Wednesday 28 November 2012

The Five Year Old's Party Bags

I had lots of ideas for Coco's party bags this year, but as normal I left it all to the last possible minute so didn't quite have the time to execute my grand plans. Plus my planned trip to Hobbycraft had to be aborted due to Coco being off school the week before, lucky for me my local supermarket had glitter glue on offer... what more does a five year old need?

This was my desk at 11.30am on Sunday morning(-2.5 hrs to party kick off)
And this is what I made...

 Cupcake kit
- Patterned fairy cake holders from Sainsbury's
- A sprinkling of gold sugar decorations in some little bags that I has from ages ago
- 12 mini trees on sticks made from old Christmas cards

Make your own Christmas decorations
 - Three wooden Christmas shapes from Zara Home
 - Two glitter glue sticks

They also got a simple Alice band and a couple of gold coins for instant gratification.
I was planning on doing a little kit to make some kind of embellishment for the Alice bands, but couldn't work out how to do it simply... will have to keep that idea for next year.
We used the same stripy orange paper bags as last year to pack all the goodies in.

As the party involved decorating their own cakes we needed some cake transportation method! These cupcake holders were Hugh's idea and were made from old cereal packets and some hoarded old Liberty bags (see, when it comes to party bag emergencies it's worth keeping everything)!

Of course as normal I had lots of family back up support - Hugh's sister and sister-in-law-to-be (lets just refer to them from now on as Mel and Georgie) baked the cakes for the girls to decorate, and helped look after Coco and Henry while me and Hugh got all the bits ready. A good team effort.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

High Five

Somehow, out of what sometimes feels like nowhere, it's happened. I'm the mother of a five year old. It was Coco's birthday last week.

She got her dolls house (the requested present) and her oil pastels, and a lovely clock too; which she doesn't seem to mind that we've put up in the kitchen, even thought it was/is meant for her room.

We had a nice evening on the day, dinner out with our friends and their kids, but of course for Coco the main event was her party. Which, really wasn't a party at all, but lucky for us, she didn't seem to notice that.

She had four friends over, we did some speedy cake decorating and then we took the bus - the top deck, naturally, to our local theatre to see Chicken Licken (during which I ended up with two children on my lap as they were scared of the fox) and then we got on another bus to Coco's favouritist restaurant (it's Franco Manca, she's got pretty good taste for a five year old) where they devoured a couple of pizzas, a tonne of olives and quite a few scoops of ice cream - while Hugh and I managed to enjoy a glass of red each - seriously, we enjoyed it, pretty unheard of for a children's party.

Coco in pre-party excited state (and delighted at having nail varnish on... against my better judgement) and tackling the serious business of getting as much sugar onto her cake as possible.

Hanging out at the bus stop, and five very busy girls waiting for pizza.

Finally we headed back to ours for a bit of a boogie to Abba and the current favourite; My Old Man's a Dustman. Then we packed the children off home with their decorated cup-cakes and my pulled together at the very last minute party bags - which I'm going to post about tomorrow!

It was the least stress / most fun birthday celebration so far - although not stress free of course. That would be a birthday party in a parallel universe.

Here's a little Coco retrospective, for old times sake:

- The first time she was featured on this blog was when she was still two, enjoying some rubber stamping (still a favourite activity).
 - Her third birthday party
 - Her fourth birthday party

PS - thanks to Amy at Tots 100 for featuring me on the Fresh five list today, I'm very honoured - and have found some nice new blogs to look at too.

Thursday 22 November 2012

What toys do your kids play with?

The other night I tidied our toy cupboard (or what used to be a lovely china cupboard, but has become a toy cupboard). This took pretty much the whole evening. 
Tidying the toys seems to be constantly on my to-do list, and it's a thank-less task (but on the up side it can be strangely therapeutic). It felt pretty good.

This time of year seems a good time to do a bit of an audit and clear out of toys, with Christmas looming and both Coco's & Henry's birthday's I know there is going to be an influx of toys coming our way.

This tidy-up session also came at the end of a day where I'd been on an almost fruitless* shopping trip to get Coco her fifth birthday present. There are SO many toys available and yet scarily few that I feel would be played with regularly, plus not drive me mad.
So as I tidied I thought about what the kids actually play with, and the answer is in a way, not much.
Yes, everything sees a bit of action, but lots of things are played with beyond the boundaries of what they were designed for....

So voila, the tidy and somewhat streamlined cupboard... and here is a little run down of the toys. It might give you ideas for your own Christmas shopping.

1. Dressing up animal masks - we have a big trunk of dressing up in Coco's bedroom, these are foam animal masks which have escaped and are downstairs for some reason. Dressing up is very popular with Coco and although I'm ashamed to say she mainly likes to be a princess, it keeps her occupied for ages and she is very adept at getting dressed/undressed. A undoubtedly useful life skill.

2. Playdoh cutters - another out of place toy, we love playdoh, lots of fun and even with Henry now we can be relatively hands off, as long as I don't get too anal about colour mixing - which I try my hardest not too!

3. Large wooden beads - these beads are Hugh vintage (I've written before about our great collection of hand-me-down toys kept by our parents). These beads came in their own vintage mincemeat tub storage pot, bonus! Great for little fingers to put beads onto shoe laces… but need an adult around, unless you want to be finding beads in corners for the next 20 years.

4. Coco's fourth birthday present was this toy camera… annoyingly I bought it in pink (pink and blue being the only choices). Not that impressed with it, wish I'd waited and bought a Nikon Coolpix S30 waterproof, kidproof, but also proper...

5. Musical toys, these are Hugh vintage and come out occasionally. They include symbols, so most of the time I wish they didn't come out.

6. Puzzles - these definitely get a lot of use but they are not solo toys, there is normally some adult interaction required, not always to do the puzzle, but to observe… we have a few Hugh vintage puzzles (am always amazed that his parents still had in tact puzzles after 4 kids and nearly 40 years). Last year Coco's 'main' present for Christmas was a giant farm puzzle from the charity shop, £6.99 - last of the big spenders!

7. Transport toys - we have a variety of push along cars/trucks etc, all have their moments, the louder the better generally. These definitely get a lot of use, but we easily have enough (in my opinion).

8. Vintage fisher price people - these are a mix of mine and Hugh's from when we were little. Coco loves playing with the fisher price school and the garage which are both at my parents house. These people probably escaped to ours via Coco's suitcase from when shes stayed there. I collected them altogether into my old Garfield lunch box (you can see where I get my hoarding tendencies from now).

9. A few baby toys packed away for when we have younger visitors and a more basic shape sorter that Henry already has sorted, as it were.

10. Spotty Dogs - Coco was given this (twice!) for her third birthday present and its great - although mainly needs to be played with an adult… she used to play it with her teddy, but not so much anymore. Orchard Toys make lots of other great games and we've given quite a few as birthday presents.

11. Things on sticks - two vintage toys, one from my childhood and one from Hughs. Both great for Henry right now, the wooden caterpillar is made by Brio - the national trust have one in their collection it turns out!

12. Doctors kits - We have two doctors kits which get sporadic use, bizarre considering that both kids can't get enough of the real thermometer. Infuriatingly both are pink. One is a Peppa Pig, which Coco got when she was a big Peppa fan, but seriously Mr toy manufacturer, I don't believe that Dr Barbie really has a pink stethoscope.

13. Stacking cups and stacking boxes - these get a lot of use. The plastic ones are Hugh vintage and we have some nice cardboard ones too. I often find them being used in the kitchen full of bits of puzzles or the fisher price people.

14. Shape sorting - The mini Hugh vintage shape sorter is GREAT. Henry loves it and it's portable and he knows all his shapes from playing with it. I'm still amazed that we haven't lost the bits as we often take it out to keep him occupied on train journeys... as we did with Coco too.

15. Soft toys and baby doll - Baby is a Hugh vintage 70's girl with a little knitted wardrobe made by Hugh's mum. She gets around a bit, but often she'll be put to bed somewhere random for a few weeks. Coco went through a big picnic phase where she'd make all her toys come to her picnic. It was cute, I'd sort of forgotten about it.

16. Pull alongs - Although we've had lots of pull along toys they don't acually get played with that much... but the horse is currenly having a bit of a renaisannse, but often just gets put in the toy buggy. Random.

And on the other side of the kitchen we find the, ahem, kitchen.
One of THE best purchases. Me and Coco made an excellent cardboard box kitchen back in the day, but then I fell for the charms of this ikea one...
A lot of cooking goes on here on a daily basis by both Henry and Coco and every other child that sets foot in our house. The Emma Bridgewater tea set has also got a lot of use and we've lost a few bits along the way, unfortunately they now only make this in the pink heart design. Boo to that.
We have a load of plastic fruit and veg, but when the pieces are together little people love chopping the wooden fruit and the wooden cakes too. 

On the floor we have a big box of the ever-popular duplo and a big stash of brio which I personally love, I have very happy memories of building elaborate track set ups when I was little, and am enjoying doing it again now. Plus both C & H seem to quite like it at the moment. Henry very sweetly congratulates himself every time he puts two pieces together.

Finally we have two Melissa & Doug toys that didn't make it into the photo, one is the latches board - Henry is just getting into it and I like it as it's one big board, no little bits to get lost, and another is the magnetic dress up dolls which Coco has played with a lot over the last year.

And then, there's all the upstairs toys... which are mostly Coco's, including the dressing up her new dolls house the playtent and her bags and purses (my daughter is a bag lady; give her a bag and she'll ram it full of all sorts of random c**p - that is really one of her favourite activities).

So that's about it. What do you think? Any ideas; what are we missing? What do your children love to play with? Please share....

 *I did manage to buy myself some shoes on the aforementioned shopping trip, which at least made it a not totally wasted trip... Oh yeah, and for her birthday Coco got some oil pastels from us, and a super-duper ebay dolls house from my parents.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Photos vs Memories

We had a little bonfire night party.
It was chaos.
Small kids running a-mock and getting excited about fire, cooking oodles of sausages and lots of (very) spicy sweet potato chips (recipe courtesy of Dizzy Loves Icy - this was my second time making them and it won't be my last) feeling light headed from drinking mulled wine and getting confused over whose glass was whose, and of course just having a nice time with friends.

And amongst the chaos I didn't take any arty photos of the food, or of the children's faces glowing in the light of the fireworks or the cold fingers wrapped around warm glasses, or even of the spooky carved pumpkins that were grinning at us. I did pick up my camera very briefly during the fireworks (as you can tell).

Because, sometimes in recording the moment the moment is just a bit less enjoyable.
I love my camera and I dream of a life that looks like a spread in Kinfolk magazine but the reality is my life doesn't look like that (except very occasionally with a bit of help from instagram).

Maybe it's better to have no photos sometimes, to rely on my memory more, or allow my memory to add the filters?
I don't want to forget anything right now, the time flies by and Henry and Coco are both changing so fast, I want to bottle it all and I suppose I worry that all the good times that aren't recorded will get forgotten.
I don't have many clear memories of my childhood - and my parents don't have many photos either, but I'm not sure if looking back at photos of events I don't remember would create a 'false' memory anyway?

Which ever way round it is, we'll never know.
I will still strive to make you all believe that my life is full of beauty and happiness* and in that way it probably will be just a little bit more beautiful and possibly a bit happier too.
And occasionally maybe I'll just revert to words instead.

*But you'll know the reality, right?

** I hadn't meant to have a bit of a blogging break, but it happens sometimes, life takes over, there are lots of things I want to post about. Just. Need. To. Find. Time.
That old chestnut!