Saturday, 17 February 2018

Seven Days of Crafts, Kids and Chaos

This past week has been half-term in Comfy Marmalade land, the advent of which brings opportunities and stresses, chaos and fun.  I approach school holidays - especially those in the winter months - with a equal feelings of trepidation and enthusiasm.  Trying to keep children occupied for a week can be tricksy at the best of times, and the colder, wetter holidays can be particularly challenging.  I'm also finding it increasingly hard to identify activities and days out that will satisfy both a 6-year old boy and an 11-year old girl, and fear that I'm often compromising one in order to keep the other amused.  Having said that, there are still golden moments (and we've had some this week) where the kids get on amazingly well, forgetting their usual head-to-head, bickering-based relationship, and actually have a good time together before normal service is resumed.

Give it a couple of years, once teenager-dom kicks in, and I imagine the Girl won't want to associate with us much (a time I'm dreading, to be honest). And she'll be old enough and responsible enough to spend a couple of hours at home, alone or with friends, while the Boy and I go off adventuring.  Which will mean that I'll only have one child to entertain, and I'm sure that will be an easier task in many ways. But I'll miss her regular company - heck, I'll even miss their bickering - although I accept that it's inevitable and quite right that it should happen, the 'I don’t want to be around you' phase.

This last week has seen a mixture of planned activities, a couple of lovely and impromptu gatherings, and some fun, home-based crafting.  The weather forecast for the week was pretty poor and, for a change, was relatively accurate, save for a significant and unexpected snowfall at the beginning of the week which looked for a while like it might scupper our plans for the Monday.  So during the (long, long) periods of inclement weather, the majority of our entertainment was to be found indoors.

We ventured to the cinema twice - uncommon for us, given that a trip to our local multiplex usually involves a second mortgage to afford the tickets.  This week, however, two things went in our favour - firstly, one of our chosen films was a special 'Kids AM' showing; most larger cinemas now run these mega-cheap, mid-morning showings of family-friendly films that were released around six months previously.  Frankly, some of the films are not worth seeing (and / or wouldn't appeal both kids) but this week's offering was Paddington 2 - a film we were all desperate to see but which Scrooge-y old me refused to pay full price for when it was first released.

Paddington and I are kindred spirits in that we both love a good marmalade sandwich;
as a child I refused to eat pretty much anything else!

The Boy's beloved Paddington toy, one of his favourite of this year's Christmas presents.
Kinda jealous of it, tbh...

It was well worth the wait - a beautiful and enchanting story with some really funny moments, especially for the adults in attendance. And at around £3 per ticket it was excellent value for money.

The second film we saw was The Greatest Showman, which was pretty much slated by the critics but has done great business at the box office.  The kids had seen snippets of the musical numbers online and were hooked, so we took a gamble - and loved it.

The Greatest Showman soundtrack, bought immediately post-screening.
Folks, for the sake of your sanity do not buy this album.
Pretty much every song gets into your brain, to the point where it invades every waking thought...

The Bearded Lady giving it her all - what a voice!
And the corset makers from this film should get an award -
how she didn't spill out of that dress in the musical numbers is beyond me.

Our local cinema has just introduced an 'any film, any time' one-size-fits-all policy of £4.99 a ticket, so we all got in for under £20 which, in this day and age, is nothing short of miraculous.  We saved further pennies by taking our own snacks and drinks with us, and the Girl was mortified that I took a flask of coffee with me… giving her things to be embarrassed about now is good training for when she becomes a teenager I think.

We visited the local pool for a dip with friends mid-week, which was great fun.  The Girl swims like a fish, much faster than I am now or ever was, and I wish she'd take up our offer of trying out for the local swimming club.  She's not a competitive kid by nature and the idea of that type of swimming just doesn't appeal to her which is a shame, as I suspect she'd do quite well.  The Boy is now armband-less, and discovered the joy of swimming with goggles at half term.  I tried persuading him to duck under the water with his goggles on but he was reluctant, until one of his friends managed to convince him and he loved it - the power of peers!  I love seeing the kids splashing about safely and confidently in the water; there's such joy and pleasure to be had in a good swim.

On the Friday - joy!  Lovely sunshine, with a hint of warmth from the sun.  We received a last-minute invitation to join friends on a pebble hunt at a local riverbank, with the intention of painting them, varnishing them and hiding them locally as part of a wider initiative to get kids and families out and about and enjoying the local area and countryside.  You hide your own painted rocks for others to find, and hunt for ones that have already been hidden - a lovely, simple idea to encourage kids to get more exercise and to give them an appreciation of their locality, with the added creative element.  We loved exploring the riverbank for suitable stones; the Boy, to be fair, spent more time whizzing rocks into the water but no matter - we found a sizeable quantity and made our way back, through significant amounts of mud, to our friend's gorgeous home where we painted our pebbles.

Having fun collecting pebbles (and throwing huge ones into the water)

I love the contrast between the grey stones and the vivid green leaf

One of the Boy's fantastic efforts

All of the Boy's work. The third one along is a celebration of Chinese New Year apparently,
which is not bad at all for a 6-year old!

The grown ups (or should that be big kids?) couldn't resist getting in on the act too

Alas, we ran out of time to varnish them, but we had a fantastic, unexpected afternoon of fun with a lovely group of people. Incidentally, my friend's home really is gorgeous - you can check it out here on her blog.

We also managed to fit in some arts and crafts during the week when the weather prevented us from being outward bound.  The Boy and I did some paper craft in the craft room on Valentine's Day - the Boy, it turned out, was channelling the romantic, soppy feel of the day and was keen to create some kind of heart artwork.  We decided on a collage heart using scraps of pages from a magazine. As it turned out he got bored and wandered off after about ten minutes, but his company was nice while it lasted!

My crafty companion for all of ten minutes!

I, on the other hand, completed my artwork, and I'm really pleased with how it turned out.

My Valentine's heart. I'm really pleased with it!

This is so easy to do - honestly, give it a shot and see what you can create.  You need no particular skills and few materials: just a glue stick, a pencil and some paper and card.  And it costs literally pence.

Get yourself a piece of A4 white card, and an old magazine - the ones that work really well are the freebie magazines you get in supermarkets with the slightly glossy, thin pages.  On the card draw a shape that you want to fill - we went for a heart, it being Valentine's Day, but you could do an animal, a house, anything really.

Keep the shape as simple as you can; if you're struggling to draw it, find a template online. Now get your magazine and glue stick. Find a colourful page in the magazine and tear (not cut) a small section of it out.  Decide where in your shape you'd like to put it, glue that bit of the card, and stick the paper down.

I used this freebie Tesco magazine to do my heart

This is what it looks like when you start out.
Don't be tempted to cut the pieces, as the sharp lines won't work as well
as the softer lines you get when the paper is torn

And then just keep going until you've filled your shape...

Nearly there...

If there's a bit that doesn't look quite right, just pop another scrap of paper over it - I didn't like this crocodile, so I just covered it with another bit.

I love this crocodile, but he doesn't look right in this environment... I covered him up with a bit of chocolate ice cream!

If you look closely you can see some honeycomb, some blueberries, flowers, even an egg… but when you put them all together the colours and the shapes just work together and look really effective.

I nearly covered the egg but it made me smile, so it stayed

This is a great craft for kids as it's not too prescriptive or messy - there's not even any scissors involved - and they can really use their imagination and have fun.  I plan to frame my sweet heart, or possibly just pop it on to the craft room wall as it is.  I calculate that this piece of unique, eye-catching artwork cost me no more than 20p in materials. Seriously. 20p.

And I'm currently crocheting some bonding squares, for use on the local neonatal baby unit.  They assist in the bonding process between premature baby and parents, when cuddling isn't always an option.  One square is placed with the baby and the others on the skin of the parents; the squares are then swapped, so that the baby gets the squares with the parents' smell on it and vice versa.  A lovely idea and seemingly successful in practice.  And apparently the squares can assist the mother with breastfeeding as the smell of the baby activates the release of the hormones required to express milk. Isn't nature a wonderful thing?

So far I've made six sets of three squares each.
Just need to weave the ends in and then they can be set off

The squares are relatively small at four inches, and as I'm a pretty quick crocheter I can rustle up a set of three in about forty five minutes.  I plan on making around ten sets of three squares and then getting them over to the local hospital.

These squares are great for using up bits of wool that you have lying around from other projects

For those who crochet, they're as simple as a pattern could be; they're quick, easy, and make a massive difference to those precious little 'uns and their parents. [To anyone who doesn't crochet, skip this bit as it will look like a foreign language to you!]

You'll need a 5mm hook and small amounts of DK wool
To start: Ch 16, turn
Row 1: 1dc in 2nd ch from hook, 1 dc in each st until end (15 st). Ch 1, turn.
Row 2: 1dc in each st (15). Ch1, turn.
Repeat row 2 until you have 18 rows, fasten off and weave in ends.
The End

And so normal service resumes and the kids return to school for another five weeks. I feel relief that we've survived each other's company this past week, and pleasantly surprised that we managed to enjoy most of it!  I'm going to try and be more organised and plan ahead for the Easter break. But, as I've discovered this last week, sometimes the more spontaneous outings and activities are the most fun.

Bye for now xx

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