Sunday, 31 March 2013

Family Days Out in Central Scotland - Butterfly World, Edinburgh

As Mother Nature appears to have forgotten that it's no longer supposed to be winter, and we are stuck with snow and freezing temperatures, we decided to head for warmer climates.
This did not involve a plane trip of any kind, but instead consisted of a drive across the Forth and around the A720 to Butterfly World near Edinburgh.
 Here you get to walk through a warm, humid jungle of a greenhouse, surrounded by butterflies (with quails scuttling about the floor as well), there are pools, waterfalls, benches to sit on, and everywhere you look there are butterflies.  In the photo above you'll see from Bug's face just how delighted she is with these fluttering delights, especially the one that landed on daddy's shoulder.
 Through another door you can get to a reptile room.  Both children thought the Monitor Lizard was awesome, and they loved the Pythons, and the Boa Constrictor pictured above.  There were also Bearded Dragon's, Geckos various, chameleons and other snakes including a submerged anaconda.  Through to another room and there were row upon row of tanks housing different types of tarantula, some giant millipedes, some frogs and newts, a colony of leaf-cutter ants (the colony was in one part of the room, and their food source was in another, and the ants were marching by the hundred along ropes above our heads carrying chunks of leaf back to the ranch).  As you can tell this attraction went down very well, both with me and the children.
There are animal handling sessions at 12 noon and 3pm, where you get to handle the giant millipedes, a snake and a tarantula.  The guy running it was excellent, and should definitely be on television.  We went to the noon one, but didn't stay for the whole thing, as by this time the children were hungry and tired and weren't up for handling the critters. 
More positives?  Yes, the gift shop has a wide range of critterly jungly offerings, and is reasonably priced, and just across the car park is Dobbies Garden World which has an excellent cafe.  Can't go wrong!

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Deep Cleaning the Kitchen

With two small (read "messy") people and a large hairy dog running about the place, and the constant use for crafts, creating, cooking, baking, getting ready for dog-walking and access to the garden, cleaning my kitchen is a non-stop job.  As a result, I have the "maintenance" tasks, that get done as and when required, but every now and then the room needs a really deep clean.  I would love to say that I just empty the entire room and crack on, but as everybody knows, that doesn't really work with a very lived-in kitchen.  So here's what to do:

  • Stand in your kitchen with a piece of paper and a pencil.
  • Choose a starting point and move clockwise around the whole room, making a list of every job to do. As most people are busy with jobs or children, you'll want to break the jobs up quite small.
  • Just crack on and do as much as you can as quickly as you can, gradually crossing off the list until you've finished.  Once you're done, even if the kitchen looks messy again almost straight away (because it's in constant use), at least you'll know that you've cleaned all those nooks and crannies, and there aren't any horrible corners lurking that "you really must get around to sometime".

Everybody's kitchen is different.  Mine is large-ish and includes a shoe and coat back porch area, a corner where the dog sleeps, and a walk in pantry.  Here's my list:
  • kitchen floor
  • clear off and sort out the hat and coat stand
  • clear out the hat basket
  • check and clean the drinks cabinet
  • clean and sort the CD tower
  • clean the pantry floor
  • bottom shelf in pantry
  • pantry shelf 2 (rice and pasta etc)
  • pantry shelf 3 (tins and jars)
  • pantry shelf 4 (cereals and flours)
  • top shelf in pantry (?)
  • clean bins
  • clean table
  • clean microwave
  • clean surfaces by cooker
  • clean tiles behind surfaces by cooker
  • shelves by phone
  • shelves by radio
  • plates cupboard
  • cooker hood and extractor
  • oven
  • grill
  • hob
  • saucepans cupboard
  • tupperware cupboard
  • bottom drawer
  • middle drawer
  • cutlery drawer
  • glasses cupboard
  • mugs cupboard
  • pull cooker out and clean behind
  • fronts of all cupboards
  • pull front base boards from all cupboards and clean underneath
  • tops of cupboards
  • spice rack
  • fish tank 
  • shelves by fish tank
  • kitchen doors
  • shoe racks
  • coat hooks
  • floor in shoe cupboard
  • clean dishwasher
  • cupboard under sink
  • surfaces and tiles by sink
  • sink and area
  • kitchen window and area
  • clean washing machine
  • defrost and clean fridge and freezer
  • top of fridge
  • recipe books
  • gardening books
  • sort out big plant
  • patio doors
  • dog bed area
  • conservatory doors
Woah!  I'm exhausted just looking at it!  But... one job at a time... one room at a time... At the end of the list I know I have a clean kitchen, then I just carry on with the maintenance tasks until the next big clean!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Treasure Box crafting

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my little ones are into pirates, treasure, Peter Pan and adventure at the moment.  I didn't mention, but we've also been watching "Art Attack" on CITV.  It's much better than CBeebies' "Mr Maker" because, for a start, they do real art, and for a second, he is much more into using recycled materials and doesn't waste nearly as much paper and card as Mr Maker, who insists on cutting a small shape out of the middle of a large piece of paper (oops, sorry, this is a real bug-bear of mine, I'll get off the soap box now!).  Anyway, Neil Buchanan on Art Attack shows quite a lot of papier mache being used for all sorts of things, so we were inspired to use this technique to make our very own pirate treasure chest, which includes a secret compartment for your treasure map.

We started off with a cardboard box.  I used the cardboard box to measure, and cut out a rectangle of cereal box card the same width as the box, and more than twice the depth, allowing for a curved lid with a flap for the secret compartment in the lid.  I folded this piece of card and taped it in place, then cut out two more pieces of card for the sides of the lid and taped them in place too.

Next came the messy bit.  We brushed the entire box, lid, tape and everything with a mixture of half PVA glue and half water and then stuck on lots of bits of torn up kitchen roll all over, leaving no gaps.  The children did the outside, and I filled in the gaps and did the inside.

Once this is dry you can paint it.  C and Bug chose blue and purple and just went for it.  Afterwards I just put their clothes straight in the washing machine and them straight in the bath.

Once this paint was dry I added some details in black, and once this was dry they put in some "treasure".  I think the next project may be to make some more treasure!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Wild imaginations

C and Bug have been developing their imaginative play recently.  When my nephews started playing imaginatively they were watching a lot of Fireman Sam, so play involved fighting fires and conducting rescues.  My children visit castles and watch Peter Pan, so their imaginative play is all about pirate ships, treasure chests, dragons, crocodiles, castles and dungeons (as well as Gruffaloes and Bears from "We're going on a Bear Hunt" by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury and "The Gruffalo" by Julia Donaldson!).

I love watching them play together.  At the moment the imagination is largely led by C (he's three and a half), while Bug (just 2) follows along, copies, and occasionally follows his instructions, when she feels like it.  The sofa might be a castle, a pirate ship or a treasure island.  The washing basket is the pirate ship.  A bunch of old necklaces in a cardboard box is the treasure - We're currently creating a new treasure chest, more on that in a few days!  If I happen to pass by then I am roped in to be a crocodile complete with ticking clock sound effects, or a shark.  Sometimes I might be caught and put in prison in the dungeon...

Bug has different priorities.  Her imaginative play, as well as following on from C's, centres on food.  She loves the pretend kitchen and will bring me dish after dish of delectable offerings, pretend chocolates and cakes, to which I have to make appropriately appreciative noises as I gobble them down.

I'm eager every day to see what they will come up with next.  I'm going to make a few more bits (appropriate for the subject matter that they like to play) for the dressing-up-box, and move it somewhere more accessible than Bug's wardrobe, so that they can include clothes and props in their play.

Monday, 18 March 2013

A crafty morning with the little ones.

"Mummy, can we do some craft things this morning?"
"Yes.  What would you like to do?"
"Can we use the fancy scissors?"
At the moment he still goes with what he wants to use, rather than having a project in mind, so at this point I brought out "Creative Crafts for Kids", which I borrowed from the library and will definitely be buying a copy of.  We chose a quick and easy project to make little baskets using the fancy scissors.

  •  You get a square of coloured paper and cut along one edge with the fancy scissors.  
  • You then roll the square around a beaker, with the zig-zag edge towards the top of the beaker.  Fasten with tape.
  • Fold the rest of the paper square down over the bottom of the beaker to make the base of your basket and fasten with tape.
  •  Use your fancy scissors to cut a strip of paper for the handle and staple or tape in place.
  • Decorate.  We used self adhesive holographic shapes.
While they were finishing decorating their baskets I got some paints out in blues, greens, a dash of white, yellow and black, some sparkly and some not. 

We started to paint pieces of paper to be the sea.

 Then we drew and cut out a boat.  The one below is C's pirate ship, and he painted on a pirate as well.  He likes pirates at the moment.  Once the boat was complete and cut out, and the painting was dry, we stuck it on to the sea.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Ten things my children are teaching or reminding me daily

  1. When you are angry, frustrated, tired or upset the most important thing in the world is a cuddle.
  2. Playing is more important than rushing.
  3. Sometimes when you are creating it's more interesting not to have an end in mind - just let your pencil go and see what it looks like.
  4. It's very important to wave goodbye.
  5. Baths are great!
  6. Live in the moment.  You can just wash your hands, but isn't it better to use the opportunity to play with the soap and the water?
  7. Sleep is sooooo important to our mood and general well-being, even if we don't always admit it!
  8. Why walk in a straight line when there is stopping and sitting on the floor, skipping, galloping, hopping, walking backwards or balancing to be done?
  9. Every day is an opportunity to learn something new.
  10. Imagination is everything.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Latest creation - crochet hat

Here's the deal.  I'm a crochet beginner.  I mean a total beginner.  I bought myself a crochet hook and a crochet book with the book tokens that I got for my birthday back in September, but I didn't allow myself to touch them until after I'd got everything done in the crazy pre-Christmas rush.
I took them with me to Devon at Christmas, and asked my mum (who can crochet) to help me to make head or tail of the instructions.  I managed to successfully achieve chains, and even linking chains before I left there.  Then I made a start on the second item in the book, which involves rings in double crochet to make a hat.  Now, I don't know how many of you can crochet, or in fact how many of you own the same book as me ("First Crochet" by Lesley Stanfield), but for some reason my hat doesn't look the same as the one in the book, even though I used the same size hook. 
I asked a friend what she thought, and she said it looks as though I've done every stitch while they've done every other - does that make sense?
Can any of my reader(s) help me to work out where I went wrong?
To be honest I'm not too bothered about this hat, as you can see the doll is very happy with it, it's just that I might want to crochet again at some point, and it would be useful to know what I need to do to do it properly.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

A fishy story

This gorgeous mobile (no, don't ask me why the photo comes out sideways on my blog when it was the right way up in my computer!) is very fishy, and also a lot of fun for two small people.
 Here's what we used: holographic card, sparkly sequins and jewels and sticky stars, glue, scissors and pencil, needle, thread and blutac, wooden dowelling (just a few bits lying around, you could use sticks from the garden).
 First I drew and cut out some basic fish shapes in a whole variety of sizes from the holographic card, then I set the children loose with the glue and sparkles to decorate them.  They both also cut out some more holographic card to add to the decorations.
Once the fist were on their way to being decorated I started to tie the dowelling, and hung it above us in the kitchen.  As each fish was finished I made a hole in the top of it using the needle and the blu-tac, put some thread through and tied it to the dowelling.  This bit is tricky as it always needs to be balanced.
The finished article looks amazing, it moves in any air, and the fish sparkle in the sunlight.  It really fits in with our water/sea theme this month, and follows on nicely from our visit to "Deep Sea World" just outside Edinburgh on Thursday.  Unfortunately I kept bumping it with my head where it was hanging in the kitchen, so it has migrated to C's bedroom, where it has a bit more space to work the magic.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

This month's make

Unbelievably I've already finished my nephew's first birthday present, and he isn't one until the end of June!  Those who've been following for a while will know that I've knitted a few of these.  For C for his first birthday, then one each for my two nieces when they were one, one for Bug on her first birthday, and now this one for the smallest of the generation.  Sadly the two older nephews missed out, but by the time I'd started knitting they weren't interested in anything unless it was Fire Engine shaped.  I'll make them something good further down the line.

The pattern is from

Monday, 4 March 2013

Simple crafts for crazy kids - crocs and snakes

This simple craft activity is so easy to do, and different aged children can do as much or as little as they can manage, but you don't end up spending ages finishing off for them.

For the snake:
  • Take a piece of coloured A4 paper, cut off the corners to make a rounded shape, then cut into a spiral.
  • Draw a face at one end - your choice whether it goes on the inside or the outside of the spiral.  You can stick on googly eyes and a forked tongue as well if you like.
  • Lay it down flat and colour a suitably serpentine pattern.  
  • Hang it up from one end - finished

 For the crocodile:

  •  Take a green piece of paper and draw on a long crocodile shape.  He needs to have sticking up eyes, and a spiky back.
  • Leaving the face and tail unfolded, fold the rest of the crocodile in concertina style.
  • Decorate the crocodile if you like.
  • Stick two lolly sticks or straws to the back of the crocodile at each end of the concertina section.  This gives you an excellent wiggly crocodile.  My two had great fun with the crocodiles chasing one another.
On a side note, it's interesting to note that the noise they make when they are being sharks is "duh - duh, duh - duh" (Jaws style - as that's the noise I make when I'm being a shark too), while if they are a crocodile they go "tick-tock, tick-tock" - you can't go wrong with Peter Pan!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Bug's new bed

Bug is now a big girl.
Not long before her second birthday we decided that it was time to transition from cot to big-girl-bed.  Her bedroom is a little tight for space, so we had decided some time ago that she was going to have a cabin bed. Our selection criteria were that it:

  • should be wooden
  • should be sturdy, as we want it to last into her teens
  • should have a decent rail - she's still quite little and I don't want her falling out
  • should have steps (however steep), rather than a ladder with rungs.  Again, she's only little, and I want to make it as easy as possible for her to get in and out safely.
This is what we ended up with: 
We spent a Friday evening assembling all the different components and then, very excitedly, she climbed in.
Unbelievably, she has yet to try to climb out during the night.  She seems to accept that she is supposed to stay in until morning!  She loves her pillow and her duvet, and she loves that Mummy or Daddy come in for a cuddle and a story at bed time, which we obviously couldn't do with the cot.

There's a little corner at the end of the bed where the shelves are, which I have filled with her bean bag, cushions and soft toys - it's her story corner.  If, at any time, she goes quiet and I don't know where she is, she'll either be in bed with a book, or in her story corner with a dozen books.
As you can see from the pictures, C loves his sister's bed too.

 Now I'm just keeping an eye out for a solid wooden chair, which I'm going to paint to co-ordinate with her bedroom, to go with the desk part of the bed.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Our Secret Den

It's fair to say that as far as this blog is concerned... I've been pretty useless lately.  Thankfully it's just in terms of the blog.  With everything else I am doing pretty well!  So:

  • my house is relatively clean - as clean as any house is where it isn't top priority and you have a dog and two small children.
  • the laundry is done
  • the children are happy
  • I am happy
  • I am very busy with Scout tasks various.

But I am resolved to get the blog back on form too.

 Back in January we started going to our "secret den".  I wanted to wait until Bug was confident enough on her feet that time spent in the woods wasn't going to involve too much time tripping and stumbling.  In the woodland alongside the golf course, there is a magnificent shelter.  I think it was made during a project on the Clearances by the children from the village Primary School, but it's also been expanded and used by "Mucky Pups", the local after-school club.  We wander along (with two small ones it's about a fifteen or twenty minute walk), and then spend up to an hour just playing in the pine woods there, using the shelter (sorry, "secret den") as our base.

Since it's pretty cold at this time of year I always take a flask of soup and wrap them up warm, but I'm also teaching C about hide-and-seek, and Tag and other good running around games, and we do lots of balancing and climbing too.
This is what I envisaged when I wanted to have children.  Lots of time playing outdoors, regardless of the weather!