Wednesday, 9 July 2014

DIY Dolls House Decorating

Poppet got a dolls house for her third birthday back in January. We got it from ASDA for £35 which I thought was good at the time as it's really sturdy and big, but now I see it's reduced to £20 which is even more of a bargain! 

 I'd always had plans to decorate it as it's simple plain wood (or wood veneer even) inside; I even had plans to transform it into a beautifully decorated house before we gave it to her for her Birthday but decided it would be more fun to decorate it with her and take our time with it. I really have taken my time as it has taken me 6 months to do anything to it at all.

We started today scouring magazines and catalogues for pictures that we could use to make framed pictures for the walls. This meant Poppet got to use scissors so she enjoyed it a lot. We managed to find a few suitable pictures, so then started to make little frames for them.

We smoothed out some leftover Easter egg foil (it was pretty crumpled up still though), cut it into a square/rectangle depending on the picture shape and then glued our picture onto the centre of it. Then we folded the top and bottom edge of foil over and over on itself until it framed the picture. This bit was too fiddly for Poppet. To fold the side edges of the frame I first snipped off the thick folded bits so they would fold easier (much better instructions can be found here!). I also had some leather-look card which I just cut into a rectangle and glued a picture onto.

We ended up with a sunflower scene in a gold frame, a scenic sea view in a leather effect frame, and a portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie in a gold frame which is obviously a must in any home. 

They were a bit homemade looking but still recognisable as pictures (I hope!)

And here they are adorning the walls of the dollshouse:

On a decorating roll I also found (ok not found, sacrificed Poppet's dressing gown for) some pink fleece fabric and glued it down in one of the smaller rooms to become a tacky and gawdy bedroom carpet which obviously Poppet loves. I measured it a bit wrong in my haste so had to stretch it and weigh it down with heavy things to make it fit while the glue dried. The green wooden block was Poppet's effort.

It does make a very cosy looking bedroom.

Not content to stop there, I also set my sights on some bathroom furniture! We bought a pack of dolls house furniture when we bought the house so already had a toilet but no bathing or washing facilities.

 I came across a post on Red Ted Art where they create a shower and a bath from an old iPhone box and so inspired I set off looking for my box.

The shower is the top of the box with a straw pushed through holes for a shower rail and a piece of a poly pocket threaded on for a shower curtain. I drew silver hearts on the shower curtain for a bit of decoration.

The bath was just the bottom of the box with a bit of blue fabric for water. I tipexed over the apple logos but they still show through a little.

The girls just loved playing with the new bathroom. The whole dolls house family had a shower or bath, or both, and then Poppet requested towels to dry them with so we rolled up little scraps of fabric and put them in a cabinet in the bathroom too. Little loved putting the people into the shower, closing the curtain and saying "bye bye!" and then "wash wash wash!" before taking them out and starting the process all over again. Poppet plays differently, instead of talking to the dolls like Little, she provides the voice of the character she is playing with so she had the mummy in the shower with the little girl telling her to 'be careful you don't fall'.

These little additions to the dollshouse have really reignited their interest in playing with it, it's been their favourite toy today. The rooms can be a little dark though so the next project is to light it!

Poppet: 3 yrs
Little: 21 mos

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The Potting Shed Playdough

My gardening bug has extended into playdough play. Behold, the worst playdough I have ever made. It was supposed to be 'soil' playdough, but I couldn't for the life of me make brown. I ended up with a khaki green colour and because of all the food colouring I added to try and make brown it was too watery so I had to add extra flour but then it was too crumbly. Not that the girls complained!

To the 'soil' playdough play I added some clean plant pots, lollipop sticks, glass beads, pea seeds and a pen. Poppet set about filling up the pots and putting the 'seeds' in and even labelling the sticks - she was giving me the finished pots and telling me who they were for - one was for daddy, one for her little sister and the others were for little friends she has made at playgroup. 

They've been playing with it for a few weeks now. It's dried out a bit and has quite a lot of peas and pen ink in it. Little was a bit too fond of putting the glass beads into her mouth so these have been taken away now to remove the temptation.

For a change I gave her the playdough with magnetic numbers and she really enjoyed pressing all of the numbers into the playdough and then carefully removing them all again and putting them back into the tub. Very methodical. When she was done she went into the cupboard to retrieve the much-loved glass beads and a cocktail umbrella and stuck them in too. She was concentrating so hard with her tongue poking out! Unfortunately after a while the glass beads went into the mouth again and had to be removed from the play. I'm amazed at how much use this terrible coloured and textured playdough has gotten! Hopefully the next batch will be a lot nicer.

Poppet: 3yrs
Little: 20 mos

Monday, 2 June 2014

A Rather Large Gardening Update

At last, a blog post! Mostly I have been preoccupied (read, obsessive) with gardening matters. With the extension finished we can finally focus on getting the garden up to scratch and the nicer weather (especially in the evenings) means we've been spending lots of time outdoors doing just that. Even in not nice weather we've been out there; I would contend there is no nicer place to be in a rain shower than a greenhouse.

I've big plans to make the garden child-friendly so we can spend lots more time outside, including a sensory garden area on the decking, a mud kitchen for outdoor culinary creations (not that Little needs anymore encouragement to eat soil), turning the vegetable plot into raised beds so it can be more easily accessed by the littles, a wendyhouse (have to talk very nicely to Grandad), an alpine garden, a fruit patch, ooooh I get all carried away! I have been reading a lot of gardening blogs and websites for inspiration and bookmarking ideas.

So this is what we have managed to do so far. Our garden was quite a mess after the scaffolding etc... came down so it has taken a lot of work to get it looking tidy again. Behold, a lot of photos. I love gardening before and afters.

We chitted our potatoes (in bun tins) and planted them out in our lawn borders and one row at the bottom of the veg plot. I chose 'Accord', a variety known for its scab resistance as last year we had a bit of a problem with it so fingers crossed we get some lovely scab free potatoes!

Potatoes growing in the borders

I let Poppet choose what else to grow in her little garden this year and straightaway she replied "strawberries!".  So we planted 10 strawberry plants and already they are full of little green strawberries that Poppet is very excited to check up on. It's a first growing strawberries for us so hopefully it is fruitful!

Planting strawberries
Poppet's play garden is looking very productive, and this was taken a couple of weeks ago - the 4 cabbage plants are ginormous now. She also has purple-sprouting broccoli plants (we got an amazing amount of broccoli just from these 2 plants!), lavender, thyme, lupins, alpine strawberries and a willow tree. She loves having her own little bit of garden - she smells her thyme and lavender, gets rid of 'naughty' slugs or snails she spots because they 'eat my broccoli ', but any worms she finds get a very warm welcome as she picks them up and carries them around trying to find their 'mothers'. She likes worms because 'they help the plants to grow' so is always careful to place them back down near a plant. She also cautions any birds that happen to land in the garden "don't eat my strawberries!".


My dad gave me an early 30th birthday present of wood and stakes to make the much longed for raised beds for the vegetables! This is what the vegetable plot looked like before:

Happy Birthday to me

We did a lot of digging and weeding over a few evenings and then daddy put together the beds with some help from Poppet (with her pretend chainsaw). She loves to help her daddy,

Then a few more days spent weeding and digging and raking to get them ready for planting. Poppet really liked helping. Once Little went down for her afternoon nap, Poppet would fetch our wellies and suggest we go out to do some digging, and bring some "appletini" (which is her word for Ovaltine).
And here they are now!

Finished raised beds!
After filling the raised beds with our brussel sprouts, 1 courgette plant, radishes, carrots and swiss chard there was still loads of space so I bought lots of lovely baby veg plants from the local garden centre. So now we have calabrese, purple sprouting broccoli, romanesco, pak choi, peas, mangetout, beetroot, little gem lettuce, leeks and kale. Quite a few of these are firsts for me; already the pak choi has been a bit disappointing as the hot weather we have been having caused it to bolt. 

We have still to finish putting down weed-suppressing membrane in the pathways and then cover them with bark but it is already a vast improvement to what we had before! I love the little network of paths and the girls already seem to enjoy exploring them which was the plan with this layout. I wanted to make the veg garden a place they could play in, and I read that raised beds are much better for gardens with children because they are less likely to stand all over the plants.


I didn't take a before picture of this area between the greenhouse and garden fence but it was basically big weeds and concrete slabs and glass. After clearing it all and digging it over we have reclaimed it as garden, with a little walkway created from old kerb stones. We planted a rhubarb plant that my dad gave us from his rhubarb so I'm hoping it takes and next year we can enjoy rhubarb from the garden, and the plan is to plant some raspberry bushes in the autumn too so it can be our little fruit corner.


I caved and bought some new packets of was just too hard to resist!   I love James Wong's seed collection and blog and would love his book Homegrown Revolution (hint hint J it's my birthday soon, this will be a good test to see if you read this!). It's all about growing interesting and unusual varieties of plants here in the UK. I've started off with Cucamelon which is described as a 'vigorous trailer or climber, which is relatively easy to grow. It produces an abundance of fruit resembling tiny watermelons, which taste a bit like cucumber but with a citrus tang.'  How could anyone not want to try this!!

It took weeks to germinate and I almost gave up on it but I now have 3 tiny cucamelon seedlings in the greenhouse! It was a happy day when I finally spotted a little leaf curling to the surface. Can't wait to have some exciting new fruits/veg to introduce the girls to! If these work out I plan to try some more adventurous seeds next year. The other packet of seeds I bought was Atlantic Giant Pumpkin and we have ended up with one strong little plant, so we hope to have a mammoth pumpkin come October! 

So that was a little (big) update to get me back into the swing of blogging. I felt rather a lot of pressure for the first post in a while to be good, but figured I should just bite the bullet and write one so the next isn't too daunting! 




Poppet: 3yrs
Little: 20 mos

P.S. Sorry the fonts in this post had a mind of their own.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

DIY No-Sew Curtains

I've had this material with the intention of making curtains for over 2 years but always been too daunted by the prospect so put it off and put it off, until a couple of evenings ago when I took the plunge and finally did it!

Well not really. I had intended to make 'proper' curtains - I read countless instructables on how to accomplish this feat of homemaking and swithered and swayed between using curtain tape, eyelets, rods etc,,,, but in the end I am just not that confident in my sewing machine skills and didn't want to risk messing up such a large piece of material. So I resorted to the old iron-on hemming web tape and a pack of curtain clips (from Ebay). I've used this method before to make the curtains in our old flat so I know that it works well - the result is not the most polished set of curtains but they serve the purpose and don't break the bank so it works for us.

It is quite straightforward - all you need to do is measure the size of curtains you need and cut your material to size (add a couple of inches to the length and width to allow for the hems). Then iron a hem onto all four sides of each curtain, following the instructions on your hemming web packet. Then it is just a matter of clipping the curtain clips onto each panel of material and hanging them up on your pole! I find the hardest part the measuring and cutting of the fabric, once that is done the ironing is time-consuming but simple. I did it while watching TV one evening.

I like how these curtains have an in-built safety feature - if anyone tugs or gets tangled in them (ahem, who could I possibly be referring to), the material would simply be released from the clip and fall to the floor leaving the pole intact. Handy when you have little ones around that like hiding in the curtains (especially since that scene in Tangled where Ana wraps herself up in a curtain while singing).

Saturday, 19 April 2014

A Very Eastery Good Friday

We managed to squeeze a lot of Eastery activities into our Good Friday this year, with egg painting in the morning and hot cross bun making in the afternoon. This was the first year the girls' decorated boiled eggs for Easter and they both loved it. Even Little was taken with it and didn't try to suck the paint brush once.

They both had lovely new egg cups from Grandma and Papa to sit their eggs in and let their creative side run wild. Poppet's design involved a lot of pink whereas Little went for a more multi-coloured approach.

I'm not sure how they will feel about flinging their eggs down a hill tomorrow; both are really fond of eggs and in particular of their painted ones. The whole practice may seem a bit twisted to them. Little especially, I am guessing, will not want to waste good food. 

In the afternoon, we tried our hand at some homemade hot cross buns for the first time. These were a big success and tasted amazing hot from the oven so we will definitely make them again in future years.


The dough was very sticky so Poppet only tolerated it for a short while before an extended hand washing session was called for. She loved grating the nutmeg in and rolling the lumps of dough (not sticky by this point) into balls. 

She was very excited to see "they got bigger!"after we left them to rise, and loved using the 'special pen' and 'special paint' to do the crosses (she needed some help holding the bag to squeeze it out). We did some hot 'A' buns, as well as some N, M, S, and D ones too. Tasted lovely!

Poppet: 3yrs 3mos
Little: 18mos

Cress Heads

My sister recently sent me a picture of some cress heads she found online so we rose to the challenge and attempted some ourselves;

I was a bit confused with the concept initially but my sister was very understanding and helpfully pointed me in the right direction.

So with our eggs hard boiled and the insides carefully scooped out (and used to make sandwiches - we'll call those the control group sandwiches), we were ready to start work on our cress heads. First Poppet very gently stuffed the empty eggshells with cotton wool. She was very gentle indeed. Then she had to make their faces. The first egg got goggly eyes but the other two she only wanted to use pen on. She carefully drew on eyes, a nose, a mouth, eyebrows and ears. She also requested "sparkly bits" (sequins) so one cress head got some extra embellishment.

Now her favourite part - water spraying. She sprayed the cotton wool to make it damp and sprinkled cress seeds on to it.

Then we left them on a sunny windowsill and she sprayed water on them everyday, waiting for 'their hair' to grow.

Poppet was very excited to see the shoots start to appear!

She obviously took the hair thing to heart as we found the cress like this one day ..................

After a week it was time to give them a haircut. By this point the goggly eyes had fallen off and Poppet's excuberant spraying had washed off their pen faces so they were just egg shells with cress growing in them. Next time we will use permanent markers!

Poppet was in charge of the cress cutting, Little was a surprisingly accomplished egg peeler.

Our egg and cress sandwiches went down a treat! Poppet polished off her whole plate, which was amazing considering she just nibbled at the 'control group' cressless sandwiches the week before. It goes to show you that when little ones have helped make something they are far more likely to eat it. Little however was not a fan of the cress. 

Poppet: 3 years 
Little: 1 year