Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Checking in

Just a very quick one so that you don't all think that I've abandoned the blog.

Feeling rubbish with yet another cold!  So I'm in bed and will try to get some sleep while Bug is napping and C is playing quietly upstairs.

I need all the strength I've got as we're off on the train to London this afternoon/evening, and I will be trailing two toddlers around the big city with me for the next few days.

Toodle-pip, tally-ho and all that.  I'm sure I'll be feeling better again soon, until the next cold strikes!

Friday, 23 November 2012

An advent calendar of activities to prepare for Christmas with toddlers.

Once the advent calendar comes out we know we're on a countdown to Christmas.  C knows what to expect, and with non-stop Christmas music in the shops, Christmas trees and Santas wherever you look and all the hype, it'll be an achievement to keep his feet on the ground in the run up to the big day.  Bug is still pretty clueless.  She'll go with whatever her big brother suggests.  So, to keep them on track, help get things organised at my end, encourage them to think about what Christmas means, and about other people, and allow them some way to express their excitement I've come up with twenty-four activities for the advent period.  One activity for each day. I've kind of broken them down into which need doing earlier to help me out, but there isn't a specific day, to allow us a bit of flexibility.  Hopefully I'll be blogging as we go through December on some of the progress that we are making with the list.

  • Make Christmas cake
  • write and post Christmas cards
  • go to Ceramic Experience to make gifts
  • donate things to charity shops

  • make stars and angels
  • make a wreath
  • make a stable scene (felt I think, but maybe card)
  • make snowflakes (paper cutting - C will love to practise his cutting skills)
  • peace and goodwill chart (we'll put stickers on whenever we do something to make somebody else feel happy)
  • go to a Carol Service (it'll be my District Scout one)
  • make Christmas decorations (fir cones dipped in glue and then glitter, salt dough and felt)
  • watch The Snowman
  • check that we've got all the presents that we need
  • read the Christmas story
  • make a snowman (if we don't have any snow then we'll use cotton wool and make a mini one!)
  • plant a mini-Christmas tree
  • do some artwork for mummy and daddy (I've started a tradition of them doing something for us as a Christmas present which then goes on the sitting room wall)
  • go for a winter walk
  • plant a fruit tree

  • decorate Christmas tree
  • wrap Christmas presents
  • pack for Christmas trip
  • leave snack for Santa and reindeer and put out stockings

Sunday, 18 November 2012

My Space

This is my workspace:
 It's cluttered, it's crowded.  
Believe me when I tell you that it's organised and that I know where to find things.
I would like to have a pristine workspace where everything is ordered and tidy, but it isn't really me.
This is me. 
No matter how often I tidy this space, it reverts to looking like this.
I stick up post-its to remind me of things.  I add photos and postcards of people I love or pictures to inspire me.
Books and files that I use often are close to hand.
It's comfortable.  I sit here often, doing any number of tasks (often simultaneously and sometimes with a toddler on my lap).
Yes... this is my workspace.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Play prompts and i-pad apps for toddlers

My camera has given up (I've only had it since last Christmas...  I've managed to kill a camera in under 12 months!).  But I'm now armed with Hubby's camera #2.  It's a little bigger than my usual, and won't just slip into a pocket or handbag (perhaps where I went wrong with my camera?) so won't get as many outdoor photos, but at least I have one that works now.

This month our vague theme is "shape and colour" about which I based this morning's invitation to play.  C was busy with the i-pad, more on that in a second, so this was really for Bug.

I started by stacking her coloured stars, stacking her coloured cups, stacking her coloured cars and laying out Mr Potato Head's accessories, as well as leaving my brightly coloured poncho lying around and setting up a shape puzzle.  She spent some time playing with all of these, mostly taking the stacking items out of their towers and fitting them inside one another.  Eventually she finished this play and wandered off.  When she returned I had rearranged everything.  This time the stacking items were lined up in order of size, Mr Potato Head had a funny face, and I had put out some different shape puzzles ready to complete.  She couldn't resist.  She came back to have another play, this time rearranging Mr Potato Head's face, and making towers out of the stacking items, as well as having a go at the puzzles.

Meanwhile, C was busy with the i-pad.  He'll sometimes take no notice of it at all for weeks on end, and then he wants to have a play on it every day for a while.  We first introduced it as a distraction/treat to keep him on the potty when we were first potty training.  I usually give him a 20 minute time-limit - which he is more than happy with - but what does he play on there?  Here are the "apps" that we have on there for him and Bug, if you have any good app recommendations then do let me know:
  • Art of Glow - a simple programme where you can draw firework-esque pictures that glow in different shapes and colours.
  • Counting 123 - I'm not a great fan of this one.  You do things - such as tapping on the fish or dresses on the screen and it counts to ten and then gives you a cheer.  I suppose that the repetition of counting to ten helps children to remember the sequence, but that's about it.
  • Animals Zoo - This one is a bit like animals flashcards, only animated, and when you tap the animals they make a suitable noise, and when you tap the animal name, the computer reads it to you.  Both my children are now pretty confident with the names of all sorts of animals, and I think this app has helped.
  • Paint Sparkles - you can either draw freehand with paint, crayons, sparkly ribbons etc, or you can colour in one of the many provided pictures.  If you have the sound turned on then the american accent will also tell you the name of the colour.
That's about it on our i-pad for the kiddies - any others you'd recommend?

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Roofing my shed!

The hardest part of any job is getting started
This particular job was re-felting the shed roof.  It's been leaking for a while.  We looked at the cost of replacing the shed, which is not in the best shape, but it was a bit on the pricey side.

Re-felting the felt was much cheaper!
I admit, it's not the neatest job in the world, or the best.  It only needs to keep the water out for another couple of years, and it's definitely much better than it was before.

I've been putting the job off for... hmmm... too long.  So, up on the roof, worrying just a little bit about the slightly rotten roof.  I'm quite proud of it actually, just getting the job done.  

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Books I've been reading...

I seem to have been doing a lot of reading just lately.  Here's a few of my recent reads:
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  • "Regeneration" by Pat Barker.  I've just finished this and it only took me a couple of evenings to read.  Hubby did tell me a few times that I actually do need to put the book down and go to sleep, even if it is gripping.  It was his fault - he recommended the book!  The story is based around some facts - namely Siegfrid Sassoon's stay in Craiglockhart Military Mental Hospital in Edinburgh during the Second World War, and the time he spent there with Wilfrid Owen.  It's horribly thought provoking, as there are references to the rationale behind continuing a war in which so many young men are being slaughtered, and to the grizzly experiences which are behind some of the illnesses suffered by young men in the hospital - most of whom, as soon as they are pronounced "fit" will be sent straight back to the front line.  I learned a lot by reading this book, and will definitely be seeking out further Pat Barker books.
  • "Creative Girl" by Katharine Sise.  This book is an exploration of how to find a career that makes use of your creativity, whether in your current job, in a new job, or in your own business.  There are lots of exercises to get you thinking about what would suit you, and it really does open your eyes to the breadth of possibilities.
  • "The Handmade Marketplace - how to sell your crafts locally, globally and on-line" by Kari Chapin.  I love this one.  It gives lots of information about how to sell the things you make.  About finding out which Craft Fair might suit your goods, about selling on Etsy and in shops.  Can you tell that I'm thinking in this direction for how to make some cash in the next few years?
  • "The Cruel Sea" by Nicholas Monsarrat.  Another one that I picked up from Hubby's recommendation, and another war story.  Nicholas spent time during the Second World War in the Atlantic Convoys.  I had absolutely no idea just how brutal this part of the conflict was, just how many ships were destroyed.  Again, the story was gripping and I learned a lot in the reading.  You can't go wrong with a well told story that also teaches the reader things that they didn't know.
  • "How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk" by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. I read this book quite quickly and will need to revisit it to absorb the ideas better.  It just gives tools to help you communicate with your children in an effective and constructive way.  I've caught myself saying things to the children and then reflecting that I could have said it better.  With more reflection on the contents of this book, and with practice, I think I'll be able to communicate better more of the time.
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Friday, 2 November 2012

Creative inspiration - paint your child's bedroom

Firstly - apologies for the photos, I seem to have killed yet another camera, and as soon as I can scrape together some cash may be investing in another one.  This one has lasted 10 months since last Christmas, but  it has had a lot of use.
Enough on that though, on to the post...
C's bedroom used to have a built in wardrobe, which we took out.  We painted the alcove white, but it didn't look right, and would have needed another couple of coats.  We've put C's wardrobe into the space, as well as some other bits and pieces.

I had some creative inspiration of what to do to make a feature out of the spot.  I painted the alcove with one  coat of some pale green emulsion that we had left over from painting the master bedroom.
A few weeks later (today) I completed the project.  I drew out my design on paper first, which didn't really look as I hoped because the children helped.  Then, I drew directly onto the wall, making it clear to C that he wasn't allowed to do this.  I used normal poster paint to paint on.  First I painted the tree trunk and branches and the back colour of the squirrel and owl with brown paint.
Next I used a sponge to apply a not quite mixed palette of green, yellow and white as leaves, and a brush to apply green for grass.
I used a sponge again to apply purple, white and yellow for spring woodland flowers, and a brush to apply purple and yellow for butterfly wings and yellow and white for the chest, talons, beak and eyes of the owl.  I then applied black for details throughout.   
I'm quite pleased with the result, I think it looks really effective.  C loves it, and was desperate to show Hubby when he got home.  The whole thing only took about an hour to paint.