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See posts about: // Isabelle // Parenting // Family //

Friday, 31 October 2014

To the kids I used to teach...

...I miss you!

I spent 3 years teaching you, and I sometimes took for granted how great you were. You were funny, and smart, and hard working, and sweet, and you made me laugh. Most of all, you wanted to learn and I wanted to teach you and so we had a lot of fun together.

Now I work somewhere else, and the kids are the opposite of you. And try as I might, I can't help but remember how great you all were every time they walk into the room and I know we won't have even half the fun we used to have together. And, don't tell the new kids this, but try as I might, I just can't like them like I liked you.

I'm sorry I never told you how special you all are. Even though it's a year and a half since I left you - and some of you have moved on to do A-levels in new places - I still miss you all.

Some of you will stick in my mind forever for being some of the smartest, funniest and craziest teenagers I will ever have the privilege of knowing. In fact, one whole year group of you lot are absolutely my favourite teenagers on the planet. I know you probably won't ever read this, but I wanted you to know all the same.

No matter what you're doing now, remember I never truly cared how well you did in Geography as long as you enjoyed it and tried your best. That applies now as well - try your best and enjoy what you do and you will be great.

I hope you remember something that I taught you - whether it is about Geography or not. I remember our 3 years together so fondly, and I miss it all.

I hope you've enjoyed your half term as much as I am!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Day 24: Sidewalk Chalk Paint

I've been waiting for a nice, sunny, beautifully autumnal day to do this activity- and it finally arrived today.  After we got back from a birthday party, Isabelle was asking for "Outside, outside mummy" so I knew this would be the perfect way to get us out in the sun. 

These sidewalk/pavement "chalk paints" are made with just 3 simple ingredients:
*food colouring

I didn't use any specific measures, I simply mixed until I thought I had the right consistency. It needs to be very runny (no resistance as you mix) otherwise the paint won't come out when you squeeze the bottle, due to the weird properties of cornflour. I made one batch of yellow and one of blue, and it took less than 5 minutes in total to mix them and pour them into the squeezy bottles I have been saving. 

Isabelle loved this activity. She loves being outdoors, she loves sauce bottles and she loves paint- so it was bound to be a winner. It did take a little while for her to work out how to squeeze the bottles to get the paint out, but she thoroughly enjoyed figuring it out by bashing the bottles around. It was a great workout for the muscles in her hands, as she did need to squeeze quite hard and for a prolonged period to get the paint out. 

She made blobs and lines, I made the sun and wrote her name. Then, she stamped. That was her favourite part of the activity today, running through the paint and jumping in it. Luckily, I had the forethought to take her brand new shoes off and replace them with her old

Monday, 27 October 2014

Day 23: Halloween Jelly Tuff Spot

I'm off on half-term this week, which means we have more time to do some more messy play activities, and do "bigger" activities than we normally do during the week. The end of this week, of course, is Halloween so today I decided to put together a Halloween themed tuff spot using one thing we haven't played with yet.....jelly.

There were two parts to the tuff spot activity today - jelly digging, and jelly worms. I have seen the jelly worms all over Pinterest, and thought they would add a nice extra touch to this tuff spot. To make them I made a batch of lime jelly, however I only added a SPLASH of cold water to make it very concentrated. I added a dash of red food colouring - although I was quite heavy handed and it did go more red than I had hoped. The final ingredient was a spoonful of milk. Next, I popped a load of drinking straws into a glass upside down, and with the bendy bit pulled to its full extent, before simply pouring the jelly mixture over them into the glass and popping it into the fridge.

For the jelly digging, I made a batch of orange jelly in the normal way. Into the bottom of two bowls and two plastic cups I added some

Family Meals - homemade pizza (3 ways)

We love pizza. I mean...we LOVE pizza. I would go so far as to say it is probably my favourite food, and Simon loves it as well. I could eat pizza for every meal, and remember on a holiday to Lanzarote I did eat pizza for every dinner for 2 weeks - probably one of my proudest moments!

So, of course, we love to eat pizza for dinner. However, buying it all the time gets expensive and while Dominos is delicious, it isn't overly healthy either. Supermarket pizzas are OK, but for us, nothing can beat a delicious home made pizza. They are so quick and easy to make, and Isabelle always loves them. They are a great food to eat with your hands, and obviously can be customised for every member of the family, so the fussiest family member is just as happy as the one who eats everything. Depending on your method and what toppings you add, I also think they are pretty healthy. Yes, there is a lot of cheese, but for Isabelle it is a great source of calcium and fat.

There are 3 ways we make homemade pizza - however, they are all essentially the same thing, it's just the base which differs in each case.

- Pizza base / tortilla wrap / bagel
- tomato puree
- cheddar cheese, grated
- toppings (we use bacon and pineapple most often)

The method is the same for which ever we are making. We spread the tomato puree across the base, before adding the cheese and toppings. If I am making bagel pizzas for lunch, I toast them lightly first, then finish under the grill. The tortilla base pizzas also get cooked under the grill, while I oven cook the traditional pizza base style instead.

You can buy actual jars of pizza sauce, or of course you could make your own, but for me none of them are as tasty as plain old tomato puree. I think that it is the reason I love homemade pizza so much - it is so tasty on them!

Most often, we serve these just on there own, however this week we had them with sweet potato chips which were delicious.

I can't wait until Isabelle is bigger and she can help make them and design her own pizza. At the minute, all she wants to do is eat the grated cheese!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Day 22: Masking Tape Road

Shhh...don't tell anyone this, but I borrowed a role of masking tape from school last week. I thought it may come in handy at some point at home over the holiday, and today it did! While browsing through Adventures of Adam (which is my new favourite blog), I saw one of the activities Emma had done with Adam was a masking tape car road. It was logged in the back of my brain, so whenever I saw Isabelle 'driving' her cars up and down our storage boxes this morning I thought it would be the perfect little activity.

My road building skills weren't fantastic, but I laid out a track that ran across the rug, down onto the hard floor, up and over the patio doors and then finished in a car park on the other side of the rug. Approximately 4 seconds after building it, Isabelle tore up the car park with glee. I was so surprised, as she usually HATES any type of tape, but I think that the different, softer, feel of masking tape meant that it wasn't as unpleasant in her hands. I blocked off the end of the road instead, and Simon and I showed her how to use the road with her cars.

She actually seemed to prefer driving her cars along the tape itself, rather than between the two pieces, and was able to follow it along pretty closely. Simon tried

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Day 21: Baking and washing up

My lovely friend Alex, from whom I steal lots of play activity ideas, posted an Instagram photo a while ago of her and her son baking together. Since then, it's been on my list of things to do with Isabelle and today was the day.

I am not a natural baker, and the whole thing tends to stress me a lot. With that in mind, I decided to weigh the ingredients out into separate containers while Isabelle was asleep, and set up the tuff spot on the floor to contain the mess. When she woke up, after a quick snack, we were ready to rock.

She really loved working with the dry ingredients, and the first thing she did was to scoop the flour from one bowl into the big bowl. The other dry ingredients were in our scoops, and she loved adding those in. Last Christmas, Simon bought us some personalised wooden spoons, so she used her 'Isabelle' spoon to stir those ingredients together. She spilt a lot of the sugar, so we spent some time scooping that up with our hands, and feeling how 'gritty', 'bumpy' and 'rough' it was between our fingers.

When we added the wet ingredients she took a dislike to the batter. I had assumed she would, given previous experience with similar textures. The only wet ingredient

Friday, 24 October 2014

Day 20: Shaving foam bath paint

I said last week after our shaving foam and water beads extravaganza that I was looking forward to doing some shaving foam painting. After deciding that we wouldn't do a new activity today, Isabelle was doing some more water painting on the chalkboard - our day 14 activity back again - and when bath time came she kept saying "Painting, painting". So, I thought this was just the perfect opportunity to finally get round to shaving cream paint.

This was such an easy activity to set up and clean up, and she really enjoyed it. I squirted the shaving cream into 3 of our Ikea bowls, and added red, blue and yellow food colouring. The yellow worked best, and made a great colour and texture. The red food colouring didn't work well at all. It coloured the foam, but it also dissolved it into a weird consistency. Still useful for painting, but not the lovely whippy type of foam that the blue and yellow colouring gave.

I popped the bowls into the bath with little miss, and off she went. She really enjoyed splatting it about on the sides of the bath. I was also so pleased to see that she happily did some finger painting with it, and didn't mind getting it all over hands! Last time we played with it she wasn't that keen on it being on her hands, so this

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Day 19: Egg box stacking

I think that we can count this activity as our first "not very successful" activity. I won't go so far as to say it failed, as nothing major went wrong, and Isabelle didn't have a melt down or anything....she just wasn't interested!

The idea of this activity had been to allow Isabelle to develop her motor skills, concentration and hand eye coordination by stacking the 'cups' of an egg box on top of one another. I also had the rest of an egg carton for her to practice fine motor skills and relocation with her pompoms - this is actually something we did last week and she seemed to enjoy it.

The first thing Isabelle did when she saw the egg carton was to shot "Pom poms!" and run away to get her bottle of pompoms. She then immediately threw them on top, before sitting down to start moving some. I got the buttons out for her as well, and this is where the activity started to lose it's way. She initially did spend some time putting the buttons into the egg carton...but then decided that she would much rather play with (read: eat!) the buttons by themselves. She was happy enough running her hands through them, so I left her to it.

Before I knew it, she was up and off into the kitchen. I think a big problem today was that she wasn't in the right mood and, to be honest,

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Day 18: Pumpkin Carving

Day 18 of our 50 day challenge fell on a Tuesday - which is Simon's day at home with Isabelle. He told me last week he was going to carve a pumpkin with her, since it is of course coming up to Halloween. I have never been a big pumpkin carver, however over the last few years we have done a few, and I knew he was excited to get going with her today. The pair of them actually did this while I was at work, so this is me stealing all the credit for his hard work!

The tuff spot got another outing today, and it is perfect for this type of activity as it allows any mess to stay really well contained. Isabelle is still a little bit young to really 'get' pumpkin carving, but she looks like she had a great time, and Simon said she enjoyed herself. Actually, this is the second pumpkin she has carved after doing one with her Grandad yesterday who also said she loved it, so she is now a seasoned pro! Simon chopped the top off the pumpkin, and said that our little texture weirdo was a bit unsure at first. She wasn't fussed on the feel of the insides of the pumpkin - and I can understand why. It's a weird texture, isn't it?

She loves being able to scoop things and move them from one place to another as she is currently in her transporting schema, and so once she was armed with a spoon and some scoops, she soon delved in, scooping the insides of the pumpkin out and dumping it all onto her tuff spot.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Isabelle's book wish list

Last month, I posted about how important it is in our family that we read a lot with Isabelle, in the hope of encouraging her to develop a love of books. As Christmas approaches and people start asking what we would like for her, one thing I am telling everybody is books. I will never tire of saying this - but you can NEVER have too many books, especially for a child.

I did feel really organised last month when I bought a pack of 10 Julia Donaldson books from The Book People as part of Isabelle's Christmas gifts....but as soon as they arrived they were opened, and I'm so glad as she loves them! Her current favourite is Toddle Waddle, which Simon thinks is silly, but she and I both love.

I know she is still young to truly understand and enjoy many books, but there are some books which I think of as classics from my childhood which I can't wait to read to her. Similarly, there are piles of amazing books out there that I never had, but which I know (hope) she will love, and which I want to get her too. So really, this isn't Isabelle's book wish's mine!

1// Peace at Last - I had forgotten all about this until I saw it in a Book People pack at work recently, and had a quick flick through. It brought back some lovely memories of being tiny and having it read to me

2// The Enormous Crocodile - this is one of my all time favourite Roald Dahl books, and one which I always found so funny. When the crocodile pretends to be the see-saw is something which will always make me laugh!

3// The Tiger Who Came to Tea - an absolute classic, and one which I have bought for my little cousins and my nephew as I love it so much. We definitely need our own copy!

4// Dear Zoo (noisy book) - Isabelle loves Dear Zoo in it's normal form, and she adores noisy books, so I think this will be a reall winner.

5// The Very Hungry Caterpillar - another total classic!

6// The Jolly Christmas Postman - my sister and I had The Jolly Postman books when we were little and loved them. She bought one for Isabelle last Christmas, so now I need to buy her the Christmas book too.

There are so many others which I could add to this list, it could go on forever. Janet Ahlberg in particular is one author who has such wonderful books for tiny people which I remember loving when I was little e.g Funnybones, Each Peach Pear Plum, Burglar Bill.

I want to buy all the great books I loved as a child for Isabelle now - but I know I should hold off on some of them until she is bigger, and they will be more appropriate. I have a set of The Magic Faraway Tree books which I got when I was pregnant, and which won't be opened for years to come! Then can never have too many books.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Day 17: Bubble Whisking

Isabelle loves to splash, and she loves playing with water. This morning as we were pottering about, she went to a kitchen chair and insisted "Chair, chair - water, mummy, tap." When she is with my parents they set up a chair at the sink, and she stands there and splashes about in the sink doing various bits and bobs, and she wanted to do the same at our sink. I dutifully did as I was told, and we spent about 5 minutes playing. The issue, however, is that she is about 3 inches too short to reach the tap very well, and so was getting frustrated.

I decided to bring her water tray into the kitchen, where I filled it with lukewarm water and got lots of scoops out. I had initially just planned to let her play with the water, and she was having a great time splashing around, when Simon mentioned she and Jacob had played for ages with bubbles at the sink at Granny and Grandad's. My mind then flicked through the many pins I have pinned lately, and I remembered seeing a bubble whisking task which seemed perfect!

We squirted some washing up liquid into the water and showed her how to whisk, and the bubbles magically started to appear. Isabelle enjoyed squirting the washing up liquid in the most, so she did that while Simon whisked. The whisking was a great

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Day 16: Shredded Paper Tuff Spot

Today's activity was another very simple idea, but it was a lot of fun, and Isabelle really enjoyed it - as did Simon and I. Today, we had a 'Noah's Ark themed shredded paper tuff spot' activity. I've seen shredded paper be featured on a few other blogs, and knew I wanted to do it, but I wanted to make sure there was the extra dimension of having something hidden in the paper. It took me a while to think of the perfect items, and I settled on using the figures from our Noah's Ark.

To set up, I asked Simon to bring me home any old documents and pages he had at work, and didn't need. I then shredded them to get our small mountain of shredded paper. I actually only used half of what he gave me, but I am glad as it was plenty. If I had have done all the paper it would have filled the play room!

I threw a few of our Noah's Ark characters onto the tuff spot, and covered in a layer of paper, and repeated until all the paper was on. I popped a few characters on top too, just so Isabelle knew there was something in there, then let her lose.

She took to the immediately, and within seconds was tossing the paper around. She plonked herself down and enjoyed picking the paper up, crinkling it in her hands, watching it fall from her hands, throwing it in the air to make it 'snow', and generally get really stuck in. She enjoyed walking over it, and dragging her feet through it to bundle it up in mounds. We buried her feet, and showed her how to find the characters, and she sat and played happily for ages.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Day 15: Shaving foam & water bead tuff spot

Our new tuff spot arrived! Now that it's here, I feel that we can definitely get stuck into some more messy play without the worry of my house being destroyed. Today was our first proper messy play - and I have to say, it was much less messy than I thought.

Ever since we first played with water beads, I've really wanted to combine them in play with shaving foam - don't ask why, it just seems like fun. So, I got a load of water beads ready by soaking them overnight, and threw them on to our new tuff spot along with our trusty scoops, and a tupperware box. Last time we played with water beads, Isabelle mainly scooped and transferred them so I imagined she would want to this time as well. Next, I squirted four big dollops of shaving cream around the tuff spot.

Isabelle is obsessed with water beads - absolutely obsessed. She calls them 'balls' and just loves playing with them. So, for the first 15 minutes, she sat in the tuff spot and ran her hands over them, picked them up, threw them, and then got on to squeezing and squashing them. That was her big thing today - squashing the water beads. She sat happily and squished them for ages. I got curious about the shaving foam and

Day 14: Painting with water

Today's activity is so simple, but Isabelle really enjoyed it and for the second day running let out
squeals of delight, today mixed in with "Mummy, PAINTING!"

You might remember seeing my post about creating the art wall in our play room, including a chalk board for Isabelle. Before dinner, she and I were drawing on the chalk board, and after dinner a spillage of water from her cup reminded me of a little picture I saw on Pinterest, and this activity was born.

Using some of our new Tesco paintbrushes and a shallow dish filled with water, I set Isabelle up at the chalkboard and showed her wahat to do. Initially, she just brushed it with a dry brush, but once she realised that 'dip dip'-ing made it even more fun, there was no stopping her. She really enjoyed it, and it is always lovely to see her explore mark making - first with the chalk itself, then with the water.

Simon came to see what we were up to, and was genuinely baffled for a few moments. The water on the blackboard looks like shiny black paint, and it really did

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Isabelle's 18-24 month wardrobe

Isabelle is 18 months! I can't quite believe that - it seems so OLD. I'm not quite sure when that happened - it really seems to have snuck up on me. It seems like forever ago that I shared the bits from her 12-18 month wardrobe. That said, many of the things I shared are still much too big on her, so we will be getting plenty of wear from them yet.

However, when I went to pick her up from my dad last week, I was appalled to see that her jogging bottoms were like pedal pushers, and her hoody like a crop top! It made me realise that some of her 12-18 month clothes are now a little snug.

If you are a parent, I'm sure you are as frustrated with the total lack of continuity between shops on their sizing. Not only that, I find the continuity WITHIN shops shocking as well. For example, Isabelle has a lot of leggings from Tesco - 2 pairs of 12-18 month leggings are still so big she's never worn them; another pair of 12-18 month leggings she grew out of months ago; and a pair of 18-24 month leggings fit perfectly and are therefore SMALLER than the 12-18 month leggings! What is that about!?

We seem to have settled into a buying pattern now for her clothes - 90% of her clothes come from Tesco and Next. Next have such gorgeous things, but can be so expensive, so Tesco provides our 'cheaper' option, for more every day run about clothes. That said, at the minute we are very Next heavy, with only 2 things from Tesco, so here's a quick look at some of what we got from Next.

For her autumn/winter look, I wanted Isabelle to have lots of long sleeved tops and jumpers to keep her cosy in the cold and Next has some gorgeous jumpers at the minute. The grey Meow jumper below is one which I adore. I also love the Fairisle dress, which will probably be the only dress she has for the next few months. I also bought a pack of sleepsuits, as I hate my own jammies riding up at night, and want to make sure her feet stay cosy so I thought sleepsuits were the way to go. 

I always say I'm going to be sensible and only buy what she needs (and she really doesn't have loads of clothes compared to some I know) but I really mean it this time! She had some beautiful summer things which never got worn at all. The weather was great, but she is only fitting in to them now, despite them being 12-18 months, and so now it's far too late. I did tear up putting some of her beautiful, never worn, things away, thinking what a total waste it is to have bought them. So this time round, I am determined to be even more sensible than usual! The selection above, combined with the things she already has, will be plenty for her for the foreseeable future.....

Famous last words....

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Day 13: Red and blue rice tray

One thing I have noticed over the last few activities is that Isabelle loves to scoop and transfer, so with that in mind I decided it was time for another rice tray. We played with rice months ago, and I knew that this time round I wanted to dye it to add something more to the activity.

I have seen loads of activities with dyed base fillers in activity trays, but never done it myself. Now, after seeing how easy it is, I will be no doubt dying everything! To dye the rice you need:

* rice
* food colouring
* ziplock bag
* vinegar

Simply chuck the rice into the ziplock, add a capful of vinegar, and a generous glug of food colouring. Seal up the bag, and shake it until the colouring is spread evenly over the rice. If you find the colour is too light, simply add more in. This took hardly any time at all, and I was surprised how well the rice took the colour. Then, spread the

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Day 12: Stretchy, sparkly play dough

This activity started out as a total disaster, and turned into one of the biggest successes of our 50 day challenge to date!

I saw a recipe for silky, stretchy play dough on Pinterest, and decided that it would be fun to make. On Sunday, I set about making a few bits for the coming week, and this was one of them. It's so simple to get together, all you need is:

1cup cornflour
1 cup hair conditioner
Food colouring

The colouring and glitter are optional, but I wanted to add a little more to our play dough, so decided to throw it in. You will know when the consistency is right - it stretches amazingly in your hands. If it gets too crumbly, add more conditioner; too wet, add more cornflour. The only issue I had when making it, and when playing actually, is that it is unbelievably sticky. On the upside, the 60p conditioner I used gave the dough the most AMAZING scent.

The dough itself is a strange beast. It's super stretchy and squashy, but unlike normal play dough it isn't very mouldable. It's kind of gloopy, so when you make a 3d shape and set it somewhere, it starts to droop immediately. Even cutting out shapes in 2d form with the shape cutters wasn't an easy task as it was just so sticky. We had most fun simply using our hands, and it has the most wonderfully smooth feel to it. We also found it started to dry out after just 40 minutes of play, becoming crumbly and snapping very easily, losing its stretch, so it's not something I have kept to play with again as I know it wouldn't have the same elasticity in the future.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Family Meals: 10 Minute Chicken Teriyaki

Until last week, Simon and I had never had any sort of teriyaki before, and had no real idea what it was. I saw a recipe for a slow cooker version which caught me eye, and we like Asian food, so I thought I would give it a whirl.

The absolute best thing about this meal is that it took me less than 10 minutes in total to make! Or, let's active participation in cooking it was less 10 minutes.

1 pack mini chicken fillets, sliced
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
Squeeze of garlic puree
Sprinkling of pepper
2 teaspoons of cornflour

It was so easy to make - I sliced the chicken and threw it into the slow cooker. Then,

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Day 11: Mud Kitchen

Day 11 of our 50 day challenge saw Isabelle, and her cousins, out playing at their mud kitchen. I will be very upfront on this one and say that, while the idea for the mud kitchen was mine, it was my amazing dad who built it all. Every single part came from him, after I sent him one picture from Pinterest. He did a wonderful job, and all three kids adore playing out at it. Today is definitely a picture overload, but there is just so much to see!

The main part of the kitchen is made from an old wooden table. My dad knew that he wanted to have the following in the kitchen:
- a 'washing up' sink
- a 'tap'
- two mixing bowls
- a 'hob'
- a drawer
- hooks for hanging utensils
- a plug socket

The first thing he did was to create some 'wall space' by adding a wooden panel dead centre down the middle of the table. He bought one

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Day 10: Sticky Tape Web

Day 10 - we are 1/5 of the way through our 50 day activity challenge! This wasn't the activity I had planned for today, but as we lounged about this morning, Isabelle pulled her pom poms out and sat down to start throwing them. She loves to throw balls, and she adores her pom poms, so I thought I would get this activity up and running instead.

It was so easy to set up - I simply used parcel tape to create a 'web' across the door frame, trying to get a perfect balance between gaps and filled in space. As always, I showed Isabelle how it worked by throwing a ball at it, and she immediately got the idea, standing and chucking a few balls. She somehow managed to get every single one through a gap, so I rejigged some of the tape and added some more, then we started up again.

After her fourth or fifth throw, Isabelle realised that some of the balls were going over the top and into the hall, and she really took to this idea. Her aim from then on was simply to chuck the pom poms over the top of the web, which she did happily for ages, until we ran out, and then I was sent to collect them, and then we did the same again.

I got out the ball pool plastic balls to see if they would work, but they were too heavy and just bounced off the tape.

IBW: Our babywearing journey - 18 months and counting

This week marks International Babywearing Week - a week to both celebrate babywearing and to raise awareness of babywearing across the world. I've spoken many times about our babywearing endeavours, but I thought this week was a good time to post about our 'toddler wearing'.

Last time I spoke about babywearing was, I think, way back in January, when Isabelle was just 9 months old - she's double that now! Since then we have continued to wear her, and have actually been wearing Isabelle more than ever. We were slow starters in to baby wearing, despite the fact that we owned an SSC carrier (find out what that is here) before Isabelle was even born. She loved her pram, and we loved pushing her, so wearing her took a back seat.

Here is our baby wearing journey in pictures - from 12 weeks old to 18 months! We've gone through a Boba 3G, 6 different woven wraps, 1 ring sling, 1 mei tai, and finally settled on 2 toddler buckles carriers.

(Please excuse the super cheesy selfies, and rubbish quality phone pictures!)

Friday, 10 October 2014

Day 9: Cardboard Shape Stamps

Today's activity was the 9th in our 50 day activity challenge - my attempt to complete 50 different play activities with Isabelle before Christmas.

Isabelle isn't a big fan of paint on her hands - which we found out when we tried to do finger painting a few months ago - so I thought using the stamps would be a good way for her to paint without having to actually touch paint.

I saved 3 toilet roll tubes for this, and coaxed two of them into a triangle and square shape, simply by nipping in the sides to create the rough shape. I knew I would need quite a shallow dish for the paint so decided to use some old takeaway tubs. We only had 2 left, so I chose just to use red and yellow paint this time round (more takeaway is clearly needed!).

Since Isabelle just loves to squeeze the paint out of the bottles, and get it everywhere, I set this up when she wasn't in the room. The 3 shapes, two tubs of paint and some of our paper roll were all that we needed. When I showed her the activity, and showed her what to do, she immediately started saying "Dip dip! Stamp stamp!"She was great at putting the tube into the paint and swishing it about, before

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Day 8: Glitter Moon Sand

Yesterday was such a miserable day - cold and it poured down all day long. There was no chance of getting outside for any playing, and it was one of those days when you just feel like you can't be bothered to put much energy into anything. Luckily, I remembered I had the moon sand from a previous play session in the summer stored in the cupboard.

The recipe I used to make the moon sand was simply:
- 8 cups plain flour
- 1 cup baby oil

I wanted to make it look a bit more appealing than the simple sand colour, but wasn't sure how easy it would be to add colour to it now that it has been fully made. Instead, I simply poured a pile of silver glitter over the top and left it for Isabelle to mix in. It gave it a little 'edge' that it didn't have before and I thought it looked much better than the plain sand, and I was delighted to find that it still had the lemon and tea tree smell that it had the first time round. I popped it into our tray, and put the tray on a foam square in a (failed) attempt to limit the mess.

Last time, Isabelle played with the moon sand for ages, and Simon and I joined in, so

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Cloth nappies and child care

One of the questions I see on the Northern Ireland cloth bum mummies Facebook group is about using cloth nappies when you are back at work and your little person is spending all day in the care of others. It takes so long to figure out what system works best for you, then you have to almost start again and figure out what system will work best for people who may know absolutely nothing about using cloth nappies. So, here are a few tips to ensure you make life as easy as possible for your child care provider, so that they continue to use cloth.

Luckily, as you know, Isabelle's grandparents looks after her while I am at work. Although they are used to disposable nappies for my nephew - and initially expressed their trepidation at using cloth - I have to say they have both been fantastic in adhering to my wish that they also use cloth when they look after her. In particular, I have been impressed with my dad who hasn't batted an eyelid, and has used whatever has been given to him.

1// My first tip would be to simply check out with you child's new carer if they are

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Day 7: Autumn Collage

I was excited today to come home to find our weekly shopping had just been delivered. This week, along with the usual food and household bits, I ordered 5 or 6 different materials which we are going to be using as we continue our 50 day challenge, and one of them was opened straight away to use in today's activity.

I've always been excited to make an autumn collage with my little person, but this year I knew she was too young to glue things down so I thought we couldn't do it., but a brain wave brought me the idea of that much over looked item...sticky back plastic. After trawling Tesco's website for it, some arrived today and I was interested to see if it would work as well as I thought.

Firstly, Isabelle and I had to go and collect the materials for our collage. We didn't venture further than the back garden and the street as there was plenty about, and I knew we wouldn't need too much. Isabelle got distracted by a cat and some of the kids playing in the street, but when Simon came out to join us we had a walk up and down and picked up some leaves, twigs and different berries from bushes. Back in our garden, I asked her to get me some mint which she did with glee. She loves ripping mint off the plant and sniffing it, and spent a good 5 minutes alone doing that! We also picked up some bark and some more leaves from the trees in our garden. By the

Monday, 6 October 2014

Meal Plan Monday - 6/10/14

Another week, another meal plan to be done. It's gotten so cold so quickly that it's time to bring 'the winter menu' in to force - lots of soups and casseroles to keep us warm. I've also found that Wednesday is going to be a good day for a slow cooker meal - Simon goes cycling in the evening and so I have to get home and walk the dogs before he leaves, and we have to scoff dinner. I'm hoping that if we have a slow cooker meal done it will make life much simpler.

So here is this weeks meal plan:

Monday: slow cooker chilli and rice
Tuesday: vegetable soup and bread
Wednesday: slow cooker teriyaki chicken and noodles
Thursday: n/a
Friday: chicken quesadillas
Saturday: baked potatoes with various toppings
Sunday: n/a

Linking up with At Home With Mrs M for Meal Plan Monday

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Day 6: Coffee play

Today's activity was decided by Isabelle, and isn't something I had planned to do, but she enjoyed it so I thought I would share it with you.

Isabelle loves to play with the tea, coffee and sugar pots in our kitchen, and today she asked to get two spoons, and then wanted to play with the coffee jar. She scooped some coffee out on her spoon and I knew right away that if I didn't contain the situation we would end up with coffee all over the kitchen. So, I got her, her spoons and the coffee jar and took them into the playroom and set it all in the tray I use to contain some of her activities. Simon brought her her favourite cup and she scooped the coffee between the two containers. Of course, lots was spilled into the tray, and some escaped onto the rug where she enjoyed running her hands over it. It was great practice for her 'spoon control' - she has just started eating almost every meal with her utensils and does really well, but definitely could benefit from more practice to save the odd spoonful flying off!

The most impressive thing about this activity was, of course,

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Day 5: Slot machine

I had hoped to do a bigger activity today as I thought that I would have lots of time, being off work, but as it happened we had much less time than I had thought. So, we ended up with this little activity which is what kept Isabelle busy while I showered this morning before we went out. Day 5 in our 50 day activity challenge saw us use our little 'slot machine'.

As you can see, it's just the bottom half of a 2 litre bottle with a little 'lid' that I made from cardboard. I cut four slots in it, of two different sizes. I had originally intended to buy lollipop sticks to use for this, but as I decided to do it today, our trusty buttons came out again!

(There aren't any pictures of Isabelle actually playing with it, as I was in the shower at the time - not somewhere I traditionally take a camera...)

While shampooing my hair, I watched Isabelle lift the buttons out of the box and spend time slotting them into the four different slots. Some of the bigger buttons didn't fit into the small slots, so as well as practicing her hand/eye coordination, she was exploring the concepts of big and small.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Day 4: Ball chute

Day 4 of our 50 day challenge saw a ball chute arrive in the playroom. One of Isabelle's favourite type of toy is a ball, and she loves putting things 'in' other things, so I thought that this would be a winner.

I used the big cardboard box in which our stroller came, and simply cut holes along the length and down one of the sides. We have 300 ball pit balls, and I used one as a template for size - cutting some holes smaller than others to make it a big more challenging. However, using a stanley knife to cut the holes they all became a bit messy, but the idea was still there.

After work, I propped one end of the chute up onto the chair, and showed her how to put the balls into one of the holes and she was off. At first, she put the balls into the same hole over and over so we had to show her that using the other holes was just as effective. She ran back and forth between the box of balls and the chute, popping them in and totally ignoring where they went.

She was tired this evening, so she got bored quickly as she wouldn't settle to anything for long, but played for about 15 minutes before running off with my phone. After dinner,

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Family meals: bacon, leek and pea risotto

This meal came from one of my very few cookbooks, and is a firm favourite in our house. I'd heard many times that risotto is really hard to cook, and you have to be very careful, but I have to say that I have never really had any issues with making it.

This is a one pot meal, which is something I love, and is great for freezing as well - since we always make too much we end up freezing a big portion every time.


- arborio rice
- 4 rashers bacon (we use unsmoked)
- 1 leek
- cup of peas
- 1.5 pints chicken stock
- grated cheese (parmesan is best)

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Day 3: Bubble Snake

Isabelle adores bubbles, and so for today's activity I decided to finally create the bubble snake activity I have seen on Pinterest.

It took two minutes to set up, and everything I used was lying round the house:

- the top of a plastic bottle (sports cap worked best)
- an old sock
- a rubber band
- bubble solution (we used washing up liquid and water)

I chopped the bottle up, and pulled the sock over the end. We didn't secure it in place as I couldn't find an elastic band, but it would be a good idea just to hold it in place. I mixed washing up liquid and water in a bowl, dipped the sock in and....blew.

I was actually a little sceptical that I could reproduce the amazing snake I saw online, and yet it happened instantly! It was amazing to see the bubble mass grow and grow. It stays together really well, and we were able to pick it up and 'throw it' about. This is was much better than normal bubbles

Autumn's here! least, I think it is.

Hasn't the weather been great lately? Throughout September there have been 2 days when it has drizzled here - very light drizzle - and the rest of the month has been bone dry. Every day when I've been leaving work, the temperature has been above 16C - usually closer to 19/20C.

It has been unseasonably lovely, and it doesn't really feel like autumn at all. June and July were great months too, so it seems like we've had a lovely long summer.

But now, on the very first day of October, I'm certain that won't last much longer - and that's OK. Autumn is definitely my favourite time of year, along with so many people. We don't do anything particularly special in autumn, but I love the crisp, clear days, being able to wrap up in a coat and watching the trees change colour. I think autumn will pass us buy quickly this year though - especially when I'm stuck at work all day. Hopefully, we will get some lovely dry weekends to spend outdoors, crunching leaves and splashing in puddles.

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