Saturday, 5 November 2011

Sometimes I Feel a Bit Like The Pied Piper....

I've had a tiring couple of days, little ones were not playing ball this week. In fairness my youngest has a cold and isn't being her normally compliant self and my eldest is, well, being her usual lovely but non-compliant self. On the way home from the school run yesterday when I was feeling particularly exhausted, the kids were dawdling and every now and then I glanced back to make sure they were still following me, whilst I, packhorse mum, carried all their belongings on my person back to base camp. I truly felt like the pied piper....

...and so, this leads nicely to my entry for 'Big Wall Scene Makeover'. I'd already decided I was going to enter something into this fab competition but couldn't decide what to use. I started looking through my old photos and came across this. I drew it many years ago, inspired by a wonderful fairy tale book I had as a child. I loved the illustrations in this book so much I decided to do my own take on one of The Pied Piper. Sadly the picture was destroyed in a leak we had at our old house so this photo is all I have left of it. Coincidentally, my Mum's been clearing out her loft recently and she gave me a box of books, guess what was in it?

I'm Taking Part in the Kodak Big App Challenge

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Wine-making and Children...Two Things You Dont Often Hear In The Same Sentence!

Whilst I wouldn't really consider this a craft activity it fits within my basic remit of 'fun, free,educational and useful'. I don't normally suggest the use of alcohol around children but this week I've made an exception. Together with the children's assistance, I've been making wine. My parents have a monstrous grapevine that used to give me strange body snatcher dreams in my younger years, but the grapes aren't that great for eating. My Dad suggested making some wine and in my current 'why not, I'll have a go at that' state of mind, I agreed. So, after school yesterday we went down to my Mum & Dads and the kids had a ball picking as many grapes as they could, 10kg in total. As this is my first attempt at making wine I bought a kit with all the necessary bits in to make life a little easier. After cleaning the grapes I then let my little darlings loose on the wonderful business of 'squishing'. Not wishing my finished product to taste like small children's feet I made sure their hands were VERY clean and gave them a lovely big bowl each with a suitable pile of grapes to mulch. I can honestly and quite sadly admit they haven't had this much fun in ages! What a delightfully disgusting experience it is to pop each little berry between your fingers - delicious! With all the grapes squished they were then added to a large vat containing a huge amount of sugar and a seemingly small quantity of water. Sachets of various things were added (don't ask me to get technical - there's plenty of sites for that!) and by teatime tonight it was frothing away quite nicely. Unfortunately I know I am now going to have the question every morning 'Mum, when's our wine going to be ready?'  Hmmmm, sorry kids.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

We've discovered a new hobby...

Something new for me to bore my nearest and dearest about......we've discovered foraging! I love a bargain, well, who doesn't? A freebie is better still. I've taken the kids for some lovely walks around the village recently and I noticed that there was still a multitude of jem-like berries hanging from branches everywhere. I noted these places in my mind and went back with the girls to fill our baskets with lots of lovely fruit. This is a pastime I can see continuing for some years to come, it may well become part of our family history. We returned home with purple fingers, muddy boots, pink cheeks and a lovely collection of goodies; elderberries, blackberries, sloes, damsons, rose hips, haws and crab apples.  I was itching to have a go at making something with all this lovely stuff and along with the apples from our tree in the garden, there would be plenty to have a go at. First up was hedgerow jelly which was, I have to say, a great success. I have never made jam before so this was a new venture for me. Second batch I tried apple & rose hip jelly, not so successful, set a bit hard but may be suitable for stirring into hot herbal tea and suchlike. Third attempt was a few jars of apple, blackberry & damson jam which I was pretty pleased with. My little darlings enjoyed helping throughout the process but I made sure they were well out of the way when it came to boiling up the jam or jelly, that stuff boils like hot lava! These had already been earmarked as Christmas presents so I let the children help with the labels and lids for the jars to give a personal touch.

I pinched recipes and some very helpful tips from here -  The Cottage Smallholder

All in all, a wonderful new enterprise. The girls had a great time walking around with little baskets for collecting goodies. We talked about all the hedgerow plants and which berries were edible and which ones they shouldn't touch (very important!). I let them have one of my old nature books so they could try and identify things for themselves and they soon got into it. The children helped with washing the fruit, measuring out the ingredients, stirring the fruit whilst it was reducing to a pulp and finally they decorated the finished jars. They are so proud of what we've made and they can't wait to give these little pots of goodness out at Christmas to our friends and family. I have to admit, neither can I!

I shall have to put my thinking cap on now to come up with some more Christmas gift ideas that the girls can help me make.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Summer holidays continued.....

Sorry, not been around much of late - we've been off on our hols! Sunny (or not so sunny) Cornwall and then a few days in Somerset on the way home. The kids are still full of energy from their daytrips to various places, Pony stables, Aquarium, Farm etc etc. I havent really had to use much imagination this week (as far as arranging activities for them goes) as they've been more than happy to document all the fun they've been having by putting pen to paper and drawing their adventures for their grandparents to see. They've also been happily making collages of their adventures too - my 4 year old having particular fun creating scenes from the Aquarium using scraps of paper to make seaweed and rocks.

Top Tip - I did pick up a few extra brochures of the places we visited so that when we got home they can use them in their collages / scrapbooks.

One of the places we visited on our holiday was The Eden Project - well worth a visit. The kids were quite interested in the different areas and were asking questions about the trees, plants & flowers growing. They especially enjoyed the small craft area and the outdoor water play area which are both things that can be done at home using everyday bits and bobs from around the house. We thought it was pretty good value for money too as we bought an annual gift pass which admits 1 guest free and as our kids fall into the 0 - 4 category they were free too! Book online to get a discount. If you're down that way - definately give it a go!

My youngest enjoying the water play area at The Eden Project

Hope the summer holidays are going well for you - they seem to be flying by for us!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Star Biscuits - Gift Ideas

I admit, I like cheating, whenever possible. If it saves me time, effort or mess, count me in. I've noticed cheating can also save you some pennies sometimes too. The recipe for these biscuits involved going to Asda (or wherever you choose to do your shopping!) and buying a packet of shortbread biscuit mix. Easy. Simply add butter and mix until a dough is formed. The kids followed these simple steps with ease and with no mess at all. Fantastic. I very kindly rolled out the dough for them, they then set to work with their pastry cutters. Obviously you can cut the biscuits to any shape you like but I quite like the star shape for presents, I dont know why but I think they look nicer. Once they'd been in the oven for about 30 minutes and cooled on the rack we then set about making them into lovely gifts. We made these for all the teaching staff where my children currently attend nursery / pre-school as a parting thank you gift. As there are 11 staff I decided to make up two packets of mix on the basis that I thought 4 biscuits each would be enough.
We decided we'd make up pretty little parcels with cellophane (which can be bought from most craft shops or florist suppliers). We cut a square of card a fraction larger than the stars and then piled them on top. Wrap in larger square of cellophane to make a tube and then secure the side and bottom to make a bag. Tie the top with a pretty bit of ribbon. If you've used a see through cellophane you can write a message on the back of each piece of card so it can be seen through the plastic.

 The leftover dough got made into more biscuits for a jar for Grandad's Birthday. Recycling at it's best - Jar (washed out coffee jar) Ribbon (those annoying bits of ribbon that are used to hang tops onto coathangers, when you snip them off don't throw them away - keep them for making gift tags!) Card Tag (an old birthday card that had a nice star design on the front so I chopped it out and kept it for such an occassion)

Schools Out For Summer....

Well, that's it. Six and a half weeks of the little darlings all to myself. I have to say, I'm filled with a strange mixture of relief and dread at the thought of it. I'm looking forward to doing more crafty stuff with them and not having to get up at 7am every morning. Then there's the flip-side, how will I keep them entertained for the next few weeks? That's one of the reasons I started this blog, to give me a bit more motivation to think of 'things to do'. We've started as we mean to go a parting gift to all the staff we made biscuits - see how we got on here.....

Star Biscuits

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

More Retail Therapy

My blog seems to consist more about shopping so far than actually doing any craft. I can assure you that this is is not a fair representation of things to come (promise!). In fairness, both my little ones are in nursery today so I have been doing a little research whilst it's been quieter around the house.

I find arts & crafts shops a little on the expensive side normally but sometimes you just can't find what you want anywhere else and you just have to bite the bullet. I'm a huge fan of ebay for searching out things a bit cheaper, for example I managed to get a tube of green fabric paint for a couple of quid recently which may seem trivial but I would've spent that driving to my nearest craft store.

Anyway, whilst researching today, I noticed the lovely people at Hobbycraft will give you a £5 voucher just for signing up to their email newsletters, which I thought was jolly nice of them.
Hobbycraft are also offering free delivery of online orders over £30 and they now accept PayPal as payment.

So I did, and I now have £5 to spend (£25 minimum spend I think but that's easily done). I shall be using it to put towards a big bundle of goodies to keep us busy over the summer holidays.

Click below to get your voucher:

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Another Visit to the 'Rainy Day' Cupboard

After a rather uninspiring visit to Ikea on Friday we have had to resort to the 'Rainy Day' cupboard again. This treasure trove is full of bits & bobs I've picked up on various shopping trips & then put away for when the children are particularly bored and dont want to play with anything else. Todays plug is for a fab item I found in Hawkins Bazaar but you can also get them here...

Animal & Monster Hand Tattoos - What a great idea! A little tricky to put on the first time but once you've got the hang of it (and as long as the children in question keep still long enough) they get easier with practice. It kept them amused for a suprising length of time I found. It's amazing what little stories they can make up with a transfer stuck to their hands and making their animal or monster talk by moving their fingers like crab pincers. Just the sort of thing you can shove in a day bag if you're going on a train journey or something. Dont forget to take a bottle of water, a flannel or something to mop any excess water and a little sponge. Sorry it's not a great photo but that's partly because I'm right handed and my right hand is in the picture.....well, I had to join in!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Resource Hunting Expedition Today

We're having a day off making a mess in the house today. As it's raining and I have access to the family car for the day (a rare treat!) I asked the kids if they'd like to go out somewhere and do something. After explaining to the eldest that it was ok to go outside in the rain she decided on Ikea. Or, as she refers to it 'The Blue Castle', which if you have seen the Coventry store with its giant blue sides and flags on the top, does resemble a blue castle, slightly, if the onlooker happens to be 4 years old. This may sound like a dull shopping trip with the inevitable visit to the cafe for a free coffee for Mum & meatballs for the kids but no...this is a RHE - Resource Hunting Expedition.

I admit, I quite like shopping. Only in the sense that I enjoy hunting out bargains. In the same way I enjoy car boot sales or charity shops, I walk around Ikea looking at things and then wondering how I can make them into something else with the kids. An example of this would be duvet covers - Ikea did have some wonderfully cheap duvet covers that were about £3 (not sure if they still do them? Guess I'll find out soon!) Great fun for the kids to do potato painting on with a good old fashioned spud and some fabric paint. Even if you dont want to make a duvet cover, at that price you could chop it up and make bags, cushions...anything you fancy. Will report back after the expedition.....

Found a lovely link on How to make your own potato stamper...

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Mess Free Baking - Well, Nearly...

With two little darlings I find baking a bit of a nightmare, in that, which ever one I'm not watching that second will empty a bag of flour onto the floor or something similar. I discovered some wonderful Dr Oetker baking trays in Aldi the other day. You simply add water or milk to the mix (depending on the instructions obviously!) and stir it well & stick it in the oven - job done! Perfect for a quick, easy & virtually mess free baking session. I've seen various ones, bread & cake mixes, possibly not all Dr Oetker but all the ones we've tried have been good. Anything you can bake in a tray gets my vote as an easy one for the kids to tackle. We cooked a Dr Oetker lemon & poppy seed cake yesterday, which was gorgeous. The Mediteranean bread mix was also a hit. Just right for pulling out of the cupboard on a rainy day.

Alphabet scrapbook

I spent about an hour cutting out pictures last night from magazines and catalogues (anything that was in the recycling bag!) whilst I sat watching tv. The kids now have a lovely pile of pictures that they are going to stick in their 'alphabet book'. An inexpensive scrapbook was purchased and lettered with each letter of the alphabet and then the little ones take it in turns to stick a picture onto the appropriate letter's page (after saying what the picture name begins with ie; 'a' for apple etc). They've been doing the book for a few weeks now and it's quite full and they're both doing really well with their reading & recognising letters. They can also refer back to it when they want to see their work, which they enjoy almost as much as doing it.

Tidying up

I have just realised that I am worse than the kids for tidying up. This is not good. This morning they have quite happily been having a 'sticking' day. Magazines cut up and then they stick the images onto paper to make a rather interesting collage. My eldest daughter has spent a very long time meticulously cutting out little girls to stick on her page, only to snip off the top of their heads before gluing them down. Might hide that one before we have the school inspection for her starting in September. Hmm...

Anyway, there are lots of little slithers of paper all over the kitchen floor....I must go pick them up.

New to Blogging

Well, hello. I'm just a bit new to all of this. I'm bit of a techno dinosaur. We've only just got broadband in our house. I was inspired to set up a blog which rather losely I hope will inspire others to do more creative activities with their own children. It may just turn into a rant every now and again. Anyway, I hope that, if you're reading this, which obviously you are, you enjoy it.

Crafty Mum x