Monday, 19 November 2018

Review: 'Cardboard Box Creations' from Lonely Planet Kids

I've mentioned a few times before that I suck at kids activities. Coming up with ideas for crafts, projects, outings etc just isn't my strong point. (Actually I've yet to find my parenting strong point but that's another story ...)

One particular thing I really suck at is junk modelling. Partly because I'm eager to get rid of stuff, so boxes, foil trays, bottles and such go in the recycling bin as soon as possible in my futile efforts to make the house tidier. Then I'm not very imaginative about reusing junk, I hate the faff of cutting things out and painting, and when it's done what do you do with your creation? As I just mentioned, I'm fighting a losing battle trying to keep the house tidy without contending with giant cardboard robots, bottle rockets and the like!

So I have to admit, when Girl Child spotted a giveaway for 'Cardboard Box Creations' on Toppsta and insisted I enter it, my heart sank a little. When we won, my heart sank some more. But when it arrived, I was pleasantly surprised.



One thing I wasn't expecting was that the box comes with cardboard sheets with some of the items needed for the projects already printed on and ready to press out. Brilliant, that's a lot of the faff done away with right there! And not all of the projects required loads of extras - in fact, one project, the camera, mostly consists of press-out pieces already provided so your little one can get modelling straight away.



The other thing I really like about this book is that all of the projects are themed around travel - so you can create a London bus, a Japanese tea house, a didgeridoo and even a space rocket! I love that the book brings in a geographical aspect so children can learn about other countries and cultures while they create their models.



The only criticism I have of the book is that some of the projects are very ambitious and require a lot of boxes - one needs four very large boxes. Unless you've just moved house or had a mass upgrade of white goods, it seems unlikely that any average family would have this much cardboard at their disposal. And you'd need plenty of space to store some of the creations afterwards too. But there are several projects requiring smaller boxes so it balances out nicely. I imagine this would be a good resource for a classroom or early years setting, where they might be able to appeal for big boxes to be brought in and may have more space to set the finished models up as play spaces.

Overall, I'm very glad Girl Child persuaded me to enter this giveaway and that we won. She's already made a couple of the smaller projects and is keen to make more so it will be a great way to keep her entertained and help her learn about other parts of the world too.

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.

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Wednesday, 7 November 2018

A Bookish Half Term

Last week was Girl Child's half term (apparently different to most of the country, but hey, Leeds likes to be odd) so it was a good chance to have some family time together. The first eight weeks of term had felt like a long slog so it was nice to have a break and to watch the kids strengthen their bond, their relationship is ever-evolving and I love seeing them enjoy the same things.

It turned out to be a rather bookish week - well, I suppose with me it's always likely to! Even a trip to a nearby town to buy new school shoes wasn't untouched by books as we took the opportunity to visit the town's book shop while we were there. The Grove is a lovely independent bookshop with a great little children's section. Girl Child chose to buy 'Utterly Me, Clarice Bean' by Lauren Child while we dissuaded Toddler from buying all manner of very exciting books that weren't quite in our budget for the day by getting a little Thomas the Tank Engine book. True to form, Girl Child started reading almost immediately. Below is a photo that Toddler took of her when we stopped for lunch.


As you can see she was already halfway through the book before we even got our food! I do love my bookworm!

So that was Monday. On Tuesday we went to RHS Harlow Carr near Harrogate for a Room On The Broom Adventure Trail. We read the book again to Toddler the day before to remind him of it and his excitement when he saw the sign by the car park was so lovely to see! Both children really enjoyed going around the trail and spotting the different characters. I wasn't sure Girl Child would be interested but the little questions or activities that accompanied each character kept her engaged, while Toddler was just thrilled that the book he'd read the day before had come to life around him! He even wanted to read it on the way home.








Sorry for the poor posing skills of my kids by the way. I'll never be one of those Instagram mums ...

Wednesday and Thursday were quieter days but on Friday I decided to venture into Leeds city centre to go to the Nick Sharratt exhibition at the Central Library there. Toddler loves Nick Sharratt's books, we regularly borrow them from the library and he loved 'Toddle Waddle' so much I had to get him his own copy. And Girl Child enjoys the Daisy series and loves to doodle so I thought this would be a winner with both of them. Unfortunately by the time we got into Leeds it didn't leave us a lot of time to look around the exhibition but I was really impressed. There was a little reading corner with copies of lots of Sharratt's work, stands with information about his life and work, a doodling wall, light boxes for tracing his drawings and an interactive 'make you own Shaarratt character' game. Toddler stayed around the reading corner mostly while Girl Child really enjoyed the light boxes, doodling wall and the stand that played a silly song about pants!!








We all enjoyed our bookish half term. While reading itself is such a fun thing to do it was interesting to see how the children responded to seeing books come alive in different ways. I'm definitely going to look out for more bookish events in future!


Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and Kids Love To Read hosted by Laura's Lovely Blog and The Inspiration Edit.

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Saturday, 3 November 2018

Things We've Done To Be Greener In ... October

Autumn is well and truly upon us now and with it the chilly weather. I always feel guilty at this time of year because, while lots of people are talking about not switching their heating on yet, I'm always keen to get it going at the first sign of cold! I do layer up as much as I can but I still don't feel warm. So I've been assuaging my guilt by finding other ways to be eco-friendly.



Used washable training pants


Yep, it's got that stage - Toddler has decided he wants to potty train. I was hoping to get Christmas over first but he had other ideas. (And this is part of the reason our heating has been on a lot - he's most reliable when not wearing pants so I don't want him getting a chilly bottom while he figures pants out!) We are trying our best to use regular pants, but we have a stash of washable training pants for naptimes and going out - as he still does most journeys in the carrier, I don't want to risk a soggy back. We have a slightly eclectic mix of training pants: a Bumgenius Flip, a couple of Mothercare padded pants, two Bright Bots, a Tots Bots and a random WAHM-made one. But of those only the Tots Bots and the Flip really hold any more than a trickle so I picked up a couple of pairs of Close Parent night time pants (which wouldn't actually do overnight for him yet but work well for naptime) and a pair of Motherease Big Kid pants. These were bought second hand too, but in great condition. I have to admit we have been working our way through our existing stash of disposable pull ups as well but I'm trying to go with the washables as much as possible now. It's going to be a long transition as pants still baffle him, but I have noticed that I'm doing less washing now so that's an added eco bonus.


Started Ecobricking


You might have seen the Facebook post that went viral about Ecobricks - basically the idea is that you take a plastic bottle and cram it full of non-recyclable plastic wrappers, packaging etc. If you're interested you can find out more through Google or on various Facebook pages and groups. I started very keenly with this but then realised the amount of work involved - you have to wash and thoroughly dry every piece of plastic and cut it up really small so you can cram in as much as possible to get to the right weight. I honestly don't know when I'll find the time. I'm also a little skeptical about the project as presumably these Ecobricks will eventually need disposing of and what happens then? It's made me quite frustated that consumers are going to these lengths when it should be businesses finding ways to reduce the amount of plastic they use for their products. Still, I'll persevere for at least one bottle. It has also made me realise that my main plastic generators in my household are confectionary, crisps and dishwasher tablets so I'm trying to think of ways of buying more wisely or replacing my junk food treats with something a bit better for me and the planet! So even if it's not the answer to our plastic woes, Ecobricking has made me more conscious of my habits. Have you tried making an Ecobrick? What do you think about it?


I may not have done loads this month but I think adding a couple of things to my routine each month is more manageable than trying lots all at once. What have you done to be greener this month? I'd love some inspiration!

Friday, 19 October 2018

My Adventures in 'No-Poo-Land'

I've mentioned before that I've been trying to find an alternative to shampoo. The common term for this is 'no poo' hence the title of this blog post (in case people thought it was about actual poo!)

So how did this come about? And why would I even attempt it??

I reckon most no-poo-ers would dream of washing their hair like this. Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash

Well, with the increasing public consciousness around plastic waste I was looking for a plastic-free way of washing my hair. I saw a review of a shampoo bar on the Wood For The Trees blog and thought, "great, shampoo that isn't in a plastic bottle!" So I ordered a few bars.

Well, unfortunately, shampoo bars don't work for me. From my research before buying, it seemed like the main issue was transition from regular shampoo causing build up and overproduction of oils, but as I'd been using SLS-free shampoo for a few years I figured that wouldn't be an issue. So when, after a couple of weeks of trying the shampoo bar, my hair looked lank and greasy, and actually got worse after each wash, I knew something was up.

In the advice slip I got with the bars it recommended a clarifying wash with bicarbonate of soda (BS). I gave it a go and wow, my hair looked better than it had done in weeks! After a couple more attempts at getting the shampoo bar to work I gave up and switched to using BS instead. It sounds bonkers but honestly, I was amazed at how the BS solution magically transformed the oil in my hair into what felt like soap and got rid of it!

It worked great to start with but then I noticed my hair getting a waxy residue. It was then I thought I'd actually read some guidance on 'no poo' and discovered I needed to rinse my hair with something acidic after washing with BS to rebalance the pH. Cider vinegar seemed the most popular option so I went for that and soon my hair was happy again.

Well, sort of. It did leave my hair beautifully clean, soft and shiny but my scalp wasn't as happy. It started getting itchy. Also, because BS is a strong cleanser you're supposed to leave it at least four days between washes, preferably longer. As I'd previously been an every-two-days kinda gal this was a challenge. I was assured the longer I stuck with it, the longer my hair could go between washes but after many months I still looked a mess by day 4. I hated having to keep my hair tied back most of the time. I read that using a boar bristle brush before bed would help redistribute the sebum so it would soak into the hair shaft but my hair is not very porous so would just look worse after brushing.

I experimented with different solutions to the problem. One recommendation was to do an 'acid rinse' in between washes, so using the cider vinegar solution or something else acidic a couple of days after a full wash. That just made my hair even more oily. I had a go with using soap nuts but it was such a faff. I had to boil the nuts for half an hour, constantly watching the pan because boy do those things foam up, cool the liquid left overnight then pour it evenly over my hair. It stank, it was actually really hard to pour evenly so I ended up with some clean patches and some not so clean patches, and I was terrified of getting it in my eyes as apparently that is very painful!

There are other options but they were all either expensive, too faffy or still required something that came in plastic. I'd joined a couple of no poo Facebook groups and, far from encouraging me in my quest, I started to realise I'd strayed into territory I really didn't belong in. Some of the women on the groups were so hardcore I just couldn't see myself ever being that way. One person had been trying water-only washing for months but still had greasy hair - while other members encouraged her to hang in there I just wanted to tell her to give up and get some shampoo!! (I didn't.) Ultimately, my desire for regularly clean hair and comfort trumped my eco-credentials.

And then salvation came . My local zero waste shop started selling SLS-free shampoo! So I could reduce my plastic use but still use a liquid shampoo. I gave it a try and it worked great - more than that, I loved no longer having to mix up BS solution and stand around with it in my hair for 3 minutes! Shampoo is so much easier! I still use dilute cider vinegar to condition my hair though, as one positive take-home from all this is that cider vinegar is awesome for giving you soft, shiny hair. Honestly. Just try not to get it in your eyes.

So there we go. My adventures in No-Poo-Land may not have been much of a success but at least I eventually found a way of washing that didn't cost the earth, uses less plastic and actually made me feel clean and happy!

Have you managed to ditch shampoo? What did you find that was successful in keeping your hair clean and lovely?

Monday, 15 October 2018

Review: 'Create Your Own Alien Adventure' by Andrew Judge and Chris Judge

It's been a while since I've written about the books Girl Child is reading. This is partly because she reads to herself all the time now (sob) and often so quickly that she will have read a new book a dozen times over and made it too dog-eared for photographs before I've had chance to photograph it. Also, the books she tends to read are ... not really much to write about. I try my best not to be a children's book snob but, good grief, when will the Rainbow Magic phase end??!

But just recently I gave her a book that, not only did I manage to photograph before she destroyed it, but also inspired me to write about it. That book is 'Create Your Own Alien Adventure' by Andrew Judge and Chris Judge.


This isn't the kind of book Girl Child would normally pick herself but it came as part of a book bundle I bought over a year ago. I put most of the books to one side so I had a handy piles of surprise books if ever she needed something new to cheer her up (or keep her quiet!). I held onto this one for a while wondering if the alien theme would put her off or scare her as she's very sensitive, but when I did give it to her this summer she loved it!

The idea behind the book is brilliant - readers are actively encouraged to contribute to the story by drawing parts of the illustrations. As an avid doodler (who has been known to colour in the illustrations of her books *flinch*) Girl Child loved this aspect of the book - although she stopped short at the instruction to fold and even rip pages. Perhaps that was just a little too far down the book destruction road for her.



She also enjoyed reading the actual story, which she did over and over even without doing the drawing part. When an alien appears in the window of Halftone School in Doodletown, Daisy Doodle sets off in pursuit of it - and eventually befriends B'ob the alien, helps him repair his spaceship and flies back with him to Planet Greyscale, where the tyrannical leader has banned all colour. It's a really exciting story with plenty of twists, written in simple but lively language. There are also options to pursue different plotlines much like the 'make your own adventure' books that were popular years ago. I love that a girl is the main hero of the story, being brave enough to set off after an alien, fly into outer space and take on an intergalactic tyrant!



I really loved the idea behind this book and I think it would be a great gift for a child who has a strong creative flair. It could easily keep them entertained for hours - and even suggests going back and colouring all the illustrations in at the end! I imagine it would come in very handy on a long trip, or any time there's some waiting around to do. The only drawback is that obviously it can't really be passed on once completed, although to be fair most of our books are so well-read we don't get to pass them on anyway.

Have you come across any other books like this? I'd love to hear about them if you have!

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and Kids Love To Read #KLTR hosted by Laura's Lovely Blog and The Inspiration Edit.

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Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Things We've Done To Be Greener In ... September

Time for another post in my monthly green living series. But not quite like the previous ones.



You see, last month I felt like I hit a bit of a brick wall. My attempts at switching to soap nuts for laundry failed dismally - clothes were coming out still stained and the nappies had a dodgy smell about them. So in the interests of saving water by not having to wash everything twice, I gave up on soap nuts altogether. I also gave up on finding an alternative to shampoo (yes, I will post more about this, I promise). And generally, the rocky start to the school year meant I just didn't have time to examine my day to day existence and work out how to be more eco friendly.

But here's the thing. We're still doing a lot of the things I've mentioned in previous posts - using paper bags and Tupperwares at the supermarket, buying as much as we can from our fab local zero waste shop, using more eco-friendly cleaning products and so on. And actually, we were doing a fair bit before that. Even before I started this blog series we:
  • Got most of our milk delivered in glass bottles
  • Recycled as much as we could
  • Used cloth nappies
  • Walked the school run and as many short distances as possible
  • Composted our fruit and veg leftovers
  • Very rarely bought bottled drinks or takeaway hot drinks

And probably much more. So finding new eco friendly things to do every month was always going to be tricky!

That said I am determined to keep going with my efforts, so if you have any suggestions about what I can do next let me know!

Monday, 1 October 2018

Review: 'Froggy Day' by Heather Pindar and Barbara Bakos

We're a bit fixed on frogs in our house at the moment. Toddler used to say 'bob' instead of 'frog' which I think we can all agree is adorable so we'd find any excuse to get him to say it! Sadly he's now moved onto 'bog' but does sometimes accompany it with an enthusiastic 'ribbip!' and an inept but cute attempt to frog-leap, so we still like to point out frogs to him.

As you can imagine, I was pretty excited when Maverick Children's Books sent us a copy of their new picture book 'Froggy Day' to review! As you can imagine this book features A LOT of frogs!


One day the weather presenter on TV gives a very unusual forecast - it's going to be a froggy day! Before long, everywhere is teeming with frogs; the supermarket, the school, the building site and more. Chaos descends but the children love it!


This book is an absolute joy to read aloud. It's silly, it's funny, and it's packed with brilliant onomatopoeias to get little ones giggling!


There's lots of word play too, which I personally really enjoy and can also be appreciated by preschoolers and young school age children who are just starting to understand puns. My six year old, who pretends to be too old for picture books, said it was really funny and, "the best picture book ever!"


I love the bright, bold illustrations. I first came across Barbara Bakos's work in the fantastic 'Rooster Wore Skinny Jeans' and there are echoes of that book on one spread set in a farm which made me smile. I really love her quirky, humorous style and I think there is a lot of fun to be had trying to count all the frogs and spot what they're getting up to in each picture.

This is a really fun and quirky book, great for sharing with toddlers and preschoolers and making them giggle, and a must for any little frog lover!

DISCLAIMER: I was provided with this book for the purposes of this review but all words and opinions are my own.

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.

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