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Blogging Inspiration Review

Adding to my notebook addiction

28/06/2016

Hello, my name’s Carie, and I have a notebook addiction.

I also rather like pens but pens come and go and run out and get lost in the bottom of my work bag and get stolen by the children. Notebooks, they’re treasured.

Right now I have, let me see, one, two, three, four in use; my Blogtacular planner, my Blogtacular notebook from last year which I’ve nearly finished, a spiral bound one from BritMums many moons ago with a picture of the sea on the front of it, my beautiful Essie one, oh and this year’s Blogtacular notebook which makes five.

And if I count the sample planner that’s very nearly full up, and the journal planner that I dip in and out of, that makes seven. Ah. That may explain a lot.

Space for the Butterflies - Bookblock Original personalised notebook

Even with seven notebooks on the go I’ve still got a little stash, just in case of notebook emergency; the teeny tiny one I made at the Berylune craft party, a little pile of spotty ones, two gorgeous exercise books that are the perfect handbag size, and my birthday present from the girls, a little black book with rainbow pages.

So when the lovely people at Bookblock got in contact and asked whether I’d like to try one of their Bookblock Originals the answer was an easy “Oh very much yes”.

A little scoot through some of my recent pictures, I emailed off a favourite and waited for the letterbox to thump the joyful sound of exciting post.

And exciting post it was.

Space for the Butterflies - Bookblock Original personalised notebook

The only possible reaction was “Wow!”

My picture of my little trio, wrapped all the way around the cover, so that Kitty and Pip are on the front, and a giggly Elma on the back. It’s a soft matt cover, and incredibly tactile, and the colours are beautiful and vibrant.

Space for the Butterflies - Bookblock Original personalised notebook

Inside the pages are blank, which suits me perfectly, with a book mark to hold my place, and an elastic band to hold it all together when I inevitably stuff little extra bits and bobs in between the pages.

Space for the Butterflies - Bookblock Original personalised notebook

I love it. In fact the only problem is knowing that nothing I ever write in a notebook could possibly be good enough for it. In her Blogtacular talk, Kirsty of Eeh Bah Mum suggested that the best thing to do with a brand new blank notebook is to give it to your children to scribble on to get you past the hump of that perfect first page feeling but I’m not sure I can do it, not with this one.

Space for the Butterflies - Bookblock Original personalised notebook

Although, it did cross my mind that if I got a notebook with the children on every year that might encourage me to use it while they’re still roughly that age!

So while I work out how to convince H that this is a need not merely a want, let me know I’m not alone – how many notebooks do you have on the go at once, and have you ever had one too pretty to use?

Crafty Ideas Elma Family Kitty Photography Pip Review Video

“Under the Sea Bed” and “Space Ships that Don’t Fly” {Staedtler Try It Tribe}

11/01/2016

Just before Christmas, in the midst of a little flurry of Christmas shaped parcels, arrived one red box.  We are thrilled to be part of Staedtler’s Try it Tribe again this year – playing around with art materials, it’s a hard job but someone’s got to do it – and even the tiniest peek in the box told me that we were in for a lot of fun.

Space for the Butterflies - Staedtler FIMO Kids Form & Play

And right at the top of the box were Staedtler’s latest FIMO modelling kits, Form & Play.  We had so much fun using space moulds to make our working model of the lunar eclipse back in the autumn and the girls were itching to get at the new kits.  Whereas the lunar eclipse used moulds to make the shapes, these kits are more about making it yourself, with a little bit of help along the way.  Each kit contains four packets of FIMO (one of them sparkly), an cutting and shaping tool and a little booklet with step by step picture instructions to make the models on the front cover.  Or not if you don’t want to.  One of the reasons that I love giving my three art materials to play around with and get messy is because I love to see what their creativity can come up with.  Our house is pleasantly sized but not massive so every toy, every paintbrush, every box of crafty stuff has to earn its keep, and these kits tick the box.  If you want to make the cover kit you can, or if you want to change it up a bit, swap the colours around, add a section, loose a section, you can; there’s a lot of scope for imagination.

Space for the Butterflies - Staedtler FIMO Kids Form & Play

So with Pip mostly distracted by his hammering bench and a long line of pegs to put in it, Kitty, Elma and I sat down with two kits between the three of us to have a go at making Space (Elma and me) and Seaworld (Kitty), both level 2 kits.  The packets say that they’re aimed at 8 year olds but Kitty loves her arts and crafts and the pictures in the book set out exactly what you need to do without necessarily being able to read detailed instructions so I helped her to open up her FIMO packets and then left her to it.

Space for the Butterflies - Staedtler FIMO Kids Form & Play

Space for the Butterflies - Staedtler FIMO Kids Form & Play

The shark, which she is absolutely certain is a whale, and the crab are entirely her own work  and she is rightly proud of them.  They don’t look exactly like the pictures on the cover, but when do models ever look like the cover photo, and I was really impressed both by her modelling skills and by how easy she found it to follow the instructions without needing any input.  She did most of the turtle too but it was suffering from a slight case of very over flattened to the point of pancake-like so we worked together to poof it up again, and then we made the seahorse together.

And while she worked away on one side of the table, Elma and I conspired on spaceship construction on the other.  Our space rocket may be more “inspired by” than a true copy but that’s part of the fun of it and Elma loved chopping up the FIMO and rolling it into balls and cones and wiggly lines and squishing on the circles to make portholes.  The rocket and the flying saucer are genuinely a 50:50 effort although she lost interest a bit when we got to the shuttle and just helped with the portholes.

Space for the Butterflies - Staedtler FIMO Kids Form & Play

In addition to the bits and pieces in the kit I found it really helpful to keep a packet of baby wipes on hand and a straw.  The baby wipes are because the colour of the FIMO comes off on your hands and if you don’t clean your hands between colours, especially after playing with the black, it comes off on the next colours and rather muddies their vibrancy.  The straw we found really helpful for punching out the windows to make proper portholes and for making patterns on the back of the turtle and the tummy of the seahorse.Space for the Butterflies - Staedtler FIMO Kids Form & Play

We found that you needed to be quite gentle with the rolling out; FIMO is very malleable and it was very easy to overall, particularly when making cones and then need to start again.  But, if you do make a mistake or find you have a bit of an odd lump, just stroking it very gently will quite often smooth everything out again.

Into the oven for half an hour and then the playtime begins, because inside the cardboard wrapper of each packet is a backdrop perfect for showing off your new creations.

Space for the Butterflies - Staedtler FIMO Kids Form & Play

Space for the Butterflies - Staedtler FIMO Kids Form & Play

Space for the Butterflies - Staedtler FIMO Kids Form & Play

Space for the Butterflies - Staedtler FIMO Kids Form & Play

And you could leave it at that – but where’s the fun in that? Why not use them to set up a puppet theatre?

And so, without further ado, I hand you over to Kitty and Elma for the tales of “Under the Sea Bed” and “Space Ships that Don’t Fly”. The plot is at times largely incomprehensible and I think Kitty makes up a few words because she’s trying to recreate the patter of a poem she’s read about Planet Earth and Planet “P” at school this week but that doesn’t really matter, the fun was in making up stories and seeing it back on film:

We still have one kit in our box, the level 3 pirates, but given that Kitty has already been asking to get it out and make it I foresee many tales of swashbuckling adventure in our future!

 

 

Elma Family Kitty Pip Review

Three girls and a baby do lunch

18/04/2015

What kind of crazy person decides to take a four year old, a two year old and a baby out for lunch by herself? Why that would be me.

It sounds like the most insane idea ever when you write it down on paper but we manage to eat lunch around our table at home without too many disasters, and after a long week the lure of someone else doing the cooking was irresistible.  Well that and I rather fancied reliving a few childhood memories with my children for company.

When I was little my great-aunt lived in Bournemouth, land of bungalows and beaches, and every holiday we’d get up early and drive all the way over from Devon to see her, possibly with a Little Chef breakfast (and obligatory lolly) en route.  When I was very little it always seemed to follow the same format: arrive at Aunt Marjorie’s house for coffee, run around the garden, head out squished in the back of the car for lunch and then on to either the beach or a National Trust property for a run around before home for the sort of high tea only usually seen within the pages of an Enid Blyton (sans ginger beer but cherry cake very much in evidence).  

They must have been a highlight in our holidays because I find I remember so many of them, and I remember a lot of detail too.  I remember the colours and smells of Aunt Marjorie’s house; the flowery wallpaper in her bathroom and the way her garden sloped up and away from the house. I vividly remember beach trips, collecting shells along the tide marks.  And of course, I remember lunch.  And lunch, more often than not, was at a Beefeater.

Which is why, some twenty and a bit something years later, I found myself taking Kitty, Elma and Pip along to The Plough  up on the outskirts of Solihull.  My first impression was that disappointingly, or perhaps thankfully, the swirly carpets are no more. As a child I loved those carpets, you could hop from one swirl to the next or try to get all four legs of your chair lined up on the pattern, but even I can appreciate that times must change and in fact The Plough has been redecorated fairly recently and looks comfortably relaxing in a sort of colonial style, with the most gorgeous Hello sign on the wall that twinkled, much to Kitty and Elma’s great delight.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

We were sat in a lovely big booth, perfect for letting the girls have a bit of space and the occasional wriggle without disturbing too many other people (hopefully!), and it’s great for eating with babies; when Pip decided that he didn’t want his highchair or to sit on my lap it was lovely to be able to lie him back and let him have a little wriggle on the seat next to me. I was also hugely relieved that there was enough space to hold him on my lap; I’ve been to some places where the benches are so tight up against the table that I can’t really hold him comfortably or nurse him as the occasion demands.  The girls got to sit together, or with me, or together again which they thought was very exciting and there was plenty of room to have all three of us on one side had we wanted.

And then there was the food.  I think they still do a carvery on a Sunday but for a Friday lunchtime we could pick from the main menu or the lunchtime menu, and the girls had some fantastic Mr Men menus (which is why they told H they went to “the Mr Men Cafe” for lunch) with pictures of all the different options, perfect for little girls who can’t yet read and sometimes let their imaginations create something that doesn’t quite match the words when you read a menu out to them.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

According to Elma, it also made an excellent hat!

 

Kitty started with a huge dish of cheesy nachos and salsa, while Elma demolished two big slices of garlic bread and Pip and I shared garlic king prawns with ciabatta (he ate the bread, I ate the prawns), and then Elma and Pip shared a mini burger, chips and corn, while Kitty had fish bites, chips and beans (a delicacy reserved for meals out as H and I hate them with a passion and refuse to cook them).

All the food was tasty but for me the stand out winner was the amazing and huge rack of Sticky Bourbon BBQ ribs. They were cooked to perfection, the meat practically falling off the bone and just utterly utterly delicious.  It seemed almost a shame to eat anything else but the cherry and apple crumble hit the spot, and as for the girls, I suspect their jelly and ice cream might have been favourite part of the meal.

Well favourite food perhaps, because there’s one real challenge about being the only adult with a table of little ones.  It isn’t that they’ll struggle to sit still for a huge length of time, it isn’t that they might giggle too loudly, and it isn’t even that one of them might screech when the other got ice cream in her hair (not that that happened of course), it’s that if anyone needs the bathroom, we all have to go; Kitty, Elma, and even small Pip still clutching his bit of burger.  The girls thought this was a lot of fun. An awful lot of fun.  By the time we got up for the fourth time to go I swear I could hear the other diners thinking “really! again! what is she feeding them!”.  But rest assured, they were just having fun, and I can reliably inform you that The Plough’s bathrooms are kept immaculately clean and tidy.  Never let it be said that my girls are not thorough in their research.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But best of all was the service; it quite simply could not be bettered, the staff were genuinely friendly, attentive without being overwhelming and really paid attention to the little things, like bringing a high chair, neatly sweeping up the steak knives that are the standard place setting and finding some junior cutlery instead, or letting me know that our mains were ready and asking whether we wanted to hold them while Kitty finished her nachos or go ahead so that Elma wasn’t waiting too long.

Beefeaters have changed since I was little it’s true, but only for the better, And if you so happen to have a great-aunt in Warwickshire we also have some excellent National Trust properties nearby to walk off those ribs.

Many thanks to The Plough at Solihull for hosting us for lunch, it was yummy!

Elma Family Review Video

I want to ride my bikey-bike!

22/01/2015

(Elma was very kindly sent a Toddlebike to explore the world with and we’ve had great fun putting it to the test. All words, pictures and children are my own, all aeroplanes are not)

Just before she turned two, our Elma became a Toddlebiker. It arrived at the end of a long cold dark afternoon of the sort that has everyone a little cabin feverish no matter what you try to do to alleviate it and it couldn’t have been better timed.  I think the packing paper had barely touched the floor before Elma had it out of the box and pressed into service.

“It mine! It my bikey!” came the little voice as she shot off down the hallway, and back up again, and down, and up, and, well I don’t think you need much imagination to work out how the rest of our afternoon went.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And we’ve carried on as we started.  For the first couple of days we had it inside and it would be a good inside toy if you’ve got the space, it’s little enough to tuck away, light enough to move easily and provides hours of entertainment.  Well unless you have a big sister who doesn’t see any logic in her sister’s new toy being allowed inside while her scooter is still outside only, especially as she herself is too tall to have a proper go on the new bike.  She had a point so our became outdoor only and I’m sure you’ve seen it pop up in the background of more than a few photos over the last month or so.  And if you were paying really close attention you can see from the wheels just how much we’ve committed ourselves to putting it through its paces.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

We’ve taken it to the park, the other park, the other other park, to see a reservoir and up and down our patio and it’s proved the perfect companion to Kitty’s ‘kicks’ and a really great bike for Elma’s height and current stage of development.  Over the summer and early autumn Elma had stopped taking so much interest in her sit in push along car in favour of sneaking a go on her sister’s scooter, which led to more than a few ‘heated discussions’ between the pair of them.  We’d thought about getting another scooter but Elma just isn’t tall enough yet for one like Kitty’s and with her impressive ability to fall over the one speck of dust on a perfectly flat floor we weren’t too sure about the balancing side of things either.  The Toddlebike is definitely more big girl than a nice round fat sit on toy but it’s got enough wheels that is isn’t too wobbly either.

If Elma falls off the Toddlebike it’s because she wanted to, not because she was trying to turn left and missed.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

When it first arrived she used to sit on the crossbar and scoot along but she soon got the hang of sitting back on the seat to go a little faster.  The next step will be for her to sit back and use both feet at once, in the same sort of action that you’d use on a strider bike but she’s not really figured that out yet, and I think the couple of times she tried it were accidental. And in many ways it’s nice that she hasn’t mastered it all at once, it keeps it interesting for her to work out new ways to ride, and fun for us to watch the gradual changes as she develops.

From a parent’s point of view it’s great. It’s very sturdy but also incredibly lightweight; I can genuinely carry it with one little finger looped under the crossbar, which has been great for carrying it up to the park when we have to go along the road and then letting loose when we get there. I love the look and feel of wooden bikes but at the same time it’s great to go out knowing that if it gets driven through a few muddy puddles and then abandoned in favour of more splashing, it’ll be fine and I won’t dislocate a shoulder lugging it home.  And I do genuinely like the colours, it’s good to see activity toys that are truly gender neutral and fun with it, and I have no doubt that a year or so from now Pip will be champing at the bit for a go (there is also a pink and purple one if they’re the only colours that will cut it!).

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And as for what Elma thinks…?  Did you ever see Michael McIntyre’s sketch about buying a hoover where everyone is essentially just taking a hoover for a walk because none of them are plugged in and thus failing the very essence of being a hoover? (if you haven’t it’s really funny and it’s on You Tube here). Well in similar vein I can tell you that Elma thinks her Toddlebike is awesome, but unless you want one as a piece of modern sculpture, a picture and some words can only go so far. So instead the girls and I decided to put together a little something special to show you all about life as a Toddlebiker – by our special correspondent:

Christmas Crafty Ideas Elma Family Handmade Kitty Photography Pip Review

Our Family Advent Calendar 2014

06/12/2014

(This is the story of our other Advent Calendar. It’s brought to you with thanks to Polabox who sent me a little something to review and in doing so helped bring my ideas to life and gave us a wonderful way to celebrate a great 2014)

When I was starting my sort out of our studio this summer I came across my old film camera for the first time in ages, a little dusty perhaps but tucked up safe and sound in its box. It was just a point and shoot but it was a faithful friend for many years until we replaced it with digital and I fell hook line and sinker for the charms of taking as many pictures as you like with reckless abandon.

And it struck me that there perhaps was one advantage of film over digital that might almost (but not quite) make up for having to change film perched at the very top of the dome of St Peter’s in Rome; you did have to print it to see the pictures.

I’m a little haphazard when it comes to printing my pictures; every now and then I round up a handful of my favourites from the big camera, pop them onto a memory stick and take them off to be printed. I love the results and I swear that I’m going to print more often; and then never do for another six months. And I’m afraid to say that my phone pictures are even more neglected. It’s a shame because it’s quite often my phone that’s the nearest camera to hand, so it’s my phone that captures those little fleeting moments of everyday life, a look between sisters, the peacefulness of sleeping babies, or just the joys of ice cream.

So when Polabox wondered whether I’d like to try out their new limited edition Christmas box, I didn’t need asking twice to have the chance to see some of my favourite Instagram pictures in all their glory.

But better than that, it gave me an idea for a little something special.  Because while I love having pictures in print, part of what makes me really bad at getting around to actually printing them is that I then struggle to know what to do with them. Or even when I know what to do with them, it takes me a while to actually get on and do it (we shall not mention my wedding photos nor discuss whether they currently reside in or on their album – and H and I have been married nearly nine years!).  Obviously the Polabox pictures, tucked up nice and safe in their little aluminium tin aren’t going to come to any harm, but the joy in photos is in looking at them and remembering those moments that you were trying to capture.

And so when I’d chosen thirty of my favourite Instagrams from the last year I picked out all bar six and captioned them 1 to 24.

Four days later a little parcel arrived on our front door step and this project really came to life.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Let me introduce you to our family advent calendar for 2014:

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

This little section of our lounge wall usually holds bits and pieces of the girls’ latest art works, either the things they’ve done at nursery or some of our projects at home, but Kitty and I cleared them all away and used some of the family washi tape collection to tape out a very simple triangular tree shape, a pot at the bottom and a star at the top, and then we filled in the star with more strips of starry tape. The whole thing was completely eyeballed but it’s 72cm top to toe and the same at its widest point.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Every day in December we get out our little tin, find the day’s picture, and Kitty and Elma take it in turns to tape it up to the tree.

I’m hoping it’s going to be a big enough tree to fit all these ‘baubles’, but the great thing about washi tape is that if I need to I can always add a little bit more, or peel the pot off and move it a bit lower!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

More importantly, six days in and everything is still stuck where it should be. I also love it.  The pictures so far are mostly from the Spring and Summer; ordinary days, happy memories and a holiday too.  It’s a daily reminder of everything that we have to be thankful for as we count down to Christmas and a celebration of what has been for us a truly wonderful year.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And when twelfth night comes and all the decorations go back in their boxes I’ll still have a little tin full of a year’s memories to tuck up on my shelf.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

What more could you want in an advent calendar?

Because if the answer to that supposedly rhetorical question is chocolate, let me let you in on a little secret; it came with chocolate too!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And now for a little nitty gritty:

  • the Christmas Polabox is a limited edition version that comes in the gorgeous sturdy little tin that you can see in the pictures. You choose 30 pictures from Instagram or your social network of choice and they print them and post them out to you.
  • How well the pictures print depends entirely on the quality of your original photos; I’ve chosen some pictures that weren’t always the sharpest and crispest but which hold the most memories and they’re a little fuzzy in the print just as they’re a little fuzzy on my phone.  They certainly aren’t any worse for the experience and what was crisp in the original is crisp in the print.
  • It doesn’t costs anything extra to add captions (from a choice of five fonts); and there’s space for a lot more than the numbers I used.  I’ve seen a few blogs with some fantastic ‘activity’ advent calendars (including Lucy’s and Rachel’s) this year and it would be really easy to add the day’s activity to the picture if you wanted to and it wasn’t weather dependant, or you could add appropriate Bible verses to build up the Christmas story.
  • I really like the white borders to the pictures but for another €1 you can choose to have either black borders or there are two different sets of coloured borders, one with five different colours and one with six.
  • The washi tape came from the family washi tape shelf. Yes, we have a family wide addiction to the stuff. I know the red stars is from Cath Kidston and the rest is almost certainly all from Berylune in Leamington, a shop which frankly makes my bank card leap out of my wallet and start sprinting for the till even when I just pop in to have a little look around.

And if you’re tempted to make an advent calendar, to see some of your Instagram photos brought to life, or you just fancy a tiny bar of really great chocolate with some photos on the side I have a little festive treat.  If you use the code CARI4N when you order a Polabox you’ll get a €5 discount and I’ll get a €5 credit towards next year’s calendar, because I think I might just have started a new tradition!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life