kilauea Point Lighthouse close to the Mini Golf, and it's a part of the Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge. This is a protected area for threatened and endangered species, and you can borrow some binoculars from the visitor centre to see them close up without disturbing them.

The Ke Ala Hele Makalae Coastal Path

This scenic coastal path runs along the east side of the island. It's a long, flat path along the coastline and is perfect to explore for all ages and abilities. The path is pushchair friendly for walking, or you can easily hire bikes. As well as beautiful scenery to enjoy you might also see dolphins, turtles or even seasonal humpback whales, and there are lots of places to stop for a picnic along the way.

Kauai Plantation Railway

At the Kilohana Plantation you can ride reproduction railway cars from the period of King Kalakaua on a 40 minute train ride through dense tropical forest, past plantation era houses and then into the working Kilohana Plantation with more than 50 fruits and vegetables, including many exotic varieties, and all narrated by a local guide. There's even a stop at the farmyard, with the opportunity to feed some of the animals including pigs, goats, sheep, cattle and horses.

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon is known as the 'Grand Canyon of the Pacific' and is adjacent to Kokee State Park on the west of the island. The canyon is 14 miles long, 1 mile wide, and more than 3,600 feet deep. There are a couple of short hikes which are suitable for young children. If you want to visit the canyon with small children you can find some really good advice here - Tips for a good family day trip to Waimea Canyon.

I hope that I've given you lots of ideas for things to do with the family in Kauai! If you are visiting Hawaii you might also enjoy this article - Reasons to book a family holiday to Hawaii - with plenty more inspiration!

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Main photo credit Alexey Marchenko via Unsplash.