Easter Eggs – #minicreations #creativechallenge

We try not to go too mad with chocolate over Easter, and try to do something a bit different as a gift for grandparents rather than buying a standard egg, particularly because Grandad can’t have chocolate. This year I had a brain wave one day when thinking about what we could make. I’d been meaning to do some papier mache with the boys for a while, and it occurred to me that balloons blown up small would be the shape of eggs. So that’s what we did!

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I blew up 2 balloons, one for each set of grandparents, and ripped up some pieces of paper in various bright colours to give small-ish strips. Then came the really fun part – getting messy! We mixed some white PVA craft glue with some water until it was nice and runny. Andrew very much enjoyed helping me with that part. We made sure we put our protective plastic mat down on the table, and then started dipping strips of paper in the watery glue. As we pulled them out, we stuck them onto the balloon (we did one at at time). I held on to the balloon to keep it in one place, then when we needed to do the bit that was touching the mat, I lifted it up and held it by the tied end, which we left poking out.

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Once both balloons were fully covered in lots of overlapping strips of paper, I tied an elastic band around the poking out bits and we left them hanging to drip dry in the garage (unfortunately it wasn’t a very nice day when we did it otherwise they would have been great drying outside). After a couple of days they were well and truly dried out. Then I got a skewer and popped the balloons inside to leave a nice egg-shaped hollow structure. At the end where the tied with poked out, I got some scissors in and cut around the centre to give two halves.

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To give the inside a different colour and texture, I cut four squares of foil and we had fun pushing them down into each half egg. To finish off the edges we stuck some red tape around each rim. Then all that was left to do was fill the eggs with surprises and give them for Easter! We chose some chocolates from a lovely chocolate shop in Keswick on holiday, and some Cumbrian sheeps milk cheese for Grandad.

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Creative Challenge
Mini Creations

Being creative and starting a challenge

A while ago I saw that Caroline over at Becoming a SAHM was starting a new linky called ‘Creative Challenge’. The idea is to post about any creative activity that you’ve been up to that you are trying to do better or more often or challenge yourself in some other way with it. When I saw this it was around the time that I was just setting up Sewn Down Purple Lane, and I thought this was particularly fitting for the Creative Challenge linky theme, because although I’ve been creative with my sewing for a while, I was now stepping up a notch and challenging myself to selling my creative wares. I’ve been meaning to write about this and join in with the linky with this post for a while, but as long as I have my sewing machine with me, the default is to sew rather than write about sewing, so it took until coming on holiday with no sewing machine to write this.

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First I thought I’d write a bit about my background in being creative, before moving on to how I’m finding the new challenge now that it’s well underway. I’ve enjoyed sewing (as well as other crafts) for as long as I can remember. I took Textiles as a GCSE subject, which was some lovely creative relief from the more academic subjects. As a teenager I made some of my own clothes and bags, but as university and young adult life took over, I didn’t sew as much – though I did a lot of cross-stitch as a stress reliever during exam periods. Just before Andrew – now 3 years old — was born, I got my machine back out and altered a pair of curtains with some Very Hungry Caterpillar fabric to make them long enough for his room-to-be; this gave me a taste for sewing again!

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Fleece wrap

I also got into using cloth nappies on Andrew. When I was pregnant again and realised we would have a 21-month age gap and therefore two little ones in nappies, I bought some more to expand our nappy stash. The trouble was though, Andrew at nearly 2 years old was getting very big for standard ‘birth-to-potty’ nappies, especially his night nappies that needed to be boosted for heavy wetting. So I set to and sewed him some huge toddler nappies and fleece covers using fabrics upcycled from clothes and flat terry nappies. That’s where my upcycling journey really began. I tried various designs and types of nappy, making my own patterns as I went along. Now the majority of nappies and waterproof wraps that we use are mummy-made, mostly from fabric that used to be something else wearable, and I’ve sold many of our mass-produced cloth nappies.

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Fleece soaker

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After I started making nappies, the need arose to do something about the dribble situation with Joel – now 17 months old – who wet through bibs spectacularly faster than Andrew ever did. The trouble was that the standard dribble bibs that we had been bought had just one layer of absorbent fabric. That’s when I thought to use fabrics with nappy absorbency levels in a bib, again upcycling from clothes and flat nappies that were no longer useful to us. I sewed some bibs with a funky front fabric (from patterned cotton clothes), a stay-dry backing fabric (fleece or synthetic knitted) next to his skin and other clothes, and a hidden layer of terry cotton for ultimate absorbency. I’m pleased to say that these super absorbent dribble bibs have been fantastic at keeping his chin and top dry despite his dribbling skills that rival those of a top footballer. I also like the bandana style — it looks more stylish than a classic round baby bib, and it flaps around less so doesn’t get in the way especially when he was in the crawling stage.

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Cord bib

Animal alphabet bib

My latest fascination is sewing with the gorgeous woven fabrics that are used as baby/toddler slings – one long piece of fabric is wrapped around parent and child in a secure position – hence the name ‘wrap’. I got into babywearing in this way when Joel was born. It’s quite easy to come by so-called ‘wrap scraps’, smaller pieces of wrap that are left over when weavers make the wraps, or when one is chopped up and converted into a sling with buckles, or if one is damaged somehow. There are so many possibilities for upcycling this lovely fabric – so far I have made waterproof bags, purses, bibs, glove clips, nappies and (probably my favourite for the name) ‘wrap scrap nappy wraps’! Well done if you’ve followed all the wraps here.

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Rainbow wrap scrap nappy

Wrap scrap nappy wrap without snaps

I’ve also figured out how to convert some of our adult clothes that are broken in part or too small into clothes for the boys – for example leggings from jumpers, small trousers from bigger trousers, slippers from jeans and a shirt, and a coat for babywearing that fits over both Joel and me when I’m carrying him on my back in the sling. I never throw any kind of fabric item away, even Daddy has learnt to give me his old stained shirts and worn through the knees trousers – there’s always something new I can make with them.

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Babywearing coat

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Having done all sorts of sewing for my boys, I eventually decided to set up shop. I say ‘eventually’ because I’d been thinking about it for a while but waited for a good time to do it. With our relocation to a new city, and the boys being at an age where it’s manageable to work around their routines, it seemed the right time. So I started sewing items to have in stock (mainly bibs, clothes and nappy accessories like waterproof bags and washable wipes), set up a Facebook page and Etsy shop, and offered custom slots for things other than the in stock items. And that’s about where I’m at now.

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My biggest challenge at the moment is marketing and advertising my creative products. I’m happy doing the creative stuff, but I have very little idea about the business side of things. I know it’s pretty easy these days to set up an online shop with little prior knowledge, but running that shop successfully isn’t as easy as you might think. Pricing is an interesting issue that I’ve had to tackle recently: I’ve read that it’s essential to hit a sweet spot — too cheap and people will wonder about your materials and doubt the ‘handmade’ nature of your stuff, and too expensive and they won’t think it’s worth buying. I’m also discovering that it’s all well and good getting likes on Facebook, followers on Twitter, and comments saying how lovely my sewn goodies are and how great my ideas are, but turning those into sales takes some work. I’m still learning how best to do this, so I don’t have a huge list of tips; in fact if anyone has any advice to offer me on this matter I’d be very keen to hear it.

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The most important thing I need to remember in this challenge is that I’m doing this because I enjoy sewing a lot. I find it hugely satisfying to complete a project, especially something that is very practical and looks good at the same time. It’s also a good feeling to use fabrics that would otherwise be thrown away or into the recycling bank, and make new items from old, giving them a new lease of life. I might find the business side of my tasks more boring than the creative ones, but I know I need to work at these too if I want it to succeed. At the end of the day, though, I doubt being a WAHM will make us millions, but just to cover the cost of my materials and earn a bit of pocket money doing something I love would be brilliant. That’s the plan.

Creative Challenge

Springy flowers Mothering Sunday card

I’ve got a horrible cold at the moment, so I’ve not felt like doing much other than the bare essentials of getting through the day with the boys, but I thought writing this short post would cheer me up. We like to make cards where possible, which often means doing a photo collage online, getting it printed, and sticking it to some ready folded cards. For Mother’s Day this year, as we have done in previous years, I thought it would be nice for the boys and me to do some craft together.

I scoured our craft box and found some coloured paper, glue, mini pompoms, small foam shapes, and furry wires. I cut some flower shapes out of two colours of paper, one colour bigger than the other, and a pot for the flowers to sit in. Then the boys (mainly Andrew whilst Joel tipped the pompoms out the bag!) helped me stick it all together. First we assembled the flower heads with glue and finished them with a mini pompom in the middle. Then we stuck them with tape to the top of the furry wires which became stalks. The other end of the stalks then fastened to the card with tape, and we glued the pot over the top. To finish off we stuck some leaf shaped foam bits to the card on either side of the stalks.

And there you go, a simple but effective Mother’s Day card – we made two identical, one for each Granny/Grandma.

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Mini Creations
Creative Challenge

The sand park – #CountryKids

Whilst we’ve been living at Granny and Grandad’s house, we’ve done lots of park trips, just like we used to back in Cambridge. The nearest park to us here in Coventry is the War Memorial Park, which is the biggest in the city. In fact, considering it’s only a 10-15 minute walk from the city centre, it’s easy to forget you’re in a big city whilst walking through its green fields.  We love it because it’s perfect for bike riding and getting a good walk in the open air, and yet it’s so close to home. Not to mention that it has an aviary, a skate park, and a couple of nice cafes.

Right in the middle is Andrew and Joel’s favourite bit: the ‘sand park’ as Andrew calls it. This is a play area that, unsurprisingly, has sand on the ground. It hasn’t always been like this – I remember playing there as a child and it was bark chipping underneath the climbing frames etc. The sand means that it’s almost like a mini beach, which is a nice idea for kids living in one of the most central cities of the UK, miles from the actual beach.

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Andrew in particular likes to play with the sand in the main bit of the park if we remember to take implements or if he finds some there. There is also a smaller section to one side, also with sand on the ground, that has buckets and pulleys, so you can lift sand off the ground and transport it around the climbing frame and do various things with it like put it down chutes, through a mill and through a colander. This provides lots of entertainment, and is just the right size for Joel to climb on too.

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It’s not quite like the beach in that there is no water most of the time. During the school summer holidays they open up a water area that has fountains another water features that the kids can run through and play in. I don’t think we’ve ever actually seen this working though!

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Generally the boys really enjoy this park, but I tend only to go there if I’m with another adult these days. The trouble is that most of the equipment is a little too old for them apart from the one section with buckets, and they both try to climb on the sections meant for older kids and teenagers, which I find stressful on my own. So we usually go to another park when it’s just the 3 of us. I’m sure this phase will pass, and we can go back there the 3 of us when they’re older. The sand is a lovely feature though, even if it does get everywhere – including all the way home!

Linking up with the fab #CountryKids linky at Coombe Mill’s blog as usual.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Experimenting with colour – #minicreations

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Recently it’s been mostly dry and sunny enough to go out in the garden or to the park after Joel’s afternoon nap. Yesterday, however, it was pouring with rain, so I had to think of something we could do indoors other than the usual toys that Andrew had been playing with whilst little brother was asleep. We’d done baking recently, and so had Granny so we have an abundance of cakes/biscuits, so that was less appealing. The other day when I was browsing Pinterest for something, I can’t even remember what exactly, I came across a cool science experiment to teach kids about colour mixing (it certainly was nothing to do with what I’d searched for at least). I didn’t pin it at the time, but remembered the concept, and recalled it just at the right moment.

When searching for it again last night, I found the pin! As you can see, the simple experiment involves filling two glasses with water and putting a small amount of different colour food colourings in each one, then sticking a piece of kitchen roll into each glass and the other end of each piece into a third glass. Over time the coloured water seeps up into the kitchen roll and down into the empty glass, where the colours mix and create a new colour.

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The two colours that I could find in the cupboard were red and blue. The boys were fascinated to see what I was doing during the setting up, and to see that the colours were soaking up into the kitchen roll. We talked about odours and Andrew heaped me position the glasses whilst Joel flapped his arms in the high chair. It was quite a wait, however, until there was any sign of a new colour in the third glass, so we left it and went back to playing, and it had even stopped raining enough to go in the garden for a bit.

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By tea time there was enough coloured water in the third glass to see its colour, and by bedtime it was a lovely deep purple, which I dipped a piece of kitchen roll into and it came out an almost Cadbury colour (purple is on my brain at the moment 😉 ) This morning when I shows him at breakfast what had happened, Andrew was very impressed! The magic of colour mixing.

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This was an educational activity to spend some time on during a rainy afternoon. I’ve since started a ‘rainy days activities’ board on Pinterest, and will look for some more fun activities to pin. Give me a shout if you have any on Pinterest that I could add.

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Linking up with the fab mini creations linky over at KidGLloves blog
Mini Creations

Word of the week – venture

Words are something that I’m not normally short of – I can waffle on at length in both writing and speech, particularly on subjects that interest me (Tom says that I have an uncanny ability to steer a conversation onto cloth nappies from most starting points!) So when I heard about the Word of the Week linky over at the Reading Residence blog, I thought it would be nice to join in when I can.

This week my word is: venture

For a while I’ve been having lots of fun sewing practical things for my boys – nappies, wipes, wet bags, bibs, clothes etc. I love to be creative in this way, and I enjoy the time I have to myself when sewing, it’s always good to have a bit of me-time when the boys are asleep or with Daddy/Granny. I also love to create practical things rather than ornamental crafts, and I particularly like upcycling items made of fabric (like clothes and blankets) into something new and useful.

But there’s only so many things that my boys need, so recently I’ve been contemplating whether to set up a small business to sell what I make. In some ways it’s quite daunting – I’m not particularly business-minded, though Tom is willing to help me with the accounting side of things. But in other ways it’s exciting to have a go and see what happens – if you don’t try, you never know. I have lots of creative ideas for what I’d like to make, whether I have time to make them all is another matter, and I’d already thought up a name. There are still some of the more boring business bits to sort out, but this week I started a Facebook page displaying some of the things I’ve made so far, mainly to see if people are interested beyond the friends and family who have already expressed their interest.

Now you can see how one of the main things occupying my mind this week (other than the usual daily family tasks) has been my new venture: Sewn Down Purple Lane

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The Reading Residence


Jars of change for Lent

A few weeks ago in church, we heard about WaterAid jars of change for Lent. The idea is that you give something up for Lent, and every time you would have/do whatever it is you’ve given up, you put some change in the jar roughly equal to what you would have spent on it. You can decorate the jar for fun too. At the end of Lent, the money you’ve raised goes to WaterAid, who will use the money to help provide safe drinking water in countries that desperately need it.

We thought that this sounded like a good idea. I’d been thinking about what to give up for Lent anyway, and it was a good excuse to have some fun decorating a jar with Andrew – we used an empty marmalade jar. Andrew had been given a ‘paint your own mug’ gift for his birthday, so first of all we did that, and then used the paint to start our decoration on the jar.

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I found some stencils in our craft box, and (surprise, surprise) Andrew chose the rocket stencil! Of course he insisted that we use red paint (the colour of Thunderbird 3), and I suggested we add some yellow detail at the bottom for the fire from when it blasts off. He also likes the colour pink, so we painted a pink band around the top. That was enough painting for one span of Andrew’s attention, so another day we finished off the jar by sticking on some small squares of paper with PVA glue in a kind of mosaic style – lots of fun and messy! Again, just about enough for his attention span, and finished off my me. Some red tape around the rim of the lid and ta da – it was finished.

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Then we had to actually decide what to give up. When I say ‘we’, I mean Tom and I – I don’t think trying to explain to Andrew about giving something up would go down too well, and besides, he’s a bit young yet. But he can start to understand by watching us, as with so many things in a toddler’s life. My abstinence had to be chocolate, as that is something I will really miss and eat quite a lot of as treats to keep me sane on our busy days (which is most days with my boys). Tom decided on bananas, as he eats at least one a day and loves them. I know, bananas are much more healthy than chocolate anyway, but he’s not so fussed about that – if you can believe it.

Tom may be unusual in giving up bananas, but both of us are not unusual in the act of giving something up for Lent. This tradition has been going on for centuries. The 40 days before Easter, which starts on Ash Wednesday, the day after Shrove Tuesday or Pancake day, is a time of reflection for Christians. It’s a time to think about what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross and rising again – to make up for all the bad things we do that keep us distant from God – in the lead up to Easter when we celebrate this. Traditionally Christians used to fast, so give up all kinds of food, in this period, because this was a way to focus their minds on contemplating Jesus. Some do still fast, and others give up just one or two things, whether a food like we’re doing or something else, and spend the time that would otherwise be spent on this activity praying or reading the Bible – in other words, spending time with God.

So that’s what I intend to do this Lent. Whenever I think about eating some chocolate, whether as a bar or in something, instead I will pop some money in our jar of change, and spend some time in quiet reflection of what Jesus means to me. It’s handy that most of the time that I eat chocolate is when the boys are in bed or quietly amusing themselves, so I should have no excuse to not spend that time quietly. It may mean spending less time doing the things I like, like sewing, blogging, social media-ing (don’t think that’s really a word but it sounded good to me), but I know that I will benefit from it, I always do when I spend time with God.

Are you giving up something for Lent? What are your reasons behind it? Maybe you too could think about doing a jar of change? I’d love to hear if you do 🙂

The making of a superhero (or 2)

This week, as well as Joel’s first birthday, has included the 31st October. Now to lots of people that means Halloween, but we’re not into celebrating something that originated in dark things, even though these days it’s just a vastly over commercialised festival that most people take part in without any intention of deliberately celebrating evil. Instead we like to join in with the annual ‘Light Party’ that’s put on at our Church, celebrating all things light, including Jesus who we believe is the ‘Light of the World’. We still have lots of fun dressing up, eating treats and spending time with friends, we just do it in a way that doesn’t remember anything like witches, ghost and the devil.

This year’s theme was ‘superheroes’, and children who went were encouraged to dress up as a superhero if they wanted to. I knew that Andrew would want to join in, and thought it would be cute if Joel did too. I also knew that I didn’t have much time to make costumes (a couple of hours last Saturday morning), but I did a quick search on Pinterest and got a few ideas for quick and easy superhero costumes.


I decided that the superhero kit would include: a cape with letter design, a belt, wrist cuffs with lightening bolt design, and a mask. They then wore ordinary clothes with these accessories – for Joel that was a nappy, leg warmers and a plain top; for Andrew that was trousers and a top that I painted a star on last Christmas for the Nativity Play, with pants on the outside. Andrew’s colour theme was yellow (mainly influenced by the star), and Joel’s was green (mainly influenced by his green star leg warmers).

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The capes were made from an old black t-shirt of Daddy’s. I hemmed the edges quickly, and folded over the top, sewed it down and passed a length of elastic through to make a simple cape. I also appliquéd a letter in the centre for each of them: A for Andrew and J for Joel.

The belts and wrist cuffs were made from duck tape stuck onto paper, and then coloured card stuck on with double sided tape to make the ‘buckles’ and lightening bolt details. I was inspired by Martha Stewart’s blog to use duck tape for these. I then used snaps (which I use for nappy making) to secure them around the waist/wrist.

For the masks I simply cut out a mask shape, cut eye holes in, and fastened some elastic to go around the head using tape. I was amazed that Joel actually kept his on his forehead for the whole party, and Andrew wore his on his eyes for a while before it broke after some rather enthusiastic bouncing on the bouncy castle.

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It was really hard to get good photos of them in the costumes at the party, most of mine are really blurry because they wouldn’t stay still! But I think you get the idea from the photo I took of the costumes before the superheroes got into them 😉 We had a lot of fun at the party; the boys (and I, and Grandma and Pop who came too) were all exhausted afterwards because they were constantly on the go exploring all the different games and activities that there were on offer, just like little superheroes who can never really rest with all the important work they have to do!

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Our shoebox for Operation Christmas Child

For a few years now we’ve been joining in with Operation Christmas Child – the world’s largest children’s Christmas project, run by the Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse. The mission of the project is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

Since having children of our own, we have really appreciated how blessed we are to have enough money to feed and clothe them, as well as buy them other nice things, and to have family and friends who give us so many gifts for them that they are never in want of anything. For many children around the world, this is not what life is like.

The idea behind OCC is for people in the UK to send shoeboxes packed with gifts that children in less well-off countries would like to receive. These gifts can include various items from toys and stationary to toiletries and woolies. The shoe boxes should be wrapped up in bright and cheerful wrapping paper, and a sticker stuck on indicating if the gifts inside are for a boy or a girl and which age range they are suitable for.

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In previous years we’ve always done one for a boy, just because I happen to have seen gifts that are more suitable for boys, and since having boys myself, I guess my eye is drawn towards these items in shops anyway. This year, however, when we popped into a few shops, I mainly saw things suitable for girls (or gender neutral) so we went for that. Andrew helped me choose what to buy, and I explained that we were getting these things as presents for a little girl who lives far away from us but who would love to have some nice presents this Christmas, just like he will. I’m not sure he gets the concept of someone living far away from us, but he seemed to understand that we were buying the gifts and putting them in the box for another child.

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OCC like the gifts in the box to include items from all four categories: toys, stationary and school supplies, toiletries and other (sweets/hat/gloves/jewellery etc.) Our gifts included a bumper pack of wax crayons, a ‘Hello Kitty’ notepad/pencil/rubber/sharpener set, a beany teddy, a slinky spring, toothbrushes, soap, flannel, necklace, hair clips. All together these cost us around £10. In order to help with shipping costs, OCC also suggest a £3 donation, which can be done online by credit card.

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We decorated our shoebox with red wrapping paper on the bottom, silver wrapping paper on the lid, and a ribbon stuck on the lid (you’re not supposed to wrap the whole box up or seal it by tying ribbon around the box, because sometimes they need to look in it for customs or other reasons), and finished off with a reindeer tag on the lid. We hope that the little girl who receives it will enjoy opening it and finding out what’s inside.

If you’d like to find out more about Operation Christmas Child, and even get involved yourself by packing a shoebox (or two, or three), visit the OCC website.

Autumn leaves – #CountryKids

This week we have noticed a lot of crunchy leaves on the ground as we’ve been walking into town and back, and also right on our front doorstep (so to speak) on the driveway. Andrew loves jumping in them and making a rustling sound, and we’ve been talking about the various colours that the leaves are: lots of yellows, some orange and some brown, as well as the green ones still on the trees.

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I love the colours that are around in Autumn, especially on a sunny day as there have been quite a few this week, along with some rainier spells. I hope that by talking about this with Andrew, he will start to notice the changes that take place on a yearly cycle, and learn about the seasons through experiencing what they look/feel like outdoors.

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As well as leaves on the ground, we’ve also been spotting leaves blowing in the wind, especially on the very windy days that we’ve had recently. Not that I know much about which specific trees they’ve come from, but again I’ve been talking about the colours and shapes with Andrew.

On our travels and outside on the drive and in the garden, we’ve picked up a few different leaves, ranging from huge ones from the trees in town to tiny ones from the trees in our area. I thought it would be good to keep a record of these, something that can be stuck on the cupboard doors in the boys’ room where all our ‘artwork’ goes, so we did some leaf rubbing with wax crayons.

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This was very simple to do, but very effective in that the leaf patterns came out clearly. Andrew was interested, though he needed my help to press down hard enough with the side of the crayon so that the pattern of the leaves came through well enough for him to see. We sandwiched the leaves between 2 pieces of coloured A4 paper, and rubbed with the side of a wax crayon over the surface above the leaves. Now we can remember the leaves that we collected in autumn, even though they are all shrivelled and dried up now.

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Quite a short post for me, but still linking it up with the amazing #CountryKids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall