Happy Birthday Nanny Jo

Yesterday it was my mum’s and Rose’s Nanny Jo’s birthday! We didn’t manage to see her on the day, but had a get together today. Rose likes birthdays a lot and we’ve had a lot recently, although she still has a little way to go before her own. But she enjoys the celebrations and knows what’s important for a birthday – especially a cake.

So we decided it would be nice to make Nanny Jo a cake to celebrate, especially as she would never let any of our birthdays pass without it.

I whisked up a simple jam sponge sandwich secretly in the kitchen while Rose was eating her lunch. She love loves to bake, but we did a bit of baking over the weekend (bit of a baking flop – although I might share the photos of the mess one day….) and I was feeling like I was a bit baked out to bear a re-run so soon. Instead I decided to approach this activity as a creative cake decorating event, and Rose really embraced the challenge.

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I set everything up in advance, putting different decorative sweets into bowls and pre icing the cake ready. Since starting my blog I have tried really hard to do more creative activities with her, but this has really highlighted to me that she is not that interested in them – which is hard for me because that’s really what I like – she is more of a whirlwind climber / thrower type (although she likes the look of knitting so I haven’t given up hope) I have mostly given up on anything which involves too much structure for success, but she does have fun when left to her own creative devices – which is really hard for me, because I just want to ‘help’ her to make ‘something’. I wasn’t sure how this cake was going to go, but I was pleasantly surprised at her focus (and how much of the decorations made it onto the cake and how little she actually tried to eat). I was proud of myself too for keeping my guidance purely to the hygiene issues (don’t put that on the cake after it’s been in your mouth/in your ear etc) EVEN when she started on the sprinkles.

finished toddler decorated cake

And it tasted nice too. Nanny Jo and Grandpop seemed to enjoy their slices and Grandpop even had seconds! That is good measure of cake success.

Happy Birthday Nanny Jo! xx

Jelly Smelly Playdough

Rose is such a playdough fanatic, it has rubbed off on me a little bit, and I get quite excited when I find a new recipe (there are a lot of recipes to try – I found one made with hair conditioner which I really want to try, but as Rose still eats the playdough, no matter how disgusting it tastes, I will continue with the food based ingredients for now)

We have had a lot of fun from our starry night glitter playdough, but it was time to say goodbye really (getting a bit sticky and soggy) and I decided that for spring we should have some bright and sweet playdough.

The starry night playdough had geletin in it, and in the supermarket I found some sugar free jelly sachets, which come as a powder a bit like the geletin – good colour and fruity smells. The quantity was quite dramatically more, but I thought it was worth a try, and found a recipe which seemed to allow for it:

the jelly for the jelly playdoughsome other ingredients for the playdough

h o w  t o  m a k e  j e l l y  p l a y d o u g h

1 cup (250ml) flour
1 cup (250ml) water
1 tbsp cream of tartar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup (60ml) salt
Sugar free Jelly powder

Measure out your ingredients and add to a saucepan. Heat gently, stirring, until it comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a dough (it’s hard to explain it, but when it happens you will understand!)

Leave it to cool for a few minutes in the pan, then turn out and knead until lovely and smooth.

jelly playdough so bright and niceplaying with playdough

I made strawberry, orange and blackcurrant playdoughs and they smell so nice, and are lovely and spongy and soft. The orange and strawberry are the best smells I think. I did add a bit of yellow food colouring to the orange dough as it wasn’t looking very bright in the pan, but then my dough came out quite sticky so I might have upset the wet/dry balance. I kneaded it with some flour though in the same way you might if your bread dough was too sticky, and it was much better (although i did seem to have to add a lot of flour extra) Top tip!

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We played with blackcurrant first of all. So fruity and squishy. Rose still claims it’s delicious even though it is completely revolting – even more revolting than normal playdough – salty blackcurrant – oh no. I showed her how to roll out sausages and made little balls for her to squash together to make caterpillars. She liked talking to the caterpillars. Also her dinosaur liked the playdough (she likes this dinosaurs a lot at the moment – it’s a bit Peppa and George)

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I hope you’re having a lovely Easter break if you get one of those.

Fastest Easter Hat in the West

This week has been quite a busy one for us here so sorry for being a bit quiet! But today we did a little make so I thought I would share that, and also say hello. Hello!

Last week was quite topsy turvy as Rose’s nursery day swapped round. This meant though that we have very short notice of a little easter bonnet homework she has been set. We do actually have an easter bonnet from last year that I think I might take in too, but we managed to put together this little last minute crown today which I think is quite sweet and Rose describes as ‘so pretty’.

So if you find yourself in this predicament, here is what we did…. (you might be able to use our crown as the basis for a much grander easter hat)

You will need: Anything you can find really, especially some green card and yellow and pink paper or card, paints, stickers, tissue paper, glitter etc etc (we just used the card and paint mostly, I haven’t given up on adding some stickers in the morning though!)

I used two pieces of A4 green card and cut them both in half lengthways. Then I drew some jagged grass shapes along the edge and cut them out.

Using my yellow and pink card I cut out lots of flower shapes – daffodil shapes from the yellow and tulip shapes from the pink. I had saved some egg boxes which I thought would make good daffodil trumpets, but Rich had thrown them away (in the bin, not even the recycling – no hope) so maybe that is a good idea if you have those. I thought also we could add some texture with some tissue paper, but then I forgot that. I just mention these things so you know about my grand intentions!

quick easter hat makequick easter hat make
quick easter hat make

Next I got Rose to paint it all – just to jazz it up a bit (and make sure it at least looked like she was involved somewhere in the making process – although I admit, she really didn’t care about this project!) I tried to get her to paint the green card with green and the yellow with yellow and the pink with pink, as I thought that doubled up as a sort of educational colour match type activity. Rose really liked dipping her brush in as many different colours of paint as she could before randomly adding it to the card. Then just run off for a bit. We sort of achieved my vision though…

flowers stuck on our quick easter hat

We let it dry for a little while and then used some glue to assemble our spring garden crown. I layered the green card to give a bit of depth to the ‘grass’ and then we glued the flowers on. Mostly I did this bit. But Rose was really impressed with how pretty (she thought) it looked.

quick easter hat make

Then I tried to get her to stick some of her coloured dot stickers on but she didn’t want to.

So then when everything was good and dry, I used a stapler to form the pieces into a ring that would fit Rose’s head. Hurruh!
finished easter bonnet

I hope you haven’t had any mad panic nursery homework (or any type of homework) to complete this weekend and have had a nice rest instead!

Cloudy day, cloudy dough

Rose has not yet grown out of trying to eat e v e r y t h i n g she can get her hands on. She is particularly fond of playdough, despite it’s super super saltiness (and the last time that made interesting nappies. glittery.) I found some great recipes while pinteresting for playdough that is edible and during my research I discovered that there are all sorts of different sensory doughs to try with different textures and qualities – perfect for winter afternoons.

This week I made some’cloud dough’ (I have also heard it called moulding sand but that doesn’t sound so fun) I want to call it ‘snow dough’ or ‘sand dough’ as we mostly ended up making snowmen and sandcastles with it! It has a lovely quality where it compresses together when you squash it so you can build little mounds or just squash it really satisfyingly in your hands (I really enjoyed the cloud dough too!) and crumbles nicely too.

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h o w  t o  m a k e  c l o u d  d o u g h

It’s so simple – you need 8 parts flour to 1 part oil. The traditional recipe uses baby oil and, but because I was doing an edible version, I just used sunflower oil.  I used 4 mugs of flour to half a mug of oil which gave a really good quantity. I think the baby oil would definitey give a whiter and sweetly scented dough though – definitely a bit more cloudy!

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We had a lot of fun with this – although I warn you – it is messy! Definitely one for a day you are planning to get the hoover out. And when you are not feeling like you might get stressed. For us this was a similar stress level to painting. About a 7.

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To start with I let Rose play with her cloud dough on a mat on the floor, and this worked well except that her tights got really covered in it and I could see it getting trodden all over the house, so I quickly moved her to the kitchen worktop and this was a much better plan. Rose really had a lot of fun with it, and it passed a lot of time while I stood back drinking a cup of tea, (thinking about all the cleaning I was going to have to do (ha!)) she used some of the cups from her bath and a few little kitchen utensils and was busy for ages.

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Lovely stuff – I am looking forward to another doughy day soon.

Hot fuzz

We have had such a wonderful Christmas time. We spent a few days at my parents’ house as we have every year since Rose was born, but this – her third Christmas – was by far the most magical, least stressful, most restful to date. She is at such a nice age, she knows all the special people and loves to get them to play with her. She was really excited by the ‘chimmee’ in nanny and pop pop’s sitting room and kept retelling how Santa had come in and left the presents on the floor. I loved hearing this story so much.

One little pre-christmas present I made her as a really portable and no-space, no-mess activity for these holidays was a bit of fuzzy felt.  I have fond memories of this little activity from when I was little (and also a really strange very early memory of fuzzy felt which i think i am confusing with a memory of those little verruca pad things? memories can be strange. i sometimes wonder if Rose will remember things we do now in a weird way later…). I think my version is much coarser than the mass produced type, but for little Rose it seems to be just fine.

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If you have never come across fuzzy felt before, it is a really simple toy for children. Felt pieces will cling to each other, so it is great to  make pictures using felt pieces on a felt back ground (I very lazily just used a larger square of felt for my background, but you could put this onto a piece of board to keep it really flat). The pieces cling really nicely, but are easy to move around for hours of fun (or minutes depending on the age of child!)

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It was difficult for me to decide what shapes to make for my fuzzy felt set. I had seen lots of felt Christmas trees that children can decorate with felt decorations (which was my original inspiration for this little toy) but I decided to go for something less seasonal and in the end I created a little landscape scene.

I bought my felt from my local haberdashery but have seen it in all sorts of places for sale. My pieces were about 50p each so I managed to get a nice range of colours for just a few pounds. I cut out shapes of lots of things from the world that I knew Rose will recognise, trees and a car and clouds and a cat. I hoped she would enjoy putting together little scenes and so far we have had some lovely little plays with this one, and lots of conversations about ducks on the water. Success.

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Happy holly leaf wreath

I found this sweet book in the library last week. It is a really nice little one full of little festive makes children could manage. My child is still quite small though and not really able to stitch yet, but she likes to glue, and luckily there  a lovely little project i thought might be a good one for us to tackle together – a festive fabric wreath.

I did the preparation myself – first cutting out a card ring for the base using a tea plate and a mug as templates. Then cutting out some holly leaf shapes from all my green fabrics (i have a bit of a surplus of green at the moment, for a little secret christmas present project) I cut out five leaves from each of 4 different shades of green cotton, some green felt and some grey cotton.

Then it was time to get toddler involved! i mixed up some PVA glue with water to make it runnier, and gave this to Rose in a little tub. She dipped the leaves in and ‘arranged’ them around the ring (i might have helped a teeny bit with the arrangement – but only a teeny bit). It was quite a good idea to soak the leaves like this as it was easy for Rose to manage – she got the idea really quickly – and the leaves all stuck well. And it also meant that when it dried the fabric had a starched quality. The only problem i found was where we tried this with the felt leaves they were just a bit heavy and needed an extra gluing with normal strength glue afterwards.

Next i made some little baubles for the wreath. I used some brightly coloured fabric scraps and cut out circles of varying sizes (i drew these freehand so they are a little wonky). I layered some of the fabrics on top of each other, gluing them with the same watered down glue mixture as we used on our leaves, and embellished them a little with some buttons and a few stitches.

Lastly i taped a loop of ribbon to the back so that i could hang our little wreath up near our christmas tree. It’s so pretty, i am proud of Rose and my good work on this little project.

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Starry night for a rainy day

Rose and i are such play-dough fans, especially on days like these where the weather is really unfriendly. I always find it really worthwhile to make a little batch as Rose really likes to play. Normally my play-dough is a bit grey in colour though i have to admit. So when i saw this amazing starry night version i thought it would definitely be a good one to help me raise my game.

I liked the sound of this recipe also because of the addition of gelatin to give it extra stretch and bounce. it is a lovely and soft one.

starry night black glittery play dough

Here is the recipe for you to try:

1 cup (250ml) flour
1 cup (250ml) water and food colouring combined (i used a whole bottle of black food colouring!)
2tsps cream of tartar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup (83ml) salt
1tsp gelatin powder
Lots and lots of glitter

Add the water and colouring to a saucepan over a medium heat and add the geletin powder. Stir until dispersed. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the glitter) and combine. Keep stirring as the mixture heats up. Take off the heat when the dough has come together and is coming away from the sides of the pan. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes before turning out and kneading. Add the glitter by rolling out a thick lump and pouring the glitter on. Knead again well  to spread it through the dough. Then it’s time to play.

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I love how dense the colour is and the contrast with the glitter. Rose really like prodding her play dough with a fork and using the rolling pin. She is quite good at sharing her play dough too. This was a really nice rainy afternoon for us.

Next time i think i might need to find a recipe for edible play-dough though…

Printing Christmas trees

When it comes to Christmas, i normally have a very last minute approach to my preparations, but learnt my lesson last year and am trying much harder this time round to do things in good time.

I like to handmake my cards, and was quite excited at the idea of getting Rose involved with my christmas cards this year.

There are some great ideas using children’s hand prints to make pictures of reindeer, angels and christmas trees. I decided the christmas tree idea would be good for us, as Rose loves her dot stickers (endless packets of dot stickers) and i imagined those making good baubles, and a decorated christmas tree seemed like the design best suited to Rose’s freestyle approach.

The first step was the hand printing.

So i was feeling pretty confident. A friend of mine did this with her one year old last year, i knew then that we were not ready for this activity at that stage, but really thought a year on we would be there….

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Rose liked painting her hands, but the hand prints did not really happen. She just ended up looking like a miniature hulk. We started quite a good production line though with me cutting and folding the cards as she painted and printed the ‘trees’.

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She did really well though, and i thought her trees were really lovely, if not exactly what i had in mind!

The next step was to decorate our trees. We used some of the dot stickers we had already, but i found some lovely glittery dots too just for an extra festive touch.

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I was really inspired by Rose and her printing attempts, and decided to have a go at some cards myself.

I have never really done a lot of painting before, but wanted to have a go at some potato printing and thought this was a good technique to try for my little christmas card production line. I used one big potato and two small potatoes and kept it really simple by just cutting out some elongated triangle ‘tree’ shapes. I mixed up some green paint and varied the shades a little by adding blue, white and black paints in different areas and mixing them up.

I used a paint brush to apply the paint to my stamps so they were not too gloopy. i liked the effect of doing a print, then doing a slightly fainter print afterwards without reapplying the paint. i liked the texture that came through from the heavier ones though, and how the lighter ones were more smooth.

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I liked the way the cards looked, but decided it would be nice to add some more colour to them, and christmas cheer.

I thought about adding sticker baubles like Rose’s cards, but decided it might be better to stick with printing. I used the end of my paintbrush dipped in paint to print on little dots. perfect!

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And it’s not even December!

Have you made your christmas cards? Have you had any success with toddler hand printing?

Our Autumn Leaf Lantern

Rose really enjoys walking about our little town, and her newest favourite pastime is picking up leaves we find on the way. She is quite discerning, and not just any old leaf goes into her little yellow bucket, so i thought it would be nice to do something with her little collections.

collecting autumn leaves 98376855-4582-46D1-98BD-A51FB69F2943 766F3329-E1C4-4002-B8FF-5534046903DC E8FBF6CC-2DFF-48BB-A48B-723746F87FC8

I read about a festival called St Martin’s day. It falls on 11th November and is less known in the UK being overshadowed by rememberance day, but in europe is known as a sort of harvest festival. It seems to be celebrated in various ways across europe, from feasts to lantern processions. In Germany children carry their own handmade paper lanterns through the streets i found one example of a lady who had made lanterns with her child using the autumn leaves they had collected. I loved her lantern so much i really wanted to give it a go. A perfect project for Rose and I to try.

There is a perfect guide in the link above, but read on if you want to see what we did.

autumn leaves

(i apologise in advance for the lack of photographs in this post – Rose chewed the memory card from my camera this morning and so my lantern photos are a gonna! arrrgh! Luckily there were a few phone photos to save (or at least help redeem) the day!)

What we used:

our collection of autumn leaves
some newspaper and heavy books (for pressing)
greaseproof paper
an empty dairylea box
PVA glue, scissors, a pencil, a tape measure
a little bit of lace to trim (optional)

The first step was to press our leaves by laying them between sheets of newspaper a few sheets deep and placing heavy books on top. I left mine for about 24 hours, and it gave them a nice flat appearance to help give our lantern a smooth finish.

Next I measured around my cheese box and added about 1.5cm and used this number to cut a length of grease proof paper (mine was 36.5cm in total) The other lanterns I had seen used white grease proof paper but i decided to just use the brown stuff I already had. I quite liked the effect of it though.

The next step was to fold the paper in half lengthwise to make a crease down the centre. And then time for some glueing! To start we just wanted to paint one half of our paper with the glue. I think this was Rose’s favourite bit! We then worked together to arrange the leaves over the glued area. Rose struggled a little as she usually likes to layer her stickers over the top of one another, but this didn’t work with the leaves. She was very open to my suggestions though and our finished arrangement looked rather grand.

We then painted the other half of the paper with glue and i folded it over to make a leaf sandwich. While the glue was still wet i wrapped the paper around the cheese box and glued the overlapped edge (i used a little masking tape to hold it in place until it dried). I think that the glue was still wet inside the paper helped the paper take to the curved lantern shape.

I cut out the middle of one of the cheese box halves and glued these to top and bottom inside the lantern to help stabilise it. And just for a final finishing touch i added a little bit of old lace trim.

autumn leaf lantern in the dark autumn leaf lantern

I am not sure that  paper is the best material for a lantern, so i put my candle in a jar first – but maybe these are best for outdoor use – or perhaps with fairy lights would be better. I think it would also be a nice technique for making a little window hanging to let the sun shine through.

Happy St. Martins Day! xx

hello hallowe’en

I have never really been one for Hallowe’en celebrations, but i decided this year to jump on it and make some fun activities for Rose and me. I saw this blog post from ispy DIY about no carve pumpkins, and the picture of the pumpkin covered in little dots reminded me a lot of a sticker book of Rose’s where we had to stick spots on the ladybirds. Rose enjoyed that activity, telling me the colours she liked and sticking them on, so when i saw it i thought it looked like something she would like, and festive to boot.

Our pumpkin didn’t turn out quite as dotty as i first imagined, but it is quite psychedelic and we had a lot of fun make it. It was quite a nice project for us as broke down into two sessions of crafting fun.

We started off by painting our pumpkin as i thought this would give a nice base for our stickers. There was a bit of a novelty value in painting a pumpkin too! We just used some poster paint which we got from our little toyshop locally. Rose has learnt the word ‘splash’. i am still finding paint splatters (please don’t let this put you off)

painting a pumpkin no carvepainting a pumpkin no carve for children

I also bought some black card for another little project to help pass some of the time, but our pumpkin was quite wet in places so I left it overnight before the next phase.

Rose peeling off stickers for her no carve pumpkin Rose sticking stickers to her no carve pumpkin

I managed to find some little stickers stickers inexpensively in one of the stationary shops – a selection of coloured spots and stars, so once our pumpkins were dry it was sticker time. I didn’t need to explain it to Rose, she knew what she was doing.

 halloween mask cut outhandmade halloween masks work in progress

With the painted card from earlier, i made a little paper template and cut out some mask shapes – we added the last of our stickers then threaded through some elastic to make them into something we can wear to scare daddy when he got home from work. (we made him a mask too!) They are not really very scary though, more like friendly Halloween.

Here are our finished projects. a good week’s work (Rose doesn’t like wearing masks, so Rich and I posed with baby for a ‘scary’ face selfie).

no carve painted and stickered pumpkinscary faces in handmade masks

Happy friendly hallowe’en everyone! Please let me know how you celebrate.
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