Monday 31 March 2014

Magpie Monday - Mermaid Tea Party

I like to tell myself that buying pre-loved is my way of saving the planet and saving some money, but if I'm honest, it's always those impulse buys that are my downfall.  They are worse than a counter of chocolate bars at the checkout till.

It's hard to find a balance between picking up pretty things to admire in your home, and actually filling it with STUFF.  I know I drive the Old Man bonkers with it.

I do try to enjoy things for a little while and then pass them on or re-donate them, but I'm essentially a hoarder so letting go is difficult.  It's pathological.

Sometimes I just see something that I HAVE to have, and when it's only a quid it's hard to refuse.

My daughter is currently obsessed with mermaids (or is that me?  The lines blur a little sometimes).  We have Mermaid bath times, crafting and dressing up.  She went to school for World Book Day as the Singing Mermaid recently, and her poor costume took a battering.  Apparently it's tough for a mermaid at school, kids keep treading on your tail.  Her wonderful teacher came into school the next week and gifted her a replacement outfit as she'd been clearing out her daughter's room, wasn't that kind?

So when I saw these, I had to get them for....mermaid tea parties!!

And when I got them home and showed Ruby, she instantly exclaimed the same - like mother like daughter!

Funnily enough, I didn't buy these at the seaside last week, I actually bought them in a local charity shop at the weekend.

I saw the other week, the brilliant Family Days, Tried and Tested had made a little small world edible beach, so inspired by that we'll be having crushed ginger biscuit sand and turquoise lime jelly for pudding today!

Suffice to say, the Old Man thinks I've completely lost the plot, and I suspect if I try and bring tat like this home again, he may just leave me.

How do you control your second-hand habit?  Or don't you?!

I'd love you to grab the badge and link up.

Thursday 27 March 2014

DIY easy Cracking Easter Egg Pots

Chompsing my way through a chocolate dessert pot the other night, I noticed the pleasing oval shape of the container. Ruby's never one to let me throw anything away if it can be used for junk modelling or crafting, so I stocked up and bought a few more.  And you thought I was selfless drinking wine so she could have corks to play with?!

We painted our pots (remove all labels first) with poster paints mixed with white acrylic to get lovely pastel colours.  They needed a few coats.

When dry, fill with mini eggs.  Run a glue stick around the rim and carefully lay a single sheet of tissue paper over the top trying to get it as taut as you can.  Leave for a few minutes for the glue to dry, then carefully tear the tissue paper away leaving a sealed 'lid' attached.

Now you have pretty pots of Easter eggs to give away.  Simply 'crack' them open to get to the contents.

A simple but effective way to jazz up some inexpensive chocolate eggs.  We'll be giving these away to school friends at the end of term.

What Easter crafts have you been doing?  Check out the #GetYourCraftOn linky for over 40 fabulous egg and chic crafts to inspire you.

As featured on Fun Crafts Kids.

Win a gorgeous kid's jumper from Picaloulou

I was recently introduced to this West Country brand and have fallen a little in love if I'm honest.

Picaloulou was born, like so many small businesses by a mother who spotted a gap in the market.  She noted, after a particularly harsh couple of winters that there was a distinct lack of good quality knitwear around for children. You know, age appropriate; long-lasting; well made; enduring; practical; stylish clothing that every parent yearns for.

Her range of beautifully soft jumpers; cardigans and accessories are designed and made in the UK, mostly hand knitted by a team of knitters - I love that you can 'meet the knitters' on the website and even message them.

They offer styles to suit all budgets, from the divinely soft and snugly alpaca wool yoke sweater that's hand knitted in the round which we road-tested, to a small machine knit range of cotton and cashmere blend crew neck jumpers.

All the items are made in the UK, and they source Merino and Alpaca wool locally, which is also milled and dyed in Cornwall using Soil Association approved dyes.  I adore the muted, natural shades that are used, and they are the antithesis of the loud garish slogan-emblazoned mass-produced items for sale on our High Streets.

Soil Association approved wool dye

We were delighted to be able to get a sneak preview of one of the new jumpers for the A/W 14 collection, the alpaca hand knit in delicious deep cherry.  Like her mother, Ruby can't abide itchy scratchy jumpers, but this was heavenly soft and incredibly warm - just perfect for the cold snap we've been having.  It was generously sized - we asked for 7-8 years as even though she's only just 6, that's the size of shop bought clothes she's in, but actually I think the sizings must be spot on and a 6 would have fitted.  Oh well, it just means we'll get even more wear out of it!

Picaloulou Alpaca hand knitted jumper - A/W14 collection

Picaloulou Alpaca hand knitted jumper - A/W14 collection

The neckline and cuffs were perfectly styled so I didn't have to endure the constant pulling and tugging and cries of "it's too tight" that I often do when she has a jumper on.  All the knitwear items can be machine washed on a delicate wool cycle and ours has kept it's shape and size really well.  It's going to be a sweater that lasts, and we're very pleased about that because we love it!

There's a huge range of beautiful designs to choose from for babies, girls and boys - cable knits, Fair Isle; Aran and Breton stripes.  If you're loving the Scandinavian vibe, then you'll fall for the Fair Isle Yoke jumpers.

Picaloulou Hand Knitted Fair Isle jumper

The cable knit pattern is a timeless classic and you'll want to hand these down to other children or nieces and nephews once your little one has outgrown them.

Picaloulou Hand Knitted Cable jumper

Generally if your desired size or colour is not showing on the website, they can hand knit it for you in around 2-3 weeks - the only problem you'll have is deciding which lovely sweater you want!

I'm delighted that Picaloulou is offering you the chance to win one of their gorgeous cotton and cashmere blend crew neck jumpers which retail from £32.  In a range of sizes from 1-2 years up to 9-10 years, it comes in a choice of shades - Ice Blue; Taupe or Claret.

Picaloulou Cashmere blend crew sweater

To win your own Picaloulou sweater, simply complete the rafflecopter below before midnight on Monday 7th April 2014.  One winner will be selected at random.  UK entries only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was provided with a jumper for the purposes of this review, and Picaloulou will supply and fulfill the prize.  All opinions are my own.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Easy-peasy button flower stamps

We've been inspired by the blossom and spring flowers bursting into bloom lately, and to paint some pretty flowers of our own we came up with these simply button stamps.

Great for decorating cards (Mother's Day, Easter, Birthdays or just because!); gift tags and wrapping paper.

DIY homemade button stamps stampers

Button stamped flowers gift wrap cards

Button stamped flowers gift wrap

Glue your buttons onto an old cork to make them easier for little hands to grasp. You'll need flat buttons (without a ridge around the edge or you won't get the central holes to show - or try flipping them over onto their backs).

I made some stamp pads by squeezing some poster paint onto a dish washing sponge.

And that's it, stamp away to your heart's content.  The circles lend themselves really well to flower petals, and it's a simple pattern for children to master.

DIY homemade ink pad stamping

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Hotter shoes - style AND comfort (and a giveaway!)

Recently I was invited along to an exclusive evening at one of Hotter Shoes newest stores, in St Albans.

The company is one of the largest UK manufacturers of shoes, and when most other firms are outsourcing to overseas factories, this is something to be proud of.  Still a family-run business, Hotter shoes are hitting the high streets to show that you don't need to compromise on design for comfortable footwear.

Previously known for their comfort shoes marketed through newspaper coupons and mailshots at women of a certain age, their styles nowadays are just as likely to be found in the glossy fashion mags.

I was really impressed with their store design, using vintage props and bespoke wallpaper.  Their staff were passionate and extremely knowledgeable about their ranges, suggesting styles which would suit me and those which would offer the most comfort.

I tried on many, many pairs and can honestly say that each one felt like a favourite pair of slippers, so comfortable were they.  They offer many features such as breathable leather; flexible soles; seam free design; cushioned insoles; a range of widths and half sizes - design and technology you don't often see on the high street.

I can share with you a special introductory offer discount code of 10% off plus free delivery with you. Enter code PKCTEN at the checkout (10% off plus FREE delivery is for first orders only. You are entitled to 10% off the total order value of any full priced items in the Hotter range (excluding shoe care products) plus FREE delivery.  This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other promotional offer or on Sale or Factory Clearance items and gift vouchers.)

But that's not it!  You can also win one of these stylish leather purses from the good folks at Hotter Shoes. The Manhatten purse retails at £25 and is made from soft leather with a popper opening.  It has a large zipped coin compartment and slots for 18 cards.  It comes in Red, Black and Tan.  The winner can choose their colour.

To be in with a chance of winning, simply complete the rafflecopter below.

This giveaway closes on at midnight on 31st March 2014.  Open to UK entrants only, one winner will be selected at random.

Disclosure: I was invited to a preview evening at my expense and provided with refreshments and a goody bag.  The prize is supplied and fulfilled by Hotter Shoes.

Monday 24 March 2014

Magpie Monday - Making a Stand for family time

Hi Magpies.  I'm just back from a lovely weekend away at Hastings on the south coast - if you haven't been you must, it's a real haven for treasure-seekers.

We managed pretty much the ideal family balance this weekend which is a rare thing indeed and a valuable lesson for all of us in terms of turn-taking and compromise.  We each got to do the things we love most, and everyone was happy.

Ruby got to spend hours in the pool at the holiday park and feed 2p coins into the slot machines.  The other half got to do the half marathon, and managed a personal best time too so he was happy.  I got to spend Saturday afternoon mooching around the endless charity shops and second-hand alleys picking up some great bargains.  And on Sunday we spent the afternoon on the beach meeting up with Anthea and her family at their beach hut, collecting pretty shells and interesting stones and sharing fish and chips.

Hasting and St Leonards boast a wealth of charity shops, antique shops and house clearance yards and really, it was a perfect day for me.  I picked up lots of great items which I'm in the process of unpacking and cleaning up now.

But my absolute favourite, both in terms of it's practicality and it's attractiveness (not to mention the steal of a price) was this shabby cast iron boot stand.

It has a boot scraper and stands for 2 pairs of wellies (I may need to downsize my boot collection!) and for an outdoor family like us who's utility room is strewn with walking boots and muddy wellies it's just perfect.

It was priced at just £14 which was a crazy low price to start with, but I had the nerve to haggle (in the politest way possible) and the lovely seller instantly knocked it down to £10.

I'm playing around with where it will live.  I'm not yet decided.  The Old Man has an irritating habit of putting my wellies in the garden shed, so they get nibbled by mice and I have to traverse the quagmire of a garden in the rain to retrieve them.  This somewhat defeats the object of having them.  So keeping them outside the back door would be perfect.

It would also be good to keep in our front porch, along with an umbrella or two, but that's already pretty crowded with scooters.  Or maybe we'll keep in in the utility and just house our walking boots in a tidier fashion.  Who knows.

Have you picked up any pre-loved bargains lately?

I'd love you to grab the badge and link up.

Friday 21 March 2014

Tula Pink Quilt book - blog giveaway

Today I have a brand new giveaway for all you stitchers and fabric lovers.

If you're not familiar with the wickedly whimsical world of Tula Pink fabric designs, you need to check them out!

"Tula Pink is an American textile designer and quilt maker with a dark sense of humour buried in a sea of print and pattern. She plays with images the way a poet plays with words, turning innocuous traditional designs into mischievous little critters.  Whether it's a head of hair teased into a pirate ship or a damask molded into a frog..."

This is a beautiful but practical book, full of inspiration and useful tips.  Whether you want to make an heirloom comforter for your bed, or try a new fabric project such as making a sketchbook cover with pockets for your pencils, this is a great book to have on your shelf.  There are templates included and step-by-step illustrated tips on patchworking; cutting and designing your own bespoke quilt.

I have one copy to give away to UK readers, just complete the rafflecopter below to be in with a chance.

The giveaway closes at midnight on 31st March 2014 and one winner will be chosen at random.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mother's Day Treats from Moonpig

Now, I don't know about you but I thought (I know you're singing it right now) just did cards. You know, the personalised, spoofy humour type?

Well I was in for a surprise when they invited me along to their Mother's Day showcase this week.

I was met with a stunning display of flowers and bouquets which literally hit you with a wall of scent as you entered the room.

Not only that but they have gorgeous and tasteful gifts, hampers and all manner of indulgent treats.

Some of my favourites were the bath in a box hamper full of fabulous scented treats including these pretty bath flowers:

Or why not push the boat out for Mother's Day and get this bath gift set with a bottle of pink fizz. It includes rose petal Shea bath melts, rose perfumed soap, Neroli and rose scented candle and a bottle of sparkling rose wine.

Moonpig are passionate about supporting British growers and try to source UK grown blooms where they can.  They're particularly proud of their British tulips which were indeed beautiful.

All the bouquets were bursting with quality stems, creatively arranged and not full of cheap fillers like a lot of internet ordered flowers.

Prices start at £25 and you can order right up to 2pm for next day delivery.

Disclosure: This post is in association with Moonpig.  I was invited to attend the event and reimbursed for my travel and time.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Persil Cook With Kids Promise

Recent research undertaken by Persil, found that 88% of parents avoid cooking with this kids because of the mess they might make.

This is such a shame.  Cooking with your children is not only great fun; a chance to chat and catch up with them, it's also an important life skill for them to learn; can help broaden their tastes; helps with fussy eaters; gives them an interest in how food is prepared and where it comes from and encourages healthy eating.

So Persil have come up with the Cook with the Kids Promise.  You can sign up and pledge to spend more time baking and mess-making and receive your free downloadable kit full of activities and recipes to try.

Not only that, but each person who signs up will have the chance to win a kid-friendly baking kit in their weekly draws, and an overall prize of a kids party worth £500.

Their new formula dish-washing liquid means a bottle of Persil will now clean around 1,400 more plates than before - so there's no excuse not to make a little mess!

We were invited along to a special launch event, to get a little (well, ok, a LOT) messy ourselves.

There was a demonstration session where the kids learnt how to make pizza and then they got on an made their own smiley face pizzas, as well as a little cupcake decoration.

After lunch had been cooked and polished off, it was time for the mother of all food fights.

A mini army of white boiler suited crime scene investigators descended and all hell let loose with squirty cream flying, spaghetti hurling and strawberries squelching.  What fun!

Hopefully your kitchen won't resemble this after a cooking session with the kids, this was extreme!  But do please sign up and promise to spend more time together in the kitchen.

Disclosure: We were invited to attend the launch event at our own expense.  A goody bag was provided. Persil donated all left-over unused food and made a financial donation to a food bank charity.

Monday 17 March 2014

Chic French Style for Mother's Day

Vertbaudet is a firm favourite with me.  It's one of the first ever 'mail order' clothing firms I ever shopped with - back in those days I did it via their catalogue rather than online, so now it's even easier to get affordable clothing.

I particularly like their children's clothing lines and Ruby had some gorgeous items when she was younger.  I loved that they were a little unusual, she was one of the first among her mini group to rock the shorts and tights combo!

Their quality has never let me down, and their 'happy price' items offer brilliant value for money.

I've put together an outfit perfect for Mother's Day.  On that day, I'd like to be served breakfast in bed (naturally), maybe go totally French and have croissants and coffee, followed by a relaxed flick through the papers.

Then we'd be off for a family walk in the countryside, finding a picturesque country pub for a Sunday roast.

Happy Price Sailor Dress available in size 2Y - 14Y (from £13)
Happy Price Girl's Stretch Denim Jacket available in size 2Y-14Y (from £23)
Pink Converse High Tops  available in size 9 infants - 5.5 adult (from £49)
Girl's Plain Scarf (£8)

What about you?  How do you hope to spend Mother's Day and what do you think of my choice of outfit for Ruby?

Check out Vertbaudet's current special offer: 20% off and a free gardening kit - perfect for spring. Enter voucher code 8242 at checkout (subject to terms and availability).

Learning about trees in Wales

It's no secret that we love spending time outdoors.  We love forests and spending time breathing in lungfuls of fresh air and enjoying the seasons. Which is why we adore our holidays in Wales and the ever changing scenery on offer there.

February half term we headed off to Snowdonia and were lucky enough to book a beautiful cottage in the middle of the Coed Y Brenin forest.

We were apprehensive about what we'd find when we arrived - the owner called the day before we were due to tell us that the cottage and surrounding area had been without power for 4 days following the terrible storms that hit.  From our provincial town it was hard to imagine, but when we arrived the devastation was clear to see.

Mother Nature can be cruel at times, and hurricane force winds had whipped through the area toppling hundred foot high trees like dominoes.  The shock and sadness didn't abate each time we saw another fallen tree.  There were just so many.

Luckily for us, the power companies; local engineers and Forestry staff had been working incredibly hard to get lines back up and roads cleared and we did have electricity by the time we arrived.

The air was thick with the scent of pine oil from where the trees had been cut and moved away from the roads.

The fallen trees, although devastating to see, offered some amazing and practical learning opportunities.  We counted the rings on the cut trunks to see how old they were.  We were surprised to find that some incredibly tall trees weren't as old as we expected.  This area is predominantly spruce trees which are very fast growing. Luckily there were loads and loads of tiny saplings already growing strongly ('baby Christmas trees'), and these would eventually replace those lost to the storm.

The rocky landscape here is evidence of the former volcanic activity which took place hundreds of millions of years ago.  The land is rich in minerals such as copper and even gold, but the harsh landscape means that tree roots cannot grow deep.

With the uprooted trees we were able to get up close and investigate their root system in a way we'd never seen before.  It was fascinating to talk about how the roots provide nourishment for the tree, but yet just how shallow the roots to such enormous trees really were.

We looked at how and where the trees had fallen and talked about the domino effect.  We discussed which direction we thought the winds had been blowing in. We thought about how frightening it must have been to have a house in the area, and how terrifying and confusing for the wildlife and animals who built their homes in the forest.

Finally, we discussed the age old conundrum - If a tree falls in the forests and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

That was pretty philosophical for a 5 year old, but we reckoned that yes, it does!

This post is an entry for the Visit Wales #Wales4Kids Family Holiday Challenge. Wales is the perfect place for a fun-filled family break. See the Family Holiday Challenge on BritMums for more details.