Superhero Saturday!

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Yesterday G was invited to the ‘superheroes and princesses’ birthday party of her best friends (twins), so Saturday became ‘Superhero Saturday’.

There was never much doubt that G would decide to go as a superhero, which meant an outing for the superhero outfit she got for Christmas, made by the fair hands of Santa’s elves of course (wink).

The night before the party I realised she didn’t have any clothes (other than jeans and T-shirt) that would go with her pink and purple outfit, so decided to whip up a quick dress out of an old jersey wrap dress of mine.

I wish I’d taken some pictures as we went along because I was pretty pleased with how it turned out – in the sense that it fits her, goes on over her head without having to contort into any ridiculous shapes, and survived the whole party intact!

I roughly pinned together and cut the bodice before she went to bed, using safety pins so that I wouldn’t accidentally pin it to her, and worked it so I could reuse the existing neckline and hems meaning the only bit of hemming I needed to do was around the arms.

After G had gone to bed I pulled out the sewing machine and stitched it together in about 10-15 minutes using a stretch stitch. The Great British Sewing Bee would be proud of me.
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I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that G was so excited about the party that she wanted to put on her superhero outfit in the morning, hours before we were due to leave for the party.

In retrospect I also shouldn’t have been surprised that she wanted C to join in the fun, so the rest of our morning was spent making a superhero mask and cape for C, to match the party dress that G picked out for her. Coupled with her new ‘superhero’ nappy, I had two little superheroes on my hands for the rest of the day.

I can’t say C was as excited as G was about her new outfit, but she was certainly a good sport about the whole thing. And the party was a roaring success all round.

Happy birthday L and A! I hope you had as much fun as G did at your party!

Craft: Peach Blossom Flower Light Garland

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Having a stash of tissue paper leftover from G’s Easter bonnet, I found myself browsing Pinterest (always dangerous!) and came across a few different pictures of tissue paper lights.

A quick rummage through the Christmas decorations yielded an unopened strong of LED fairy lights which were perfect – I understand that they have to be LED ones so there’s no heat risk with the paper.

I decided to try out a different technique for making flowers so cut orange and peach tissue paper into squares approximately 3″ wide.

Taking a few layers at a time I folded it in half then half again, and then folded on the diagonal. On the outer edge I cut a petal shape, then cut a small but off the inner point so as to make a hole in the middle which the lights could go through.

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I wanted to alternate between plain peach flowers and ones with a shot of orange to add a pop of colour. For the plain peach I used three cut flowers laid on too of each other, for the others I swapped the middle piece for orange.

All I had to do to make the flowers was slip the light bulb through the hole in the middle of the flower, gather and scrunch the base slightly, and add a bit of sticky tape to hold it in place. Florists tape or even either a dark green or coordinating colour electrical tape would probably have been neater but I didn’t have any to hand.

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I’m really pleased with the result, and the fact it took less than half an hour start to finish!

One more step towards finishing C’s Mum-made nursery decor – maybe I’ll have finished by the time she’s 16?!

Craft: Snuggly Pompom Blanket

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I know what you’re thinking… “She said this was going to be a crafty blog, but pretty much the only craft she’s written about recently involves getting overly competitive at Easter bonnet competitions!”

Yeah, I know. I’m not really that competitive, honest. I just like making things!

And I have been busy making behind the scenes. It’s just that I was knitting and, well, I’m not very good at knitting. And I haven’t figured out how to knit whilst feeding C, which is pretty much the only time I’ve had to do it.

So, a good 6 or 7 weeks after I first started it, and just in time for the long hot days of summer, may I present – the warmest, snuggliest, curl-up-in-front-of-a-roaring-fire-and-hide-underneath-it, pompom blanket!!
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Ok, I really need to think about making things for the season we’re going into, not the one we’ve (hopefully) just left behind, but I’m sure the British weather will ensure it doesn’t need to be packed away until next winter. I was inspired by a Mummy friend of mine who makes these gorgeous blankets, as well as seeing a few mums on our local pram walk with their little ones tucked up in similar ones, and then finally by picking up the yarn on a whim whilst wandering round our local Abakhan fabric store.

So, what do you need to know?

Well first up, I used Rico Pom Pon wool, which of all the ‘pom-pom’ wool I saw seemed to have the biggest and softest pom-poms. It comes in tons of colours – I used three balls of 032 ‘ice green’ which is a kind of pale aqua, almost duck egg colour, perfect to go with C’s nursery. It’s around £8 per ball depending on where you buy it from, so about £24 materials cost for a toddler sized blanket.

Secondly, if you’re going to make a biggish blanket, use circular knitting needles! I started off on normal needles thinking I could squish it on, but as I added more rows it got bigger and bigger and bigger, until I had no choice but to run out and buy some circular needles to move it all onto.

Thirdly, work out how big you want your blanket to be. The pom-poms themselves are about an inch in length, and because of them your knitting tension doesn’t seem to have a huge impact on the finished size. I cast on far too many really, 40 pom-poms (80 stitches) which made it about 100cm width. Once I realised this I made a tactical decision to use that as the long side of the blanket instead of the width, rather than unpick all the knitting I’d done and start again! Realistically about 30-35 pom-poms would probably have been right for a toddler sized blanket, and maybe half that for a pram blanket.

Fourthly (is that even a word?), I had the shop assistant’s words ringing in my ears as I left the store – “don’t try to follow the instructions on the packaging, look up some YouTube video instructions instead”. So I dutifully did, and the best, easiest one to follow that I found was this one by Hulu Crafts. It basically involves knitting two stitches inbetween each of the pom-poms, so you never actually have to pull the pom-poms through anything, but the video shows a useful technique for casting on as well.

It was surprisingly easy once I got going, and if you have some time to dedicate to it and knit at any speed then you could probably finish it in a week of evenings.

I’m not 100% happy with mine – there’s a few holes where I missed a couple of stitches, and it’s somehow a bit longer on one side than the other but the warmth and softness more than makes up for it. And I discovered the size I made has a benefit too, as whilst you’re knitting it handily doubles as a nice warm blanket for your knees!

Despite my slight reticence at doing more knitting I’ve ambitiously bought some more wool, in pink of course, to make a version for G as well. But I think I’ll try and get through a few other projects first, I can’t face another 7 weeks of knitting!

Of course you could always rope in a willing Grandma, Aunt or friend to do the hard work for you. Or ask my lovely friend Nina at So Snugglicious if she can make you one for you, much better and quicker than my effort!

And then instead of giving it to your toddler or baby as planned you can join me in secretly half wishing for some cold weather to put the fire on and snuggle up with it yourself.

Passing On My Competitive Streak…

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Remember the butterfly garden Easter bonnet I posted about making the other day?

Well today was the school nursery Easter parade, which saw G marching and singing with her classmates, and…winning the Easter bonnet competition!

Now I don’t like to admit to being competitive, but, well, who isn’t just a little bit? So I did feel a little vindicated in spending most of Saturday afternoon making those darned flowers, and cajoling G into designing and making it with me.

The kids (and parents) had clearly put lots of effort in, and I should add that there were actually three winners, one for each group. I had a big grin on my face watching my biggest girl sing, dance, and flap her arms like a chicken with all her friends as they sang their way through such classics as ‘chick chick chicken’.

And so begins the Easter holidays – the first time I’ll actually have to fully entertain two children for a whole week on my own, before we go off on a little holiday next week. Eek!

Any tips welcome, otherwise come this time next week you’ll find me cowering in the corner clutching the gin…

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Craft: How To Make A Butterfly Garden Easter Bonnet

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“Over the next week we’d like you to make an Easter bonnet with your child for our Easter parade, which all parents are invited to attend.”

Wah! It’s enough to strike fear into any parent, even an avid crafter like me. Why? Well firstly there’s a time constraint – any craft project I undertake these days takes at least three times longer than it’s supposed to. Secondly it needs to be something G can help me with – no getting carried away looking at ridiculously extravagant bonnet ideas on Pinterest, and definitely no sewing or crochet allowed. And thirdly, other parents will be watching! Can I stick to number 2 without losing my crafty credentials?! No offence to my incredibly creative daughter, but she is only 4 after all, and her attention span is not exactly infinite.

When asked, G insisted she wanted pretty much everything on her bonnet, but we compromised on flowers and butterflies, as long as there was some pink and glitter in there. A quick trip to the pound shop gave us some basic materials – a plain bonnet (a little on the small side but nothing a bit of ribbon wouldn’t help with), some crepe paper in Easter colours and fake grass. We already had at home some pipe cleaners, green card, glitter and some sticky foam butterflies.

We started by making the flowers. To do this you need about 3-5 layers of crepe paper, measuring around about 4″ wide and 12″ long and laid on top of each other. We varied the size of our rectangles to make different sized flowers.

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Starting with the short side, fold the paper in a concertina style, with the folds about half an inch wide – don’t make the folds any wider or it’ll be hard to open up the flower later. Secure in the middle with a pipe cleaner and then trim the ends into either a rounded or pointed shape.

To turn these into flowers you first fan out your paper on either side of the pipe cleaner and them very carefully separate the layers from each other and fluff up into a flower shape. We made about 15 flowers in a variety of colours and sizes. This is by far the most time consuming bit (I never said it was a quick project!), and I have to confess G got bored halfway through and left me to finish the flowers on my own.

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Next you need to attach your flowers to the bonnet. Staring at the top, use a small pair of scissors to cut a little hole in the hat which you can then poke the pipe cleaner stems through. Do the same for a second flower next to your first, then turn the hat over to secure the two pipe cleaners to each other, holding the flowers in place. Continue until you’ve covered the whole top of the hat.

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Take the fake grass and tease it out into a strip. This then wraps around the brim of the hat, tucking underneath the flowers. We added some little foam flowers we had around the side to secure the grass in place.

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Next the leaves. Using green card, draw and cut out your leaf shapes. Then cover them with glue (both sides) and sprinkle with glitter. Take 2-3 leaves at a time, poke a hole in the bottom and attach to the hat with pipe cleaners.

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Pipe cleaners again for our sticky foam butterflies and dragonflies. We fixed them so they were flying above the flowers and would move a little as she walked. If you don’t have sticky foam ones like us (or wanted some slightly classier ones!) you could make them out of card and colour them in, or even use felt to cut them out of.

Last but not least, we attached some ribbon to either side of the hat for it to be tied onto G’s head neatly with a bow.

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You’ll have to wait until next week to see the bonnet in action at the Easter parade. In the meantime I’d love to see your creations or Easter bonnet plans!

The Weekend Box

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You know when you save something for a rainy day, then never quite get round to finding a day quite rainy enough to justify it?

Despite the weather, that’s exactly what I did with our first Weekend Box, and it took the arrival of our second box today to spur me into action.

The Weekend Box is a subscription service which is delivered either fortnightly or monthly (you choose), giving children aged 3-8 four separate activities to keep them busy. The boxes cost £7.50 each, but see the bottom of this post for a code to try one for free!

The activities in the box are themed – each box has something to make, something to explore, something to cook and something green. And almost all the things you need are included in the box – you also receive an email before your box arrives pre warning you of any cooking ingredients you might need, although anything other than store cupboard staples and fresh ingredients is included in the box.

Our first box included finger painting, map making, cooking snowball biscuits and making a kite using recycled materials.
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G was hooked from the moment she spotted her name on the box – so much so we almost didn’t make it out to nursery school in the afternoon! She intuitively understood the colour coding of bags, instructions and stickers, and loved running up and down the corridor flying the kite, and getting (not too) messy with paint.

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As an adult I had some niggles – the box wasn’t quite sturdy enough not to have been a bit battered in the post (the second box is the same) and I had to comb through the contents with an excited preschooler hovering over my shoulder to find out what we could do. The instructions were also all written rather than having pictures, which would be fine for older children but meant G needed me to constantly tell her what to do – she likes to be able to make things independently most of the time but at 4 years old is obviously not yet able to read the instructions herself.

That said, the activities kept her entertained for the bulk of the day, and she thoroughly enjoyed herself. A big incentive for me was that we found ourselves doing things we wouldn’t have done otherwise – not just the activities themselves but, for example, we used up the leftover poster paint to do hand and footprints of both G and her baby sister.

Box two has arrived already, and as G already clocked it on the doormat I’m sure we’ll be doing that one very soon too!

I got my first box free using a referral code from a friend and you can too, by entering the code LORRAINE3707 at checkout. You can cancel at anytime so it’s well worth trying out! This post is all my own views and I haven’t been incentivised to post, although I do get credit on my account for every person who signs up using the referral code above. If you sign up you receive your own referral code to share.