Sunday, 23 March 2014

Egg Box Daffodils

Poppet really likes daffodils. Whenever she sees them she exclaims "for your wedding mum!" and picks some for me (I am already married so I am not sure why she thinks I am due another wedding).
We have a big clump in the garden that she had been eagerly checking everyday, waiting for the first one to bloom. Now we have a beautiful little patch of yellow in the garden.

While we were waiting for them to bloom we made some very simple paper ones - first Poppet painted some egg box cups yellow. While they dried I made a flower template and cut out some flower shapes from yellow card (Poppet is very keen to help with any sort of cutting activity so to pacify her while I got on with it she got some scraps to cut up). I put a fold in each petal to make the flowers look more 3D.

Poppet glued an eggcup on to each flower.

Then we put the flower on a ball of blutak and carefully pushed a nail through the middle to make a hole. It felt very Blue Peter-esque. Poppet liked it.

Poppet carefully threaded a pipe cleaner through the hole to form the stem.

Our daffodils sit merrily in a vase, brightening up the room. My mum recently visited and took a few hours to realise they were not real.

Poppet: 3yrs 2mos
Little: 1yr 6 mos

PS We have found the pipe cleaners a little too bendy, I'd use straws next time.

Love Lock

The whole notion of love locks was unknown to me until I saw the curious site of lots of padlocks attached to the railings of a bridge at Falls of Feugh near Banchory. Some googling later and I learnt that they are quite popular at various sites across Europe. A lovelock is a padlock inscribed with names or dates that sweethearts lock to a bridge or gate or something similar to symbolise their love. Straight away I had the romantic notion that we had to return to the bridge to attach our own love lock.  Of course my husband was also completely 100% behind this idea and couldn't wait to go.


However on arrival and after closer inspection of the lovelocks, I was intimidated by the high standard of padlocks on display and suddenly feared my Poundland padlock and permanent marker may be some reflection of our perhaps poorer quality love so I chickened out. My husband did not find this infuriating in the slightest. So I now have plans to get a nicer padlock, get it engraved and make a return trip. In the meantime we enjoyed the visit to the bridge; apparently you can see salmon jumping at certain times of the year there but there were none when we visited. It was quite a scary bridge as it was so high up and the water thundered below so loudly and the bridge moved a little when people walked on it.

I liked reading all of the inscriptions. Some were very touching. It's obviously quite a new lovelock site so it will be interesting to see if it gets popular. 

We followed our lovelock trip with a walk at a nearby woodland; I use the term walk rather loosely here - it was a case of overly ambitious walking plans and not enough chocolate. Still, Little enjoyed the snooze.


Poppet: 3 yrs 2mos
Little : 18mos

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Goldilocks and the Three Bears Sensory Play

This post contains Amazon affiliate links for your convenience.

Poppet favourite book just now is Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The version we have is by Lauren Child (who is also behind the Charlie and Lola books) and it is a beautiful retelling of the classic fairytale. The pictures are amazing -real teddies and dolls are placed in elaborate miniature scenes and then photographed which give it a magical feel and set it apart from other storybooks. Poppet is captivated by it and requests it daily since we got it nearly two weeks ago and I really enjoy reading it to her. It is definitely going to be one of our most treasured storybooks.

Inspired by the book I decided to set up some Goldilocks sensory play. This sensory play is fantastic for exploring textures, strengthening hand-eye coordination, developing language and introducing simple maths skills. 

I found a large, medium and small teddy to play the role of father, mother and baby bear, and put them on three different chairs (I even managed to give father bear a 'too hard' chair and mother bear a 'too soft' one). Father bear held our Goldilocks and the Three Bears book and mother bear held another  book called 'A Bad Week For The Three Bears' which is about the week leading up to the incident with Goldilocks. A doll with yellow hair became our Goldilocks.

In an under-bed storage tub I put a big bowl of dry oats along with three differently sized bowls and various spoons and scoops to explore it with (the under-bed storage tub was a vain attempt to contain the oats somewhat -in reality I had to hoover the entire room up after this play session!). I went to bed excited to see their faces in the morning when they saw the bears!

In the morning however, the girls walked straight past the set up and didn't notice it at all! It had to be pointed out to them at breakfast and then they were very keen to investigate. Poppet excitedly recognised father bear, mother bear and baby bear and was very focussed on filling up the bowls with 'porridge'. 

Little, meanwhile, just ate it. Even thought she had just finished her own breakfast she still managed to squeeze in some more. She prefaced each wooden spoonful with "no no no no no no!", so used is she to being told that when she eats things! It was such a novelty for her to actually be allowed to eat something she was playing with.

Poppet made sure everyone got their bowl of porridge; baby bear had the smallest bowl and she helped him eat it.

She also displayed excellent conflict resolution skills by giving Goldilocks her own bowl of porridge, thereby avoiding any porridge theft on this occasion.

After a while the porridge was taken over to the play kitchen and put on the hob. Poppet carefully counted in spoons of water and did a lot of mixing.

The girls loved their play session; the enjoyment they got from it was more than worth the 10 minutes of clean up that it required afterwards! While they were not really interested in the books at the time of playing, we sat down to read them in the afternoon together.  I'm hoping to bring more books to life like this in the future - I have my eye on Lauren Child's The Princess and the Pea for some dried pea sensory play!

Poppet: 3yrs 2mos
Little: 1yr 5mos

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Review - Weekend Box

We were recently lucky enough to be sent a Weekend Box to try out. Weekend boxes are fortnightly boxes aimed at children aged 3-8 that are delivered straight to your door containing creative, green and healthy activities.

The main reason that I was attracted to them was that I thought that it would overcome my indecisiveness - often I spend far too long trying to plan what to do with the girls - should we bake or play with playdough or paint or do some loose parts play, do a jigsaw or make a den, I get so tangled up in indeciseness I waste precious time and it really annoys me. 

So the Weekend Box seemed like a perfect solution as it promised to contain educational and explorative activities all decided for me already thereby making my life a whole lot easier.

It arrived with a thump on the doormat on Thursday. Thursday seems to be our happy post day. With a Graze box and a Weekend box excitement levels in the house reached an all time high. But I managed to calm myself down and put the box in a drawer ready for the weekend.

Inside were four brightly coloured paper packages each with accompanying instructions.

something to cook
something to make
something to explore
something green

Our box certainly smelled very interesting! Poppet could tell straightaway that something 'spicy!' was inside one of the packages.

Something to make

I brought the box out at the weekend and Poppet wasted no time getting stuck in, choosing the blue package first which contained everything we needed to make a 'Rocking Spring Bird' (we had to provide our own scissors and paintbrush but all the other crafty bits were included).

Poppet loves this type of activity - cutting things up, painting and glueing - and she was very proud of her little bird. We had enough bits left over (well we had to raid our craft supplies for one extra goggly eye) to make a second little bird for Little.

Rocking Spring Birds!

Poppet wanted to get started on the next activity straight away; we chose the 'something to explore' package. This contained a little sound worksheet for us to fill out and then we had to watch a youtube video to learn how to make a robot voice box from straws and a balloon. Well we certainly had family bonding time attempting to do this but even though we spent ages we were unable to make a reed out of our straws. And we went through many straws trying!   

Something to explore

Something green

The next day we tried our next activity, the Pot O' Gold game - it was very simple but Poppet was enthralled and especially loved the gold coins that came with it. She enjoyed being told about rainbows, and how at the end of them there is a leprechaun with a pot of gold but kept wanting more precise directions to this pot of gold - "But where mum?" 

We sang the 'I Can Sing a Rainbow' song while creating our pipecleaner rainbow over our pot of gold, starting out enthusiastically and ending by mumbling random colours. I really need to learn the words properly. The game was just flipping the coins into the pot of gold. Poppet was taken with it, even though she couldn't manage it unless she dropped the coin directly in, this didn't dampen her enjoyment. She took it upon herself to teach the game to Little when she awoke from her nap. And Little repayed the favour by peeling the eyes off the rocking spring birds much to the distress of Poppet.

Our Pot O' Gold

A few days later we attempted our 'something to cook' as we had to make a trip out to buy some supplies for it. Unfortunately this ended up as a bit of a disaster for us! I'm not sure what we did wrong really but our 'green pancakes' did not turn out like pancakes and were inedible, but Poppet had fun cracking the egg and adding the spices. I'm going to blame our cooking mishap on my scales.

Something to cook

One of Poppet's favourite parts of the box was the stickers that came with it to stick onto each instruction sheet when the activity had been completed. That was a really nice touch as what kid doesn't love a sticker.

We had great fun trying out all the activities in our Weekend Box even though we failed at half of them! We are going on a caravan holiday soon and I think that a Weekend Box would be perfect to take along to fill any quiet moments and it doesn't take up too much space.

I have a unique promo code for any of my readers if you would like to try out your very own Weekend Box!  It will get you your first box for free including delivery. The unique promo code is LISA152 and can be redeemed at

Disclaimer: We were sent our Weekend Box for free, all opinions are our own.

Poppet: 3yrs 2mos
Little: 17 mos

Monday, 17 March 2014

Book Review: Quiet - The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain


I did not expect to enjoy this book. I was envisaging a laborious read. I knew I would have to finish it - I can never leave a book unfinished - but I thought I would do so grudgingly, dragging my heels and skimming the whole way through.  I pigeon-holed it on reading the title as a self-help book, and I have not got an entirely positive view of self-help books ever since my mum sent me a copy of 'Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway' while I was living in student halls. That really marked me out as normal. Thanks Mum.

But actually it does not belong in the self-help category at all. It is a thought-provoking and life-altering read. No longer do I think that I am a bit weird. Now I know I am introverted and weird.

Why is it that introversion is viewed so negatively? Why are we made to feel like we should aspire to being extroverted? Why do I feel guilty that I may have passed on my introversion to my daughter?
This book makes you reevaluate introversion as an equally valuable and valid personality trait. It describes many notable introverts who have contributed to society - Rosa Parks and J K Rowling to name two. The world needs introverts.

The basic premise of Susan Cain's theory is that 'society misunderstands and undervalues the traits and capabilities of introverted people leading to a colossal waste of talent, energy and happiness'. This is because the Western culture prizes extroverts, believing it is better to be gregarious, assertive and outgoing while introversion is viewed as inferior, sometimes even pathological.

Introversion is not necessarily the same as shyness although the two often go hand in hand - an introverted person simply prefers lower levels of stimulation. Dinner with a friend as opposed to a party, one on one chats instead of a group debate, reading a book over skiing. Pretty wild. An introvert can have good social skills and enjoy parties, but after a time they become overstimulated and wish they were at home in their pyjamas. Oh my goodness when I read this bells went off for me, I am always wishing I was at home in my pyjamas! Even on my wedding day I had pyjamas on and cup of tea in hand by 10pm (it was a long day, especially for an introvert).

Consider then that while introverts perform best in quiet, low-stimuation environments, our workspaces and education settings are biased to favour extroverts - the fashion is for open plan offices and schools, school desks arranged in pods, group thinking, group projects and so on. Everything is geared up to support extroverts.  The book calls for a change, highlighting the need to build in 'restorative niches' into the introvert day to recharge after being in a stimulating environment. This could mean creating little low stimulation nooks in classrooms where children can go to be alone for a bit, reading or listening to headphones. Offices should allow people to be alone as well as to socialise, so open plan areas for the extroverts but also corners where introverts can retreat to. 

I found this book challenging to read but I enjoyed the challenge - it's quite scientific - filled with research and studies to back up the argument, so I had to read it in short bursts. But I really looked forward to my next instalment of it and bored my husband to death talking about it in between. What I read would stay with me throughout the following day and you can't help thinking about it. It's going to take a 2nd, 4rd and 4th sitting before I can assimilate it all.

I really enjoyed this book and I think any introvert would benefit from reading it, but it would also be good for extroverts to read to understand better their introvert friends and family. I would also recommend Susan Cain's TED talk which sums up the book very succinctly.

Disclaimer - I was sent my copy of the book for free for the purposes of this review, all opinions are my own.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Vanilla Sponge Cake Playdough

Play dough ingredients
We have a proper kitchen again! It has been quite a while let me tell you. But all the upheaval has made us appreciate all the more our lovely fully-functioning kitchen and our lives have gotten about 100 times easier these past couple of weeks as our house turns back from building site to a home. The girls have especially delighted in their regained freedom and have been tearing the place up. Little had been growing so very frustrated at not being allowed to explore all those dangerous and interesting looking tools that were lying around and wanted to be wherever the action was. She has been like a different little girl since being allowed to explore her surroundings again. And Poppet was a case in point as to why too much TV is not good for little ones! The tantrums we had when we switched it off were quite spectacular. It took a couple of days for her to stop asking for us to put a DVD on but now she doesn't even ask and has even napped in the afternoon a few times which she hasn't done in a long time. She's been asking instead to do 'painting' or 'make a cake'- apparently it has been Little's birthday a lot.

So this week we have been in the kitchen baking lots as we (I!) have missed this particular activity. Vanilla sponge cakes are one of our favourites because they are so easy. On Friday Poppet asked for play dough so I thought we would try for some vanilla-scented cake mixture type play dough. To make it I added in some vanilla extract and a touch of yellow food colouring at the kneading stage. It made the most wonderful sweet smelling dough. Play dough is lovely and tactile when played with while still warm and the girls were very keen to get stuck in. Poppet was curious as to the scent "mum what that smell like?" I was looking around for some bits and bobs to add to the play dough play and Poppet was helping me - she went into a drawer and picked out some food picks and I got some candles and cake cases which are always popular with playdough play.  Poppet got some lovely new wooden play dough utensils for her birthday so we used them too.

Little loved sticking the food picks and candles into her playdough and trying to roll it out and stamp shapes into it. She just tries to copy anything she sees her big sister do. Poppet made imprints in hers and rolled them up to make 'sausages' which were then put into cake cases and allocated to family members according to size.

It was 20 whole minutes before the inevitable happened and Little ate a piece. Poppet alerted me to the fact, looking at her sister disdainfully but with a certain amount of admiration. She had swallowed it and everything by the time I got to her but really did not enjoy the taste (salty!) so I hope that she will have learnt her lesson. I was a bit worried about the salt content so gave her a cup of water and she certainly seemed really thirsty!  I have been trying to encourage her to smell playdough not eat it so she now does an exaggerated smelling action whenever she sees it.

Poppet: 3yrs 2mos
Little: 17 mos