Following on from my homemade Advent calendar earlier this week, I wanted to share our list of Advent activities for December. We don’t have a chocolate or gift calendar, instead each day has its own special activity or treat. I try to tie these in with the things we have fixed in the diary already (such as the school nativity play, or the trip to the pantomime), and then I find other activities to suit each day, depending on what else we have planned. Some involve being out and about, others are quiet things that the kids can do at home after a busy day at school. It’s also a bit of an organic list – I’m often to be found late the night before (or bleary-eyed first thing in the morning), hurriedly trying to swap that day’s activity because I’m missing a vital ingredient or the weather outside is too atrocious to attempt to venture out.
The twins know the drill now and they are always excited to find out what the calendar holds in store for that day. I don’t know how many more years they’ll be oblivious to the existence of chocolate calendars, but luckily we’ve managed to dodge the pester-power so far, and I hope the tradition we’re building will mean our alternative option is cherished.
Thanks for all the love for my DIY copper advent calendar I shared earlier this week, but do you know what it’s lacking? Some colour! So to balance that out I’ve got ten of my favourite DIY advent calendar tutorials from across the web that are bursting with bright colour and fun..
Next weekend is the first Sunday in Advent, and there’s still time to make your own Advent calendar. We always have a handmade calendar, and rather than fill it full of gifts, we opt for a different Christmas activity each day. I’ll share our Advent activity list later in the week, but first I’m going to share how to make a simple advent calendar out of copper pipe – perfect to tie in with the copper trend that’s still going strong. Materials:
15mm copper pipe (I used 24inches in total)
15mm pipe cutter
Wooden rod (this is actually borrowed from the twins’ art easel)
White metallic marker pen
Paper and scissors Directions:
1. Cut the pipe into 24 1-inch pieces
2. Tie a length of string to each piece of pipe. I threaded the string through the pipe, and tied it off above, so that each piece would hang level.
3. Lay the wooden rod on a flat surface and arrange the pipe pieces below until you’re happy with the arrangement. Tie the end of the silver string on each piece to the rod, but don’t trim off the ends in case you want to adjust the heights when you hang the calendar.
4. Using a white metallic marker, write the numbers 1 to 24 on the pipe pieces.
5. Cut 24 pieces of paper, approximately 7cmx7cm and write a day’s activity on each piece, then roll them up tightly, and push through the corresponding piece of pipe.
6. Tie a length of twine or string at each end of the wooden rod and then hang from a nail, straightening the pieces of pipe as required (I threaded a few offcuts of pipe onto the hanging string for some added decoration).
Later this week I’ll share my Advent activity ideas, as well as my favourite DIY Advent calendars for kids and adults from across the web so do pop back for more Advent inspiration. Christmas is coming up fast and I’m determined to enjoy the build-up this year plus share lots of ideas on Growing Spaces leading up to the big day.
This week Ez wrote her first book. It was her own idea, and I had minimal involvement, apart from as a sounding board for her to run each stage of the story past me before she settled down to write and illustrate it in her own words, and to enunciate words for her when she asked. To see her confidence grow as she laboured on it, and her all-encompassing pride when she’d finished it was something incredibly special, and I wanted to cement that memory here with her book in photographs. She wrote Maws Rocit (it started out as Maws Roct, but she changed her mind about the spelling of ‘rocket’ at the end and went back through the whole book to correct herself) last weekend and has since requested it for her bedroom story each night (she marks the chapters with a bookmark) and has been found reading it to the cat one evening.
Maws Rocit (Mouse Rocket) chapt wun1 The maws wontid toogoo toothe moon
(Chapter One 1. The mouse wanted to go to the moon) the maws billdte rocit awt ovchees
(The mouse built a rocket out of cheese) the maws set ofon the rocit toothe moon
(The mouse set off on the rocket to the moon) chapt too2 wenthe rocit land onthe moon it brookc (Chapter Two 2. When the rocket landed on the moon it broke) the maws coold Hr frendson hrfoon
mawsusckt Hr frens too buillda rocit awtovmetllandflI toothe moon (The mouse called her friends on her phone. Mouse asked her friends to build a rocket out of metal and fly to the moon) chapt three3 soothey did (So they did) the maws ckimd intoo the rocitan dittoock offfrHoom (The mouse climbed into the rocket and it took off for home) chapt froo4 shee got Hom in tim foor dina (She got home in time for dinner) it woz chees foor dina (It was cheese for dinner) the end
I never in a million years thought that before the end of a single term at school, Ez would be able to write a book, but she is so engaged with reading and writing that it really is all that she’s interested in at the moment. I haven’t posted this here to brag – please don’t read this and worry that your own child isn’t doing the same thing. One of the joys of having twins is that I get to see first-hand how different each child’s learning journey will be. Ez’s obsession with letters and sounds is her own obsession. Her brother isn’t ready to sit down and pen his first story, and that’s absolutely fine because he’s enjoying school and is learning in his own way. There’s no point comparing them because I know that they are individuals who will develop at their own pace.
Part of the reason I write my blog is to preserve my memories of the constantly-changing stages in our family life. I hope that I can look back at the pictures of Maws Rocit by Ez, Age 5, and remember the look of pride and wonder in her eyes. Kids really are awesome.
I shared the story behind our kitchen island way back in March, with a promise that I’d post some pics of it when it was finished. I’m finally fulfilling that promise, even if it has taken me eight months. We managed to get a first coat of Annie Sloan chalk paint in English Yellow onto the base of the vintage school science bench not long after we’d bought it (I couldn’t live with the nasty orangey tones for long), but it needed a second coat and that didn’t happen until a couple of weeks ago. I’m as efficient as ever. I found the chalk paint pretty easy to use, and I loved not needing to sand down the surface before painting it. We’d probably be wise to wax the painted surface now it’s finished, but I love the colour so much that I’m nervous of doing anything that might change it. I’d like to find some bright oilcloth to line that bottom shelf, so I’m keeping my eyes out for the perfect design. We only have one bar stool at the moment (a bargain buy from a friend), which I’ve topped with a basic Ikea seat pad which I covered with Ikea Fredrika fabric and pompom trim from Buttonbag. There’s a handy drawer in the unit in which I stash our saucepan lids (we normally have a stack of saucepans sat on the base of the unit). I said in my original post that I thought I should oil the worktop. I still think I probably should, but I doubt I actually will. I adore its distressed finish and I just don’t think the unit would feel the same if it didn’t have that battered surface.
I definitely reckon that this lab bench is our best-ever eBay purchase – it really has transformed the kitchen, both in appearance, and in how we use the space.
I love our new kitchen (can I call it ‘new’ when it was actually finished over two years ago?), but since it was installed it has definitely become a neglected space that wasn’t living up to its potential in our home. We’ve made various changes to the way we use the space, including installing a banquette (built-in seat) and moving the kitchen table to make way for a small island unit (more on the banquette soon, I promise), but when it came to accessories and a pulled-together look, the room needed reworking.
The main problem was that the jumble of kitchen accessories that were in the kitchen were just that – a jumble. There were a few new bits, lots of old stuff, and no discernible theme. My favourite feature of the kitchen is our wonderful aqua wall tiles, so I wanted to find accent colours that would show them off. Candy bright shades were the perfect fit. They’re fun, make me smile, and give an eclectic feel that I think suits our crazy household.
The island was an old school lab bench we picked up on eBay. I’m completely in love with its battered tabletop (it’s where I shoot the majority of my IG snaps) but I didn’t like its original orangey base, so we’ve painted it a happy yellow. I chose the Cable & Cotton lights (in Gooseberry, Bubblegum Pink, Ruby Red, Bright Yellow, Bright Orange and Pure White) to pull the colour scheme together – and the rest of the details have been built around those shades. I find the lights a brilliant reference point when I’m thinking of adding anything new to the space – they act like a permanent moodboard for the room. I sprayed some old tin cans and then planted up with some fresh herbs, and I think there are a few more bits in the room that are crying out for a spray, too.
There’s still more to do (I think there always will be), but as is the way in a busy family home, everything takes a long time to actually happen. At least we’ve made a good start though.
Half-term’s over (already? how?) and we’re back to the daily routine school imposes. But the walks to school are still a highlight that we all enjoy, and it felt good to be back on our well-trodden paths.
I listened to Es’ constant chatter – she’s wanted to play games all the way to school each day this week. ‘I Spy’ is a favourite, she also likes me to phonetically sound out things I can see so that she can blend the sounds together to form the word. We’re also into story-telling – taking turns to tell a story. I’ve got very slack with my podcasts and haven’t listened to any at all this week, but I’m going to give Serial a go next week – I’ve heard it’s addictive. I looked at the heavy frost through the eyes of the kids, who stopped every couple of metres to marvel at how the grass was glittering in the sun or to pick up a leaf, fringed with ice crystals, for closer inspection. On the wetter walks, I was struck by how much richer the colours become when they’re given a glossy coat of rain. I pondered why I’m incapable of getting anything done until the deadline is looming large and forboding. I’ve always been like this – I work better under pressure (it’s why I’m suited to journalism I think) – but it’s not really a pleasant way to function. I faff about until there’s only *just* enough time left to get my current assignment done and then I become consumed by stress and anxiety and everyone has to tiptoe around me. This week was one of those weeks.
Better late than never with my Urban Jungle Bloggers post for Igor and Judith this month. The theme was ‘My Plant Shelfie’ and I’ve chosen to share the open shelving in our kitchen. We bought these shelves years ago on eBay. They’ve since been used in almost every room in the house but are currently offering us a great storage space on the kitchen wall for all my jars of ingredients. Every so often I toy with the idea of painting them, but I quite like having some natural wood next to the white gloss kitchen and dining table, plus I can’t face taking them off the wall and actually getting the job done.
I have mixed feelings about geraniums. The smell reminds me strongly of my grandmother’s house (she always had pots of them around), which I like, but then my mum brought all her geraniums in from the garden every winter – a load of them always got stored in my bedroom and their scent was really overpowering. Not so good.
I can’t remember the name of the plant in the white pot, but it was given to us by my lovely mother-in-law who despaired of my inability to keep houseplants alive! I am proud to say that this plant has been happy in our kitchen for over a year – I think it’s proof of my budding green-fingeredness. Sadly, I don’t have as much luck with herbs – the parsley and mint in these DIY planters (spray-painted tin cans) are already starting to look sad after only a couple of weeks. But I do love fresh herbs, so I’m determined to keep trying to grow them at home.
Search for the hashtag #urbanjunglebloggers on fb, Twitter and IG to see the other plant shelfie posts this month, and follow Igor and Judith’s Urban Jungle Bloggers board on Pinterest for some great houseplant inspiration.
How gorgeous are these blinds? When these shots popped into my inbox I couldn’t help but go ‘ooh’. As a whole, I prefer the simplicity of blinds to curtains which I feel can sometimes be a bit fussy, but I have to confess that every blind in our house is white. That’s not great for a colour-loving house really, is it?
These two beauties are from a limited edition range created by contemporary artist Julia Vogl for Luxaflex. When I hear the words ‘limited edition’ I usually hold my breath to hear the crazy price tag that comes next, but happily the prices for these start from £150 which I don’t think is bad at all. My favourite is ‘Summer Arrives at the Bay’ (top) with its burst of colour, but the blues of ‘Enveloped’ (bottom) are stunning too.
And if you fancy winning one, then the My Luxaflex My Style Instagram competition is your chance. Luxaflex is inviting you to post images of things that inspire your style. Tag the images with #myluxaflex and you could win an original piece of art work created by Julia Vogl.
Note: This may look like a sponsored post, but it isn’t. I just loved the blinds and wanted to share them.
Happy Halloween! We’ve had a lazy day at home today – our first of the half term and it’s been just what we all needed.
Earlier this week, an email from Swedish kids app design studio Toca Boca popped into my inbox about the new app that’s just been launched called Toca Boo. Now as far as kids’ apps go, we’re big Toca Boca fans in our house. Playing games on my phone or the iPad isn’t something the twins get to do with great regularity (I’m a bit of a dinosaur about them playing games I’m afraid), but the gender-neutral approach Toca Boca takes to all its digital toys is right up my street. Luckily the twins share my enthusiasm, and the Toca Boca apps we already have definitely rank highly on their list of favourites. I love that I can hand a Toca Boca app over to the kids for them to work out themselves, and there aren’t any in-app purchases or advertising being pushed at them.
Toca Boo is aimed at kids aged between three and six, and is centred around a kid hiding in order to jump out and scare her parents. For a cute taster, check out this mini horror movie – Bonnie Says Boo! – released by Toca Boca to coincide with the launch of the app.
I made use of the free printable Toca Boo craft kit early this afternoon when I needed to manage the twins’ bouncing-off-the-walls levels of excitement about the impending Halloween party and first ever trick or treat outing later in the day. They’ve already been playing with the app, so they were thrilled to recognise the Toca Boo characters, and the popcorn went down pretty well, too.