Thursday, 27 February 2014

One small change for February

Instead of New Year's resolutions this year, I have adopted a "One Small Change" per month approach. For February, my small change is tied in with the online Jantastic running challenge I signed up for. The Jantastic personal target for this month was for the number of runs per week and the distance of the longest run. I kept my number of runs a realistic 3 per week but decided to really push myself with the distance target. My one small change for February was to literally "Go the Extra Mile"

I regularly run 3 miles so I decided to set my first week's target at 4 miles. I added half a mile onto this each week, culminating in a respectable 6 miles. On Monday night, I completed the distance challenge.

I have absolutely loved running the longer routes although it has been hard to find the time, the energy (and the babysitters) to enable me to get out and do them. I did most of my runs with my husband, discovering some lovely (slightly soggy) countryside near to our home which was wonderful.

I am hoping that by covering longer distances, my regular 3 mile runs will start to feel easier and I might start to make some improvement in my speed. I have next month's Jantastic challenge to find out if that is the case.

"Going the Extra Mile" - the dream v the reality!

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Cool Create Daisy Chains

I do enjoy craft projects and always like having a go at craft kits with the children. At nearly six years old, Addy is now quite capable of reading instructions herself and taking much more of a leading role in working out what's what.

Recently, we tried our hand at making 'Daisy Chains' from a Cool Create set we were sent to review.

The set contains a daisy design storage box for all the little components of the daisies. The lid of the box doubles up as the flower making unit.

It is quite possible to thread the flower parts onto the plastic stems without using the unit at all, but the technique of building the flowers on the unit, adding the stems and pushing the flower up the stem with a pretty little flower picker (which can also be converted into a hair clip) does make the process more interesting.

Once we had assembled a flower on each of the petals of the flower making unit, we were able to 'pick' them as if we were picking real daisies. The system used to link the individual flowers is exactly the same as real daisy chains except for the fact that the spilt on the stem is preformed and it is much less fiddly! The flower making unit is also used for linking the flowers.

There are clips included to turn the chains into jewellery but the chains are a bit flimsy and my daughter was perfectly content simply making longer and longer chains.

My son, never one to miss a chance to to explore the more feminine side of his personality, made daisy chains too. He abandoned it in favour of making 'flower towers' that involved threading all the decorative beads provided onto the flower stems and shouting "FLOWER TOWERS" at the top of his voice. It may not have been the intent of the manufacturer but it is all good for the development of hand eye co-ordination and enabled him to be creative (and loud!) in his own way.

The craft session was all over fairly quickly but for me, the longing for summer days spent lying in the grass and making real daisy chains, will last much longer!

Cool Create website coming soon

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Joy of Cardboard Boxes #zackandquack

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to be one of the bloggers chosen to host a 'Zack & Quack Craft Party' to coincide with the launch of a brand new kids show on Nick Jr. The Craft Parties were just part of Twitter Extravaganza where everyone was invited to join in and tweet with the #ZackandQuack hashtag.

I received a big box of craft materials and some exciting goody bags for our guests to take home with them.

I love an excuse for a bit of a get-together with other mums and my two little ones were very excited at the thought of having friends over to our house. We sent out our invitations.

For me, a party of any kind is a reason to do some baking. I baked. I also tried my hand at making origami frogs from instructions provided in the party box. It was tricky but I persevered and they made cute little cake labels.

Before the guests arrived, I set up work stations for various craft activities and organised the seating in my living room so everyone could be comfortable for watching the premiere of Zack & Quack. For all the preparation work and during the party, I was tweeting about the event.
The guests began to arrive and excitement levels rose. Before long, everyone was involved in sticking, cutting and generally getting creative. It was lovely to see. We had a couple of exploding glue incidents and glitter glue spread so thickly it would most likely take a month to dry but the children were thoroughly engaged with their tasks.

When the time came for the start of the Zack & Quack show, we got the children seated. There was a welcome change in the noise levels of the party as six pairs of eyes were all transfixed by the images on the screen. A wonderful calm descended as Zack and his duck best friend Quack worked their magic on the spellbound viewers. For me, it was time for a much needed cup of coffee before the final part of the party.

The children were unanimous in their opinion that Zack & Quack was GREAT!!

Our final activity was crafting on a grand scale. The children, hopefully inspired by the show, were invited to use their imaginations to build whatever they wanted as a team from materials provided.

Three of our little guests decided that all they needed to do was jump in a box and exclaim gleefully We made a boat!.

The project became more ambitious when one of our mums let loose her own creativity. The kids loved helping with the transformation and playing with their own cardboard vehicle. The following day, the 'box train' was still the source of much amusement for my children and our visitors (including some old enough to know better!!)

I had some lovely feedback from the party including - Best party ever and the best party bag! 

Watch Zack & Quack Fridays at 4.30pm on Nick Jr.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Craft Party Treasure Box

My eldest daughter has two Godchildren, a boy and a girl of similar ages to my two little ones. My children love it when they come to our house.

We invited them over to try out a new review product that I had been sent, Treasure Box Party. 

Treasure Box Party provides everything you need to make six decorated treasure boxes with bead bracelets to go in then. I think it is a fantastic idea for children's parties - a bit different from the usual Pass the Parcel and Pin the Tail on the Donkey!

We covered the table with protective paper and let our four little testers get on with it.

The kit contained sheets of self adhesive jewels that all the crafters loved and stuck to their heart shaped treasure boxes with abandon! They looked wonderful. I did find a few stuck to my polished floorboards later when it was time to clear up but they came off fairly easily!

There were also six little pots of pink and purple paint and enough brushes for one each. The instruction sheet shows delicately painted flowers, hearts, stars and moons. Our crafters were more inclined to dollop it on thick and created swirly marbling. It maybe lacked the finesse of the illustrated examples but I thought they looked glorious. We did have a little problem with the children being too impatient to wait for the paint to dry (and it took some drying time with how liberally it had been applied!) but nothing too serious.

The set is aimed at the 5-8 age group. Two of our testers fitted into this range (albeit the lower end) with two being younger. The younger two only required minimal supervision and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. However, their ages did work against us for the second part of the craft project - making the bracelets. Colourful beads and charms were provided along with a length of stretch cord. I am sure that slightly older children would enjoy threading the beads to create their own designs but it was too fiddly for our group. I have put them away for another day.

I was impressed with the quality of the craft materials and the children were all delighted with their creations.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Palace Pets

Like a lot of people, I am a big kid when it comes to Disney. I love the romance and the heroism and best of all... the villains. I don't think any evil villain ever comes close to the wondrous evil that is Sleeping Beauty's Maleficent (and I have a big soft spot for The Little Mermaid's Ursula). Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to review a toy that bore the Disney logo - Palace Pets.

When I opened the box expecting the magic of disney to come pouring out, I was sadly disappointed. All the things I love about Disney were obvious only by their absence. To me, the Palace Pets were trying too hard to be adorable - aspartame sweet and a bit tacky. Of course my five year old daughter absolutely LOVED them! More surprisingly, my three year old son hasn't stopped wanting to play with them since the moment he saw them.

We were sent the Palace Pets Pamper and Beauty Salon which is very ornate and has plenty of little shelves and places to store the pamper accessories.

My son spent ages making it neat and tidy (he'll make someone a great husband one day!) I have to admit that the golden bathtub looks very inviting - I would love a scaled up version for my own pamper time. I like the fact that the Salon has two open out portions to make more room to play but folds back neatly for putting away.

The set comes with an exclusive pet, Rapunzel's kitty Summer, that has a cold water colour change feature.

There are three different categories of Palace Pet to collect: Furry Tail Friends, Primp and Pamper Ponies and Talking and Singing Pets. We were sent one of each.

My daughter loved their removable tiaras and enjoyed swapping them around. As the name implies, the Furry Tail Friends have impressively fluffy tails - very tactile and brushable. The ponies have long hair tails perfect for grooming and decorating with the clips provided.  My favourite was the Talking & Singing Pet. Larger than the other collectibles, this pet delivers cheesy one liners about friendship and meows a catchy tune. It took no time for my son to learn and repeat the phrases. I just love hearing his gruff little boy voice with a girlie lilt saying Let's collect things together! As well as the furry tail, this pet has real eye lashes framing her impossibly huge 'please love me' eyes.

This is not the sort of toy I would normally buy for my kids (unless possibly a new range of Evil Villain Pets was launched) but I cannot deny how much they have loved playing with it. It must be that Disney magic after all!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Doc McStuffins Mini Clinic Playset

We have been lucky enough to receive lots of lovely toys for review over the past month. On top of the toys the children were given for Christmas, I have had to get creative with storage to find homes for everything. There was no problem finding a home for the latest review product we were sent - a  Doc McStuffins Mini Clinic. We were also sent a separate collectible character.

As the name suggests, once removed from the packaging, the Mini Clinic takes up very little space. It may be small but it is beautifully detailed and brimming with play value. Both my children are big fans of the TV show and couldn't wait to start playing.

The set contains a doctors bag that opens up to give an idea of the clinic because of a printed backdrop on the interior. Inside is a lift out bed for patients, doctor's tools, two casts and instantly recognisable to my Doc McStuffins fans, Lambie, the Big Book of Boo Boos and the toy practitioner herself, Doc.  The pieces have the pink sparkly touches just like on the TV show.

My children jumped straight in with the imaginary play and soon brought some other toys into the clinic for a checkup and diagnosis. They have already started their wishlist for adding to the collection of characters.

Compact toys like this are great for travelling or for popping in your handbag when you think a distraction might be necessary. The down side, of course, is the tendency for the little pieces to become mislaid. Ever the optimist, I am hoping that it will teach my children a valuable lesson in caring for their belongings (as well as possibly sewing the early seeds for a future career in medicine!)

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Zack & Quack Twitter Party

There is a brand new show coming to Nick Jr.

The show is called Zack & Quack.

Zack and his duck best friend Quack are characters in a pop up cardboard world. Their adventures feature a strong craft element which will hopefully inspire viewers to have a go at their own craft projects.

In conjunction with the Nick Jr UK premiere of Zack & Quack, a Twitter Party Extravaganza is taking place between 3.45 and 5.45pm this Friday the 7th February. Everyone is invited to join the party and tweet with the hashtag #zackandquack. There will be the chance to win some fantastic prizes as well as share your thoughts on the new show.

I have been chosen as a party host. I will be inviting friends to watch the premiere at my house and enjoy a range of craft activities. Of course, I will be tweeting about how we get on!

Join in the fun. Tune into Nick Jr at 4.30pm and log into twitter. Don't forget to use the all important hashtag #zackandquack

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