Decorative snowflakes using lollipop sticks are just gorgeous, and so very versatile too. There’s no end to what you can do with them to personalise them. You can use coloured lollipop sticks, or normal ones. You can paint them or glitter them. You can make them massive or small (-ish. If you use regular sized lollipop sticks, there’s only so far you can go to make them small!)
I will admit to being pretty proud of this little bit of festive colour. The kids planted the seeds that turned into the plant that I tended and nursed, that turned into the twigs that were used for this craft. Talk about upcycling. Read more: Making Festive Twigs And Twines
My head may still be spinning about the fact that my little girl turned five this weekend. I can still remember her as a newborn in my arms, the feeling of looking in her eyes the first time. Ah, the memories.
Despite my violent protestations that my girls would never be into princesses, it seems the princesses found them, even though we don’t own a single princess movie! So when Ameli asked me months ago if we could have a princess party, I had to put my personal feelings on the matter aside and decide to just let her be five.
Our party this year was small – the smallest we’ve ever had – both because I decided she was old enough to select her own guests.
One of the first things we did was to make these ‘Beauty and the beast floating rose’ table decorations – slash – thank you gifts. I must say, I am so pleased with how they turned out!
You will need:
- 100ml Sphered bottles
- Paper craft embellishment roses
- FINE gold glitter – make sure to use fine glitter.
- Double sided tape
- Thank you cards, optional.
Cut a strip of double sided tape, and stick it inside the lid of the bottle. Make sure to leave enough room to peel off the other side then fold the end of the rose – the stem – so that you have enough surface contact with the tape.
Pour a small amount – a teaspoon or so – of the gold glitter into the bottle. You want to use the fine glitter, so that it sticks to the inside of the bottle and is light and magical. Large glitter obstructs more of the rose than fine glitter does.
Gently put the rose through the opening, and close the lid. Shake the bottle around gently to spread the glitter around.
If you’re putting thank you tags on, attach them to the lid and you’re done.
I think these are gorgeous, and are a magical touch to your party decor for very little effort indeed!
My children never owned a cot. In fact, I wanted to buy Ameli a gorgeous sleigh cot at great expense, but from an hour after her birth, Ameli (and later Aviya) slept in my bed with me, so a cot never became a necessity, and I’m glad in retrospect that we never bought one ready for her arrival. As such, I’ve never paid much attention to the repurposed cots and cribs on Pinterest, but recently I was looking for a piece of outdoor-primed wood to turn into an outdoor chalkboard.
I was collecting a wooden pallet for the garden when I noticed the owner of the pallet had an dismantled cot lying by their skip. I had a lightbulb moment about our outdoor chalkboard, and asked if I could perhaps have it.
So, now we are proud owners of someone else’s discarded crib, and I can’t wait to put it to good use. I bought chalkboard paint some time ago, so all I had to do was the DIY – something I’m not normally great at. I’m the queen of Pinterest Fails. None the less, I set out to create our own chalkboard.
How To Make An Outdoor Chalkboard
I used masking tape along the outsides of the crib head board to create a frame, although I don’t suppose this was necessary, really. I could just as easily have left it and painted the whole thing, but I wanted the frame. Next I took one of the children’s thicker paint brushes, and painted the paint onto the board.
It was quite streaky, which concerned me, but it dried perfectly smoothly within half an hour.
After testing it and seeing the chalk created a few ‘scratches’ as it wrote, I decided to paint a second layer.
Once that had dried, I pulled off the masking tape – pull away from the direction of the paint, so that if it does create any ‘chips’ it doesn’t pull the ends of the paint off, negating having created a border in the first place. If it does, just touch those up.
Being a cot, it already had holes drilled into it for the sides to slot into, so I just threaded some string through those to tie it to the fence.
And there we have a lovely DIY outdoor chalkboard for the children… and I’m quite pleased with myself!
I seem to be pretty consistent in running a good six months behind on birthday party photos when it comes to blogging them, and Ameli’s fourth birthday photos from October last year are no exception! But, as they say, better late than never, so here are 12 ideas for your very own LEGO (Duplo) Party. Ameli’s favourite LEGO are the Friends range, which she’s been playing with since just after her second birthday. She loves them. But since she’s one of the oldest in her friendship group, we decided that a DUPLO party might be more appropriate for our little friends.
The first thing I did for our LEGO party was our photo frame – this is our tradition now, to have this wooden frame decorated for photo opportunities at parties. The guests loved it and almost half our friends used the photos from their LEGO frame for their Facebook profile picture for a while, which thrilled me no end.
It was actually just wooden skirting board that we cut up, hammered together, and used Velcro sticky tabs to stick the LEGO pieces on. This was quite a fun way to do it as people customised the frame a little bit each time.
The biggest tip I can give anyone organising a LEGO Duplo Party is this LEGO Duplo Sticker Book. It comes with hundreds of stickers that can be customised for anything. We decorated our party bags with them. We played four different party games with them. I cut some pages out and put a few stickers in each child’s goody bag. The options are limitless, and there are so many of them, that we didn’t even run out.
I also managed to get hold of two LEGO Duplo height charts, but unfortunately can’t find them online now. There are two different ones available, one in the UK and one in the US. With these we played two games:
1) Our Tribe
Every child had a turn to measure themselves – some with a bit of help – on the chart, and compare themselves with their friends (fun? well, the 2 – 4 year old’s thought so!)
2) Who Are You?
For this one I stuck a bunch of the aforementioned stickers on the chart, from the bottom up. Each child could then check to see which Duploville character they are, by measuring up to the same character. If they were the same height as the princess, they were a princess in Duploville. If they were the same height as a penguin, ditto.
Before the guests arrived, my husband and I walked around the forest area and hung about 100 stickers (from the book!) in little baggies all around the forest and orchard, so that the children had to go out and find five little bags each – this was our sort of treasure hunt. It was such a glorious day, it was wonderful to have them running around outside.
They then brought their found treasures into the hall, and matched each sticker to it’s spot on the sticker wall – pages torn from… you guessed it: the sticker book! In this book there are tons of different themes, as represented by real Duplo: farmers, circus, zoo, princess, construction and more. So the children – and parents – had to find the right sticker and fill up the pages. A really simple activity that kept them busy for ages.
In our friendship group we have quite a few babies at the moment, so while it’s not actually LEGO, we bought a bag of large bricks for the little ones, and as it turns out some of the dads, to play with while the party was going on.
The games and foods were all sign-posted with card I’d cut out to (sort of!) look like LEGO bricks, and the stickers were used to decorate all of those.
We used Duplo bricks for place card holders on the food table.
I also incorporated the LEGO Duplo toys we have into the table decorations and serving dishes. This orange version isn’t available anymore, but there’s a blue garbage truck out now, and it makes a great M&M or small sweet holder.
The number train is great for carting around edible LEGO Bricks. (I bought these here in the UK, but they’re available in the US too. Unless you’re awesome, I wouldn’t bother buying the silicone shapes to make your own – aside from the fact that you can only make about 8 at a time, I couldn’t get any of the recipes I tried in them [cake, candy and jelly] to come out without breaking off the little circle bits. I even tried different ways of freezing/icing/buttering them before. In the end, I bought the candy.) It’s stackable, which was quite fun to play with too.
As you can vaguely see in the back, I made a square out of Duplo and used it to hold the cutlery.
The LEGO Cake was really special, and nerve racking. I made a yellow cake layer, a red and a green one, the cut three sizes out of each cake, swapped them around and iced them all together. I had no idea how it had or would have worked, as I couldn’t cut it open to check! It worked out pretty cool, and looked like a LEGO wall, although I think the yellow layer could have cooked a little longer.
Because the inside was so colourful, we kept the outside a deceptively plain white.
On top of the cake, I used Ameli’s very first ever DUPLO set, a 13-month present from her daddy, to decorate. There were probably ‘cooler’ sets we could have used to decorate, but this one had significance to us.
For the brownies we used more M&M – the LEGO colours, having used the non-LEGO colours in the garbage truck – despite my … interesting colouring skills, they were delicious vegan brownies.
Another LEGO themed food were the coloured, layered jellies, made with the LEGO Brick sweets layered throughout. The jello/ jelly made them quite soft, so they were a lot easier to eat than the rest of the bag!.
Finally, the LEGO Party Bags.
As I said earlier, these contained a page of stickers each, and some edible brick in a the same organza bags (US) as above, Lego Pencils (aside from these generic wooden ones, in the US you also have to options of Chima pencils, and Friends pencils), Lego City notebooks (US), bubbles and crayons. I also made ‘LEGO bubblebath’ by decanting bottles of Earth Friendly Baby wash into spherical bottles, and dropping LEGO bricks into the mixture.
So that was our fourth LEGO Party for Ameli, and she loved it so much, when she saw me writing this post, she asked if we could have the same party again!
Here are a few more LEGO Duplo books that we have – they could make great ‘quiet corner’ activities for your party, or goody bag fillers if you have the budget:
With all that’s been going on here, I have not had much time to be or feel Christmassy, or get far in the whole Christmas gift making endevour. One of the things I have managed to do, however, was prepare mulled wine spices and the tea-total version, Russian Tea spices, for our December food swap.
It made quite nice gift parcels, and even if you just make a batch for yourself, it fills the house with a beautiful aroma and makes a most delicious wine or tea. The tea is a wonderful alternative to mulled wine if you can’t drink or want an alcohol free alternative. It’s worth making, totally.
A group of friends and I had an informal Christmas party today and at the time of arranging it, I’d suggested a Secret Santa £5 gift idea. I didn’t realise just how hard it would be to buy something that wasn’t plastic or junk food that would make a nice enough gift for a friend!
I was racking my brain trying to think of a gift idea when it came to me. One of the mamas is having a hard time dealing with her son, and the other is about to have a new baby, so what they could both use is some old fashioned down time, with a little encouragement.
I had very little time available too, so I didn’t put effort into fineries like pretty tags, or even lid covers for the jars, but I’m sure if you take a little more time you could make something really very pretty.
To make the Motherhood Affirmation Tea Jars you will need:
- Tea bags – I used Warming Apple and Cinnamon and Pomegranate and Raspberry
- Sticker labels or pretty tags
- Food grade string - I didn’t have any so just recommended removing the string before popping the teabag in the water
One of the friends is religious, and the other isn’t at all, so for one I did a printout that included scripture verses and for one a printout with just positive affirmations. You’re welcome to print them and use them yourself.
Cut out the printed affirmations, and fold the cards in half. Glue a piece of string into the card, leaving the string long enough to dangle, then staple the string to the tea bag.
Put the teabags into a jar with the tags hanging out and screw the lid on. If you have time, decorate the lid or cover it with something pretty.
Obviously there are a hundred different ways to do this to make it pretty. For example shaped scissors would have been nice on the labels, or gluing labels to teabags that already have a string. Whatever works for you.
I was worried that it was a bit of a silly gift, but one of the mamas (the pregnant one, no surprises ) actually had tears, so I’m really pleased with how it turned out!
It’s been many years since I last picked up knitting needles, but after Aviya’s birth I used reusable pads for the first time ever, and I am sold on them. I’m in no hurry for that part of my life to return, but when the day does come, I will be a full on reusable pad girl. It’s so much nicer than disposables!
My fellow NPN volunteer Destany, who blogs at They Are All Of Me recently offered to share her instructions for DIY knitted pads, and I jumped at the opportunity. Maybe someone will enjoy making them so much, they’ll gift me a few. A girl can dream, right?
I once asked my mother growing up, “What did women use for their periods before we had disposable pads and tampons?” She said that they used old rags or anything they could find around the house that could be thrown away. I immediately looked at the dirty grey dust cloth I had just used and held it up to ask her if that’s what she meant.
She nodded. “Yup!”
Compared to the starkly white bleached cotton pads sitting upstairs behind the toilet, the idea of using old rags seemed a horror – poor Grandma!
Oh mother… If only we’d had internet! I always found her answer woefully inadequate. However, it wasn’t her fault. Women of the pre-Kotex era simply did not speak of menstruation or share their habits.
Fortunately these days we have the Museum of Menstruation to gain a little insight. Information is still sketchy, but it would appear that some women indeed used cloth “rags” and I can see that they may have used old fabric for this, but it wouldn’t have been a dirty dust rag. It would have been clean, you know. And there’s no telling what women of upper class may have used, but I can imagine it would have been better than what the lower class had to get by with.
The reason I asked my mother, apart from curiosity, is that there simply had to be a better way. Those disposable pads were (and still are) very uncomfortable to me. They give me rashes, dry me out, they bulk up in places, and when you have one flip over while pulling up your breeches and the sticky side gets stuck to you instead of your panties? Nightmare. Total nightmare!
And then there’s the disposal. Wadded up period packages filling up the wastebasket, the time spent on carefully unwrapping, changing, rolling up the old pad and winding the wax paper strip around the outside of it so that it could be put inside the plastic wrapper without sticking to the sides of it. It’s a huge hassle.
Fortunately, women these days have many options. I don’t have to choose between a wad of chemical laced paper or a dingy old rag!1 Many companies make reusable cloth pads and menstrual cups are becoming increasingly popular. As a seamstress, I have been making my own cloth pads. However, one day when I was knitting up a new kitchen towel that felt super soft and thick, I was struck with inspiration to knit some new cloth pads!
Before you get wigged out at how complicated or off putting it would be to reuse cloth sanitary napkins, let me break this down for you.
This is me on disposable pads:
Get my period. Look in the cupboard. Count how many pads I have before I need to hightail it to the store to buy more (or argue with the husband about going up and getting me some if I’m laid up with cramps). Spend the week changing out pad after pad, leaving the used ones in the can beside the toilet.2 Run out and buy more pads when I’m wearing my last one. At the end of the week, take out the bathroom trash. *When using disposable pads, my periods lasted anywhere from 4 to 6 days.
This is me on reusable pads and a menstrual cup:
Get my period. Insert my cup and grab a clean cloth pad from my dresser drawer. Count the pads. I have six, just like always. Twice a day I change the pad and put the old one in a ceramic lidded pot that I keep beneath the bathroom sink. At the end of my period, dump the ceramic pot into the washing machine with a load of towels. Launder. Place fresh clean pads back into my dresser drawer for next month and clean/sanitize the cup. *Using a menstrual cup and reusable pads, my period lasts 2 to 3 days.3
I find reusable products are much easier, more convenient, and frankly, a lot more sanitary not having a pile of gross pads filling up the trash. Mold on unused tampons is far more common than you’d guess. And you won’t know if the tampon you’re using has any mold on it because you’re not allowed to see it before inserting it.
Now onto the pattern!
This pattern is highly versatile. Use it to make plain panty liners for very light days or back up to a cup; use it to make slightly more absorbent pads with wings; add a sturdy backing to it to handle your heavy days.
If you have very heavy periods, you can even knit an extra top piece to place on top of your finished pad, for extra absorbency.
Knitted Basic Panty Liner:
Use WW cotton yarn, size 2 needles.
CO 8 stitches
k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p
p, m1, k, p, k, p, k, p, m1, k
k, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, p
p, m1, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, m1, k
k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p
p, m1, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, m1, k
k, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, p
p, m1, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, m1, k
*k, p, *all the way across
*p, k, *all the way across
Repeat the last two rows until you have the length of liner you wish. 60 rows or six inches for medium, 80 rows or eight inches for large.
**Your last row before beginning to decrease should end with a knit stitch.
K2tog, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p2tog
*p, k, *all the way across
p2tog, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k2tog
*k, p, *all the way across
k2tog, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p2tog
*p, k, *all the way across
p2tog, k, p, k, p, k, p, k2tog
*k, p, *all the way across
Bind off and weave in ends.
You can use the basic liners for light spotting, or as a double up for heavy days.
I decided to give them wings and it was really easy.
Find the horizontal stitches on the very edge of the liner. These are the purls. Noting the center, slide your needle beneath ten of these stitches on either side of the center, so that you have 20 stitches on your needle. Beginning from the right side, knit across to form a base of your wing. Knit as follows:
*k, *all the way across
k, k, p16, k, k
k2tog, k16, k2tog
k, k, p14, k, k,
k2tog, k14, k2tog
k, k, p12, k, k
k2tog, k12, k2tog
k, k, p10, k, k
k2tog, k10, k2tog
k, k, p8, k, k
k2tog, k8, k2tog
k, k, p6, k, k
k2tog, k6, k2tog
k, k, p4, k, k
k2tog, k4, k2tog
k, k, p2, k, k
k2tog, k2, k2tog
k, k, k, k
Do this on the other side as well. Weave in all of your ends, and apply the snaps according to the package directions.
I know many women prefer a more protective backing on their liners, and that is easy enough to add to these. I chose denim, but other sturdy fabrics such as corduroy will also work. You may choose to use PUL, or polyurethane lined (waterproof) fabric.
Place your liner facing down onto a piece of paper and trace around it. Use this template as guide, and cut your backing fabric about a quarter of an inche larger all the way around. Snip the rounded edges of your backing fabric to minimize puckering or bunching.
Line up your backing and your top pieces, and place a strip of terrycloth between the two layers.
Pin it and stitch it down, an eighth of an inch from the edge.
Use a nice thickly woven terrycloth for your liners.
When pinning, try to eliminate any bulky areas.
I handstitched my backing on, if you machine stitch, you a long stitch setting.
That is it, your liners are complete! Here are some links that explain proper care of cloth menstrual products:
1. Despite the fact that women are known to absorb chemicals into their bodies by means of vaginal exposure (through tampons and even sanitary napkins), menstrual product companies are not expected to disclose the ingredients they use on their packaging. Tampons and napkins are known to contain many harmful substances including dioxins (according to the FDA).
Exposure to dioxins, which are highly-toxic chemicals, can lead to skin problems, liver dysfunction, immune system issues, endocrine system problems, and issues with reproduction and fertility.http://teenhealth.about.com/od/physicalhealth/a/toxictampons.htm
2. Personally, I find the use of over the counter sanitary pads incredibly messy I require a bit of extra upkeep throughout my menstrual week, including diligent cleaning. This is not true with a menstrual cup. The menses is contained within the vagina until I choose to conveniently dispose of it and normal bathing is more than sufficient. I get to feel clean and fresh as always, and have numerous times even forgotten that I’m having a period.
3. No one knows for certain why foregoing disposable mass produced period protection leads to shorter, lighter periods but the stories are far too common to dismiss. Personally, I didn’t believe it and was completely shocked when my periods began lasting only half as long as they did before within only 3 months. This phenomenon has led some to conclude that the chemicals in these products are causing the prolonged/heavier bleeding and some have even accused the companies of adding asbestos to them in order to prompt the excess bleeding. Whatever the reason, I’m pretty amazed and grateful!
Natural Parents Network – Reusasable Menstural Products
Aviya’s 1st birthday is just over a week away, and while knee-deep in preparations for it, I realised that with the mayhem and madness of visas and flying to Australia in October, I never posted the photos from Ameli’s 3rd birthday party. For her party we had an Under The Sea party at a Puck’s Oak Barn in Compton. It’s an absolutely stunning venue and it happened to be one of the rare beautiful days of last year, weather wise. It didn’t rain, and in fact the sun came out and cast that golden hue around the orchard. It was simply breathtaking, even though it was still a little cold.
We didn’t have entertainment, because we were in an orchard, and while it took everyone a little while to ‘warm up’ to the venue, once they did I think everyone enjoyed just being outdoors. The kids made up a treasure hunt with pretend maps and it was – to me, at least, – an idyllic afternoon.
As guests arrived they walked through the door with hanging fish garlands* (US Link) meant to represent the ocean, like they were ‘swimming’ through a school of fish. I had some of these same fish on the floor inside the hall.
We had a great big blue sandpit shell that we borrowed from a friend. I set up balloons around it – they’re missing in this picture – and put a white blanket inside and set up a camera on a tripod so people could take photos of themselves in the shell, like perfect little pearls.
I spent a lot of the days leading up to the party planning and preparing food for it. There were octopus red peppers on the home made hummus, and a platter of vegetables to choose from. I had a treasure chest – far right- with Starfish Haribo (US Link) pouring from it like treasure, and kiwifruit lollipops covered in dairy free chocolate with edible fishy printed ricepaper. These icecream cones are an unhealthy favourite in our house, originated from the icecream week we did for Andrea’s Summer Camp At Home. Not quite under the sea, but close enough to the sea to be welcome.
These ice cream cones were gluten free, with cheese and chicken or ham, pressed out of bread with cookie cutters (US Link).
And there were white and brown bread fishy sandwiches (US Link) with Tuna and sweet corn and home made mayonnaise .
A lot of effort, but worth every second for this, my beautiful princess, my three year old.
I hope, my gorgeous child, that every year affords me the ability to make your birthday as special as your life has made mine.
*If you purchase through any of these links, you will not be charged any extra, but Amazon will pay me around 5% of the purchase price. If buy without an affiliate link, Amazon just keeps the whole amount!
** You can find many more ideas on my Under The Sea Pinterest Board
Our first Christmas together I bought a big box of baubles really cheaply, and it adorned our tree for a few years. Over those years however, I bought nicer, better quality tree decorations at special places: the Bath Christmas Markets, on a shopping trip with my mother-in-law and so on.