Home-made thank you cards

Home-made cards are so lovely. They offer an opportunity to express our creativity and personalise the cards we send out to family and friends. We had a great time making our Christmas cards in 2016 but unfortunately I didn’t manage to get a post out in time to share them with you all. My plan is to be much better organised this year and start making our next lot much earlier on, I will keep you updated on the success of that plan later in the year!

So with all the Christmas celebrations well and truly over, the tree taken down (we like to do that early on around here!) and the boxes back up in the loft, our thoughts turn to sending out thank you cards. The possibilities are endless, from simple drawing or painting, potato-printing or collages right through to elaborate 3-D creations, a touch of applique (so keen to try this one out!) or maybe some calligraphy or quilling.

Pteroturtle got a head-start this season and designed his while the rest of us were still making Christmas cards. Last year’s Christmas card from Pteroturtle consisted of a very cute snowman designed in Paint on the computer. This year, for his thank you cards, he has gone a similar route and chosen to design a Christmas tree in Minecraft, complete with sparkly lights – very festive.

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Moving away from Christmas themes, Plumblepie and I have been making some sweet little Hama Bead creations to adorn her thank you cards. Such a lovely way to spend some quality time together, keeping our hands busy but our thoughts and conversations free to wander far and wide.

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Just got to get them all written and sent now!

Over the last few years we have all been stretching our crafty muscles and I look forward to sharing more glimpses of what we have been creating over the year ahead.

Wishing you all a wonderful 2017, enjoy x

 

Volcanic Biscuits (from CBBC’s Junior Bake Off)

Hello everyone, sophofbread here. I’ve been really enjoying watching Junior Bake Off on BBC iPlayer recently. It’s the children’s version of The Great British Bake Off and I enjoy it more than the original! The recipes they choose look much tastier (and more fun to bake!) than the ones they make in GBBO that often take 6 hours and include ingredients you’ve never heard of. Sam and Mark are great presenters, Nadiya and Allegra are fantastic judges and the contestants are talented, calm and funny.

After watching one of the Junior Bake Off episodes I was feeling very hungry and dying to make something yummy. I decided on these Volcanic Biscuits. I love ginger beer and chocolate and these biscuits didn’t look too hard. I’m very happy with the result, they look and taste amazing and they were very fun to make. I do admire the people on Bake Off that do it with a time limit and get them all looking identical, mine were various sizes.

If I made these again (which I’m sure I will) I would cook them for slightly shorter because mine were a little overdone, I’d also weigh out all the ingredients before starting because I ended up rushing parts of the bake. The chocolate, texture of the biscuits and the chewy bits of crystallised ginger went so well together. Washed down with home-made Ginger Beer these are quite the treat. Find the recipe here… http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc/thingstodo/jbo-volcanic-biscuits

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Organising and presenting projects..

Sometimes we can all use a little inspiration, here are a few ideas on organising and presenting projects –

  • A-Zs – create an alphabetic reference diving deep into any particular topic. Or use individual letters to focus the mind and broaden the horizons. Plumblepie loves learning about letters at the moment and this provides a great focus for strewing. See some examples of what we got up to when we spent some time learning about the letter P.
  • Timelines – find out about the history of the universe, focus in on specific historical periods, the history of inventions or famous explorers, follow one individual’s timeline and find out what else was happening in the world at the same time.
  • 6 Questions – focus your research and discover what, where, when, who, why and how, have a look at an example here.
  • 5 senses – explore through the five senses, what could you look at, touch, listen to, smell and eat that would give you a real flavour of your topic!
  • Create a quiz – devise an interesting quiz for someone else and learn loads in the process.
  • Write a poem, or a book, or a blog-post – pick a medium to share the information you have discovered and whichever form you choose can lead your research in many different ways.
  • Use first person narratives – put yourself in the shoes of those you are researching and gain new insights as you tell the story from their perspective.
  • Produce a video, or a podcast – make these just for fun or share your creations with the world.
  • Design a poster or a leaflet – informative, entertaining, beautiful, to share or not to share, so many possibilities.
  • Create a mind map, or a flowchart, or some infographics – from the planning to the presentation stage there are so many design options to choose from.
  • Try lapbooks, scrapbooks and notebooking – so many ways to present information in visually appealing ways, lots of cutting and sticking and folding, what’s not to love?
  • Create a photographic display – choose a topic to investigate or design a random challenge to encourage exploration through the medium of photography.
  • Collages – could be a one page version of a scrapbook or lapbook, or an artistic way to display those photographs, or perhaps you fancy creating a vision or dream board.
  • Checklists – there are so many ’50 fun things..’ lists out there for inspiration, create your own ‘to-do’ lists with 10, 20, 50 or 100 cool things to try, collate 10 (or 100) facts about a subject you love, or have a look at these checklists for some more inspiration.

We use the word project very loosely, whatever we love can be a project and we love pursuing our passions. Any of these ideas could be used in a more structured or relaxed context. We would love to hear how you have used any of the items in this list, or hear more of your ideas on how to organise and present projects.

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead.

 

 

Slumps are healthy.

Slumps are healthy. Not the posture kind. If you’re anything like me you’ll have many interests and hobbies. A slump is when you don’t do that thing for a period of time, for example a reading slump would be when you haven’t finished or picked up a book in longer than you usually would. You can’t do everything all the time, there are only so many hours in the day.

I drummed for at least ten minutes (some days for hours) everyday 163 days in a row last year and that certainly made me a better drummer. But while I was doing that other interests I have had to take a back seat.

When I get really into a certain video game I might not read for ages but that doesn’t mean I’ll never read again! When I’m reading a lot I’m probably not writing a lot. All these things go in waves, sometimes I’ll be doing lots of things all at once and other times I’ll be doing one thing all the time.

I haven’t drummed in a while and I feel sad and slightly guilty about that but I shouldn’t and I remind myself not to. I haven’t had the time and when I have sat down to drum I’ve been thinking about other things I could be doing and haven’t been involved. Soon I’m sure I will drum a lot more and will most likely be happier and more enthusiastic for the break I’ve had. In the meantime I’m doing a lot of exercise, playing a lot of Pokémon Go, writing and reading more, sorting out plans for the future, studying, watching a lot of brilliant TV shows and hanging out with friends and family. The drums won’t go anyway and neither will the other interests that have taken a back seat while my love for Pokémon Go flourishes.

If you haven’t done something in a while and are feeling down about it think about all the things you’ve been doing in place of that. Slumps are healthy and you’ll most likely get out of it soon.

P is for Plumblepie and for pasta and pink and Picasso and park… (you get the idea!)

That lovely Plumblepie is now four years old and she loves learning about letters. Her love for the letter P is infectious so together we have been exploring all things P..

  • We have played lots.. (I should point out right here and now that we do believe this learning lark should all be fun and play and everything that follows is playing really!)
  • Plumblepie has been practising writing her own name (it’s not actually Plumblepie but does begin with P).
  • We have drawn the letter P many times and decorated it with foil and tissue paper and coloured paper and stickers and so many other things…
  • We made pink Ps and purple Ps.
  • We painted lots of pictures.
  • We photocopied many things.
  • We ate pasta and pineapple and pizza and plums.
  • We sorted pasta into shapes.
  • We made patterns with Lego and duplo and stickers and numicons and building blocks and pegs and so many other things..
  • We had a picnic in the park and played on the playground (there have been many parks, many playgrounds and many picnics!)
  • We have read many books (some featuring poetry and bears called Pooh and Paddington, a park keeper called Percy and a postman called Pat)
  • We played with lots of jigsaw puzzles (some featuring a pig called Peppa and that postman again)
  • We watched tv programmes with pigs and postmen and park keepers in!
  • We walked to the post office and posted some letters.
  • We made potions in the bath.
  • We played with play-dough.
  • We planted in the garden (well, sophofbread and artybaker did with Plumblepie’s help).
  • We made peg puppets and paper plate pigs.
  • We made a Peppa card for a cousin’s birthday.
  • We watched the CBeebies Prom.
  • We saw how pasta is made in ‘Do you know?’, (a fab new show on CBeebies)
  • We watched Stampy’s Wonder Quest series and found out lots about planets.
  • We listened to Tchaikovsky’s ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ (slightly stretching it here I know but this is all about having fun and widening our horizons, and Plum is one of our favourite things!)
  • We looked at pictures by Picasso.

Of course, we did lots of other things both starting with P and with all the other letters in the alphabet too. But I am really enjoying spending some special time on individual letters of the alphabet, it offers some boundaries to what could be endless internet searching for new fun activities and focuses the mind on what would be cool to strew next.

Make your own Lego advent calendars.

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Lego is a big hit in this house and we have lots of it! We have bought Lego advent calendars before and am sure we will again, but last year Pteroturtle, Plumblepie and I decided to try something new. We made our own Lego advent calendar.

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We had lots of fun making this and it made a cute decoration. Santa made his way along the path one day at a time and Plumblepie knew just where to put him so he would be ready for December the 1st…

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We have to thank Sarah from frugalfunforboysandgirls for this idea. She has so many great posts that we go back to again and again, they are big Lego fans too. We also attempted her fab tree calendar but can’t find the photos just now.

Apologies for the poor quality of these pictures but as I could find these ones I thought I would share them with you. I just couldn’t resist posting that one with Plumblepie (she loves to suck that thumb!).

Wishing you all lots of fun and many happy times playing with Lego!

 

Books That Have Changed Me

Hello again! At the beginning of this year I said I’d like to do more posts about reading on this blog, which I definitely still want to do, so today I thought I’d take 5 books which have really stuck with me and just talk about my experience with them and their legacy in my life, let’s say. Hopefully this will act as a good lead-in to the book posts to come, as I feel these books give a pretty good representation of my reading tastes, and will probably be appearing many more times in future.

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Let’s start with a series that I know is close to a lot of people’s hearts, not just mine – the Harry Potter series, following the adventures of a boy who learns he is a wizard, and travels off to a distant magic school, encountering all manner of exciting and strange things in his seven years there, each of which are shown in one of the books. Considering I started out hating these books when my sister – known on this blog as sophofbread of course – started listening to the audiobooks around the house (I wrote her many notes and angry emails in an attempt to get her to turn it off… they didn’t work), it’s amazing how big a part of my life these books are now. Once I finally caved to the Scarhead love, discussions and jokes about the series with sophofbread were a huge part of building the relationship we have now, and even pteroturtle, our younger bro, has started his own obsession with all things Potter in the past year or so. Though it’s been epic to see his love for and knowledge of these books grow just like mine did, in true little brother fashion he manages to annoy us even with Harry Potter – constantly sprouting random quotes or facts from the series at the least appropriate moments.

As well as bringing me closer to my siblings, Harry Potter has helped me shape my outlook on life – most notably because of the Hogwarts House I was sorted into on Pottermore, which surprisingly for me, was Hufflepuff. Being quite an academic person, I always saw myself in Ravenclaw before then, but now I love all the qualities and values of the Hufflepuff clan to bits and it’s awesome to be able to say I am one. I’ve come to see the qualities of my house more as things that it’s important for me to strive for than things I already am, and striving to be more loyal, fair, hard working and accepting has definitely helped me become a better person.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

OK, let’s move on quick before I spend this whole post gushing about Harry Potter. This next one is a Young Adult standalone novel following two teenage boys, both by the name of Will Grayson, who have absolutely no connection to one another, until one night, by the least likely of circumstances, they meet. The story basically tells the tale of both their lives during this time, how they become connected through one extraordinary boy, and how he impacts on both of their lives in a big way. I know that’s a pretty vague synopsis, but suffice it to say that this is a hilarious, addictive and heart-warming read (or it was for me anyway) told in a realistic, snarky and pessimistic tone by both narrators. I received this book as a gift a few years ago and was pretty sure I wasn’t going to like it, but I gave it a try and was instantly hooked. I recently read it again and loved it even more (marking off about a million quotes I liked with tags along the way), and though it starts off a bit depressing, there’s this magical moment in the middle when everything picks up and when all is said and done this book gives me so many happy feelings.

So, onto the point of how this book has changed me, this was one the first contemporary books I ever read (that’s to say, set in modern times about real life, with no hidden world of wizards or vampires etc.), so the characters were really easy to relate to for me – they weren’t heroes destined for greatness or protectors of some ancient secret, just normal teenagers struggling with real life problems. This was also the first book I read from the point of view of a gay character, and though I’d been exposed to queer characters on the side or on TV before, actually seeing their perspective was really valuable to me. As well as this, this was one of the first books meant for older teens that I actually liked, and I think I might have given up on the YA genre if it hadn’t been for a select couple of books which I’ve really loved, headlined by this one.

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

Sticking to the YA theme, this is another book that helped restore my faith in this genre, which, if you read a lot of it you might know, has a lot of annoying – and often unhealthy – tropes which have been repeated way too many times. However this book (and its sequel, which was even better) really stuck out to me and I think the author has created an original and refined series (as it is so far – the final book comes out in November) while remaining appealing to teenage readers and true to the YA genre at its best.

This book is about a teenage girl named Marguerite, whose parents have created a device that allows people to jump through alternate dimensions, potentially revolutionising science and our view of the universe forever. However, not soon after, Marguerite’s father is mysteriously murdered by one of his students, who then steals his device and leaps away into another dimension. Marguerite ventures to follow him through the alternate universes to take her revenge and find out the truth. There are many unexpected twists and turns in the story, an awesome cast of characters and travelling to the different dimensions with them makes for a seriously cool ride. What I love most about this series is the science – you can tell Claudia Gray has really put in the effort to make it believable and yet mind-blowing, and I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve taken from of this series. It helped me realise that I’m much more into sci-fi than fantasy (a big part of what I was reading beforehand), as I like concrete explanations for things (far too often in fantasy all you ever get is “It’s magic”), and also just how much I like science in general.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

This next one is a gothic horror classic following a young man named Dorian Gray, living in the 1800s. At the beginning of the book, he has a painting done of him, and consequently sees what he looks like for the first time (why he’d never seen a mirror before I don’t know… just roll with it). Entranced by his own beauty, and knowing that it will wither and fade as he ages, he desperately wishes that he could stay looking just as he is forever, while his painting bares the marks of age and injury. You can probably guess what happens next, and as the novel goes on it presents an extraordinary portrait (see what I did there) of how obsession and pride can lead to utter corruption, while also exploring some witty views on life, beauty and friendship in an often comedic manner.

This was the first classic I ever finished (after giving up on Little Women after one chapter and announcing old books were not my thing) and I’m really glad that I did. Classics has since become one of my favourite book genres and Oscar Wilde is a firm favourite. His endless wit and charm, disguising underneath it a phenomenal wisdom, is what makes his writing so intriguing to me, and I am steadily making my way through his other works in a hope I can someday read everything he’s written. Gothic horror is also something I’ve become interested in thanks to this book – a genre my younger self would never dream of going near, but that I’ve recently developed an interest in. Jump scares and cartoon villains will probably still never be my thing, but when dark themes are explored in a really spooky manner and polished off with a clever one-liner bound to make you unable to think about anything else for days – that’s something I really enjoy.

My Sister the Vampire series by Sienna Mercer

And finally, my childhood books, the ones that got me into reading, the My Sister the Vampire series. This is a tween series following two girls who are complete opposites – Olivia, an upbeat, friendly and pink-loving cheerleader, and Ivy, a brooding goth who loves all things dark and spooky. In the opening to the first book, Switched, Olivia moves to a new school, and soon she and Ivy realise they are long lost twins, but not only that, Ivy is a vampire! It’s a very creative take on these classic paranormal creatures – everything is kid-friendly and the books are very feel-good, while still retaining the mysterious, eerie nature of living amongst vampires. Seeing all the fun adventures Olivia and Ivy find themselves wrapped up in is tons of fun for me – even when I’ve been reading and rereading them for almost eight years now or something ridiculous.

My Sister the Vampire not only ignited my love of reading, but it also started my love of the Middle Grade and Chick Lit genres – both of which have provided some amazing reading experiences for me over the years. It also helped me discover the awesomeness of Goodreads and, like Harry Potter, has been a big part of me and sophofbread’s relationship. Sister the Vamp rules!

So that’s my very rambly list – hopefully you enjoyed learning more about my favourite books and what they mean to me. Hope to see you in more posts soon!