Friday, 30 December 2011

Severn Valley Railway Fun!

We spent a day playing on the Severn Valley Railway line last week, taking advantage of an off-season offer and we had such a great day! The railway line was saved from extinction by local people and sections were purchased from British Rail over a number of years and reconstructed by volunteers. The work continues today with steam engines being saved from scrap yards and lovingly restored to chuff up and down the line between Bridgnorth and Kidderminster. All the stations are decked out with stacks of trunks/suitcases and the original waiting rooms and ticket booths - so lovely!

Our view from the first carriage - you can see the driver and the coal man looking out of the engine! Lots of people waved at us as we chuffed past, it was great fun. As it wasn't their busy season we had the carriage to ourselves so no matter when the girls squealed with delight when we saw two elephants and a rhino out of the window!! Yes really, I'm not joking - we think it might be the safari park maybe?
Faith spent ages with her head thrust out of the train window watching the steam engine and looking back along the line of carriages. The window was lowered using a leather strap and she thought that was great too, as well as the really traditional toilets with scrolly handles and wooden seats!!
Idris loved watching the world go by from the train window - steam trains are slow enough to actually enjoy the scenery as you go along! (Dewi is wearing a fleece hat that Eve made for him from one of the patterns in the sewing book that Santa brought for Christmas!).
This is Eve reaching up to pull the chain that sounds the Engine's whistle (a mock-up one in the indoor Steam Engine Museum!). Listening to the real one blow and watching it from the carriage as we rode along the tracks was a great review of the states of matter science lessons we did last year! Faith thought it was great that the driver's flask of tea (or hot chocolate as she insisted it was!) was kept on the boiler ledge to keep warm!!
Eve had a go turning the brake wheel in the brake van - he had a tiny little stove to keep him warm on the journeys!
I have to confess - I love steam trains! I love the mechanics of a steam engine and I love the nostalgia of 'the good old days' I never knew! I took a few pictures like the one above accompanied by groans from Dewi that had he known I was a closet train spotter he'd never have married me! I told him that he had my mum to thank as she loves steam engines too. That made him roll his eyes even more! There was loads of fascinating information about the engines and carriages, including the royal carriage that King George travelled around war torn Britain in! Loved it, despite the rain - see below for smudgy raindrop soaked photo of train pulling into the station!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmassy Fun!

Decorating the tree..... we go for an eclectic 'collected over the years' look, ranging from baubles Dewi and I found in the attic of the first flat we rented together, to home-made ones the girls crafted and everything in-between!
Yes, Dewi does have a mohawk..... don't ask..... at least it isn't blue..... yet!
Faith demonstrated the Christmas jack-in-the-box to Idris - he's a bit young to understand it right now - he just looked surprised! Faith found it hysterically funny when she was about 8 months old!
Idris exhausted by all the merriment - that is the dog's stocking hanging in the back ground. It reads 'Santa I can explain' and makes me giggle every year!
Christingle - the sweeties on Faith's just made it to the end of the service!
The lights turned out in Church for 'this little light of mine' - Faith was very enthusiastic with her orange but managed not to torch anything or anyone!
Mince pies made with wholemeal flour pastry bound together with ginger cordial - very delicious if a little softer than normal pastry. They didn't make it past the one hour mark though so can't have been too bad!!!!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Face painting Fun

I took the girls to a Birthday Party this week. Let it be said that I am not a fan of children's parties - I won't go into it here in case I offend anyone but I much prefer our special 'Birthday Days Out' that we do for the children's special days!

I digress...... inside the party bags were a mini face painting kit with red, black and white paints and some ideas. Of course the girls wanted to try them out so as soon as we got home we broke out the paints and a lot of silliness ensued! This is Eve who wanted to be that cat (painted by me!)
 This is me, painted by Faith who decided I should be a ladybird...... what a great job she did!
 This is Faith as a ladybird.... painted by Dewi...... she went to check on his efforts in the mirror and declared "hmmmm, it's very nice but would be better with more spots I think!"..... more spots duly added!
And this is Eve painting Dewi. She wanted to make him the 'scarecrow' a.k.a ghost and I can't put the finished face on here because it was truly quite disturbing once finished!

The funniest part of the whole silly scenario were the things the girls came out with!

As I painted Eve's face I commented on how very long her eyelashes were to which she replied "Good, just like a camel, only they have two sets cos they can't wear sun hats!"...... what?? Where did THAT come from??!!

And then Faith was painting me and I reminded her to be gentle around my eyes and told her that the skin was delicate there to which SHE replied "that's cos you're old now mum!"..... what?? WHAT?? Er...... hello? I'M 30!!!!

Dewi and I were in fits of giggles the whole way through which the girls enjoyed even more than the actual painting I think!!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Snowflake Thank You Notes

Every year I have very good intentions of having the children write to say thank you for their presents but each year it somehow doesn't quite get done as I planned, with me doing most of the writing! It must seem an awfully daunting task to small children I think so this year I am planning ahead and making it achievable from the get-go!

I found these snowflake templates and edited them to carry a thank you message. They were then printed at half size, glued to sheets of card with lined paper glued to the back, enhanced with glitter glue and then cut out ready to go straight after Christmas!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Beautiful 2012 Calendars Free to print!

Owl Lover 2012 Calendar

And this beautiful calendar with illustrations from a talented young lady from the blog 'a number of things'.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Loving My Little Boy Soooo Much!

He is developing his own little personality now - for example he loves music and was entranced by The Nutcracker when we went to see it as our Christmas treat with my mum. He just cooed and blew gentle raspberries all the way through!

We have little conversations now - he lay on my lap after feeding yesterday and played with my hand. I spread my fingers and we locked fingers then he let go, then he touched one of my fingers then i touched one of his and we did a gentle 'hand dance' for a few minutes until something else took his attention. Tonight Dewi brought him up to me whilst I was in the bath and he lay on my chest with his hands over my hands. I gently wriggled my fingers on his tummy, making little splashing noises, just for a few seconds, then stopped and he gave a tiny grunt (of approval I thought!). So I splashed again then stopped and he grunted and we went on this way for about five minutes until he was fed up.

He wanted to feed then so I sat up and he fell asleep feeding in the warm water! He is tucked up in towels and blankets on my bed now, still asleep!! I love that! He sometimes falls asleep chatting to himself and other times wants to feed to sleep or just snuggle up in bed together!

Best check he's still nice and warm as apart from our lounge with the log burner going, our house is pretty cold tonight!!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Winter Activities

We played with snowy play dough using the recipe from nurture store. This dough looks like it hasn't worked when you cook it up as it doesn't form together like regular play dough. Be patient though and as it cools it will form - it is really smooth and lovely after kneading and I will definitely try it again although not sure how long it keeps as we used it to make ornaments a few days later and baked it!!!

We froze tiny animals in layers of blue and white ice then rescued them with hot water, salt, spoons and some patience! Faith spent ages doing this and it was interesting listening to her count the number that had emerged then estimate how many were still to be discovered. Even more interesting was listening to her revise that estimate based on the progress of the melting! She wasn't far out on her original estimate to be honest!

The girls enjoyed making snowmen with Starfall and animated snowflakes at the snowflake factory. They also enjoyed some Christmas dot-to-dots which proved way too simple so we moved onto these!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Stamped Corndough Ornaments

We played around this week with a twist on the traditional salt dough ornaments. I had the idea from this picture of clay tablets on pinterest. Obviously ours aren't quite as sophisticated but we had fun and there is definitely promise there for the future too! The dough is the same one we made snowmen from, the recipe is here. I rolled it out to about 4mm thick and then used stamps and ink to print onto cutout shapes.

I thought that the ink was red but it came out this rather bright shade of pink (much to the girl's approval I might add!). They look rather effective I think, I really like the purple shade on the writing although the silver ink (the 'peace' ornament) didn't come out so well. They dried in a few hours in a very low oven and could do with a coat of clear varnish to seal them. From past experience, if you don't seal them, they go soggy if you live in a cold and/or humid house!
This is Eve making a set of place cards for the Christmas table with the little alphabet stamps, they came out great too! I'm thinking they could be great for making gift labels or adding a pretty touch to table centres and decorating themes!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Creative Christmas Presents!

This is a sneaky preview of a couple of the gifts that Eve and Faith have made this year! Eve is really creative and is always making something imaginative and to this end I re-styled the 'creation station' indoors for the Winter months. As before, it marries up Eve's need for access to 'stuff' to create with and my need for my home not to look like a shoe-makers offcuts bin! There are different things out indoors to match up with new interests, some re-discovered items and the fact that it is indoors now! I will take some pictures and get it up here to show you!

Anyhow, back to the post in hand! Eve was busily sewing away and Faith wanted in on the present giving feeling so she gathered some pretty items and some fabric and thread and packaged it all up to give to Auntie Anne so she could craft with it. I suggested as gently and tactfully as I could that maybe Auntie Anne didn't do much crafting and perhaps instead we could make something ready for her out of all the lovely things that she had chosen! I said that then I thought Auntie Anne would really treasure something that she had made. It was really fun to lay all the bits out (fabric, ribbon, a red rose, embroidery floss, stretchy thread and bells) and come up with the plan of a fabric Christmas tree with the bells as baubles, the stretchy thread and embroidery thread as tinsel and the red rose as the fairy at the top with a ribbon hanging loop. It was fairly simple for Faith to sew and looked really effective! It is now repackaged and under the tree ready for Auntie Anne!
Meanwhile Eve was busily sewing away a stocking for Idris. She cut the perfect wide shape and knew just how to sew it back to back and then turn it through before adding the little snowflakes! She's quite the little seamstress and I love watching her sew with my Nana's embroidery needles - my Nana made some really beautiful cross stitches and would have been thrilled that Eve is becoming a chip off the old block! Eve is apparently asking Santa for a sewing box for Christmas so watch this space for more 'needlework by Eve'!!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Exploring Advent With a Jesse Tree

I have wanted to do a Jesse Tree with the girls for a couple of years now - this year we finally got organised! Above is our simple tree made from apple twigs pruned from our lovely big apple tree. Below is Idris helping Eve to colour her symbol ready to hang on the tree. Yes, Idris is in a pink snuggle suit - I think it's wasteful to give away perfectly good snuggle suits just because they are pink!! Our house gets parky in the Winter and he is drooly so the more snugglies the better!!
Each night after bath time we gather around the table in dressing gowns and I read a chapter from Geraldine McCaughrean's The Jesse Tree. The plot is set with a grumpy old carpenter carving a traditional Jesse Tree in a church; an inquisitive boy on holiday visits him daily and asks insightful questions and begs for another story! Each day the carpenter grudgingly tells some more!

When the chapter is finished we talk about it and the girls colour the symbol that corresponds to the story. I printed these symbols - they don't match completely to the book (using an earth instead of the sun and moon for example) but in my recent spirit of quashing my perfectionism and getting stuck in, they do very nicely!! We stick them back to back on a red cardboard shape, thread a string then add them to the tree! The girls are really enjoying this!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A Winter Bouquet and Wreath Making

Dewi and Eve picked this beautiful bouquet for me on a canal side walk recently. I have just this year realised that natural greenery and garden flowers are so much prettier often than shop bouquets and much cheaper and more spontaneous too!

On Friday we gathered with friends and made Christmas wreaths. Idris was a little overwhelmed with the noise and commotion of so many happy people in a small space so I wasn't able to help the girls much beyond verbal instructions after a quick demo. They did so well and made beautiful wreaths. Here they are at work:

Eve gifted hers to Granny with a little note that read "yoo haf to put it on yur frunt door". That was magic to read as there is no love lost between Eve and literacy! This was Eve's first completed and unprompted attempt at writing something and communicating and I was really delighted! My main goal of late has been to get her to enjoy writing and realise a few of the benefits of being able to communicate in written forms. We did a fair bit of letter writing this Autumn and I'm hoping that that gave her a bit more confidence in her writing!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A Blogging Award!

I was very touched to read in my comments that I been nominated for a blogging award by Vicky from Mudpies and Marmalade! The award is for small bloggers with less than 200 readers that inspire others. I was particularly chuffed to think that I inspire someone, especially as my blogging is somewhat eratic at the moment and the content varies a little according to how busy life begins to be!

If you receive the award you should:
1. copy and paste the award on your blog
2. thank the giver and link back to them
3. reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog
4. hope that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers

OK, well I can't find the html to copy and paste the award to my blog so if anyone can shed light on where to find it I will update!
I am not doing very much blog reading or blog hopping at present and don't have five blogs with less than 200 readers to nominate, but here are two that I think worthy of an award!
1.Worms Eye View - always lots happening here!
2.Coffee Beings - my friend Erin inspires me and her blog is great too - check out her recipes page!

P.S. I have just spell checked this and found it very funny that blogger did not recognise 'blog', 'blogger' or 'blogging' as words! ha ha!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Making a Meal Out of Mealtimes!

As part of our drive to bring some more rhythm and harmony to our days, the girls and I made some place mats to make mealtimes seem a little more of an event and a little more special. Now I must stress that I am no seamstress and although I cherish my Nana's beautiful Pfaff sewing machine very much, I am more than a little scared of it! This project, as per most of my sewing projects involved no pattern and the completed items definitely have a 'rustic' feel about them!

I cut the pieces of fabric around the shape of my chopping board, then put them together right side outwards and folded, ironed and pinned the seams. We made them out of a light cotton but I suppose that any fabric would do the job as well! We then simply sewed a seam down each side and finished them off. The bowls that you can see in the pictures are new breakfast bowls. I took the girls to choose a bowl each for their morning porridge. Eve chose the glass dish and Faith picked out an oversize teacup and saucer for hers!
I would like to thank the Pfaff technical helpline (AKA my mum!) for the support during the two telephone calls that I made - once to find out how to wind thread onto the bobbin and once to find out how to change the tension on the thread. After half an hour of struggling with screwed up fabric I realised that little fingers had been twiddling with the settings whilst my back was turned. Although the owner of said little fingers wouldn't admit liability I kept a close eye after that!

Friday, 2 December 2011

Simplicity Parenting - Part Two

I wrote about the book that I have been reading here. I still think it is excellent and worth having close by to remind me regularly how I want to bring my children up! There is a chapter on rhythm. Different to scheduling, it isn't about doing the same thing exactly at the same time, rather having a flow to days and weeks that the children can use as an anchor. Eve in particular thrives on predictability and I have always believed in the importance of a regular bed time routine to help them settle to sleep.
Recently things have gone a bit haywire - new baby brother, new work timetable for Daddy, the idea of moving house, the usual seasonal shift from outdoors to indoors - and I have had to work really hard to keep things peaceful and harmonious around here! One thing we tried was to sit down around the table and have a family meeting, I was unsure whether the children were a bit little for this but it worked really well and I think gave them a sense of ownership over the process. I said that when canoeing was finished for the winter on Wednesdays, that I wanted to use the day to go out as a family with a picnic and do some days out. Then I asked the children what they would like to do more of. They had some very definite and simple ideas about what they wanted to do more of - baking, swimming, going to the park and doing crafts! We then wrote a really simple weekly plan then and there that fitted around current commitments and that we thought would work. Dewi and I committed to following it for 2 months and seeing how it went. I like how it is up on our kitchen door and holds us accountable to following it. We have already been doing it for three weeks now and it is good - the Autumn lanterns were part of Sunday crafting!

Friday, 18 November 2011

A Gift From Auntie Lorri!

 We had a package in the post today from my lovely sister in law - these gorgeous fleecy mittens and shoes for Idris!
 They are so warm and snuggly and he thought they were wonderful - great timing as the weather has finally started to turn nippy here! Idris likes chewing them until they fall off and then he can suck his fingers again - which he does a lot at the moment!
He loves to sit in the bumbo seat for a few minutes to watch the girls play - I think he likes being down at the same level as they are!

Thanks Lorri - you are a star - can't wait to see y'all at Christmas!!!!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Handmade Gifts - Making Bath Salts

This is the only one of our Christmas projects that I'm going to share with you as many of the intended recipients read my blog and it will spoil the surprise! I think that we are safe in revealing this one though! I would love to join in with Tonya's 'Handmade Holiday' posts about the gifts that we are making but I can't so pop on over and see what others are making, perhaps I can add my ideas next year!!
We started by buying multiple packets of different salts. We chose rock salt, sea salt and epsom salts. the first two are available in supermarkets but the epsom salts involved a trip to the chemist. I wondered why the lady looked at me strangely when I asked for three boxes....... until I read the box..... apparently epsom salts are used to cure constipation...... did I laugh on the way home!!!!!! We also bought some bicarbonate of soda to use as a softening agent in the salts. I had some ready mixed oils to use..... clary sage, ylang ylang and lavendar - they smell really lovely! We mixed blue and green food colouring into one dish of salt, and a few drops of oil into another dish of salt and stirred them well. I would reccoment drying them in a warm oven and stirring over a few times (I didn't and the colours faded a little to a pretty grey).
We made a paper funnel and used jugs to pour each salt in turn to make layers of the different ingredients. We are putting them into recycled glass bottles with wide necks that Dewi's Mam collected from the lovely organic tea shop that she works in. I washed them in hot water to take the labels off and then dried them in the oven after using it for cooking. I'm going to make some little labels to tie around them with ribbon. And the rest of my homemade presents are going to have to stay un-blogged 'til after Christmas!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Autumn Lanterns

These make really beautiful table centres - I lit them this afternoon as the evening began to draw in. The girls really love candles and the gentle glow of light they produce........
 The girls made one each and one for Idris too! Then one for Cousin Samuel and one for Granny and Grandpa (of course!). I can see another package to Canada coming up soon!!
 I bought a bottle of mod podge glue an embarrassing two years ago to preserve leaves with after seeing the idea on another blog. Some how I never got around to it..... last year we waited and waited for Autumn colours and then the leaves just froze on the trees in the early sub-zero snap we had in November and there weren't any nice Autumn leaves to preserve (can't remember what happened the year before!!)
This year I was determined not to leave that mod podge in peace any longer so we went to the park to collect pretty and tiny leaves (and play hide and seek, feed the squirrels, have hot buttered toast from the cafe and use our coats as sledges down the slide - ahem!) Back at home we ironed the leaves flat between two pieces of baking parchment - the girls LOVED being allowed to use the iron - fancy doing some clothes girls?!
We then spread mod podge on the candle holders, chose a leaf, stuck it flat side to the glass with the veined side out and spread a layer of mod podge thickly over the top. It was messy and great fun. We left them to dry and voila...... 24 hours later they were ready for some candle action!

I was really impressed with the look of the leaves with the mod podge on. It really preserved the colours of the leaves and they stay flexible instead of crispy. I think we will have to try making a leaf garland with mod podge leaves next year!