Monthly Archives: April 2012

Owls

I love birds of prey. There is just something about the power and beauty that they possess. The look of intelligence in their bright eyes, their lethal claws and beak. We’re very fortunate in where we live that there are three or four red kites nesting somewhere in the near vicinity and you usually see at least one of them every day. I often stop and just stare at the sky, watching them circling above. If I’m very lucky, they’ll be as low as roof height. Once I was just 100m away when one swooped for some road kill (annoyingly I was searching for my camera at the time and only saw it out of the corner of my eye!)

When we got married, almost seven years ago, we chose a country house hotel for the reception which we fell in love with for so many reasons (it really is a perfect place to get married) but an added bonus was that they also had falcons and we got to have a falconry display – far better than a disco in my opinion 😆

Last weekend there was a local craft fair, and just outside the entrance was an Owl Rescue stand where you could hold an owl. The ones we held were Sonny the barn owl and Jack the eagle owl (the links are to photos I found online from the sanctuary they were from). Sonny was incredibly tame, he used to have an elderly owner who sadly died and he was used to company and watching TV! He loved being stroked and he was the owl they always used with children.

DG with Sonny

MG with Sonny

MG was feeling nervous that day, but did try to hold Sonny. I’d seen the owls two days before with DG while MG was at school so although DG didn’t want to hold an owl the first day, this time she knew what to expect and was delighted with Sonny. The people who ran the sanctuary were fantastic with the children and the children were fantastic with the owls. A lovely experience, and one I hope we get to repeat.

Me with Jack. Prior to this DG had been on my shoulders running sticky fingers through my hair!

Picture Book Giveaway

To celebrate over 500 Twitter followers (wow), as a pay-it-forward thank-you for picture books I’ve been very kindly sent, and to pimp this blog and facebook page I’ve decided to run a small giveaway.

Any regular readers may have guessed I’m a teeny bit addicted to books. I like to support local independent bookstores and charity shops, but acquire books from many different sources. I recently purchased a Martin Waddell picture book collection from The Book People but we already had two of the books. These are what I’m offering as a giveaway 🙂

Martin Waddell writes a huge amount of varied books, many of which are well deserved classics. The two books offered in this giveaway are definitely classics: Owl Babies and Farmer Duck.

Farmer Duck (1991) is illustrated by the amazing Helen Oxenbury. It tells the story of a lazy farmer who overworks the poor duck, until the other animals come up with a plan. Beautifully illustrated and a firm favourite with children.

Owl Babies (1992) is illustrated by Patrick Benson (they also collaborated on one of my Fiction Fridays favourites, The Tough Princess). It is the classic tale of separation anxiety – three baby owls wake to find their mother missing and wait for their return. It’s probably the scariest scenario for small children but fortunately all ends well and Mummy Owl reassures that she said she would come back.

In order to be in with a chance of receiving these two books, you must have a UK address for the books to be posted to, and:

  1. Leave a comment on this post
  2. Follow Child-Led Chaos blog
  3. Like Child-Led Chaos on Facebook
  4. Tweet about this giveaway
  5. Write a blog entry about this giveaway

That gives up to five (optional) entries per person. For each entry, please leave a separate comment on this post. I’ll write the names and get MG or DG to pick one out randomly – nothing but the highest technology here! The closing date for entering this giveaway is midnight Monday 7th May. The winner will have one week to claim the books. I’ve not done this before so bear with me if I make mistakes!

Fiction Fridays #25: Ella

FF#25
Ella: Alex T. Smith (2012)

Once upon a time there was a ladybird called Ella.

Read more about Fiction Fridays here.
Like to take part? Read the rules and guidelines and get the badge here.

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Extra Info:
This is a lovely re-telling of Cinderella with incredibly cute bugs! Cinderella is a ladybird, her step-sisters are wasps and the prince (in this case, Pierre the artist) is a spider. This is a gorgeous book with a sparkly cover and a pallette of mainly  reds, pinks and purples. MG loves fairy tales and I get to read this to her over and over again to drool over the art.

Ella is not a straight re-telling of Cinderella, it is its own story with elements of the fairy tale. Pierre the artist is looking for his muse; there isn’t a ‘fairy godmother’ or magical pumpkins, but a very good friend who secretly helps (get the children to look for her hiding throughout the story); and there’s no royal family in sight. It does have probably the most famous element: Ella leaves to get home before her step-sisters and drops her glasses as she rushes away!

The artwork is luscious, I wanted to take pictures of almost all the pages to put in this review. But I have chosen just this one: Ella and Pierre’s first meeting with Paris subtly in the background.

This is probably a book more for girls. And lovers of buttons: look how the antennae have buttons on them 🙂

BigJigs Pink Flower Kitchenware Set and Tin Tea Set

Merry from Patch of Puddles and PlayMerrily has a competition on at the moment to win a BigJigs picnic plus runners-up prizes for every 50 likes on the PlayMerrily Facebook page. The competition is open until midnight 30th April. MG and DG have far too much wooden play food so I’m not entering but what a fantastic competition!

I thought I’d take the opportunity to review some play kitchen accessories because MG and DG love playing tea parties and cooking games. Around MG’s first birthday a 2-weekly magazine with kitchenware and tea set accessories started to come out. I subscribed to it thinking that by the time it was finished (assuming it would be 18 months – 2 years) we’d have a lovely set for MG to play with. There were lots of great items, but the partwork didn’t seem to have any system to it and after a year it felt more like they were getting rid of unsold items rather than making a coherent set. I persevered then cancelled after two years with far too much stuff. Two years after cancelling I got even more fed up of the bits being spread everywhere all over the house so made a deal with the children – they would get new kitchenware and tea sets but in return we got rid of the Strawberry Shortcake things!

I was torn between the Pink Flower Kitchenware Set and the Stainless Steel Kitchenware Set but of course my girls chose the pink flowers! There really is more than enough here for play cooking – two pans with lids, a frying pan, a wok, baking pan, 2 wooden spoons, pan holder and mini tablecloth (which doubles perfectly as a picnic blanket). My initial thoughts were that everything was smaller than I imagined, but that’s because the original set we had was oversized for a kitchen set. MG and DG have no such preconceptions and think the whole set is great, making lots of different pretend meals for us all. MG and DG like to use beads as pretend cooking ingredients making for very colourful meals.

Again I was torn between two picnic baskets but MG and DG prefered the basket with this set and the design exactly matches the pink flower kitchenware set which they also prefered. This set comes with a lovely picnic basket, teapot, four teacups, four saucers, four plates, four spoons and a fabric holder for the spoons (which matches the material in the kitchenware set). Being made of tin there’s no breakages to worry about. I do love porcelain tea sets but my daughters are not dainty (for which I am glad of, they play wholeheartedly!) The lid of the teapot fits very securely (at first I thought it didn’t come off but my daughters disproved that theory) so less chance of falling off and getting lost (little pieces disappear in the Chaos household regularly!) The tea cups are so cute, as are the dinky saucers that go with them. A big hit in this house, we’ve had a constant tea-party in the week since they arrived. And I’ve halved the amount of stuff by boxing up the other set for charity which means less mess and more structured playtime instead of “let’s spread everything over every room in the house” play 😆

Now is a fantastic time to buy BigJigs toys from PlayMerrily with 15% off until the end of April. See my reviews for other BigJigs products here (we do love BigJigs in this house!) There’s also 10% off Orchard Toys Games and Puzzles (I must review some, all the ones we have are fantastic) until mid-May. If that wasn’t enough to send you to fill your shopping basket at PlayMerrily, there’s free shipping with orders over £50 and Ramblings of a Suburban Mummy has a code for an additional 10% off everything until the end of May! Shhh, don’t tell Mr Chaos I’ve been stocking up on presents 😉

Disclaimer: I was not sent these sets by PlayMerrily for review but I have had a discount account with PlayMerrily since August 2011 and therefore paid a reduced price for these products. All my reviews have been written because I loved the products and are for items I freely chose to buy for my daughters, unless otherwise stated. I choose to review for PlayMerrily because of their fantastic and friendly service.

Sleeping Like Babies

Neither MG or DG are particularly graceful at going to sleep. DG being younger is more likely to get so exhausted she just drops off anywhere. MG will suddenly become very hungry, thirsty, need the toilet and have to read ‘just two more books’…

On the plus side, both girls now sleep in their own beds all night long so we rarely have nights of musical beds anymore. They sleep quicker if someone stays in the room with them, this can get frustrating when there’s dinner to cook and a house to tidy and work to do and…

Tonight I took in my Kindle, I don’t know why I haven’t before. They like their bedside lamp to be so bright it was okay to read. DG muttered to herself until she snuggled up and drifted off. MG read out loud until she was gone too, still clutching her book. I got to read a few chapters of my book. Shhh… Sleep tight, small daughters of mine. I love you very much.

Note that both girls are clutching a tatty muslin. ‘Muzzies’ are the comforter of choice for the Chaos children, so no special toys to worry about losing. Phew…

Edit to add: I had an added extra treat this week when DG crawled onto my lap, snuggled into me and…

Waxing (not particularly lyrically)

This morning I waxed my legs. Apologies for this information, but it must have been the first time I’d done this in front of my daughters as they found the process extremely interesting.

MG: What are you doing? What are you using? Does it hurt? You’ve missed some. Can I help?

DG: Why you hurt yourself mummy?

So I try to explain. I like to have smooth legs. But that makes me think, why do I like this? The only reason is because having started to shave/wax/whatever you generally have to continue. The only reason is because our culture deems it preferable for females to be hairless in some areas. What do I tell my daughters?

So far, I’m sticking with I prefer smooth legs (true enough). I dye my hair because I prefer to look my age rather than the ten years older my grey streaks make me look. I occasionally wear make-up because it hides my rosacea, although as I’ve never really been a girly girl I don’t wear make-up particularly often either. But what about my daughters?

Is it better to avoid all ‘beautification’ to show them it’s unnecessary, or better to have some kind of ‘beauty routine’ so they see it day-to-day and don’t just pick things up from peers and magazines as they grow? MG has wanted to use nail varnishes and lipsticks from before she was four, it’s just a play thing but do I say no way or let her experiment in a controlled manner? DG is almost three, she’ll start to follow suit soon.

I want my daughters to have good self-esteem and not fall into gender stereotypes just because they’re stereotypes. I want them to be themselves and be happy in who they are. Reading this article on sexism from The Alpha Parent makes me so sad. Life can be hard enough, without children being segregated by gender from birth, especially from an organisation that is supposed to be about learning. What happened to the adverts I remember from years ago which promoted the fact they had no fashion dolls or war toys?

I have daughters, there are a different set of issues with boys but still the same problems of marketing and media image. I think it’s just sinking in how hard the next fifteen years of parenting are going to get, and I thought the last five years were hard 😆

Fiction Fridays #24: Mixed Up Fairy Tales

FF#24
Mixed Up Fairy Tales: Hilary Robinson & Nick Sharratt (????)

Little Red Riding Hood had a mum who was a washerwoman and fell asleep in Baby Bear’s bed after eating a troll.

Read more about Fiction Fridays here.
Like to take part? Read the rules and guidelines and get the badge here.

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Extra Info:
MG got this from one of her friends for her fifth birthday this year, funnily enough only a week after I’d read this review from Polly at The Little Wooden Horse and mentally added it to my “books to look for” list.

No extra review from me because I recommend reading The Little Wooden Horse. The book has been a huge hit here, hilariously funny. The kids love it too 😆

Making Hats at Pitt-Rivers Museum

During the Easter school break, I took MG and DG to Oxford Natural History and Pitt-Rivers museums, something I don’t do nearly as often as I should considering how easy they are to get to. This turned out to be a fairly short trip in terms of looking at anything in the museums, because we found the craft area and the girls spent most of their time there making Wellington Soldier hats, or Pirate hats as DG has it – Arrr, mateys!

I shall write about how awesome both the Natural History and Pitt-Rivers museums are in another post at some point, but in summary they are wonderful with supportive staff, lots of interesting things to see and regular family-friendly events. As MG and DG get older, we’ll go to more events as they’re still quite young.

These Wellington Soldier hats are so simple to make and look great.

Materials:

  • 2 pieces of black A3 card
  • one long strip of card (any colour, about 5cm wide)
  • scissors
  • glue
  • lots of bits and pieces for sticking

Firstly, you need to cut the shape in the picture above from the two pieces of A3 card. It takes up most of the card length but a little less than the height. There were templates provided at Pitt Rivers for the children to draw round and cut. (I tried to create the template on my computer but I have zero artistic talent so failed miserably!)

Once the two sides of the hat have been cut, they need to be decorated however you wish. There were lots of beautiful parent-designs on the day, but I like to let my girls do their own crafts so they may not have perfect hats, but they’re theirs 🙂

Once each of the two hat pieces have been decorated (one side only), put them together with the decorated sides outwards and staple the top edges together. Take the long strip of card and measure the child’s head, stapling a circle that fits the child together, then staple the circle card into the bottom opening of the hat.

Such a simple and effective craft, MG and DG thoroughly enjoyed it. Huge thanks to Pitt-Rivers’ for an idea for an easy craft we can modify and do again and again!

Little Pirate Wellington Soldier (who didn’t want her picture taken!)

I’m linking this up to A Mummy’s View’s #ArtAttackTuesday.

Fiction Fridays #23: Welcome to Alien School

FF#23
Welcome to Alien School: Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves (2012)

“Red-Five? Red-Five? This is mission Control. Get ready for countdown.”

Read more about Fiction Fridays here.
Like to take part? Read the rules and guidelines and get the badge here.

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Extra Info:
This is the third book in a series about Albie, a small boy with a huge imagination. In the first book, Albie went with his mum to the supermarket where the shopping list included reptiles, parrots, monkeys, lions and a very large surprise… In the second book, Albie planted some seeds with his mum and the next day his garden is a prehistoric jungle full of dinosaurs and jelly bean trees…

In this book, Albie’s mum drops him off at the wrong school – on a different planet! Here he has to cope with strange lessons, strange new friends and even stranger food. But by the end he’s had great fun and wants to take a friend home – but they can’t because he has to go swimming. And that’s another adventure…

Welcome to Alien School has really caught MG’s imagination. She requests it regularly (I had to prise the three books from under her as she slept in order to take a picture!) and she plays pretend school with alien teachers, bossing her little sister: “Time for Alien School!”

One thing that I particularly like in this book is the maths lesson at Alien School. It’s a pet hate of mine how it’s socially acceptable to say maths is difficult, which therefore becomes self-fulfilling as kids believe it is so don’t try so find it hard etc… But Albie loves maths! Yay! He may not be able to do Alien maths, but that’s because it’s Alien!

One Lovely Blog Award

I was given this award by Taming the Goblin over a month ago and was very touched as her blog is one I really enjoy reading so I’m honoured to have been chosen. One of the ‘rules’ of this award is to choose 15 blogs to pass it on to. As I’ve previously written with regards to a meme, I can’t see how this works in the long run because by the third generation you’re onto 3,375 blogs but I am still going to take the opportunity to write about 15 blogs I love!

One Lovely Blog Award Rules:
1. Link back to the one who gave you this award.
2. Pass the award on to 15 other lovely bloggers.
3. Follow the person who sent it to you.

Bloggers below, feel free to ignore the rules! 🙂

Patch of Puddles
I first started reading Merry’s blog shortly before her first son, Freddie was born two years ago. I started reading because I was interested in home education plus she runs a fantastic online toy store. I stayed because her writing is touching and beautiful as well as interesting and varied. Sadly Freddie didn’t get to stay with his family for long, but the impact of his life touched me so much. Some of Merry’s posts leave me in tears, but they’ve been tears of both sadness and joy.
Twitter: @MerrilyMe

Making It Up
I started reading Jax’s blog via Patch of Puddles. I was interested in home education and read a variety of blogs on the subject before deciding to send my girls to the local primary (for now) but this is one of the few I still read regularly because of the variety and interest of the posts. Jax also writes beautifully and I have come to respect her opinions highly and find she speaks much sense, both on blog and twitter.
Twitter: @liveotherwise

Brink of Bedlam
Varied and often very funny, Kay’s blog is a mixture of parenting, reviews, ramblings and more. For me, Kay is reassuring proof that being chaotic is ‘normal’, and she’s a lovely person to chat with to boot!
Twitter: @chaoskay

Musings of a Stressy Mummy
Nikki is another lovely person to chat with, and her blog covers parenting from 2 to 16 years old – so lots of very varied posts! There are reviews, books, pictures, memes and musings.
Twitter: @stressymummy

Playing by the Book
Zoe’s blog is a fantastic mix of children’s book reviews and crafts based on those books. The blog is a treasure trove of ideas and Zoe’s passion for books shines through. Not only is she hugely knowledgeable about books, she’s extraordinarily helpful, giving advice and ideas for all sorts of projects (she’s answered twitter queries I’ve had on more than one occasion). She also promotes book charities around the world and held the first International Edible Book Festival earlier this year.
Twitter: @playbythebook

Little Wooden Horse
Polly’s blog only started this year but is already a huge wealth of children’s book reviews. Passionate and knowledgeable about her subject, I look forward to every new post and am learning new things every day. Just wonderful.
Twitter: @Pollylwh

The Children’s Writer
This is really a recommendation for two blogs at once. I’ve headed it with The Children’s Writer because I really enjoy the posts from the viewpoint of a future picture book author and the trials of getting a book published. But I also enjoy @homedad‘s parenting blog, which generally makes me smile. It’s also the home of Fiction Fridays, which re-ignited my passion for picture books and made this blog far more interesting (I hope!) Not to mention the stay-at-home-dad viewpoint is worth a read for the other side of gender discrimination.
Twitter: @homedad75

Taking Words for a Stroll
Elli’s blog is purely poetry only, you won’t find any other meanderings here. What you will find are hilarious poems and rhymes, but don’t delay they don’t stay there for long. Elli is extremely talented and her poems are perfect for sharing with children (and adults). One of my recent favourites is an ‘anti-rhyme’ where some bears sit on… stools and eat… plums 🙂
Twitter: @Elephantthai

Sunny Side Up!
Clara’s blog is full of lovely craft ideas and behind-the-scenes looks at picture book creation. It’s positive, welcoming and home to The Happy Bunny Club!
Twitter: @ClaraVulliamy

David Melling
David’s blog is full of glimpses into his sketchbooks, behind-the-scenes picture book making and storyboards. It really showcases his amazing talent. There is also a website: http://davidmelling.co.uk/
Twitter: @davidmelling1

Sarah McIntyre
This is a blog I don’t read as often as I should because every time I read it I learn some interesting nuggets from the world of illustration and writing. As well as illustrating some of my girls’ favourite books, Sarah is an awesome talent who stands up for and supports the book community. She has a website full of crafty activities too: http://www.jabberworks.co.uk/
Twitter: @jabberworks

Trapped by Monsters
Trapped by Monsters is a collaborative blog originally based on the idea of “a group of authors who met up to write the ultimate guide to bumping off monsters, but instead were captured, locked in a cave, and forced to blog…” It’s been running over three years now and is full of books, art, events, ramble and monsters.
Twitter: various!

Living Montessori Now
If you’re thinking of educating using Montessori principles and only read one blog, this is the one to read. There are so many showcases, linkies, reviews… It’s a one stop shop for Montessori-based education ideas plus information on Montessori principles from a very knowledgable, friendly and lovely lady.
Twitter: @debchitwood

Montessori MOMents
Lori’s blog is about bringing up her two young boys (and now a daughter on the way, so baby excitement to come this year) home educating using Montessori principles. I used to read a lot of different Montessori blogs, the three I’ve included in the list are the ones that have stuck with me as I’ve chosen not to home ed but am still interested in Montessori home ed. Interesting and inspiring, and full of cute kids!
Twitter: @LoriMOMents

What Did We Do All Day?
Another Montessori home educator blog, but another one I’ve stuck with for the interesting content and the amount of work she puts in to cataloguing all existing Montessori blogs, collating homemade Montessori materials instructions and comparing a wide variety of Montessori albums and resources. Well worth bookmarking!
Twitter: @My_Boys_Teacher

And yes, there are many more deserving, and chosing these fifteen was both easy and very, very hard. I think they are all well worth following and if you’re not already following, go take a look.

Thanks again to Ray from Taming the Goblin, you should be up there too but I didn’t know if I was allowed to include the person who gave me the award!