What She Wore Today (The Toddler Wardrobe)

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Controversially, I am a strict avoider of the supermarket clothing aisles. Once in a while I will let my trolly venture that way, perhaps when in need of some well priced denim or when I spot the 25% off TU posters, but generally I restrict buying children’s clothing to one seasonal shop and my indulgent treat is to fill a big online Zara basket and top up with a few bits from John Lewis and H&M. This is actually not because I’m snobby.  There are some lovely items to be found in our ‘smarkets’. Rather, it is because I now realise that buying ‘cheap’ supermarket clothes for my first child added up to a massive overspend simply because I was faced with shopping options 2/3 times a week. With my track record in impulsive purchasing she had far more clothes than hot meals and that’s just not necessary, or manageable. So now I adopt the ‘less is more’ approach and try to keep my Sainsburys trips to sensible things such as bread and broccoli… and maybe an occasional random cactus…  because its a bit green like a vegetable.

The less is more approach also beautifully means those favourite items… the ones you cry when they grow out of it… get much more rotational wear and don’t tend to get lost under all the laundry.

My latest life hack has been to spend 20 mins on a Sunday afternoon choosing what Niema should wear for the week ahead. The mornings are generally a fairly calm affair in our house. The eldest 2 have school uniforms and are generally capable of sorting themselves for school.  Joel and I are low maintenance. The potential hold up is always the wild-card-toddler who, when its time to get dressed, could be anywhere (normally shouting “I’m busy clambering Mummy!” from somewhere downstairs) and is 100% wriggly and fiercely opinionated. Getting her dressed requires focus, skill, speed and she must not smell fear. If she senses you are deliberating between outfits she will intervene and then you have lost. She will be leaving the house in a bumble bee tutu with odd shoes and her brothers pants on her head. Speed is key.

She doesn’t have a ‘proper’ wardrobe. We bought this chest of drawers as her clothing storage and change station when we decorated her nursery and they still hold enough. Her hanging rail (a stick I found on the school run… bleached and painted. The bleach was mainly because I’m pretty sure it was a dogs stick and he was probably coming back for it later – sorry doggy) is still one of my favourite things in her room and teamed with these baskets are my Monday-Sunday lifesavers. No more “What do you want her to we-eeeaaaaaaaaa-r?” being yelled at me if I’ve managed to pass the job onto anyone else and would like 3 minutes work out which contact lens goes in which eye in peace.

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Into the baskets go her Monday-Sunday pants, Monday-Sunday hair slides (we REALLY know what day of the week it is at all times) and then I pick out some outfits from her drawers. Monday and Tuesday she goes to Nanny and Pappy’s and without fail gets tomato pips down her front. Those things are dangerous staining criminals so the first 2 hangers are strictly navy only. The rest of the week I am always nearby with Vanish so anything goes, even yellow or white (living on the edge my friends). Then if later on in the week I throw in her swim suit amongst the outfits it reminds me to plan a trip to the gym. Stress free mornings ahoy.

This approach also means there is no room for a classic Dad tights error. Anyone else think pattered tights should be sold with a basic instruction leaflet attached?

I am well in to anything that saves a few vital seconds in the daily routine. Another new fave is to hand the ironing over to my 12 year old. She’s ‘learning a vital skill’ and actually enjoys it (!?) Any other life hacks would be greatly appreciated – please comment and let me in on your best secrets to success. xx

 

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A party in the woods (Butterflies and Bears)

IMG_3127I’m usually strictly a ‘home party’ person. I do like the control of knowing my venue and having as much time as I need, plus not relying in transporting everything on the day. This year however, Storm Doris took it upon herself to destroy 60% of our fence and the prospect of keeping lively three year olds indoors or risk them escaping our open plan exterior to run up and down the street was not one I fancied. Instead we opted for a mix of a trip to the woods followed by a party tea back at home. We’d planned the party in for the date after getting back from a week away as well, so knowing time was short, the aim was to keep this one simple.

The plan: I set off to find our spot in the woods just before the party was due to start in order to set up a tipi, hide some teddy bears, and hang decorations in the trees while the rest of the family waited at home. The children arrived and selected an ‘adventure headband’ I’d made using elastic and a few feathers then walked down at 3 year old pace to find us in a little clearing. I’d picked a spot by the water, checking that parents felt ok about that first, and and warned them to bring wellies. They happily spent the first few minutes playing with sticks and running around. It was great to have an arty friend come along to help so I assigned Hannah to face-painting and set up a little blanket by the tipi for the children to sit one by one and be painted as butterflies (or rhinos, unicorns or batman… of course) We kept the activities simple.  I had cut out butterfly shapes on white card and attached pipe cleaners and a thread to hang them from the trees. I took small pots of paints and brushes along and the children could pick one at a time to paint one side and splodge over to print onto the other wing then leave them drying on their spot in the trees until it was time to head home.

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We took a little bluetooth speaker and used it to play pass the parcel. After games I told the children that there were some little bear friends lost in the woods and that they were hoping to be found by a new family. I’d bought a set of these beautiful bears from a wholesaler on eBay and I tied each one a different colour ribbon around it’s neck so that there would be no arguments about who’s was who’s when we got back to the house. We’d hidden them around the spot we were using, up trees, behind rocks, in the grass and all the children went to find one to keep.

While they were looking for bears with their parents I headed off first to set out the party tea, leaving Holly (my 12 year old) who had hidden the bears behind incase anyone was really stuck, and once the children arrived back and de-muddified their hands we sat up to tuck into pizzas, Pom Bears, crunchy veggies and bread sticks. For pudding I did small pots of natural yogurt with chopped fruit to add in and some pretty rice-crispy squares with edible glitter for a bit of sparkly fun.

I arranged the bits and pieces for party bags onto the shelves in our kitchen. Having it out on display is an easy way to include another themed decoration and helps me to keep the things I’m going to add in on the classy rather than tacky side. We popped in their bear hunt bear, a Butterbear bath bomb from Lush, some cake, and a bag of trail mix. Trail mix is a great way to keep party bags low sugar but still containing a bit of chocolate. I added in some chocolate buttons, chocolate pieces and mini marshmallows along with monkey nuts and alphabet cereal and tied these in a little bag just with handwritten labels.

For the cake I did a 3 layer chocolate cake and used this big Meri Meri no. 3 candle and some of our fave Shleich bears. After considering crafting some little trees I saw this fab idea of using rosemary on @buttercreamanddreams Instagram and, well, we have a forest of rosemary taking over the back garden.

Thankfully the day ended with some tired happy kids and a content newly three year old. This is despite the breakdown the day before. Even though she had decided 6 months ago it was a butterflies and bears party she wanted, talking about it constantly from November through to April, With less than 24 hours to go she decided she’d actually like to change it to a bouncy balls and Peppa Pig party. Fabulous. And no.

My DIY Christmas: The Notice Boards

I’m not going to lie. There’s not been as much crafting at the Toombs house in recent days. I do wonder how I managed to make a tipi, a mobile, sew cloud cushions, mould bath bombs, make 2 christmas puddings and hand tie tutus for the month of December last year. I guess the baby was not mobile, or so vocal.

This year the DIY comes more in the form of sourcing cheaper versions of cool expensive things. Ok. It’s not actually DIY at all. We’re planning some big room move around in the next few months and all excitement is set on the bigger 2 and their planning of their ‘cool new rooms’. I’ve been trying to hold back from getting them TOO many bits for them for Christmas. There is no where to put it all until the move happens but at the same time I do love being able to buy useful Christmas gifts. The pictures above are my pinterest goals. They both will need to priorotise a working desk space in their new rooms and though they both love the retro industrial look I want to make sure each of their spaces are characterised differently to mark the move from a shared boy/girl room into seperate spaces.

I love these retro peg boards. We had one in our old office which was still around from the 70s. I didn’t expect I’d be hunting online a couple of years later and seeing small pieces available for around the £90 mark. I wanted one for Elijah’s room that would be big enough to spread most of the width of a desk and they were looking rather pricey so I found a plain board on ebay for the grand sum of £6. I’ve taken some duck-egg Annie Sloan chalk paint to it and think it will do the trick just nicely. I just need to hunt down the best mix of attatchments to hang things from and love some of the bright pegs and shelves I’ve seen but have no idea where to source things like that from.

The grid is perfect for what I have in mind for Hollys room. I bought this 4 foot version for just under £20 from amazon. Again, its to span the width of the desk. For Christmas I plan to style it up for her with motivational postcards, prints, washi tape and bright bulldog clips. I think that might be more appealing than the plain grid in a bin bag that is currenty sitting in the loft!

I’m really keen to hear any suggestions of peg board accessories. I did order some really cure shaped wooden ones… which happen to be about 10x too big for the holes. Maths fail on that one. I have no idea what I was thinking.

Images all taken from Pinterest.

Advent Series Day 2: Rudolf Cookies

IMG_0050These are a bit of a fave now. I’ve been doing this advent pre-pinterest days and have always done these cute little things. I must have seen them on the internet somewhere but can’t remember where now – but credit to some clever old soul who noticed the similarity between antlers and upsidedown pretzels… and the inventors of chocolate pretzels.

I use my nannans old recipe for fairings – and then its a bit of a hope and pray that as they squidge and grow in the oven the antlers, eyes and nose will vaiguely stay in the right places. So far they are always incredibly cute… so here’s hoping for success later today!

The cookies: Mix 100g plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp bicarb with 1/2 tsp each of mixed spicce, cinnamon and ginger. Add in the rind of a lemon or an orange (personally I prefer the orange for rudolf)

Add in 50g of diced butter and rub in with your fingers to make it fine and ‘breadcrummy’. Now add in 50g of sugar and 2 tablespoons of golden syrup (although we are generally using rice malt syrup and using 1/3rd of the sugar a recipe states so I may try this version out tomorrow – I’m not sure how well it will hold it together) Stir this all in with a big spoon until it’s lost it’s gooeyness enough for you to work it with your hands into a dough. Roll it into a log and slice it in half, half again and then each section into 3. (my easiest method to make 12 equal portions.

Squash eack of these slighly from a ball into a squashed ball and then tuck in 2 chocolate pretzels, a red smartie (or a mix of red, orange and brown if you want to make Rudolf and all his friends) and 2 rasins for his eyes. Bake for 8-10 mins at 180 degrees C and transfer to a cooling rack when he seems like he will move. These are fairly fool-proof –  I can break most recipes but this is consistent and both older kids request this recipe on their birthdays to take to school – I think they’ve had requests from their friends.

The dough and the baked cookies both freeze really well (the smarties go a bit pale but if you’re adding anything else in or just having them plain that may work better)

This year are all red noses… I’ve saved the rest of the multi pack of smarties to use in the gingerbread house advent so they are not going to waste.. or getting eaten…yet.

Here’s a couple of pics of the ones we made last year… and you’ll find them on my imstagram every December! IMG_6849

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Apologies this last image is both after they’ve bene left slightly too long in the oven… and also I just can’t rotate it. I could… but it’s not as easy as just turning your head or just being happy to look at a sideways cookie. Cute though, right?

 

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Advent Series Day 1: The Christmas Tree

December 1st! Christmas Tree Day!

IMG_0052Mondays are not a good day for our family to spend any time together. The kids are free after school but Joel gets in around 6 and then has to leave at 6.45 to go to job no 2… giving us a grand total of 45 mins together for dinner, catching up and ‘please just hold the baby so I can go and serve up dinner/wash up the milk bottles/microwave my cold cup of tea’ time. However it is the first of December and therefore a Christmas tree is utterly important and somehow we will fit it in!

I wanted today’s parcel to be a little more fun and I’ve recently realised that having 3 children means you can make full use of the 3 for 2 offers out there… so picked up these 3 fun little Christmas baubles from paperchase. Niema can’t hold hers for too long or she does pull the top off… but ooooh her little face watching the sequin confetti inside when we were in the shop!!! I think she’s going to really love a Christmas tree full of sparkles! So these are wrapped up, one for each child, with a tag for our tree trip to go and choose our real tree. A night of Christmas music and decorating is ahead 🙂

I use a happy face there… I do need to remember that last year we had a full family fallout over choosing the tree. I got my way even though Joel said it would drop and Elijah said it was too prickly and refused to look at it. I was pregnant and it WAS the most important thing in the world. The shape was perfect and the colour… and it was the perfect height… but it hurt us all, it dropped its pins. They were right and I was wrong. No family fights over the tree today… we have less than 45 mins to make the decision.

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The Advent Series 2014

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I’ve been doing this activity style advent calendar now for the last 3 years and it really has to be one of the highlights of our family year. I love December and think its worth milking the whole month for all the Christmassness it has to offer – it is the only chance we get afterall.

December is already full of events, preperations, jobs we have to do, jobs we love to do, things to see, crafts to make, foods to enjoy… so rather than struggling to fit these things and juggle the busy-ness I sit carefully with my calendar at the end of November and plan these activities in as an advent calendar for the family. Each day has a parcel containing a clue, a ‘ticket’, some ingredients or a recipe, a craft, a trip…basically something we ‘do’ that day.

The children love this so much. They have been talking about it non stop. It really feels like Christmas starts in the morning here. They talk about their favourite activities of previous years and the ones they really hope we’ll do again. They really are so excited. Some of the days are mundane things… this isn’t a costly thing at all. I don’t think there is anything in the parcels that I’ve bought for the sake of this Advent Series… its all things we would do anyway. For example one of the days is a pack of their Christmas cards and a bag of chocolate coins so that they can write their class cards. Wrapping this up as an activity in a parcel makes this ‘urrrgh’ task into something they feel excited to do… and means it gets done in one evening rather than dragging on and on and on as it can do!

So as we start the next 24 days of advent I will be blogging each activity we do, and if you are reading this and doing something similar or have ideas to throw into the mix I would love to hear them in the comments below. Someone I know has just started doing this for the first time this year and is calling it their ‘Advent-ures’ I love that (!) and have been more than happy to share my calendar with her… and I’m sure I’ll be borrowing ideas back as I see the posts of hers too.

I have to plan carefully alongside after school clubs, what times we get in from work on certain days etc but generally I try to put in a craft, a baking, a trip, and evnt and a chilled out treat each week.

So as an overview here is how my next 24 days should look.

1st Christmas Tree Trip

2nd Baking Rudolf Cookies

3rd Letter Decorations

4th Christmas Shopping Trip

5th Christmas Movie and popcorn

6th Trip to Journey To Bethlehem (a free local event)

7th Christmas Cards

8th Letters to Father Christmas

9th Making Snowglobes

10th Christmas Party

11th School Disco

12th Wrapping Up

13th Gingerbread House

14th Trip out

15th Teachers Gifts

16th Lanterns

17th Mince Pies

18th Thanksgiving

19th Christmas Movie and Popcorn

20th Pantomime

21st Walk in the woods and DIY family photoshoot

22nd Walk round the local Christmassy shops and going for a hot chocolate

23rd Making a mobile

24th Crib Service and Decorating the Christmas Cake

Looking forward to ‘unwrapping’ each day with you as we go!

The Advent Calendar (No. 1)

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It’s that time of year again when I go a little Advent crazy. Last year the children had seven calendars. Yes SEVEN… and not one of them was a cardboard supermarket type one with chocolates behind the doors. I’m just not in to having Spongebob displayed anywhere for 24 whole days. Not when you can fill the house with pegs, felt snowmen, envelopes tied to branches, parcels in treasure chests and an entire Accessorize ex window display of 24 little cardboard houses instead.

This year I’ve kept some back in the loft. We’re going to try to stick to 2 … and just maybe an advent candle as well as I’ve noticed some very pretty ones at Chatsworth and I’m not sure I’ll resist them next time I go.

In the hope of remaining sugar free, or at least sugar-super-restricted the children are completely confused as to how we will actually DO this advent calandar that is set to replace their lovely snowmen ones with 24 little pockets which I normally fill with chocolate coins, mini santas and boxes of rasins.

This is what I have made instead. Now that there are 3 children it felt right to make a change and instead of the pockets I have constructed this with bakers twine, mini bulldog clips, washi tape, stickers and some stripy grey candy bags. I’ve recycled last years advent parcel tags which I just made from brown tags from ebay and number stamps. I’m more than happy to have this in the centre of our dining area wall… I’ve thought ahead and the colours will match our table and the big giant snowflakes. Its prettier than Spongebob too, yeah? (Sorry, I do love Spongebob but he’s so yellow!)

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Inside the parcels I’ve mixed things up a little. Some contain 3 sets of stickers, a few do have contraband chocolate coins, there are a few Sonny Angels to share but most contain a few real coins. The children love getting a little pocket money and this is a nice way to add to that. Some days it may be a 5p each and others a £1 coin each. Its a nice way to have Niema involved… she will be opening a money box on Christmas Day so she will need some pennies to start off her little collection.

Ohhhhhhh…. 10 whole more sleeps to go!!!