Wednesday 31 July 2013

Seaside in a jar - summer holiday keepsake

Ruby recently made a 'beach in a jar' at school, and it was such a sweet idea, we decided to recreate it again at home.  It's a lovely way to remember a beach holiday, and display shells and stones collected from the shore.

Our first basic one consisted of just sand, shells and stones, but she soon got more adventurous and wanted to create little scenes, so we made a crab and net scene, one with a mermaid and one with a pirate chest full of treasure!  Raid the toybox for small suitable toys, or check out the fish tank section of your pet shop.

Basic supplies you will need are:

  • A jam jar with a lid (wide necked ones are better so little hands can get in, but if not, you can move and position items with a spoon handle)
  • A handful of sand (collected from the beach or from the sandpit)
  • Selection of shells and small stones
  • Water and blue food colouring
  • Optional additional items - toy fish; creatures; characters; broken jewellery 'treasure'; fruit nets etc
Simply add a small layer of sand to the bottom of a clean, dry jar.

Arrange your seascape items.

Carefully pour in water (we coloured it with a few drops of food colouring first).

Secure lid.

Persuade child that this is not a snow globe, and doesn't benefit from shaking!

Apologies for the scary mermaid and slightly loony looking fish - they were 'essential' - apparently.

This craft featured on the Netmums channel, so do check out the video for more lovely jam jar uses, and see the links below:

My camping matches dry store jar
Red Ted Art's time capsule in a jar; snowglobes; tissue paper lanterns
Zing Zing Tree's glass painted keepsakes
Kids Chaos cookies in a jar

Kiddycharts Blog

Growing Family

Monday 29 July 2013

Magpie Monday - Granny Chic

Finally, we made it to a boot sale this weekend.

Just a short post because I forgot how difficult it was to do tinternet stuff with my daughter at home!

I was really please to pick up this huge bundle of pretty lacy handkerchiefs.  They may not be to everyones taste, but I intend to give some to Ruby (my daughter currently takes one of her Dad's HUGE hankies everywhere with her, so these will be a little more suitable); some I will use as they happily have my initials; some will be used for making lavender sachets (we have loads left over from our trip to the lavender farm); and I fancy having a go at a patchwork panel.  My friend made a cafe curtain out of old lace hankies an it looked beautiful.

They've all had a good soaking in whitener an are now all hanging pristine on the line.  There's 30 + of them, so a total steal at £2 the lot.

I also picked up this box of scented drawer liners to complete my granny chic over-haul.  Actually, to be fair I won't be fragrancing my smalls with them, but the paper is so pretty I can use it for crafts, to make cards an for wrapping paper.  20p bargain!

Did you pick up any second-hand treasures?  I'd love you to grab the badge and link up.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Aldi - Best price back to school range

I know, I know, the schools have only just broken up and here I am banging on about school uniform.  Me, who is always the one making a midnight dash to the shops the night before school starts in September.

But there is sense in forward planning.  You see, many stores only have a limited amount of school uniform stock, and when it's gone it's gone, leaving you with no option but to hit the pricier shops.

In store from tomorrow, Aldi launches the country's lowest price back-to-school package, allowing parents to stock up on 2 polo shirts, a skirt or trousers and a jumper for £4 the lot.

That's pretty incredible isn't it?  A pair of school trousers for just £1.50 and a round necked sweater for £1.25.

Aldi claim to have rigorously tested their garments to ensure they wash and wear well; whites stay white; hems are secure and they withstand kid's wear and tear.  What's more, the prices are consistent whatever the age - so whether your child is 4 or 11, you'll pay the same price.

We were sent some uniform items to try out, and obviously as we broke up today, they haven't been tested to the max, nor have I been able to see how they withstand regular washing, but first impressions are good, especially when you consider the price.

The girl's trousers have Teflon fabric protector, designed to repel stains.

They are machine washable, and can be tumble dried.  They have a handy name and class section on the care label, so no worries about sewing in name tags.

We were sent age 5-6 for Ruby who is 5 and a half, and they fitted very well length wise, and there's adjustable elastic in the waistband.  They were a flattering, feminine cut, with a deep waistband and button details.  She really liked them and they do look smart.

There's also a skirt available in the range priced at £1.50.

A pack of 2 polo shirt is only £1.25, and again, these fitted well.  Nice girlie detail with the gathered cap sleeves and the pretty scalloped edge collar. These are 100% cotton, so will keep her cool and fresh.

There's a lot I like about picking up school uniform while out doing the necessary food shop - it saves that horrendously tortuous trip to town to get kitted out, but on the other hand, if you're buying clothes this cheap you have to ask how much did the person in Bangladesh making them get paid?  Although, I do applaud them for signing up to the Accord to improve health and safety of workers after the Rana Plaza tragedy, unlike some other supermarket giants.

For more detail on Aldi's Corporate and Social Responsibility policies, see their website.

What do you think about the battle of the low-cost school uniform?  Great for those on a tight budget, or do you have a concern about ethics?

Disclosure: We were sent these items for the purposes of this review, however all opinions are my own.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Homemade Lavender Lemonade and a trip to Hitchin Lavender Farm

A friend recently told me about a wonderful lavender farm in Hitchin, Hertfordshire so Sunday afternoon we bundled into the car and drove the short 20 minute trip to meet her there.  First up we had a cuppa and cake in the lovely barn tea-room and a mooch around the gift shop.  As well as all manner of lavender products and garden accessories, there was a huge selection of different varieties of lavender on sale.

It honestly was one of the nicest days out we've had in ages and fantastic value for money too I thought.  Entrance is £4 for adults and children go free.  Each adult is presented with a carrier bag and loaned a pair of scissors and you can pick a whole bag full of lavender at no extra cost.

The nursery section had all the plants labelled in rows with every shade from the white Edelweiss through to deep dark purples.  I even spotted my namesake.

But was when you turned the corner to the actual farm fields of lavender that the sheer scale, not to mention the heady aroma really hit you.  Miles of row upon row upon row of stunning lavender in full bloom.  It was a pure joy.Ruby was off like a rocket, chasing up and down the rows.

I have never seen so many different types of bees and they were fascinating to watch, busily going about their work.  If you stop and stand still in the middle of the row, you can literally hear the whole place humming.  I must admit, I did have a little Hitchcock-esque freak out at that moment.  Trapped halfway up a row, no escape and it suddenly dawned on me that I was surrounded by thousands of bees.  A bit like that sickening vertigo feeling you get when you look down from a tall ladder and suddenly realise how high up you are - you are filled with an equal measure of wanting to run to safety, and being rooted to the spot with fear.

But bees are good.  Bees don't hurt you for no reason, and after a gentle talking to myself, I calmed down and carried on. There was picking to be done.

The Old Man demonstrated his hitherto unseen floristry skills and proved that real men pick flowers.  He was quite expert at getting all the stems the right length.

If you are local you really must pop along.  We had such a beautiful afternoon there, and they are open every day until September 15th, they are even holding outdoor cinema events and we've booked to go back and see Breakfast at Tiffany's one evening in August - I can't wait.

So, what to do with all this lavender?  Luckily Red Ted Art hosted a craft hangout all about lovely lavender, so do check out the video below and the links for loads of ideas and how-tos.

I made lavender lemonade which is just perfect as a cool long drink served over ice on a hot summer's day. Delicately floral and perfectly refreshing.


5 lemons
2 limes
1 litre water (plus another litre once cooled)
30g sugar
handful of lavender stems


Put a litre of water into a saucepan and dissolve the sugar.  Remove from heat once boiling.  Meanwhile, juice all the fruit and pour into a jug or bowl.  Add the lavender flowers.  Pour over the hot syrup and leave to steep for a few hours.

Once it has cooled completely, strain off the liquid through a sieve and muslin cloth.  Either drink immediately, or bottle and keep in the fridge for a few days.

To serve, dilute 50:50 with chilled water - still for a traditional lemonade, or use sparkling mineral water for a fizzy drink.  Serve over ice with a slice of lemon, a sprinkle of lavender flowers and a stem of lavender.

Lavender Craft Hangout

Red Ted Art - Lavender Wandskid's easy make lavender bags; lavender bath sachets; no-sew lavender pillows

Kid's Chaos - Lavender Scones

Bear Blue Wood - Lavender cookies, Lavender sugar and Lavender tea

Domestic Goddesque - Lavender fans  and bath scrub

Jenni Fischer - Lavender play-doh, Lavender bath goodies

Summer Berry Filo Parcels

There are loads of benefits to using frozen food, so today I'm sharing a quick and simple summer pudding idea using items from my freezer - that's after wading through the hundreds of ice pops and lollies that are in there currently to try and combat the heatwave.

The ingredients are simple and you'll find them in the frozen food aisle: 1 pack of filo pastry and 1 bag of frozen red berries fruit.  Additionally you'll need a little melted butter or vegetable oil and some icing sugar to dust on.

Take out the pastry and fruit from the freezer the night before and leave to defrost in the fridge.

Pre-heat the oven to 180. Take one sheet of filo and fold in half length-ways. Lightly brush on some oil around all the edges.

Place one tablespoon of fruit near the bottom of the pastry.

Then, take one of the bottom corners and fold over into a triangular shape, pressing the edges down gently as they meet.

Continue folding the bottom corner over into a triangle shape all the way up, and tuck the last bit of pastry under so you have a neat triangle package.

Place on a lined baking tray and brush lightly with oil again.

Cook for approximately 15 minutes, but check after 12 as they can burn quickly.

Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then dust with icing sugar and serve with (what else?) a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Check out the Cool Cookery website where you could win a Whirlpool freezer.

More frozen food recipes here:

Cakes, Photo, Life makes this amazing Ice Cream Bowl Cake
The Crazy Kitchen creates a Cherry Ice Cream Puff Sandwich
Mummy Barrows presents to you Barrow Boats - clever fishy dishy in a Yorkie boat

Disclosure: Featured post in association with Cool Cookery.

Monday 22 July 2013

Magpie Monday - Skip Diving!

Welcome to another glorious week.  Have you been out and about to any great car boot sales this weekend?

We've had another week rammed with plans and activities so again haven't had much time for bargain-hunting.  However, I thought I'd show you these items that I rescued from the jaws of the crusher a little while ago.  They make me smile!

As seems to be the way nowadays, another village pub called time for the last time and shut up shop.  Maybe it's the recession, maybe it's because we've all become health-conscious and packed up boozing (yeah right), or maybe it's the fault of cheap supermarket alcohol but more and more pubs are closing down and being turned into Indian restaurants or houses.

Going past this latest victim, with it's guts being ripped out I spotted some rather interesting items in the skip.  Sadly no bottles of gin or barrels of beer remained, but we did get this huge wooden cupboard.  With a little adaption, it now sits happily in our garden shed.  The lockable catch makes it perfect for storing all the power tools, and it keeps the Old Man's shed nice and tidy so he's happy - what is it with boys and their sheds?

I also excitingly got all the lettering from the pub name!  Ha!  What to do with these 20 inch gold letters?  Perhaps I should have stuck them on the front of the house and started flogging off my home brew?

No, we've been making up words, and my favourite is this which oversees our vegetable patch at the bottom of the garden and ties in perfectly with the current obsession of labeling absolutely anything that doesn't move.

What pre-loved items have you found lately?  I'd love you to grab the badge and link up.