Category Archives: Seasonal

Chinese New Year Crafts

Gung Xi Fa Cai to everyone ūüôā

Today is Chinese New Year and 2013 is the year of the Snake.

This afternoons craft session was all inspired by this celebration.

We started off making Tangram pictures. A Tangram is a¬†Chinese geometric puzzle consisting of a square cut into seven pieces that can be arranged to make various other shapes. I printed out the colour Tangram and several picture¬†silhouettes for us to have a go at from Activity Village. Jasmine and Thomas had a good go at these and, with help, managed to complete the pictures. We made a swan, a rocket, a rabbit, a dog and a boat.Tangram PicturesThen they both made up their own picture using the shapes. Well actually Jasmine made her own picture, Thomas told me what he wanted to make and then mostly let me do it! Jasmine’s (on the right) is a giraffe and Thomas’ is a spaceship

Tangram Pictures 2After the Tangram pictures we made very simple snake sock puppets. I got 3 old socks, cut out a tongue for each and stuck it on with glue stick. We then used googly eyes to complete the puppets. These have been very well played with this afternoon!Snake Sock PuppetFinally we made Chinese Paper Lanterns. I love making these and do them every year with the kids.

Take a piece of coloured card (I use A4 size) and mark out lines, approximately 2cm apart going across the width of the card. Fold the card in half, then unfold and score the marked lines carefully, leaving 3cm uncut top and bottom. Decorate, then add a handle to hang up your Chinese Lantern.Chinese Lanterns


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Plaster of Paris Handprints

This is another Christmas 2012 gift we made to give to both my and Gordon’s parents. I think it makes a lovely gift for grandparents, but I really want to make more to hang in our house as well because the finished handprints are so lovely!

You will need:

  • playdough or similar (branded works better as the consistency of home made dough can be tricky to get right)
  • a mould (we used a round, shallow pyrex dish)
  • cling film
  • rolling pin
  • plaster of paris
  • paint

To begin, cover your mould with cling film. ¬†Roll the playdough out to approx 1.5cm/2cm thick and place it in the mould, making sure the playdough rises at the edges to create a “bowl.” Ensure the surface of the playdough is as smooth as possible.

Press your child’s hand into the playdough, making sure you press down each finger and their palm firmly but evenly, so as to get a good impression.

Make up the plaster of paris according to the instructions and tap the container of mixed plaster on a hard surface a few times to get rid of as many bubbles as possible. Pour into your mould. Gently agitate the plaster in the mould to remove any remaining bubbles and create a smooth, even cast. Leave to dry for a few hours.

Remove the hardened plaster from the mould, using the cling film to assist. Rub away as much playdough from the plaster as possible, then use a small brush or similar (we used an old toothbrush) scrub off the remaining playdough under a little running water until you have a clean hand print.

Leave the print to dry and harden thoroughly for a few days before painting/decorating it. We first painted the whole cast with white paint, and then painted the hands in different colours.

The only problem with the prints we made is that there is no way of hanging them up! Since making these I have discovered that you can simply press the ends of some ribbon or string into the wet plaster in the mould and this will dry in place and become a hanger.

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Lemon Curd and Lavender Bags

I have been holding off writing about the hand-made Christmas Gifts we made this year because Granny (Gordon’s mum) was away for Christmas and in our usual disorganised way we hadn’t finished most of the gifts before she went! She is back home now and we are going to visit tomorrow so finally she will get her Christmas gifts and I can write the first post!¬†

Lavender Bags

One of the things I really started to enjoy last year was sewing. I have never really done any needlework in the past but my Hama Bead obsession led to me trying out Cross Stitch (they are both about counting patterns and colours!) and from there I gained confidence with a needle and began making some simple items. One of the first hand-made gifts I decided to make for Christmas was lavender bags and satchets.

I began by cutting 2 pieces of fabric 18cm x 15cm. With right sides of the fabric facing, pin together. The pattern I was following said this included a 1cm seam allowance so, being a beginner, I marked a 1cm border along 2 long sides and 1 short side and used this line as a guide for the stitching. For the first bags I made I hand stitched in backstitch but I have also machine sewn a few now.

Once the 3 sides are sewn turn the bag inside out and push the corners out with a blunt pencil or similar. Hem the top opening. The pattern said to either hemstitch or blindstitch. I had to google both and found a great tutorial on YouTube for blindstitch so used this. I was surprised by how easy it actually was once I knew how!

I then filled the bag approximately 2/3rds full of lavender (purchased from Ebay) and tied it tightly shut with a 30cm length of ribbon.

I also made some lavender drawer sachets using 15cm square pieces of fabric and leaving a 2cm hole in one side to turn out and fill. Once filled I sewed the hole up and completed the gift by tying 3 together with ribbon.Lavender Bags and Sachets

Lemon Curd

One of my favourite books of 2012 was The Complete Book of Preserves & Pickles by Catherine Atkinson and Maggie Mayhew. I used it a lot over the year and one of my very favourite recipes is Lemon Curd. It takes only 4 ingredients and can be made from start to finish in less then an hour. It is a perfect hand-made gift idea.

To make about 450g/1lb you need:

3 lemons
200g caster sugar
115g unsalted butter, diced
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks

Wash the lemons, the finely grate the rind and place in a large heatproof bowl. Halve the lemons and squeeze the juice into the bowl. Set over a pan of gently simmering water and add the sugar and butter. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the butter melted.
Put the eggs and yolks in a bowl and beat together with a fork. Pour the eggs through a sieve into the lemon mixture and whisk well until thoroughly combined.
Stir the mixture constantly over the heat until the lemon curd thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon.
Remove and pour into small warm sterilised jars. Cover, seal and label.
Store in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months. Once opened keep in the fridge.Lemon Curd


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Our trip to Sheffield

We’ve spent the last few days with my parents in Sheffield. We arrived on Wednesday to quite a covering of snow so on Thursday morning we ran off the energy built up from 4 hours in the car the day before, with a good play in the snow.

In the afternoon we went to Chesterfield to see my Nana (my mum’s mum). She is 98 but you wouldn’t believe it! She does, however, need some help with oxygen and has an oxygen machine at home. Thomas and Jasmine were fascinated by this and insisted that they had a photo of it!

Twins and an Oxygen Tank!On Friday we went to Magna Science Adventure Park in Rotherham (I blogged about that here.)

On Friday night there was another huge downfall of snow and by midnight there must have been a good 3 or 4 inches on the ground. We did start to get worried that our plans for the following day would be cancelled, but when we woke on Saturday the thaw had already started so we put on our wellies and caught the bus and then the tram into Sheffield City Centre. We wandered around the Winter Gardens and the Millennium Gallery, before heading somewhere for lunch. After we had eaten the kids wanted more travel on the “road train” as Ben kept calling it, so we went on to Meadowhall. ¬†I knew there was a Disney Store there so thought we’d go into there, buy a small toy and leave but on arrival we discovered a newly opened Lego Store as well! You can imagine the excitement! So they got their new toy each (Disney Store for Jasmine and Ben and the Lego Store for Thomas) and then went back to Grandma’s happy but thoroughly exhausted!


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Sledging, Reading and Writing

We had another snow day today and spent another couple of hours in the park sledging! We also finally built the snowman the kids have been asking about for days, as daddy was with us today and he is much better at building snowmen than I am!

Our SnowmanThis afternoon Thomas and Jasmine both did some Reading Eggs on the computer. As I mentioned recently, in this post, ¬†they have started asking to do “learning” on the computer again and I have to admit I am encouraging this! It amazes me how they just seem to know when they are ready to start again, ready to move on to the next step of their learning. I thought that with the 3/4 month gap they have had, ¬†I would need to take them back a few lessons so they could remember where they were and what to do but it seems I was wrong. They have picked up where they left off and come back with more confidence. Thomas is picking up sight words instantly that 4 months ago he just couldn’t get and Jasmine is finally recognising words and¬†sentences¬†as a whole unit and contextualising words she doesn’t know. It is amazing what a break can do for them it seems!

After they had finished their reading, played some games and bought various new things for their egg houses, they both went on “Magic Desktop”, which I think is a child-friendly browser (it came free on my laptop!) They both love it anyway and it has games, puzzles, a weird talking parrot (!) and a variety of other things including a writing programme called Easy Write. Today this is what Thomas chose to do and he wrote this

Thomas' typingThe only bits he had help with were the “w” at the end of “snow” and the “dg” in the middle of “sledging.” I am very proud!

Finally, the other thing I need to note about today is this

This was entirely the kids own idea, but did take some help from mummy and daddy to make!

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Snow Day Part 2

We still have snow.. in fact, we have quite a lot now as it hasn’t stopped all day today!

This morning we stayed indoors and the kids did some dressing up. They had quite a complex game going involving experiments, volcanoes and flying carpets!

This afternoon we went to the local park with the sledges and the kids spent an hour on the slopes! This is the first year we’ve had sledges and this was the first time we’ve taken them out, although Thomas and Jasmine did have a go on a sledge at Forest School on Friday. They both got the hang of it really quickly today and had a great time! Even Ben had a go and went down the hill a few times by himself.

Tomorrow we have Daddy back (he has been working nights for the last week so has been sleeping in the day), so tomorrow is snowman day! I imagine there will be more sledging as well!

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Snow Day!

We went from this in the morning

Friday morning snowTo this in the eveningFriday evening snow

with a lot of this in the middle

And I expect more of the same tomorrow!



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Cold Weather Science

It has been rather cold overnight for the last couple of days and this had provided us with lots of learning opportunities!

We began yesterday by simply bringing some ice, that had formed in a water filled barrel in the garden, inside for the kids to play with. They played with it for ages. They talked about solids and liquids, freezing and melting, how to melt it quicker (and then blowing on it) and probably much more that I can’t remember!

Playing with iceBut then of course they started to run out of ice. So they wanted more! I gave them the few remaining ice cubes we had in the freezer and we re-froze some of the pieces we still had left and this kept them going for a while longer.

We did an experiment with hot and cold water and they discovered that ice melts quicker in hot water. They also worked out that smaller pieces of ice melt quicker than larger ones. We talked about how to make ice and I gave them a small cup of water each to put in the freezer and make some themselves. We also filled 2 other containers with water and placed some small plastic toys in the water and then put these in the freezer as well.

Then last night before they went to bed we filled 2 balloons with water and hung them outside. I also set up another experiment with 2 cups of water, one just water and one we added salt to, and these also went outside. Finally I put water in one of the gravel trays to cover the bottom and left this outside as well.

And so today our ice play continued! We looked at the water/salt water cups and found that while the water had frozen, the salt water had not. Then I got the gravel tray in and gave the kids the ice they had “made” yesterday (with and without toys in) and they spent a lot of time “pecking” at ice with toy dinosaurs! The dinosaurs lived on the icebergs and needed to rescue all sorts of friends! It was fabulous to see their imaginations in action!

Dinosaurs on ice!

Towards the end the toy fish/sea creatures got added to the game as well and this gave me another idea. Tonight I have put the fish and other sea creatures in the gravel tray with a very thin covering of water and I am hoping that they will become frozen in ice, to be rescued tomorrow!

We also still have our balloon ice marbles to play with tomorrow. They didn’t freeze so well outside last night (I think we put too much water in!) so they have been in the freezer all day today!

Who would have thought that some frozen water could provide 2/3 days of activities!


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In the garden

I found some bulbs in the back porch a few days ago. Some of them had started sprouting in the bag! We had bought them back in September/October to plant for the spring. Oops!

The bulbs said to plant out October to December. It is only the 12th January.. maybe they’ll be good? I hope so because we planted them today!

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Once the bulb planting had finished (actually once the kids had given up and left the bulb planting to me!), they got on with the more important job of playing. Ben went into the playhouse and told me he was selling pizza to all the boys and girls, while Jasmine got the Space Hopper out.

Thomas found a couple of empty plant pots, some wood and a small paving slab and made himself some scales!

Then he added a piece of guttering, made a ramp and rolled balls and cars down it.

Thomas' rampOf course, an afternoon in the garden with my children wouldn’t be complete without a couple of “wiggly woo’s”

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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I’m back!

Our Christmas was mostly taken over with trips to the doctors and antibiotics, but we still managed to have a great time!

I think the best way to capture our Christmas will be with photos so here we go..

Santa's been!

Thomas and his Santa giftsJasmine and her Santa giftsBen and his Santa Gifts






Opening presentsOpening presentsOpening presents





Opening presentsOpening presentsOpening presents











and look what I got….


pretty basic and pretty cheap, but perfect for me to learn on ūüôā

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