This week we took G-Man and friend to the Harry Potter Studio Tour as his birthday treat (instead of a party - hurrah!). We had a great time geeking out on all the amazing Potter film artefacts and sets (especially, I must confess, us grown-ups in the group). It's a fantastic experience that, despite the horrendous cost, I definitely recommend. It is also one of those places where a bit of research and prep beforehand really pays off - especially if, like us, you are taking young kids. So here are my top tips for avoiding misery, saving money and making the most of a family trip to the Making of Harry Potter studio tour!
After seven years of living with the grottiest bathroom on the planet, we've finally managed to update it - huzzah! Now I realise this blog isn't really about interior design, but I was so excited I had to share it.
Yes, it was bad. Oh so very bad. Nasty dark green tiles on every wall, wrinkled linoleum, a mouldy bath and cracked sink. Not to mention manky old exposed pipework sticking out of the wall over the bath taps. Yuk...
It's amazing what you can live with (seven years!!), but now we finally have a beautiful, fun, funky and actually rather peaceful bathroom of our very own.
Every September, members of our local community are invited to make and display a scarecrow for the annual festival, and then everyone troops around all the houses looking at what we've all done - which is actually a whole heap of fun, and also involves a stop for tea and cake at the Community Orchard, making it even more fabulous. This year's event was only a few days after what would have been Roald Dahl's 100th birthday, so of course our scarecrow had to be Roald Dahl themed!
I've been making a few odds and ends with the kids over the holidays in preparation for this September's Scarecrow Festival (yes, I know it's still only August!). Last year I managed to rope in friends on my street to do Alice in Wonderland scarecrows. This time our scarecrows will be characters from Roald Dahl's books, in celebration of what would have been his 100th birthday. I've got grand plans for our tableau (which will be a character and scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), and one of the things I wanted to include was Willy Wonka's iconic hat, laid casually on his desk as if he'd just popped away for a moment. Making the hat turned out to be surprisingly easy - read on to see how I did it!
G-man's birthday this year happened to coincide with the release of arguably the most anticipated film of the century - Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And since we're all big Star Wars fans here, he absolutely had to have a Star Wars party.
Our kids love playing with their toy kitchen (yes, it is the ubiquitous Ikea Duktig play kitchen; and no, it has not, alas, been pimped). Over the years we've amassed a fair few bits of play food to go with it - some inherited, some gifted, a few picked up in the sales. But if we could do it all again, these eleven sets are the ones I'd make sure to get!
Handling scissors correctly is a difficult skill to master, and so we try to practice every chance we get. In the house, we have a "snip box" full of different scraps to cut up, following patterns and lines or just snipping away. But sometimes we like to take our scissors outside, to try our hand at cutting things we find around us while exploring in the sunshine. Creating a Nature Snip box takes absolutely no effort at all - in fact, the kids do pretty much all of the work!
Our kids love cooking up meals in their play kitchen, and one of their greatest pleasures is mixing up the ingredients. We've had great fun stocking their kitchen with all sorts of little bits and pieces that can be stirred in a mini cooking pan with a handful of other things; pompoms for meatballs; soy sauce fish containers for, er, fish; strands of wool for spaghetti, and so on. I'm always on the lookout for new things to include! The other day I had an absolute brainwave, and came up with this easy-peasy, quick, and essentially FREE way to make these fabulous play-food sliced mushrooms. Want to make some too? Read on!
There is magic in puddles that seems to call to all children. In the rain, or after, it's a rare child who can resist the urge to stomp, splash, swish and splatter through them, regardless of whether or not they're wearing their wellies. It's a well known kid fact that it's really not a successful puddle jump if you don't come out of it with soaking socks.
Playing in puddles is one of those great activities that requires little or no preparation - other than pulling on those wellies and a rain mac - and most of the time my kids are happy to play in them without interference from me. Should puddle ennui set in, though, we can always find further fun with these simple alternate games.
What are treasure baskets, and how do they benefit our children? In my own experience, treasure baskets are one of the most valuable experiences we can offer our babies, so here is a brief explanation to help you get to grips with these ideas, and some practical tips on getting started!