The Hamma Bead Solution.

As you may well know, I’m a big Hamma Bead fan. They keep my eldest daughter occupied for hours which can only be excellent. The only problem with Hamma Beads is that if you have a very prolific Hamma Beader in your family then storage becomes a problem. So thanks to some lovely ladies on Twitter I was inspired to create what’s known in the wider world as a Hamma Bead Wall. Sounds glorious doesn’t it? Well it is glorious because it stops them being chucked into a toy box and being broken into hundreds of pieces. It also gives said prolific child a chance to enjoy the work of their hands every single day.

So without further ado, here is Maisie’s Hamma Bead Wall of Joy! (I added “of joy” to make it sound a bit more fabulous. Hope you don’t mind.)

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Just to put it in context, we have a lot of work to do…
And er… Please ignore the woodchip. Thank you.

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A Rather Exuberant Review of The Hama Beads Group Suitcase.

I like to think of Hama Beads as a gift from God. For me and my family, they are literally like Hama from heaven (quite pleased with that). Apart from Lego and Play Dough (Dough Dough), they are the only toy we have that all the kids like playing with together. If I’m totally honest, Izzy seems to prefer throwing them around, but sometimes when she’s not feeling destructive, she almost gets it. I give it three months and she’ll be sitting with her bro and big sis, making equally impressive creations. Another wonderful thing about Hama Beads is that the whole process of making the little mosaics is fantastically therapeutic. Forget the kids, parents, if you’re feeling stressed, get the ol’ Hama Beads out, turn on the radio and make away. You’ll find yourself in a much better place after creating a day-glo dolphin or a psychedelic princess.

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For those of you who don’t know, Hama Beads are tiny beads that you place on a frame to create a sort of mosaic. Once your child has made a mosaic they like, a grown up covers it with some special paper and irons over it so that the little plastic beads all stick together. I discovered them by accident a few weeks ago during a play date. The mummy host (Hi Kinnary!) wheeled out her Hama beads and all of the kids were instantly entranced. After that, I decided we needed them in our lives and went on the hunt to get some.

We ended up getting the Hama Beads Group Suitcase from Argos which costs £39.99. It has loads of beads and plenty of templates to use, but prices do start from as little as £7.99 for the Little Princess set which also makes them brilliant stocking fillers or gifts for kids birthday parties. It looks like Argos have loads of deals on these at the moment but I’m not sure how long they’ll last for.

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What I don’t understand is, how did I not know about Hama Beads before?? Everyone else seems to have them and love them, but they’ve completely passed us by until now so we have a lot of making up to do. Here are some of our beautiful creations…

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We recently had our cousins over and after the initial excitement of running about and giving Maisie and the baby an extraordinary makeover, they noticed the Hama beads and immediately wanted to play with them. What ensued was an hour of peace and companionable quiet.

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Hama Beads are a bit like Lego, kids are happy to play with them for hours without squabbling or more importantly parental guidance. If you’re after some inspiration for Christams gifts then do consider these as an alternative to all the robots and crazy electronics that are about this year. If however, you’re feeling the need for some electronic craziness then check out Argos’s Dream Toys 2013 list which has loads of inspiration.

Autumn Craft Fest!

Autumn in Cambridge is gorgeous and this autumn is even better than normal because it’s so lovely and warm! This past Tuesday we had a bit of a treat with the teachers strike which meant a random home day with all the kiddies. Now, before you start to think I’m one of those mothers who’s brilliant at being earthy and coming up with wonderful creative stuff, I need to tell you 2 important things.
1) This so called “treat” day started terribly. By 11am, everyone had been on the naughty step at least once and the dominant emotion in the house was rage.
2) All of these crafts were thought of by other people. There is nothing original in what I’m about to share.

Ok, so now that’s all out there, I can get on with sharing what we got up to. I have to say we had lots of fun and it’ll be a day I remember forever (in a good way!) Before we left the house I had a look on Pinterest and found some cool crafts that we could get stuck into but to do them we needed supplies, conkers, acorn hats and lots of autumnal leaves.

20131005-204426.jpgSo, at 11am, when everyone was on the verge of total meltdown, I finally hauled us all into our big box-bike and headed off for the Botanical Gardens in Cambridge. As soon as they were outside in the fresh air and cruising around in the bike, they stopped fighting and started chatting and giggling and plotting our adventures.

On arrival we decided to collect our supplies as secret agents which involved a lot of rather embarrassing (for me, the adult…) hiding behind bushes and whispering loudly, to be careful.20131006-202332.jpg We found lots of cool looking leaves, twigs, pine needles and acorn hats but no conkers, so we packed up our goodies, had some lunch and a play and set off on the hunt for conkers.

We eventually found an amazing hoard on a local road and filled up the bike with some beautiful conkers.

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When we eventually got home and put Izzy down for a nap, the crafts finally began.

 

1) Leaf Creatures
image These are really easy, all you need is some good flattish leaves, card to stick them to (we used an old cut-up cornflake box and a regular card board box as the colours were quite autumnal), PVA glue, poster paints or felt tip pens and paint brushes (although you can use your fingers too!) All you do is stick the leaves onto the card and add the features to your little creatures. Here are the kids efforts…
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Sam made the leaf monster of many faces (left) and the leaf creatures on the right and Maisie made the top creative masterpiece!

 

 

 

Conker Bombs

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These are brilliant and again, really simple. all you do is cut some strips of coloured tissue paper and glue the very top of the strips to each other like this;

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Then make a hole in a conker (I used a BBQ skewer) fill the hole with glue and poke the tissue paper into the holes. Wait about half an hour for them to dry and then you can have competitions to see who can throw them the furthest. They’re pretty satisfying to throw and go pretty far!
 

Acorn Hat Jewels
image These were the least successful of our efforts but still pretty fun. What you’re supposed to do is use a felt tip pen to colour the inside of the hat and then put a little bit of PVA glue in the hat and leave it to dry overnight. I did eventually read the instructions but think I used too much felt-tip colour in the hat. Just use a little colour and it will bleed prettily into the glue. What I did before reading the instructions was mix some poster paint with some glue and add glitter. Still looks quite pretty though.
You can see all the original inspirations and get some more ideas by going to my Pinterest board.

How to make an easy R2D2 Cake.

I want to start off by saying that I am NOT a baking queen. Cooking generally horrifies me, but now and again I fancy a challenge and when Sam mentioned he wanted a Star Wars themed birthday cake, I decided to trawl Pinterest to get some ideas. Initially I was horrified, most of the cakes on Pinterest aren’t even flat! They’re properly 3D, standing up replicas of the little chap – I kid you not. Thankfully though there were some flat ones that looked pretty good, so I looked up some actual images of R2D2 and came up with my own version.

So, I bundled the kids in the car, nipped off to Sainsbury’s and bought the ingredients. Here’s what I bought;

2 Packs of Sainsbury’s basic sponge mix
A pack of Sainsbury’s soft white ready to roll icing
A pack of Dr Oetker colour pack of rolled icing
A pack of icing pens

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To make the body of the cake, I used a round tin and a rectangular tin, one pack of mix in each. When they had cooked and cooled, I cut the top of the rectangle off (the cut off bit will become an arm) and cut the top off the circle. I then stuck the top of the circle onto the top of the cake with some icing sugar mixed with water.

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I then used the cut-off piece of cake as a template for R2D2’s other arm and stuck both the arms to the main body of cake with icing sugar. Once the arms were stuck on I just cut out the feet from the remainder of the circle cake. At this point when you have the true shape of the cake you can roll out the blue and white icing and cut out the blue shapes (I just did it freestyle with a sharpe knife) It’s important to sprinkle some icing sugar on the table so that the rolled icing doesn’t stick. I also used a long flat metal thing (what’s it called?!) to help unstick it from the table.

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After that it was time to lift the rolled white icing off the table, onto the cake and gently press down all around, cutting off the excess icing.

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Once I was satisfied that it looked alright I just stuck on all my cut out bits with some icing and added a few details with the icing pen.

Ta Dah!

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A Good Friday Kid Craft (Probably not ideal for Atheists!)

I fancied doing an Easter craft with the kids that was actually relevant to the real Easter story and not related to eggs or bunnies, so, at 3.30am, whilst feeing Izzy, I came up with a mini Garden of Gethsemene largely inspired by similar Sunday school crafts I did as a child.

What you need

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A toilet roll tube (one is enough for 4 children)
Sticky tape
One container per child
Paper to make Jesus
A pen to draw Jesus
Mud
Cuttings
Stones

What to do

Firstly cut the toilet roll tube in half length ways and then cut in half again width ways to make a little semi-circle tunnel (this will become the tomb).
Then cut out a bit of white paper approximately 1 inch by 2 inches and draw on a Jesus in a shroud in the middle of the paper in landscape position. After that, bring the ends together and stick with Sellotape.

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Then the real fun starts! Fill your tubs with mud and pat down. Place your half a toilet roll in the mud, put Jesus inside and then cover the tomb with mud and stones, placing a large stone over the entrance to the tomb.

Get your twigs and stick them in the mud as trees.
Et Voila! A tiny garden of Gethsemane.

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On Easter morning the kids will find the stone gone, the tomb empty and an Angel in the garden. After that we’ll do an Easter egg hunt and gorge on chocolate.