The Carrot Cake Catastrophe – Stories And Cake Recipe {Book Review}

One of my friends told me once that she loved my blog, because I don’t post perfect crafts and that makes her feel like a normal mama when their crafts and projects don’t come out perfect. Well, this one is for everyone who ever has not-as-planned-cakes.

Carrot Cake CatastropheWe received The Carrot Cake Catastrophe by Elizabeth Dale (Author) and Gemma Raynor (Illustrator) from Paragon a few months ago as part of the Paragon Book Buddies project and today we decided it was time to go read it.

Instead of making it into a standard round cake, however, we poured the cake dough into gingerbread man shapes, since our PlayLearning theme this week is around the human body

Well, it didn’t really work out. The dough is way too moist and the resulting cake way too crumbly for it to work that way. It was still absolutely delicious though. So our cake may have turned out a bit of Catastrophe too, but it was still way, way better than Grandpa’s cake from the book.

In this story, a little girl and her grandfather decide to make a cake for her mama’s birthday. That’s all fine and well, but with his glasses on Grandpa can read the instructions, but not identify the ingredients, so he ends up adding soap instead of butter, and so on. Yum. They head into the garden for fresh, juicy carrots, and stir them into the batter – without grating or chopping! It’s a recipe for disaster, for sure.

In the end the birds eat the cake – apparently they don’t mind the soap – and Mama saves the day with a previously baked cake.

At the end of the book there’s the recipe Grandpa and the little girl followed, with instructions, so you can make it at home too.

It’s a very basic carrot cake, making it ideal for little bakers. Even though I’m a very proud and happy Thermomix owner, I think it’s essential that Ameli and Aviya learn to cook the ‘old fashioned’ way, including weighing, measuring and a bit of elbow grease.

The sign of a great children’s book for me is when the girls remember it later. We had to walk to the shop for cream cheese for the icing, and Ameli laughed suddenly, saying she’s glad we didn’t put soap in our cake! She asked me what ‘bitter’ meant (I said it would probably taste bitter from the soap), and asked about the meaning of other words… I love when they learn without knowing they are.

An all round lovely story, great for preparing for birthdays as we are this week – can’t believe Aviya is coming up for two!  – and just a bit of fun and a laugh. Lovely.

 Disclaimer for reviews


Chilly The Snowman – 24 Days Of Christmas Crafts

I bought the book Chilly the Snowman a few years ago when it was just a Pound in a local shop. I kept it in the bookshelf because I realised that Ameli was too young for it, but this year she’s just right for it! Chilly the Snowman is an activity book with mazes, spot the difference, match the shadow, colouring bits, and most important to a 4 year old, stickers! I particularly loved the press out snow scene, which now decorates our faux-mantle-place. 

I was really surprised by the fact that not only did the activity book engage Ameli from the front cover to the last page, but it kept her busy solidly for 3 hours! Absolutely worth every penny, if you ask me!

One of the activities in the book is to make a snowman paper chain, which we did. Another is to decorate a snowman. Finally, there’s a ‘board game’ page as the final activity, giving you chance to play together.  It’s such a fun book.  We’ve since cut out pictures from the now completed book to use in other crafts and card making too!

Busy Bag: Memory Game

This is part five in a series on busy bags. For more information on what busy bags are, and for some ideas on bought contents for easy busy bags and more handmade ideas, read past posts in the series

Memory games are fantastic for children, wonderful for developing logic skills, patience and memory, which in turn will help with reading and learning. Even at 2.5 years of age Ameli was able to play match with a set of cards she was given.  I think this game can be made as easy or as difficult as you wish, and you could play it different ways: match the cards, match the colours, match the animals. There are loads of options.

For this game you will need:


  • Card, enough for two squares each, at least. 
  • Backing paper all in the same colour so you can’t see the colour of the squares when they’re back-side up. 
  • Stickers with at least two identical stickers (US Link)
  • Glue
  • Sticky paper (optional) (US Link)
  1. Cut your cards to equal size – we used 8 cards – and glue to backing paper. 
  2. Cut into individual squares again
  3. We covered these in sticky paper to prolong their lives
  4. Glue matching stickers on two cards at a time. 

To play, turn all the cards upside down so that one plain colour is looking up at you. Turn round one card, see i.e. the snake and a blue snail. Turn back. Turn round two new cards, i.e. Elephant ant a blue snail. Keep the blue snail, and go back to the previous blue snail, taking them out of the game. Turn the elephant around again, and turn two new cards, until all the cards are paired up.


Check back next week for more Busy Bag ideas. You will need an ice tray, mini muffin tray or something with similar compartments, shaving foam, food colouring and a paintbrush.

Busy Bags: Colour Matching With Pegs

Part three in a series on busy bags, this post brings you the first of our hand made busy bags. For more information on what busy bags are, and for some ideas on bought contents for easy busy bags, read past posts in the series. 

I love this peg game. It is so simple, and Ameli loves it too. It’s also great for changeability – it starts off as one game, and can go on to others later on.

To start off with, I’ve written the name of the colour in the colour, and coloured the tip of the peg in the same colour. You can use the other side of the peg to write the colours all in one neutral colour, like black. That way you can teach colours and word recognition initially, and later on can use it for learning the letters when learning to read too. A game with longevity. Bonus.

This game as is teaches problem solving skills, colours and fine motor skills get a workout too.

You will need:

  • Pegsmini pegs (US link) are great but normal ones are fine too. 
  • Paper – the back of a cereal carton will suffice.
  • Colouring pens – whatever you fancy

How to make it: 

Cut a strip of paper in a rectangle and colour the squares in equal sizes,  then use the same colour on the tip of the peg on one side and write the name of the colour on the other end.

Flip the peg around and write the name on the other side, using a neutral colour, like black.

I like to keep the pegs in the right place when the ‘game’ is put away, so that  so that it is a ‘finished’ game whenever we take it down. That way I can be sure all the bits are there, and Ameli gets to refresh her memory about what goes where before starting.

Check back next week for another busy bag. To make it, you’ll need card, a hole punch and some string. 

How To: Help Your Child Develop Fine Motor Skills

The development of Fine Motor Skills in children is very important. We’ve all heard about them, but what exactly are fine motor skills and how can we help our children develop them?

I was reading a very interesting article, a hypothesis, really, by a teacher who questioned the link between various problems students face, and their fine motor skills.  Kathleen Fedele writes:

Ask yourselves how many of your struggling students have fine motor difficulties — poor hand writing, trouble copying from the board, poor cutting and coloring skills, low visual-perception skills, difficulty with puzzles and mazes, trouble identifying letters and numerals, as well as poor reading and writing ability. My guess is that nine times out of ten students who are struggling also have poorly developed fine motor skills. Students need fine motor control for eye muscles to focus and distinguish letters, crossing midline, and tracking — all essential skills for reading and writing.

As a Rhythm Kids teacher, I’m familiar with the need and effect of crossing the midline – left hand to right leg, left leg to right hand etc.  – and I know that repetition is essential for creating new neural pathways… hence the saying practice makes perfect, I guess.

Now, the thought of helping my child to form and maintain new bits in her brain (forming the neural pathways) sounds rather daunting, and I’m not much of an electrician, so I’m not too hot on motors and engines. Fortunately for a human brain all these things can be achieved through play.

Here are some of the things we’ve done over the last five or so months to focus on Fine Motor Skill development:


1. Water beads. We’re loving water beads now that the weather has changed. One of the things we’ve done with them is transferring them from a wide bowl into a smaller bottle. That eventually turned into a sensory bottle, but more on that another day.


2.  Transferring pompoms from one container to another. You can also try to move the pompoms from one cup to another with chopsticks, but pouring is sufficient.


3. Pour, pick up, separate and sort coloured pasta. Also useful for learning colours.


4. Coloured rice is a similar concept, but much harder as the rice is so much smaller than the pasta. It’s also a great lesson in patience, endurance and perseverance.


5. Stacking is another way to help develop these important skills. Different resources have different numbers, so some say they should be able to stack six bricks, some say nine. I say stacking is stacking – these are round ad long, so I think three is pretty good! I struggled to get them to stay up!


6. Threading pasta – I remember making ‘necklaces’ as a child, so some things do come back from childhood!


7. Pebbles are a fantastic resource and my daughter has hours of fun aligning them, pouring them, transferring from one receptacle to another.


8. Puzzles are another great way to challenge the brain and develop reasoning and logic skills. These wooden ones also help with numbers, letters, colours and shapes. We’ve also learned about animals through puzzles.

There are a number of lists online with both guides on what your child should be able to do by what age, and also lists of ideas of cheap, often free, ways of helping children learn these life skills through play.

Photo Puzzle Activity For Toddlers

We always have pictures all over the place. Since we’ve been in this house, where we’re not allowed to put anything on the walls apart from on hooks that were already there, we have loads of pictures just ‘about’. Ameli also really loves puzzles, and since the puzzles in the birth activity kit she’s had a thing for puzzles, so I decided to make a few simple puzzles for her.

I bought ice cream sticks at the craft shop, and glue – we only had fabric glue. I initially planned to use scissors to cut the photos, but decided on a craft knife in the end as it was easier to get the thin blade in between the sticks.

To start, I plopped glue on the back of each photo and spread it. Ameli laid the sticks down and moved them (more or less) into place.

We left them to dry, before cutting between the sticks. I mixed them up and Ameli put them together over and again.

I realised pretty soon, however, that this was way too easy for my super smart toddler, so made up ten different puzzles and put them all in a box together. Now at least when she plays with her puzzles, there’s a bit of a challenge!

These photos are of family, which is great, because it keeps her involved with them. She talks about the subjects of the picture/puzzles which is important to me. We’ve also done photos of things we’ve seen on our travels, like lions and elephants.