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

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Some Spring Sowing

We spent a lovely afternoon in the greenhouse eagerly sowing seeds; as usual I have probably planted far too many but I get a bit overwhelmed by the choice. Poppet was my trusty helper as usual. She loves having her own little bench down at her level where she can potter about planting seeds and watering them like mummy.

I have tried very hard this year to not spend lots of money on seeds so have been using surplus from last year, along with a Funky Veg Kit I got for Christmas from my sister, and some freebies we got as well.
Poppet chose what seeds to sow first and chose Purple Haze carrots. She was quite excited by the prospect of purple carrots. These will be ready to harvest mid August and should be interesting! Together we filled up the seed tray with compost - Poppet has her own little trowel that she loves using. Then we wrote a plant label - I wrote on one side and Poppet carefully scribbled on the other. On later plant labels if she ever found one with a blank side she would exclaim "you missed one!" and add some scribbles to it.

Carrot seeds are really little so quite hard for little ones to sow; Poppet's ended up all in one side of the tray so I spread them around a little bit for her. Then she 'put them to bed' by covering them with a light layer of compost. Finally we watered them, although we should have really done that first as Poppet's overzealous watering means the seeds got washed around the tray a bit.

We planted tomato seeds, which we got free from Heinz Ketchup - they are the San Marzano variety which I can't wait to try because they are the ones I really like from Marks and Spencers. Plus I love a freebie. We also planted Tigerella tomato seeds that were in my Funky Veg Kit and produce striped tomatoes. We used a sheet of perspex that we found as well as some old tomato and grape punnets as mini propagators for the tomato seeds.

Poppet planted some more pea seeds by herself, they are much better for little fingers to plant. First she makes a little hole with her finger and then pops a seed in. A couple of holes were left seedless so I had to point them out to her. We planted some peas last autumn that will be ready early in the summer but these will be ready a bit after that ensuring we have a continued supply of fresh peas! We only use them for snacking; Poppet loves eating peas like sweets straight from a peapod, Little has yet to experience it but she is not one to turn down food.

We also planted Little Gem lettuce, French radishes, Swiss Chard 'Brightlights', Chantanay carrots, red brussel sprouts, Mazur lettuce, yellow courgettes, coriander, parsley and a singly solitary jalapeno chilli pepper seed (for daddy). Poppet was very interested to see what the seeds looked like and especially liked the big courgette seeds. 

We have even had our first harvest of the year from the garden - our purple sprouting broccoli was finally ready to be picked from Poppet's garden. She was very proud of it and rightly so although the fact that it turned green after cooking disappointed her a bit!

Poppet: 3yrs 3mos
Little: 18 mos

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Decorating a Card Egg for Easter

We had lots of fun one afternoon making some simple Easter Eggs from card.

I made one too which I don't do normally, but I will definitely be taking a more active role in crafting from now on as we both enjoyed it more when I was taking part rather than just watching from the sidelines. It gave us an opportunity to talk about what we were doing, our design ideas and colours we chose and felt more like a natural conversation rather than me quizzing her while she made something. 

Initially I just intended for Poppet to decorate an egg so I drew a big egg shape on some card and cut it out for her, but, not to be outdone, Poppet drew her own egg on a sheet of card and proceeded to cut it out. She did really well on the cutting and managed to do a very raggedy line around a quarter of the way round before asking me to finish it for her. So, we ended up with two eggs, one each, and we started to decorate them together.

Poppet looking very pleased with her self-drawn egg

I put out a jar of glue, some lengths of ribbons, some sequins and some crayons to decorate them with.

Poppet was drawn to the pink ribbons and stuck those onto her egg; she watched me arrange my ribbons in stripes so copied me and did the same. We added some sparkly sequins and finally some more stripes with the crayons until we had two beautiful Easter eggs. 

I enjoyed the activity far more when I was crafting alongside Poppet rather than just supervising. I don't know why I didn't think to do it before. And she definitely found it a lot more fun.

When Little woke from her nap Poppet insisted she have an egg as well so I gave her a little cardboard egg shape with some foam Easter stickers and some crayons. Little, still dazed and confused from her nap and clutching her penguin was in need of some assistance so Poppet helpfully peeled all her stickers for her and helped to stick them down. Little added some crayon scribbles helped once again by Poppet and soon her masterpiece was finished.

Poppet really liked her egg and proudly showed it to daddy when he got home. The next day she even drew a picture of it so it really stuck in her mind!

Poppet: 3yrs 3mos
Little: 18 mos

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Greenhouse Spring Clean

I actually really look forward to my annual greenhouse spring clean! As soon as the weather starts getting warmer my mind turns to gardening and what seeds we are going to sow this year. I love getting everything ready to start anew.

Little went down for her afternoon nap and Poppet got herself ready to help with the cleaning - complete with wellingtons, tutu, chalk make-up and a string of pearls.

The greenhouse was packed full so we started by emptying everything out, trying to remain calm despite the cobwebs and spiders! I felt itchy all day afterwards. We sorted out all the plant pots according to size, binned the broken ones, organised our tools and watering cans (there were two big ones and two little ones so they were assigned to the appropriate family members), washed Poppet's gardening gloves and decided to buy mama some new ones.

Then we brushed the whole place down; Poppet was very keen to help and made sure her own little bench was clean. I brought in a basin of hot soapy water and we wiped down all the benches

Little woke up and joined us so I gave the girls the task of washing old plant pots. It was raining by this point, and Poppet also naughtily decided to pour plant pots full of water over Little's head but luckily she had a good raincoat on. They had great fun 'washing' the pots, it was funny how much they loved playing in the rain. While they were busy I quickly washed all of the seed trays (with the outdoor tap which sprayed up everywhere so I also got very wet) and assembled everything back into the greenhouse ready to plant seeds the next day.

Then it was indoors to take off our wet clothes, have a bath to clean up (and kill off any spiders that I was paranoid had got under our clothes) and get into cosy clothes to finish off the afternoon watching Frozen.

Poppet: 3yrs 3mos
Little: 18mos