Legoland

May 15, 2012

Its been a bit shameful that my kids first trip to Legoland Windsor (Resort as it is now)  was last weekend, considering I live 10 mins away and I used to make the models there. This was my first time back in 10 years! and we all had a wonderful time. Sunday was one of our 1st sunny days for months. so we took the opportunity to get out in the sunshine and visit the Park, we made a packed lunch, the girls raided their piggy banks for pocket money and got there early for the 10am opening. Alice is still under 3 so she went for free, Martha has a season ticket (upgraded from her last visit with her Granny and Papa) and Mr Peacock and I shared a 2 for 1 coupon, so effectively we paid for 1 adult ticket which cost £43!! Not bad for a family of 4 but a shocking amount without the vouchers/deals. However with so many vouchers and deals out there at the moment (check out Tesco clubcard points deals and pick up the 2 for 1s on Tesco food packaging), I think paying full price at the gate for a whole family would be a bit like paying full price for a sofa at DFS.

We got on the Hill Train and started at the bottom of the Park at the Dragon coaster, this is exactly the same as I remember it but he magic of seeing it all through the eyes of a 5 year old made it much better. I took Alice onto the smaller ‘Dragon’s Apprentice’ which was the most queuing I did all day, as its only a small coaster with one car it takes an age to wait your turn, but she enjoyed it very much. Then Martha wanted to see Miniland (“the houses you made mummy”) although in honesty I didn’t really work on any newbuild in Miniland while I was here I remember making a few replacement cars and people and small scenes and cleaning it all during the closed season, but that doesn’t sound as good. Then we went into Duploland and had a go on the ‘Chopper Squadron’ it was called whirly birds when I was last here, and ‘Fairy Tale Brook’, ate lunch by the little playground and watched the puppet show. Martha did her driving test at ‘L-Drivers’ in ‘Traffic’ as for the bigger traffic school kids need to be 6 (although the little school was a bit easy for her), and then we went on the ‘Atlantis Submarine Voyage’, which was amazing. The kids loved the sharks and Rays in the tank with lots of Nemo (clown) fish. So much that Alice spent her pocket money on a cuddly fish with ‘sleepy eyes’ at the exit shop. We wandered through Lego City and went on the Orient Expedition train ride, had ice-creams by the lighthouse, did the few fairground rides, now themed ‘Kingdom of the Pharoh’s’ and headed back the The Beginning to see the new Star Wars Miniland exhibit, which was pretty amazing by modelmaking standards, all in miniland scale, a treat for all the nerdy parents but a bit dark and noisy for Alice. Martha took forever in the Big shop looking for something to spend her money on, but we eventually got out and they fell asleep on the way home.

The Park looks fabulous at this time of year, possibly because all the models I made have been removed or are not used anymore, but I know how much work goes into building, repairing, maintaining and cleaning all those Lego models so well done to all my ex-Lego-colleages – good work! The kids both keep asking when we can go back, but I like to keep big days out as one off treats, but I’ll try not to leave it another 10 years!

Easter Bonnets

April 10, 2012

I know this post is a little late, but in my defense, we started these a week ago, and finished them at the weekend, but Alice only obliged to wear hers for a picture today after her nursery Easter Bonnet parade.

I found a pattern online for an old fashionedy bonnet and roughly copied it onto some newspaper a provisional fitting with this looked quite successful so I cut two out of packaging card, laying the patterns so the corrugations would allow the bend in the bonnet. I put the two small tabs in the pattern together to form the lampshade shape and stuck it with gummed paper tape (so it could be easily painted over). We tried them on again and although they were a bit wobbly on their heads they were a pretty good shape so the kids set about painting them – pink of course!

Once they were dry we added the lacy sections of paper doilies to the inside face edge of the bonnets and then we raided my ribbon and fake flower stash for decorations, I tied bows in the ribbons and stuck them on with hot melt glue, including the two thick long ribbons for tying under the chin.

I think they look super cute, however I realised then uploading these pictures that Alice’s face is always covered in food!

 

My husband bought me the ‘Iron Ons’ book by graphic designers ‘Sukie’ for christmas – I believe it was from my amazon wish list, but I have seen these for sale  (new) in oxfam shops. I have been a big fan of ‘Sukie’ wrapping paper for a while and even have a sheet of their mixed font alphabet paper framed in our stairwell. So the opportunity to make some stuff with the quirky cute designs has been very tempting – but not so much that its taken me till March to make use of them!

I had planned to upcycle some old t-shirts with the iron ons, but all the girls’ tees seem to be covered in too many stains for sucessful up-cycling, so I had to buy new. I found these 3 packs of plain colour capped sleeve summer tees in tesco, so bought a pack in size 5-6 and another in 2-3, one set for each for Martha and Alice. I let them pick their own images from the book, with a bit of persuasion from me of course. Martha chose the page of pink and khaki butterflies and the ‘princess castle’ with home sweet home on it. Alice liked the animals in the tree which reminded her of her favorite book of the moment – ‘Stuck’ by Oliver Jefferies (firmly recommended by the way). I chose the two half page alphabet designs the same as I have hanging in the stairwell, the colours in these included the same pink and peppermint green as two of the t-shirts in the packs so I put those onto the dark blue ones, the pink butterflies and 3 cute birds on branches went onto the pale green tees and the tree and palace went onto the pink tees. With the planning done I got out the iron, I do most of my iron ons on the kitchen counter as its firm and flat enough to apply some pressure, I am however pretty tall so can stand on my tippy toes and apply a considerable amount of my body weight to the iron during the process, a sturdy kitchen table would work for shorter folks, but be careful not to scald the surface. You have to have the iron on its hottest setting and no steam or water.

They went on pretty easily, and I am really pleased with the results, 3 super cute t-shirts each for the up-coming summer, that look much more expensive than they actually were. The girls love having an influence in what they wear and this is a such a quick and easy way for us to customise things. And we have loads of these lovely ‘Sukie’ designs left in the book, now lets see, what can we use them on next?…

I have no idea when ‘World Book Day’ is as every school seems to be doing something different every day all through March! But Martha’s School had a dressing up day on Friday. I was reluctant to let her dress up as a disney princess for this one, as they are from films, not books. We settled on the classic ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’  by Judith Kerr, whose beautiful illustrations bring the (slightly surreal) story to life. For Sophie’s costume we needed a blue long sleeve tshirt, a Purple A-line pinafore dress, a big Blue Bow for her hair, paintent black shoes and those pink, blue and white harlequin tights. We had the long sleeve blue tshirt, and paintent black school shoes and I made the purple dress out of a pair of purple ladies vests (size 12) from tesco (£2 each in the clothes sale!), – I detached and sewed the two back panels together, as the front panels had a very low neckline for a 5 year old. She had a pair of white tights and a trip to the local haberdashery supplied the big blue ribbon for her hair and a blue and pink pots of dylon fabric paint. I made two forms for the tights by cutting two pieces of card into long ‘leg’ shapes, about 10cms by 60cms with rounded ends at the ‘feet’, I divided the forms up into squares and drew these on with marker pen. Then stretched the tights over them and spent some time painting in each of the squares with the blue and pink fabric paint. I was trying to be a bit thrifty with the paint and so painted them with as little colour as possible, the bonus of this was that they looked more like the rough colouring in Judith’s original illustrations.

Then as luck would have it the local oxfam had a soft tiger toy in their sale bin for 50p! He even growl’s when you squeeze his tummy. He is obviously much smaller than the huge, greedy tiger from the story but a good prop nevertheless!

 

Circus Party

January 9, 2012

Martha turned 5 inbetween christmas and new year, but we held her birthday party before christmas to maximise the chances of some of her friends being available to come to it. It was a circus theme and I organised all of it, and thoroughly enjoyed it, I think it was pretty sucessful, even though I did get a bit carried away with the theme.

I booked our local village hall and I made the invites above on photoshop with a little help with some lovely retro circus images from the graphics fairy and some free fonts from here; http://www.i-do-it-yourself.com/2009/01/fonts-circuscarnivalwild-west-type. I also attached a child’s ticket to each invite, as well as some info for parents.

I think all parties should be fancy dress, so asked my girls what they wanted to be for the circus party, Martha wanted to be a circus ballerina, and Alice decided she wanted to be a monkey – can’t argue with that. I made Martha’s costume with a leotard from ebay a tutu pattern from (my new favorite book) ‘Oliver + s – little things to sew’ by Liesl Gibson, and some sequin butterfly sew on embellishents (I picked these up in a recent trip to New York). Alice’s monkey costume I bought from ebay, it was alot cheaper than making one, and up until the last minute was doubtful she would actually wear it! I made myself a ringmaster’s tailcoat from a red velour blouse I found in the charity shop, cut the front short and added the off cut to the back for the tails and added covered shoulder pads as epaullettes with lots of fringing and the spare gold fabric I bought I covered the open front to make faux lapels. I was incredibly camp, just what you would expect at a kids circus! I did have a top hat too but mostly forgot to wear it!

The entertainments were circus sideshows, Hook a duck was assembled with some cheapo rubber ducks from ebay with modelling wire loops inserted in their heads and 3 bamboo sticks covered with red tape with cup hooks glued into one end. I marked a duck pond out onto the floor with coloured masking tape. Elephant Hoopla, was a large piece of cardboard with an elephant’s face painted on with a trunk made out of packaging tube, jointed at the end so there was a hook to it and hoops cut out of card too and painted. Coconut shy was 3 more cardboard packaing tubes painted with 3 coconuts balanced on the top (the easiest coconut shy in the world but at least the 4-5 year olds had a chance of winning), my mum and auntie manufactured some excellent stripey beanbags filled with dried pearl barley for the kids to knock the coconut off with. And pin the nose on the clown, another face painted onto cardboard with a few numbered red circles for noses with blutak on the back and my mum’s scarf as a blindfold. (On the day I had forgotten to pick up the handy sleep mask from the flight to NYC to use for this purpose!). My very talented middle sister provided face painting, and my little sister and her boyfriend were photographers. With a ‘pass the parcel’ game included in the fun and packets of haribo offered as prizes for the games we had enough to keep all 30 kids happy until the birthday tea.

We did hotdogs and popcorn and apple wedges (as a suggestion for toffee apples – without all the sugar), for the circus themed food, which went down really well with the kids. I pre-bagged the popcorn into individual bags before the party – also bought from ebay. These were in each table setting along with a drink and a helium balloon, I bought a kit with the gas tank and 50 balloons again from ebay, most of these sadly ended up in the rafters of the hall to high to retrieve!

The cake was a ‘big top’ made with 3 layers of cake mix cake 2 x chocolate and one vanilla made in a square tin, and stacked with chocolate buttercream in between each layer. I trimmed the sides of the squares to neaten up the shape and then used these offcuts to construct a pyramid shape for the top, sticking the bits together with buttercream and carving it to make the shape. I covered it in white fondant icing, there was two layers on the top to smooth out my slightly lumpy pyramid. I used coloured icing to make the stripes down the sides of the tent the bunting along the top edge and green for some grass at the bottom (to hide the messy bottom edge). I made some paper flags one with a happy birthday message written on it, by gluing triangle shapes to bamboo skewers, these went into each corner and the middle and provided stability for the cake too. I put a couple of circus animal toys through the dishwasher to sterilise them and when dry I dressed them up in icing circus outfits for the elephant got a fancy panel over its back and both him and the lion got party hats. I think these were the touch that made the cake look really circusy.

The children all went home with a party bag (a plain brown paper carrier bag with a name sticker made from an address label printed with the graphics from the invite), which included glow stick bracelets (poundland), a chinese purse for the girls (ebay) a couple of small circus animals (from a 2 collections of african animals from amazon), a small pot of candy floss (ebay) and of course a piece of cake.

It was loads of fun, lots of Martha’s friends came in excellent outfits too, special mention for the tattooed lady and strongman, the lovely trapeze  artist, some excellent and inventive clowns and all the princesses, batman, superman and mr bump!

Christmas Cake Pops

December 23, 2011

A couple of my lovely friends have mastered the art of the cake pop and I have looked upon their creations with envy, so with festive treats in mind I thought I would give them a go. My (limited) understanding of the methods of cake poppery has been gleaned from these friends and I may have completely misunderstood them or completly invented the shortfalls in my experience so I apologise to them and any other cake poppers who come across this post, this is probably not the correct or easiest method, but I am very pleased with the results.

Chrismas this year is a gluten free one as Martha and Alice’s cousins are coeliacs, so these are made with sainsburys free from ginger cake slices. If I was making these for gluten glutons like myself I think I would have liked to use a Mcvities Jamaican Ginger Cake, (I think of ginger and gingerbread as a festive flavor  along with mincemeat, tangerines, cranberry, peppermint and booze). I made a small batch of cream cheese icing, (25g butter, 60g cream cheese and 150g icing sugar) and mixed 3 packs of the ginger cakes in all crumbled up. This makes a kind of dough that you can shape into balls and pop in the fridge to set a bit. I bought the lolly sticks from Hobbycraft and when the balls were quite firm I inserted the sticks, melted some dark chocolate cake covering (unlike real choc you can melt it easily in the microwave as its less likely to burn) and dipped each pop into the chocolate, Learning on the job I realised that you need to have worked out a lolly stick holding device before dipping, I had planned to insert each pop into a hole cut in a small box, but this kept tipping over so in desperation I ended up using a potato cut in half, I also learned it’s easier to re-melt the chocolate then try to work with it as its solidifying – so one of the pops is a bit lumpy looking! After dipping they were returned to the fridge. The planned design for the pops were christmas puddings, so for decoration I melted some more chocolate cake covering this time white chocolate flavor and dribbled this onto the top of the pop to look like brandy custard and with coloured fondant icing left over from Martha’s birthday party cake (I promise to post about this soon!) I made two small green leaves and a couple of red berries to suggest holly, (which Martha helped me with along with sampling the various icings and chocolates). I stuck these onto the cake pops with a small blob of the melted white chocolate. I popped them still on their potatoes back in the fridge to set and have since transfered them into freezer bags to continue keeping them cool without the potatoes or the risk of them developing ‘fridge’ flavor.

I am quite pleased with the results, I have no idea how they taste, we will have to wait for teatime on christmas day to get the verdict from the kiddies, but they look good enough to eat anyway. If I do them again I will make sure I have some recycled polystyrene blocks to hold my pops for me  as the potatoes were a bit off putting, but are, at least, gluten free!

Christmas Cards

December 5, 2011

I know I am spoiling the surprise for anyone on our christmas card list this year, but I think we did a really good job of these. The girls found some new glitter in their advent calender yesterday morning. Hobby Craft has come to Staines so I picked up a bottle of ‘confetti’ glitter glue, with iridescent glitter and tiny stars in it, and the Christmas fairy popped it into Sunday’s drawer in our wooden advent calender. To be honest I didn’t really have a plan for this years christmas cards until the last minute but I had bought some gold doilies in Saisbury’s during the last big shop, with an idea to use them somehow, and picked up the glitter and the blank cards (with envelopes) in Hobby Craft earlier in the week. Then on an quick inspiration hunt on the internet I spotted this gorgeous vintage angel posted on one of my favorite craft resource blogs ‘graphics fairy’, (http://graphicsfairy.blogspot.com). I love the graphics fairy, her blog is jam packed with lovely vintage images, and this pretty little cherub, was just asking to be printed, cut and pasted onto our christmas cards with a gold doily ‘frame’ and the new glitter glue, adding sparkle to her stary sky. (The stars in the new glitter even matched the tiny stars in the picture.)

I promptly downloaded the picture took it into photoshop, resized it and made an A4 page with 8 angels on it, and printed 5 of these onto some gloss photo paper I had knocking about. I sat and cut out all the angels and cut the frilly bits off the edges of the doilies and then cut into triangles. Then I filled a beaker with PVA glue and got the kids. I painted a rough star shape onto the card with glue and the kids stuck the triangles onto it to make star shape and then stuck the angel picture into the middle. Then we painted the glitter onto the angel picture, which was certainly the girls’ favorite bit. Some are of course better than others, but I quite like that they are all a bit different. They certainly look homemade which is the whole point. We only have one that opens backwards this year!