Thursday, 19 December 2013

Christmas Sensory Tub

Well Christmas has been and gone but I have had this sitting in my draft posts for weeks so I thought I might as well publish it!

Our run up to Christmas was busy, with the building work for the extension going full steam ahead & daddy away for a little while to see family in South America, our 'Advent Activity Calender' was becoming a bit neglected (the chocolate ones, not so much). As a list-making obsessive type it was getting me down that I wasn't able to do some of the nice activities I had planned.

Then Aunty Anna arrived a few days before Christmas to spend the holidays with us and brought with her a whirlwind of festive creative energy! She arrived bearing gifts of homemade christmas spice and peppermint playdoughs (make christmas playdough -check), brought a stable made from a cardboard box (make stable for nativity scene -check), made 3D snowmen Christmas tree decorations with Poppet (make christmas tree decorations -check), made a complete set of nativity figures from toilet roll tubes with Poppet, made spiced  biscuits, wrapped presents and generally just became our little house Elf.

Uncle Pete, who also spent Christmas with us, also deserves a mention for his impressive parsnip peeling. 

This was our first Christmas in our own family home and it was exciting to start to cement the family traditions that will make Christmas special for us in the years to come. Drawing from the lovely Christmas memories we have each brought with us from our respective families and inventing some new ones of our own!

So, back to the post -this was (as the title suggests) a tub filled with interesting Christmassy things for the girls to explore with all their senses. Except taste, preferably, but Little didn't get that memo. We used a drawer from our Trofast storage system as a tub.

I filled it with cinnamon scented red rice, gold pine cones, dried orange slices, cinnamon quills, baubles (top removed) ribbons, a bell, green pompoms, lengths of beads, a plastic pot filled with peppermint oil-soaked cotton wool and measuring scoops.

They loved exploring everything; I did not love hoovering up red rice all the time. Or fishing it out of Little's mouth. I really need to reclaim my Tuff-Spot as that would have contained the rice better; it was used in the building works and is all grubby now.

Little liked carefully dropping the lengths of beads into the pot. Very serious. Poppet liked filling up various containers with the rice using the scoops. She filled the baubles up with rice and then shook them to make a sound. And I often found the nativity figures in the tub too.

Poppet: 2yrs 11 mos
Little: 1yr 2mos

Homemade Christmas Potpourri

I love the smell of Christmas. At home my mum always buys the M&S Christmas potpourri which is amazing but I wanted to have a go at making some myself because it seems really simple.

This is what I used to make it:

Dried orange slices
Cinnamon sticks
Star Anise
Cinnamon oil
Gold laquer spray paint

I spray painted the pinecones gold and once they were dry sprinkled them with cinnamon oil and sealed them inside sandwich bags for a week or so. The smells fades after a while so I top it up by sprinkling on some more cinnamon oil every now and then. You can also buy bags of ready scented pinecones which would make it even easier. I put everything in a bowl and it is now sitting in our family room filling it up with a Christmassy scent.

Unfortunately the potpourri is also really popular with the girls especially Little who takes a grab and run I am now missing most of the dried orange slices (her favourite to take away and chew on) and a few cones.

Poppet: 2yrs 11mos
Little: 1yr 2mos

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Paper Christmas Wreath for Toddlers

Ever since we made a wreath for our front door Poppet has enjoyed spotting them when we are out and about, and she was very happy when she opened our picture Advent calendar and found a picture of a wreath one day! 

We decided to make a paper one that the girls' could have indoors. It was really easy and combined two of Poppet's loves - cutting things up with scissors and glueing!

I cut a circle out of the middle of a paper plate to form the base of our wreath, but you could also just cut a circle from an old cereal box.

I got out our red and green foam shapes and we roughly tried to cut them into leaf and berry shapes (really roughly!). Poppet is still getting used to using scissors; it takes her a lot of effort to open and close them so she is so pleased with herself whenever she does actually manage to cut the smallest bit off. I also added red pompoms, and lots of green tissue paper that we ripped up into small pieces.

Then Poppet just had to glue on green bits until the plate was covered. After a while she was asking me to help her because she had glue all over her fingertips and the tissue paper was sticking to her rather than the plate which was making her frustrated. Together we managed to glue all the green bits on, (using lots and lots of glue). Poor Little wanted to help so badly, she found some tissue on the floor and reached up to stick it on to the plate. But only this morning I found her eating Sudocreme out the pot so she just can't be trusted around art materials yet!

Can you spot Little desperately trying to join in?!

Poppet then stuck all of the 'berries' on, and it really looked like quite an effective wreath. We left it to dry and then I stuck it to her bedroom door. However when Poppet saw it she demanded that I move it to the window so that "Santa can see it". And so it begins!

Poppet: 2 yrs 11 mos
Little 1yr 2mos

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Homemade Christmas Tree Decorations: Walnut Babies & Dried Orange Slices

Our Advent activity calendar yesterday instructed us to make some Christmas tree decorations and I have been wanting to have a go at making walnut babies ever since I first saw them on Red Ted Art.

I split a walnut into two halves by carefully inserting a knife into a weak point and wiggling it around a bit until it opened. We took a half each, and it was a lovely activity for us to do together side by side (as usual we do these kind of crafts while Little is sleeping, poor Little always missing out!). Poppet said she was making a cot for baby Jesus.

We cut some little bits of green ribbon and glued them into the shells, then left them to dry a little bit while we worked on making our babies. We didn't have any wooden beads to use as heads like the instructions specified but instead used cotton wool tightly packed into sheer beige material (leftover from Grandma's wedding outfit!) and tied with thread (we found out how to do that here). We secured a pipe cleaner in the head as well, that would form the body.

I trimmed the pipe cleaner and then wound them round Poppet's finger to curl them into a body shape.

Our babies

We cut tiny scraps of fabric and used one piece to make a little 'pillow' and one to make a little blanket. We glued the pillow into the walnut shell, then glued the baby in and finally covered the blanket in glue and tucked it around. It was quite fiddly so Poppet needed assistance but she was fascinated by it all.

With our babies all tucked up in their walnut cots all that was left was to draw a face on which Poppet was very keen to do. I did mine first while she watched eagerly then passed her the permanent marker.

She did a great job but always wanting to go one better, she decided to give her baby 'eyebrows' as well!

She is so proud of her little walnut baby hanging in the tree! They look so cute.

We also made some very quick and easy orange slice tree decorations. I had already dried some slices of orange, so all we had to do was push a skewer through to make a hole then thread a piece of ribbon through it to tie it up with. 

I love how they look in the tree. Obviously so did Little because she would make a beeline for the orange slices, pull them off the tree and take them away to chew on them. Poppet would retrieve them and hand it back to me complaining that her sister had "wet it". So we have hung them high up now out of Little's reach.

Poppet: 2yrs 10mos
Little: 1yr 2mos

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Our Advent Activity Calendar

Last year the girls were given a beautiful advent calendar handmade by Auntie Titi, the kind where a little pocket is stitched on for each day and you can fill it with whatever you choose. Last year we filled it up with Elizabeth Shaw Mint Crisp Dark Chocolates (this is what I had in our advent calendar when I was young so to me they are the only and best advent calendar chocolates).

This year however the girls were lucky enough to receive not one, not two, but three chocolate calendars as well as a lovely picture one, so we decided to fill up the fabric one with little envelopes suggesting activities we could do together during Advent instead. I had good intentions to do this before the 1st of December but time ran away from me so actually only got round to doing it last night. So we started our Advent activity calendar today, on the 4th December.

I sat and brainstormed 24 activities (three of which we had already done to count for the first three days that we missed!) and here are the activities I came up with:

Make Christmas tree biscuits
Create a stable for our Nativity scene
Make a pomander
Read the Nativity story together
Write a letter to Santa
Make Christmas hot chocolate
Make some Christmas playdough
Decorate the Christmas cake
Make mince pies
Sing carols together
Make a Christmas table centrepiece
Make a paper wreath
Watch a Christmas movie together
Buy and read a new Christmas book
Make snowflakes
Decorate the jars of Christmas Chutney to give as gifts
Buy/make gifts for mummy, daddy etc...
Make a Christmas tree decoration (I included this activity three times)
Go and see a pantomime
Make a wreath for the door (already done)
Decorate the tree (already done)
Make some snow dough (already done, and oh what a disaster!)

I wrote the activities on little pieces of card that I then folded up to form little envelopes; stickers wouldn't hold them closed so I tied them up with little ribbons. I also numbered them on the back so I would know what they were, and the night before I can check the next day's activity and switch them about if I need to.

Today's activity was to make a Christmas Tree decoration, and we made cute little walnut babies for our tree that I will hopefully post about soon, as Poppet loved making them!

Poppet: 2ys 10mos
Little: 1yr 2mos

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Extension Progress

We are currently in the process of extending our house to make an open plan kitchen-diner downstairs, and a third bedroom upstairs - it's going to make a massive difference to our living space and I am so excited to see it come together!

We are very lucky that our project manager/building contractor is none other than Grandad which is great for us because it means the girls get to see their Grandad lots and 'help' out with the building work, but not so great because he gets through a hell of a lot of gingernuts.

Poppet loves keeping an eye on the building developments and knows that "Dandad's making a house for mummy". 

Grandad lives 2.5 hours away so when he is working on our house he stays with us too. He has to fit our extension around other work commitments he has, so he comes here for a bit, then is away for a bit... When he is here he works from morning to night to get things done.

So here are some pictures of what has been done so far :

First came the digger to dig out the foundations. Then Grandad and Daddy had to fill the trenches with wheel barrow after wheel barrow of concrete. In the cold and rain. It looked like very hard work! You know, from where I was watching, through the window, with the heating on and a cup of tea in my hand.

Then two very efficient bricklayers came and completed the foundation brickwork in one day.

Poppet did work site inspections regularly to make sure things were being done right. Grandad tried to explain to her that this would be the new kitchen but she looked dubious.

The girls' love when something gets delivered and watch in fascination as the lorry unloads.

Telling off Grandad
One day Poppet was shocked to discover that Grandad had made a hole above the back door and told him off - "Grandad you made a hole. You shouldn't do that. That's naughty". She was very concerned about his reckless hole-making behaviour and every time we heard loud building work she would gasp "Dandad's making a hole!".

But I think he made up for it later in the day when he put up some walls, however Poppet still wanted more - "Tan you make a roof? With sticks?". She is a very demanding customer!

Grandad delivered the next day with a roof made of sticks. As long as the big bad wolf doesn't come by we should be fine.

Poppet had a go at marking the chipboard
The new kitchen!

Before, during and after

And that is where we are up to just now! Next time Grandad comes he is bringing Uncle Mike as well, so we will need to find out what his favourite biscuit is!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

DIY Wreath

Assorted shrubbery from Grandad

This was my first ever attempt at making a wreath for Christmas and I am so pleased with how well it turned out! It cost me exactly nothing to make; everything was either lying around our house or garden (well most of it was from Nana and Grandad's garden!) and hopefully will make our home look nice and Christmassy when I eventually figure out how to hang it on the front door. 

Grandad arrived bearing gifts of conifer, holly and some shrub with red berries, and he had also knocked up a wreath base using some insulation tubing - I have still to turn this into a wreath but plan to do so shortly as I have loads of greenery still to use.

Our two wreath bases: insulation tubing on left and coat hanger & hanging basket liner on right

Poppet had already seen a picture of a wreath in a Christmas story book we had been reading her and asked "What's that?" so she had a rough idea of what they looked like but she liked seeing one appear before her eyes! I started off by bending a wire coat hanger into a circle with Poppet's help, leaving the hook intact so we could use it to hang the wreath up when it was finished. I had an old hanging basket liner that I tore roughly into three pieces and then wrapped around the coat hanger, securing it on by wrapping twine round it.

Together we then attached bits of conifer all the way round the wreath, just by pushing the end under a bit of the twine. We kept doing this until we had quite a good layer of conifer built up, Poppet was really good at this bit!

I was surprised at how long she was able to concentrate on it, I didn't need to try and keep her interested she just wanted to help.

After the conifer we had a search around the garden to see what other greenery we could turn up, and came back with some rosemary sprigs that we tucked into the wreath as well. Poppet kept coming back with little sprigs of weeds saying 'Here's some thyme!' (a herb she knows well because she has some in her garden) but I managed to avoid having to put any weeds into the wreath!

Wreath in progress

I then started adding pieces of holly and red berries and this is where the swearing started as I kept spiking myself on the holly. Understandably Poppet was from this point onwards reluctant to help attach the greenery and preferred to have a more background role just observing "Watch the spiky bit mum!"

I had sprayed our pine cones gold and scented them with cinnamon oil so Poppet loved taking them out the bag and sniffing them. We tied a few pine cones to the wreath as a finishing touch and declared it "all done!"

Saturday, 30 November 2013


"What's going on?"
For the last week and a bit something strange has been going on at night.

"What's that?!"

We wake in the morning to find our dinosaurs have been up to mischief!

We were a bit late to the party with dinovember but as soon as I heard about it I knew we wanted to join in with the fun!

"It's a happy birthday!"
For those that are in the dark, dinovember was started by a mum and dad who wanted to encourage a sense of wonder and mystery in their children. You can read more about it here. I hope it creates some fun memories for the girls and sparks their imaginations a bit!

"Uh-oh. Dinosaurs made a mess mum"
The first couple of days Poppet was just mildly amused by the dinosaur's antics. But soon she started looking forward to seeing what they had got up to in the night, and gently cautioning them before she went to bed - "don't be naughty".

Me: Is that those naughty dinosaurs again?
Poppet: No, them nice mama
I think her favourite one was when the dinosaurs made fairy cakes! Dada was still telling them off for making a mess with the flour, but Poppet admonished him 'No dada you have to say thank you". And we had fairy cakes for breakfast, which she loved!

Dino Doctors!
Little's reaction was the same every day, she would just growl at them. 

"It's a fruit-stealing dinosaur convoy!" (not Poppet's actual words)

A detail shot

"Look, dinosaurs tidy up!"
"'They dettin married!"

"Mum come see!"
On Friday morning we got up and the dinosaurs were nowhere to be found! Poppet thought maybe they had gone to sleep. But as the sun came up she happened to be looking out the window at the building work and spotted some dinosaurs making an escape attempt!

"What dinosaurs doin?"
I loved how the girls would often elaborate on the dinosaur scene they found each morning and use it as a basis for their play; we had a day of wedding play 'I detting married mum", a day playing with the train set, a day playing with all their toy vehicles (and eating satsumas!), a teaparty that lasted an entire day.... it was lovely to see. Poppet was very keen to help me clean the bathroom after the dinosaurs had messed it up. She even started to try and do it by herself, and seemed almost disappointed in the dinosaurs' behaviour!

The dinosaurs in general have been getting lots of attention since we started; Poppet has been playing with them lots, even feeding them - they have really become her favourite toys of the minute! Which is good timing for us as we got her a beautiful dinosaur dress for Christmas from the amazing Sewing Circus. She will love it even more now!

So now Dinovember has come to an end, and I am a little bit glad because as fun as it was I was running out of dinosaur scenes! I don't know about Poppet's but my creativity and imagination was certainly exercised a bit these last couple of weeks!

Poppet: 2yrs 10mos
Little: 1yr 2mos