Friday 30 March 2012

Just Because I Love You Book

Like a lot of Daddies, Ruby's Dad works long hours.  He has a long commute too so is frequently out of the house for 12-13 hours a day.  Often he misses meal times together, and sometimes he misses bedtime too.  His job can be stressful, he often doesn't get chance to phone during the day and I know he misses her terribly.  He also 'hot-desks' which means he doesn't even have his own work station where he can display a photo or pin up a drawing.

So, for Father's Day I've come up with a present that I hope he will LOVE.

It's his 'just because I love you book' to keep in his jacket pocket.  When he's missing his little girl, he can open it up and flick through to pick out a little hug.

You'll need:

Thick card (I used an unwanted picture mount)
Decorative paper (I used wallpaper, but you could use wrapping paper, painted paper or paper your child has decorated)
Ribbon or elastic to tie
Glue stick

We've been saving little mementos for a while for this book, and we'll continue to add for the next few months but some ideas of things you can pop in are:

Notes or favourite sayings about love
Hand prints
Photos of memorable days or trips
Swatches of fabric from favourite baby clothes
Lock of hair
Hair ribbon/bobble

To make:

1. Cut out 2 identical size squares from the thick card - make sure it will fit in his pocket!  I based mine on the dimensions of his wallet and cut squares 10cm x 10cm.

2. Cut out 2 pieces of your decorative paper, the same size as the card but + 3cm larger all round.

3. On one book end (the rear) lay out with the paper first, your ribbon running across the middle, then your card on top.  Now cut slits in the appropriate point on the decorative paper so you can thread the ribbon to the front.

4. Trim off the corners and glue together, covering the outsides of the book ends.  Don't worry too much about neatness on the inside as the paper of your book will cover this.

5. Cut a long strip of paper for your folded book.  The width should be approximately 1-2cm less than the size of your book boards.  Fold back and forth into squares in concertina fashion.

6. Glue the first and last 'page' to the inside of your book boards making your concertina book.

7. Tie ribbon to hold closed and trim back to required length. Tip: you might want to use a thinner ribbon, mine looks a bit girly when tied in a bow, but luckily he's in touch with his feminine side!

8. Fill up this inside pages with pictures; notes; photos etc.

I hope this will bring a smile when his boss says he has to stay late and he'll miss bedtime stories, or his train has been delayed (again).

What would you put in yours?

Hop on over to Red Ted Art to find more fabulous gifts for him.

Wild Garlic Pesto

When we walked in the woods a few weeks back, there were just the beginnings of life appearing on the woodland floor.

Back again just a fortnight later and the area is completely transformed.  Bluebells are unfurling on the outskirts, away from the shade of the trees and huge swathes are carpeted in the lush green of the wild garlic.  As you brush through or crush the leaves underfoot the air is filled with the heady aroma of garlic.

Now is the perfect time to forage wild garlic and both the leaves and the frothy white flowers are delicious to eat.

I whizzed up a batch of wild garlic pesto last night which should keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.  It makes a delicious fresh accompaniment to pasta; a great pizza topping, or simply eat it with fresh crusty bread.

In a pretty jar with a ribbon it also makes a thoughtful handmade gift.

Use your favourite recipe for regular pesto, but omit the chopped bulb garlic and replace the basil leaves with wild garlic leaves.  Pesto can be made with either pine nuts or walnuts, but I opted for a mixture of the two and also added some pumpkin seeds to make sure it was super green!


200g nuts - pine nuts, walnuts or a combination
large handful of fresh wild garlic leaves
small pinch of salt
olive oil (add until the pesto becomes loose - approx 4 tablespoons)
handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Whizz up the nuts and leaves in a food processor until finely chopped.

Add olive oil a bit at a time and continue blitzing until you've reached your desired consistency.  Season to taste.

Stir in the grated cheese.  Then transfer to a sterilised jar.  Add a slick of olive oil on the top to preserve it.

Hop on over to Red Ted Art to find more fabulous gifts for him.

Monday 26 March 2012

Sea-Bands - a giveaway

With the Easter holidays soon upon us, no doubt many of you will be off out on day trips or maybe further afield.

There's nothing that quite spoils a car trip like your child having travel sickness - believe me, I know!

Fed up with having to constantly take changes of clothes in the car for every little excursion, or swinging frantically into lay-bys and scrabbling with the seat straps before it was too late, we decided to try Sea-Bands.  These are a drug-free way to combat motion sickness and work using an acupressure point on the wrist and can be used by children from 3 years old up to adulthood.

They work very well on Ruby.  We took them with us on our trip to Cornwall recently (a 5 hour drive), and she didn't feel ill at all.  In fact, the only time we forgot to take them with us on a trip to the beach that holiday, she was violently sick.

As well as travel sickness, Sea-Bands can help with pregnancy related morning sickness.  As there are n drugs and no side effects they are the perfect choice when expecting.

Unlike other sickness remedies, there's no best before date, you can use them over and over and they start to work immediately.  Simple to wear, just follow the instructions on the pack to find the correct point on your wrist.

I have two pairs to giveaway - one children's and one adult pack.

To enter, simply leave a comment saying whether you'd like to win the kid's or the adult's bands.

For an extra entry follow Sea-Bands on Facebook and leave a comment here to say you have done so.

For a further entry, follow Sea-Bands on Twitter and tweet "I'm entering @missielizzieb 's competition to win @SeaBandnausea anti-sickness bands. You can too here: "

Open to UK only.  Closing date is 12:00 Thursday 5th April 2012.  PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU LEAVE AN EMAIL OR TWITTER NAME SO I CAN CONTACT THE WINNER.

Sea-Bands can be purchased at chemists nationwide.

Disclosure: I was sent a set of bands for the purposes of this review and the prize is also supplied by Sea-Bands.

Glittered Sticky Buds - Gilding the Lily?

OH: What are you doing?

Me: Putting glitter on sticky buds.

OH (despairingly): Why?

Me: Because I thought it might look pretty.

OH: Oh. (Long pause)  It's not really sticking very well is it?

Me: No.  These buds don't seem as sticky as normal, but since your dad climbed up a ladder for me and chopped down half his Horse Chestnut tree, I don't really feel I can complain.

OH:  Why don't you put some spray-mount on it?

Me: Don't be ridiculous.

OH: What the ****?

Me: Honestly. Spray-mount is hardly natural is it?

OH: And glitter is?

Me: What I mean is, I wanted to see if I could use the natural stickiness. Plus I don't want to gum them up or the buds won't open.

OH: I see. (He clearly doesn't).  What are you going to do with them?

ME: Put them in a vase.

OH: And then what?

Me: Look at them.

OH: Oh FFS you've got glitter all over my reports.

Me: Oh shut up.

Peppa Pig Live - More fun than muddy puddles!

I know, I know.  It's not exactly Oasis at Knebworth is it, but when you're a parent you have to do these things. I was obviously hoping that Ruby would love the show, but not for a moment did I think us grown-ups would actually enjoy it.

At the start of the stage show, I was nervous about whether Ruby would accept the puppets as 'real', especially as you could clearly see the puppeteers on stage.  But kids are great at suspending their disbelief, and as far as she was concerned this Peppa, George, Pedro, Zoe et al were the real deal.

The first few minutes were quite pantomimey, with lots of audience participation of the 'he's behind' you variety.  But once it got going, the singing and dancing was fantastic - think Peppa meets S Club 7 (who doesn't secretly love a bit of S Club 7?)

The cast were talented, industrious and most of all looked like they were genuinely having fun up there.  The character voices were pretty spot on too - especially Peppa.

My favourite part of the show was the underwater sea creatures.  A cynic would say that it had nothing to do with Peppa Pig and perhaps they were utilising props and puppets from a previous show (pah!), but I thought they were stunning and added another dimension to the performance.  You could hear gasps from the crowd at the beauty of the luminously painted shoals of fish gliding through the dark.

If you want the full 'interactive' experience, book a seat in the first 3 or 4 rows (just watch out when George cries).

My only gripe was the way we seemed to be shepherded into the clutches of the sellers of over-priced merchandise.  Before the show commenced, everyone was directed upstairs into the bar area where you were assaulted by light-up wands; t-shirts; cuddly toys and books.  They were positioned at the doorway so you had no chance of getting a consumerist toddler past without emptying your purse.  Even at the interval when we hoped we'd sit quietly and safely in our seats, they announced that the bar was open selling "drinks, snacks and ice cream!!"

Still, I'm really glad we got the chance to see this.  At the age of 4, Ruby is just on the wane from Peppa mania, so I think this year will be our last chance.  The show is touring the country now, so for a foot-tapping, clap-along fun performance, check out the tour dates on the site.

Disclosure: We were provided with a family ticket free of charge for the purposes of this review, however all opinions expressed are my own.  We donated the ticket price to Sport Relief.

Magpie Monday - Bedtime Stories

I can't for the life of me understand why people pay £6, 7, 8 for children's story books.  Not when you can buy beautiful copies second-hand for less than a tenth of the price.  All these books bought this morning were priced between 30-50p.  I'm sure the book stores and authors will have a different view, but still...

Bedtime routine in this house includes a story every night, and then Ruby will ask for a pile of books to be left on her bed for her to flick through until she drops off.

I can often hear her making up her own words to the pictures, or remembering the stories that have been read to her recently.

I always pick up books for her whenever I see them in charity shops, consequently she probably has enough to rival the British Library now.  In fact, I'm surprised the Old Man hasn't introduced the Dewey Decimal System.

She loves to read them over and over, but once she deems them too babyish for her, they are donated back ready for another child to enjoy.  I like to think this cycle will continue over and over.

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Friday 23 March 2012

Personal Touches for your Home - Crafty Loveliness with Ambi Pur

When I was invited along to Homemade London by Ambi Pur, the event sounded right up my street.  The concept - that it's the personal touches that make a house a home is something that I wholeheartedly agree with.

I love to use fragrance in my home.  I know it's not very eco-friendly, but trust me - when you share your home with a smelly Labrador; a toddler and a partner that likes to come home sweaty from the gym then only plug-ins will do it!

I love this new scent Seaside Breezes. It's fresh and clean for spring and with the ever changing fragrance you continue to notice it all day long.

The event itself focused on making personal touches, and we were joined by interior designer Danielle Proud.

Our first make was an embroidered tea towel, using a very clever water soluble pencil to transfer an image onto fabric first.  Although there were sample images to use, Ruby had already got stuck in with her drawing, so I decided to use her picture of 'Daddy'.

What a lovely way to spend the morning!  A little light sewing, drinking tea from gold cups and the company of lovely ladies.  It was so nice to meet and chat with Chrissie, Jen and Anna.

Ruby was extraordinarily well behaved - I'm sure everyone's come away with a totally false impression of her!  Anyway, I was glad she joined in the crafting and let me get on with mine.

I finished the stitching off at home, and here's the finished result which I'm really rather chuffed with.  I'll definitely be using this technique again.  I think it's a lovely way to immortalise kid's artwork.

After a lovely lunch and a chance to have a nosey around the place, we were inspired for our next crafting session.

The idea was to create a decoupaged mirror, with layers of texture and imagery built up behind an etched mirror.  So, how hard could cutting and gluing be?

Actually, I found it incredibly hard!  I couldn't quite embrace the randomness and fluidity required, and while everyone around me was making beautiful works of art I faffed about and longed for symmetry and order!

Oh well, I'm sure it will grow on me.  Ruby on the other hand, was thrilled with her creation.

We had such a lovely time at Homemade London.  I'm eyeing up their courses and really fancy the lampshade making one.  Take a look at their site.

Very many thanks to Danielle, Emily and the team at Ambi Pur and the Homemade London team for such a gorgeous experience.

Disclosure: We were invited to attend the crafting workshop and received a hamper of crafting goodies and an Ambi Pur product as a thank you.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Coombe Mill - a home from home

Willow Cottage

Well, kind of. In an ideal world.

A home from home if your home has a crystal clear river running through the garden.  If the garden is packed with a kid's heaven of play equipment.

If your home allows you to sleep like a log in a supremely comfy bed with pitch dark skies and perfectly silent nights.  If your home, like Willow Cottage, has a jacuzzi bubble bath that you can't get the kids out of.

If, at home you can get up in the morning and pop out for a freshly laid duck egg and feed your breakfast scraps to Dotty the pig.  If you can cuddle a lamb.

If you have a tractor at home that the kids can drive, chugging their mates behind in the trailer to feed the donkeys, goats, hens and rabbits.

If you have stunning deer that wander around within feet of you.

If you live within a few minutes drive of Tintagel, Arthurian legends, and the most beautiful beaches in the country.

If you can hop in the car and go visit the Eden project.

If you have a handy store on the doorstep with a freezer stocked with freshly made family meals and a fridge laden with Cornish Clotted Cream and fresh milk.  If you have a handy supply of books, games and DVDs that you can snuggle up with in front of a roaring woodburner.

No? Nor me sadly.  But you can visit this magical place.  You won't be disappointed. I promise.

                                                              Coombe Mill (Fiona)

Please note, this visit to Coombe Mill was not a 'blogger trip'.  We were under no obligation to write about our stay.  It's simply a magical place that I wanted to share with you.  Thank you Fiona, Nick and Family, for our amazing holiday.  We're already planning our return trip!