Christmas Crafts: Make Your Own Reindeer Crown

Now the weather has taken a decidedly wintery turn I’m starting to get into the Christmas spirit. This weekend was an especially cold one, the small boy had a nasty cold and we decided to stay in, cosy in front of the fire and have a lazy weekend. Keen to get cracking with some Christmas crafts we busied ourselves by making a reindeer crown using hand prints and we were pleased with the results.

reindeer crown

The reindeer crown kits are available from Baker Ross and come in packs of 4 or 16. The packs contain everything you need to make the crown, except for glue, though we used double sided sticky tape because it’s quicker and there’s less mess than with glue.

The instructions are really easy to follow. Draw around your hands and cut out your hand print shape – I did the cutting because the small boy is terrifying with scissors or anything with a blade. The instructions suggest you use glue to stick the cut our hand shapes onto the headband, but I used double sided sticky tape for this. The other pieces, the ears, the reindeer hair and the holly and berries are self-adhesive, so the small boy peeled the backing paper off these and stuck them onto the headband.

Once he had finished he very proudly wore it around the house for a few hours, I think these make a nice alternative to the paper cracker crowns we are forced to wear for Christmas dinner, so I might make myself one to wear on Christmas Day.

reindeer crown

There was some parental supervision required with the cutting out of the hand shapes, but other than that he did the rest himself. It was something he enjoyed doing, he likes peeling and sticking things. It was pretty simple, but it kept him interested and entertained for a while. Another good and fun Christmas activity from Baker Ross!


Miles Kelly – Learning All About Space

We recently re-decorated the small boy’s bedroom so it resembled a starry night sky. The idea was to gradually add things to it, rockets and astronauts, planets and such like. The small boy loved it and was really keen to find out more about space, he loved looking up at the night sky at the moon and the stars, so with the help of Miles Kelly Publishing we’ve been learning more about space.

Miles Kelly are an independent children’s book publishers based in Essex, founded in 1996 they have published over 400 titles and their books are available all over the world. 

We were sent two of the Miles Kelly space books – The Sticker Playbook Spaceship and the Convertible Spaceship to read and play with.

miles kelly space

The Sticker Playbook Spaceship is a double sided fold out book which is aimed at toddlers. It includes an illustrated short story about a rocket journey into space, as well as learning activities and 50 reusable vinyl stickers.

The fold out book is double sided, with one side telling the story of the space mission and the other side being for the stickers and activities, such as learning about colours and shapes. The playbook is beautifully illustrated, with depictions of the planets which you can recognise as well as funny aliens and spaceships. It’s a fun book, rooted in facts but with an interesting and enjoyable story too. Also it has stickers, any book with stickers is always a winner.

The Convertible Spaceship is perhaps one of the most awesome things the small boy has ever been given. It is essentially the same story and illustrations as the sticker playbook (above) but instead of the other side being activities, the other side is a space rocket design. Following the easy instructions you can quickly convert it from a book into a space rocket which you can sit in!

miles kelly space

Aimed at children aged 3-6 years, this is a fantastic thing full stop (the full price is currently £17.99, but it’s sometimes on special offer). As you can see from the pictures the boy loved it, in fact he filled his rocket with everything he’d need for the afternoon, drinks, snacks, an ipad and a blanket and he just stayed in there playing, occasionally we’d hear a “blast off” countdown and noise, but I don’t think he could be happier.

The story part of the space rocket is on the inside, so while he was in there he was pointing at the pictures and talking about what he could see, as well as spelling out some of the letters and words. It’s the kind of thing which would make a fantastic present, and I know Miles Kelly have a whole range of these convertible books, including fire engines, pirate ships and trains.

We really loved these gorgeous Miles Kelly space books – the boy learned a thing or two, but more importantly enjoyed playing with them and it gave his imagination a workout, which is always good. We are very impressed and we’d recommend these great books, especially the convertible space rocket – what’s not to love?

miles kelly space

Note: We were sent these Miles Kelly Space books free of charge for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

My Sunday Photo 22.11.15

I’ve been in love with the bright autumn colours since the leaves first starting falling from the trees in September. As we move ever closer to December and firmly into wintery territory the colours have muddied and the palate is shades of brown rather than glorious shades of reds and orange.

I went out for a walk this week, dodged between the showers of driving rain and took my chance to get some fresh air. Swaddled up in my winter coat, hat, scarf and gloves I was cosy, I’m in love with my new knee-high boots from TK Maxx and I wonder how I’ve coped without them in previous winters. 

My Sunday Photo for this week is me in my boots stood on some leaves. They caught my eye, a deep pool of still crisp crunchy leaves. On closer inspection the colours are lovely and the variety of leaves is pretty special too.

This was taken with my Nokia Lumia camera phone, it was just a quick snap in passing, nothing special, but it summed up my week of dodging showers and wrapping up against the weather.

My Sunday Photo 22.11.15

Pip Ahoy! Skipper’s Bucket Review & Giveaway

Since the small boy was poorly a few weeks ago and he binge watched the entire back catalogue of Pip Ahoy! on Channel 5’s Milkshake, we have been a house obsessed with Pip. For his birthday he was given a lovely Pip Ahoy plush toy (which now has the number one cuddling spot in his bed), and Skipper’s Bucket – a pull along tugboat which also doubles up as a bath toy. 

Pip Ahoy! Skipper's Bucket

Skipper’s Bucket is suitable for ages 3+ and measures 20cm long and 17cm high. It has rotating wheels underneath and you can pull it along using the rope and lifebelt attached, or like the small boy, you can play with it in the bath, it floats and had a realistic rocking motion once it’s in the water. 

It comes with a Skipper figure, but you might want to get a few of the other characters to add a bit of variety. The Skipper figure has little holes in his feet so you can attach him to various parts of the boat, he is also movable and poseable. 

Pip Ahoy! Skipper's Bucket

Skipper’s Bucket is made from durable plastic and seems to be able to endure the attentions of a 5 year old boy at bathtime. The rope can work loose, so it’s worth getting someone with their Boy Scout knot tying badge to double check it’s firmly attached before it sets sail in the bath, but it’s a great bath toy in its own right.

The Pip Ahoy! Skipper’s Bucket toy is available from a range of retailers and is made by John Adams Toys. It’s a lovely robust toy which he’s played with every day since his birthday, both on dry land and in the stormy sea (the bath). It’s a thumbs up for us!

Pip Ahoy! Are having a Twitter party on the 1st December – we’ll be there, we hope you will be too!

Pip Ahoy! Skipper's Bucket

Win a Pip Ahoy! Skipper’s Bucket Toy

To be in with a chance to win your very own Pip Ahoy! Skipper’s Bucket Toy, simply enter using the Rafflecopter widget below – and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:
1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only.
2. There is no cash alternative offered.
3. To enter, please use the rafflecopter widget above. Please ensure you leave some contact details or I will not be able to contact you if you win.
4. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualifying entries. The winner will receive a Pip Ahoy! Skipper’s Bucket Toy.
5. The competition will close on 13th December 2015.
6. The winner will be asked to provide a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
7. Address details will be passed onto an agency to post the prize out to the winners, and is therefore beyond my control. I cannot be held responsible for prizes being lost in the post although I will endeavour to liaise with the agency.
8. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this competition.

Gro To Bed – keeping the small boy cosy at night

The small boy is not quite so small any more, in fact he’s now five years old and growing fast. It was a sad day when we packed his cot away and put him in a single bed, at the time he seemed far too tiny for it, but he’s grown a fair bit since. Earlier this year I remember one of my friends telling me about “Gro To Bed”, she’d got one for her daughter and it really helped her settle at night. It sounded like a useful thing to have, so when I was offered the chance to try “Gro To Bed” for myself I couldn’t say no.

gro to bed

Gro To Bed from Gro is an all–in–one duvet cover, bottom sheet and pillow case set, which has been designed with zips to keep the duvet in place and help to stop little ones from falling out of bed. It is essentially a fitted sheet with the pillow attached to it, and the duvet is zipped on so your child sleeps in a huge sleeping bag kind of thing. The duvet can be fully detached if you’d like too.

gro to bed

When the boy grew out of all of his baby sleeping bags he did have a problem with his bedding slipping off in the night so he was cold, and he did fall out of bed a few times, both of which are quite common for lots of children. The Gro To Bed bedding sets are designed to help with both of those problems. They come in a range of nice, bright designs. We chose the Alfred & The Aliens Gro To Bed set which is a white fitted sheet with colourful and cheerful aliens on the pillow and duvet.

gro to bed

It was pretty easy to make up the bed and zip the duvet and pillow into place. The small boy took one look and couldn’t wait to get into bed. He climbed in under the covers and was at first a bit puzzled as to why the duvet was zipped to the sheet, but once we’d explained it to him he snuggled down and got comfy. He has a particularly chilly bedroom so I was pleased that his covers wouldn’t slip in the night and he’d stay warm.

He had a good nights sleep, the covers weren’t so tight so he couldn’t climb out, but they were fixed enough to ensure a cosy nights sleep. I was impressed and quietly kicked myself for not knowing about this when we first moved from gro-bag in the cot to a single bed. 

gro to bed

The Gro To Bed sets are made from 100% cotton and seem to be good quality, with no loose stitching. The bedding is all machine washable and designed to fit single beds. They are a little bit more expensive than your bog standard bedding set, but not by much, and I think the benefits of knowing that my child is warm and cosy at night and that he won’t fall out of bed with a thump makes the extra few pounds worth it. I suspect it’s only a matter of time before they make these in adult sizes, who do I need to write to about that?

gro to bed

Note: We were sent the Alfred & The Aliens Gro To Bed set free of charge for review purposes, all images and opinions are our own.

My All Time Top Ten Favourite Songs

There has been another one of those Facebook memes going round of late, usually they get right on my pip, but this one caught my attention in a favourable way. Basically if you’re “tagged” you have to share one of your favourite songs on Facebook for seven days. It got me thinking about what songs I would choose should I ever be tagged and I decided to choose my top ten, not just my top seven. 

As a confirmed indie kid I had a few problems narrowing it down from the thousands of tunes I love and listen to regularly. Some were instant, obvious choices, some others I agonised over for a little while, struggling to decide between two or three of my favourite songs from whichever band. It was a difficult task, but I’m glad I sat down and made my own YouTube playlist, it means that I always have 50 minutes of my favourite music on hand for a start. 

I’m not sure what my musical choices say about me, other than “indie kid stuck in the mid-90s” but I’m sure there’s a Buzz-feed quiz which will tell me all I need to know about my inner thoughts and feelings.

top ten

Here’s my all time favourite top ten. It is a movable feast because I’m sure in six months time it’ll have changed slightly, it always does, but for now, these are the songs which speak to my soul (in no particular order)…

  1. Sometimes – James
  2. Devil In Your Shoes – Shed Seven
  3. Temptation – New Order
  4. Fools Gold – The Stone Roses
  5. Married With Children – Oasis
  6. Right here – The Go Betweens
  7. Circlesquare – The Wonder Stuff
  8. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out – The Smiths
  9. Chasing Rainbows – Shed Seven
  10. Can’t Get Out Of Bed – The Charlatans 

What’s in your top ten? What do you think of my choices?

Review: Orchard Toys Christmas Surprises PLUS Giveaway

It’s only been a few days since the small boy turned five, but as soon as the last of his wrapping paper goes in the bin, thoughts turn to Christmas which is only about 6 weeks away now (eek!). To get us in the mood we like to watch DVDs and play games, not least because the tree doesn’t go up until almost the last minute. Over the weekend we all went for a pub lunch, and to entertain the small boy and his cousin I took the Orchard Toys Christmas Surprises game we’d been sent to play.

Aimed at children aged 3-6 years, the grown ups still joined in and enjoyed the game play. The game has enough double sided boards for 2-4 players. There are two different games you can play, the shape game and the colour game. The box contains 4 double sided boards, 24 shaped presents, 24 coloured baubles, 1 shape dice and one colour dice.

The shape game you play with the Father Christmas board, turn all the different shapes over so you can’t see what the presents are, roll the shape dice and pick the corresponding shape, it’s a bit like shape bingo, everyone takes a turn and the first one to fill Santa’s sack with presents wins, then everyone gets to turn over their shapes and see what Santa has brought them.

The colour game is similar and you play with the Christmas tree board. The bauble shapes are colour side up, each player rolls the dice and they collect the corresponding bauble colour, the first one to decorate the tree wins.

Christmas Surprises

The boys loved both games, with one preferring the colour and the other preferring the shape game – lucky there are two games to choose from! This is a nice matching game, where small children can get the hang of standard game conventions such as taking turns and rolling the dice, and importantly, not winning every time.

The Orchard Toys Christmas Surprises game encourages social skills and observations, improves manual dexterity and is linked with early learning goals.

It was certainly a lot of fun, kept us all entertained while we waited for our lunch and sparked several conversations about Christmas. I can see us playing this a lot up until the big day (and probably beyond). Another great game from Orchard Toys!

Win an Orchard Toys Christmas Surprises game

I am delighted that I have an Orchard Toys Christmas Surprises game to give away to one lucky winner. To be in with a chance to win, please enter using the widget below, good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Christmas Surprises
Terms & Conditions:
1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only.
2. There is no cash alternative offered.
3. To enter, please use the rafflecopter widget above. Please ensure you leave some contact details or I will not be able to contact you if you win.
4. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualifying entries. The winner will receive an Orchard Toys Christmas Surprises game.
5. The competition will close on 9th December 2015.
6. The winner will be asked to provide a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
7. Address details will be passed onto an agency to post the prize out to the winners, and is therefore beyond my control. I cannot be held responsible for prizes being lost in the post although I will endeavour to liaise with the agency.
8. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this competition.

Christmas Crafts – Making Snowman Mosaics

It may still only be November but I’m already starting to feel a bit Christmassy, I think it’s probably down to all the planning ahead of time so I’m less stressed later. They must be talking about it at school too as the small boy is all excited and ready to get stuck into the festivities. We’ve been busy baking Christmas cakes and starting to think about presents and decorations. One wet afternoon we sat and made some snowman mosaic coasters which I’ve decided would also look great as Christmas decorations.

The snowman mosaic coaster kit from Baker Ross contains everything you’ll need – a pre-cut snowman with a selection of foam stickers to stick on and decorate your snowman. If like me you want to turn the finished snowman into a Christmas tree decoration you’ll need a bit of ribbon and some sticky tape too.

Snowman Mosaics

Popping the foam stickers out of their sheet and peeling the backing off them is quite fiddly for little fingers, so it’s good practice for the small boy who has recently turned five. He did very well and managed to do most of them himself, only asking me to help him with the white circles, probably because there were lots and lots of them. This is a great task to help with hand-eye co-ordination and to improve dexterity and finger strength, which can really help with learning to write.

It’s a really simple kit and the snowman mosaics look really effective, too good to just be used as coasters, which is why I’m going to attach some ribbon so we can hang them on the tree once that’s up.

The snowman mosaics kits are from Baker Ross and come in packs of 6 or 18. It’s a nice tidy activity to do, it doesn’t require any setting up or any mess, just have a bowl ready to put the bits of backing paper in and you’re sorted. In fact I’ve put one in my bag for when we go out, it’s something we can do together while we’re having lunch that doesn’t involve an ipad. 

The thing I liked most about making the snowman mosaics was the chance to chat. We were both industriously beavering away on our snowmen, chatting away about school, Christmas and his recent birthday, and occasionally bursting into happy song. It was a fun half hour on an otherwise grim November day.

My Sunday Photo 15.11.15

birthday boy

Making the most of the winter daylight hours

When the clocks change each autumn everyone seems to start hunkering down for the winter. The heating goes on and we all trudge off to work or school in the morning gloom, returning when it’s dark and living in something of a twilight world. It’s miserable and this kind of dark, dank wintery misery even has a medical name – Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. For SAD sufferers there’s one thing which can really help – sunlight, or simulated sunlight.

I don’t have SAD, but I do have the winter blues, it’s not officially medically recognised, but is characterised by sufferers saying “Meh” whenever they open the curtains between November and March. There are a few things I do to try and perk me up, but there’s no known cure other than a four month holiday in the sun. 

  • If the weather isn’t too grim I try and get outside during daylight hours, if only to the local coffee shop for a brew and a biscuit. Fresh air and daylight are good for the soul, as is the tiny amount of Vitamin D the weak winter sun will give you while you’re outside.
  • Keeping warm and active helps stave off the winter blues a bit, getting out for long walks at the weekend with the family is a good way to get some fresh air and exercise, and makes me feel less cooped up.
  • During the day I try and flood the house with natural light, opening curtains and blinds wide, so even if it’s raining outside I can still enjoy natural light. I hate having electric lights on during the day as it makes me feel closed in, natural light is for me always preferable.

We have large skylights in our kitchen and in the room I work in, these are brilliant for providing bags of natural light all year round, and were probably the thing which sold this house to me, having a light, bright house is very important.


Equally important as lots of natural light is the ability to shut that light out at night, or when the summer sun is strong. VELUX are a well known company who design and sell a range of blinds for skylights. All of our skylight windows have been fitted with pull-down VELUX blinds and during the heat of summer I know I couldn’t use those rooms without them.

The winter blues aren’t enough to send me to my bed for three months, but I do try and look after myself a bit more, enjoy any breaks in the weather to get out and about, and to make the most of the natural light available for the sake of my mood and my electricity bill.

How do you stave off the winter blues?