Make It Monday: Birthday Shenanigans Part 2 ‘Sarah & Duck’

I crocheted the Lamb a ‘Sarah’ doll and Sarah’s favourite animal, a sea cow.

We recently celebrated the Lamb’s third (THIRD!!) birthday. She’s heavily into dinosaurs at the moment so I had planned a dinosaur theme for her birthday. However, as always, the best laid plans for scuppered when two weeks before her birthday, she announced she wanted a ‘Sarah and Duck’ theme. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Sarah and Duck is a charming and quirky cartoon featuring a young girl ‘Sarah’, her friend ‘Duck’ who lives with her and a plethora (I really don’t use the word ‘plethora’ enough. Plethora. Love it) of interesting characters, from ‘Scarf Lady’ who is perpetually knitting and her grumpy knitting bag, Umbrella who doesn’t like the rain, Bug who collects buttons, Plate Girl, Ribbon Sisters, the list goes on.


Which luckily means there are a huge number of characters to draw inspiration from. As we do every birthday, we decorated our fireplace.


With help from the Lamb, we made pom-poms. Pom-poms are a craft I’d been looking forward to doing with the Lamb for a while. It’s very simple and mess-free, plus we loved throwing our pom-poms in the air. Their ‘bed’ was actually a cleaned out croissant tray and we shredded some brown packing paper to make soil. We stuck some eyes on the pom-poms, then it was a case of ‘Hello!’, ‘Hello!’, ‘Hello!’, ‘Ahoy!’


Duck was another toddler-friendly craft with lots of tissue paper stuck onto a cardboard duck. Sometimes the simple crafts are the most fun and effective.


Next up was the paper chains, because it’s not a birthday without paper chains. I found an umbrella shaped hole punch in Tiger (I’ve seen them in multiple stores) and set to work. ‘Umbrella’ in Sarah and Duck is red so I tried different methods of creating a red umbrella. Finally I opted to punch strips of yellow paper, then highlight the holes with red paper, which I think created a lovely effect. It was time consuming but looked pretty good, although I cut the red backing paper a little too narrow so from the back it looked a little messy. The Lamb didn’t mind though.


Another view of the paper chains and the paint blown ‘Moon’ to created a few weeks ago.


In one episode Sarah’s plant isn’t too well. It turns out that ‘Bug’ has been storing buttons in the flower pot. Sarah makes Bug a ‘Button’ bank so I filled a jar with my most colourful buttons and added a label. I think Bug would really like this little Bank, don’t you?


Some paper lanterns became ‘Moon’ and ‘Venus’ and more tissue paper helped create ‘Flamingo’ .


And of course, what would a birthday be without ‘Cake’. Fans of the show will know the talkative cake was make for Duck but ended up helping ‘Bread Man’ in his shop. And what flavour was the cake? Lemon drizzle of course!

Does your little one like Sarah and Duck? Have you thrown a Sarah and Duck themed party? Let me know!

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100 Days of Happiness: Day Fourteen

Bit of an early start as we hit the beach for a relaxing walk. It was so lovely to see the pup and Lamb playing together And the bond growing between them. We also saw the Portuguese ‘man of war’ jellyfish which is apparently plaguing our local beaches at the moment. There was also digging, shell collecting and chasing waves. So much fun!

What made you happy today?

The Silence

It’s been a long week. To differing degrees we’ve all been ill (even the pup,) and we’re shattered. Hubby has gone to bed early, taking the pup with him and the toddler passed out, still clutching her favourite book, hours ago. I’ve just finished watching a silly horror movie and should be working on the review, but as I turned off the TV it hit me: The silence. 

It’s not totally silent, the heating is doing that low hum, the clock next door which hasn’t told the right time in months is ticking and I can hear people and cars outside but I close my eyes and it’s so quiet.

Silent.

And yet…..

A new set of voices has been nagging me recently, demanding I tell their tale. There’s been muttering, waking me in the night with a snippet of dialogue, a name or an action scene, a delicate whisper whilst making tea or a shout as I prepare our bags for the day.

And tonight, in the silence, their voices are a roar. I’m hoping tomorrow I’ll be able to make sense of the assorted post it notes I’ve written on, that half-formed ideas will percolate and be brewed overnight and things will be a little more cohesive. They’re whispering their names, shyly letting me know their preferences, twirling their costumes and sharing their voices. They’re coalescing, becoming more real (or as real as the Lamb’s assorted imaginary friends). I’m learning their wants, desires and mostly their challenges. This band of beaten women who want me to tell their story, now have an enemy to face and it will be a hell of a battle!

In Search of Happiness

An old school friend, Kerensa undertook the ‘100 Days of Happiness Challenge’ back in  2014. To say she was in a challenging period is an understatement – her husband had sadly passed away, leaving her with a baby. She had to move her life back to the UK from the US, with all the assorted stress a house move takes, with the added challenge of shipping across continents then reestablishing her life in a new town. As she says herself, Kerensa was running on pure adrenaline and once that was gone, reality began to set in. In order to alleviate the mental fugue she undertook the challenge to take a photo every day of something which had made her happy, no matter how fleeting, and share it. It proved an inspiration for many of us to see her photos and hear how she was getting on.

Three years later, Kerensa has remarried and has a baby daughter. In honour of her first husband’s memory, she has decided to undertake the ‘100 Days Challenge’ again and I’ve decide to join her! Like so many, we’ve been facing our challenges here at Casa CH and I realised that even the ‘fun’ things are now starting to feel like an obligation. We’re also entering some of my favourite times of year – Halloween and Christmas but I know once the fairy lights come down, the melancholy sets in so it will be good for me to keep finding a little brightness in the winter.

Follow me on @bluebeaglebaby and check back here to see what has cheered me up during the day and let me know if you’re taking part too – I’d love to see your photos! 

Movie Review: Ink (2009)


Synopsis: As we sleep the Storyteller and Incubi battle for our dreams, and in the case of little Emma, for her very soul. Her father, John must journey to save her. Will he be able to save her from the strange creature ‘Ink’?

Director: Jamie Winans

Starring: Christopher Soren Kelly, Quinn Hunchar and Jessica Duffy

Review: I watch a LOT of movies and have had a run of very bad films (check out my Reviews) so it was such a joy to discover ‘Ink’ (and the other film by Wimins, ‘Frame’ but more on that next week). I really, REALLY enjoyed it so prepare for gushing.

Where to start? The soundtrack, cinematography, originality of story and (the majority of the) acting is sublime. 

The story: father John (Kelly) worksto hard and doesn’t spend them with his daughter Emma (Hunchar). During a battle with the ‘Storytellers’ and the ‘Incubi’ Emma’s soul is stolen by ‘Ink’ who’s determined to use it to pay his way into the Incubi. Cue Storyteller Liev (Duffy) who vows to protect her while other Storytellers battle to safe them. Ok, so it doesn’t sound that original But Winans visual and style raise this above the usual fair. The opening battle between the Storytellers. And Incubi may not have the slick punches of a Hollywood blockbuster but it’s well choreographed and makes good use of the space. My favourite character is the blind man but Duffy emits an inner grace I can only aspire to. 

The difference in colours between the real world, land of dreams and world of nightmares was a treat and I didn’t feel the changes pulled you out of the story. There’s also an interesting use of lighting, especially in the world of nightmares which I won’t spoil for you but which were very clever. 

The sets and costumes were mixed, but didn’t suggest a lack of design or care in their creation. Again, this isn’t a big-budget film but I was extremely impressed with what was created using their budget. This is helped by the directors use of different colour filters for each ‘land’.

The soundtrack is beautiful, a mix of haunting piano and some other arrangements. It fits perfectly with the directors visuals and is my new favourite writing music. 

But there have to be some negatives. A few of the actors give uneven performances, including Kelly which does make the movie feel disjointed. Other reviewers have complained about the visuals which they found jarring or too unusual to accept, or the lack of classification for this film – is it fantasy? A horror? Sci fi? But for me, it didn’t need classification, it was a beautiful movie which defied classification and was the stronger for it because it emcompassed so much. 

So, there are a huge number of independent film makers out there, many of whom are doing (in my opinion!) amazing work and need our support. Winans visuals may not appeal to all but his beautiful storytelling and the haunting music means you’ll be thinking of ‘Ink’ long after the credits have finished. 

Make it Monday: Birthday Shenanigans ‘Lord of the Rings’

I remember birthdays as a child, mostly the cake (the infamous ‘Rabbit Castle’ will go down in family history but that’s a story for another day) but parties and fun. Since having the Lamb we’ve tried to put extra special effort into celebrating birthdays, decorating the house and of course, baking a special cake. This year hubby celebrated a special birthday so the Lamb and I made and decorated the house, as well as baking an extra-special birthday. Can you guess the theme? IMG_2844.JPG

The assorted books by JRR Tolkien have long been hubby’s favourite so we created Middle Earth here in Devon!

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Our porch door became a Hobbit hole
It was a lot of fun creating the decorations and we used different craft skills.

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Shelob was a black pom pom.
It took quite a while to do all the lettering but luckily I found some sites on Pinterest to help. Of course, we needed a ‘Happy Birthday’ banner.

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And I also made a number of small banners, based on the different characters……

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Eeeeep! The white hand of the Urak Hai!

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My House of Rohan design. Getting the right shape of the horses head was a bit tricky but I’m happy with the result

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Gandalf’s symbol
Of course, we needed Sauron’s Eye to watch our celebrations….

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And I tested hubby on his Elvish…..

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Can you guess what this says? Not a traditional Elvish quote from the books, but thought it apt for hubby
Our hallway. Down the banister I knitted brown ‘branches’ with the leaves of Lothlorian while there were streamers and balloons from the ceiling as more branches and leaves.

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I needle-felted Gandalf (if you’d like one made to order, comment below or email bluebeaglebaby(at)gmail.com) which was fun and I look forward to making more. Perhaps I’ll eventually felt the other characters.

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And created these luggage/gift tags

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And finally the cake. And in-keeping with the books, we celebrated in Hobbiton!

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A very happy birthday to hubby!

What did you think of our Middle Earth birthday? Have you had a themed party? Let me know in the comments below!

Make it: Be blown away with paint!

The school holidays seem to be particularly dreary this year. The toddler seems to have fallen slightly out of love with painting so I decided to come up with a new method to renew her passion. 


This was a super-simple, fun and VERY messy project and one we both enjoyed. Seriously though, if you decide to try it, paint goes EVERYWHERE so make sure you put lots of paper down.


Those who know me, know I’m terrible at drawing (I once drew a stick an with three knees….) but luckily ‘Moon’ from the toddlers new favourite show (Sarah & Duck) is easy enough for even my cack-handedness to draw. I also did a few other simple outlines, including a tree, Spidergirl and a hedgehog.


Next, it was time to pour the paint. I bit of trial and error taught us that small drops, fairly close together worked better.


Then it was time to blow!


It was fun trying different lengths of straw and different ‘blowing’ techniques from short, sharp puffs, to longer blows while moving the straw around. They created surprisingly different results.


The tree is a little abstract.


Spider girl turned into a Deadpool/Venom hybrid. We used slightly too much paint on this one….


And here’s Moon, waving on his way to work.

Have you tried blow-painting? How did you get on? Let me know in the comments below! 

The Big Interview: Lois Kay

It’s funny and ironic but some of the loveliest Brits I’ve met have been one my travels and this is true of Lois. We both worked in Spain and would celebrate the end of a working week each Thursday (Feliz Jueves!) as we worked our way along Calle Laurel, tasting pinchos and wine as we went. Happy days!

Lois recently undertook the ‘plastic challenge’ from the Marine Conservation Society where she gave up using single-use plastic for a month and spoke to me about how it went. Lots of hints and tips which I’ll be using for my Earth Day Pledges.

GCH: Can you briefly tell us about your no plastic challenge?

LK: Promoted by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) for the month of June 2017, I didn’t use any food, cosmetics, toiletries or cleaning products contained within single use* packaging http://www.mcsuk.org/plasticchallenge/

Together with the MCS I tried to raise awareness of the reality which is that many single use plastic items end up in our seas and on our beaches, where they persist and impact our marine life and that nearly of these items we really didn’t need in the first place.

*a single use plastic is anything which has a very short lifespan in terms of its usage. Think of a plastic bag containing rice which rarely would get re-used, pots of ready prepared sliced fruit with a plastic film over the top – not resuable at all.

GCH: What motivated you to take part in a ‘no plastic’ challenge?

LK: I wanted to see whether it was possible, to see what positive changes I might be able to bring about amongst friends and colleagues. I love snorkeling and swimming in the sea, and it makes me so sad to see such a beautiful natural environment often damaged by humans wastefulness.


GCH: Did you need to buy anything new to help you with your no plastic challenge?

LK: Yes a lot!

I generally cook with fresh ingredients so that was just making the change from convenience shopping where the fruit and veg is in packaged in punnets to buying loose and visiting local fruit&veg shops – which I really enjoyed, and wish I had done more of before.

But then I realised that food really wasn’t the main problem – my toiletries, cosmetics and cleaning products are all in plastic packaging. So…I made a lot of things from scratch, didn’t wear make-up for the month aside from my homemade mascara (burn almonds until charcoal, and mix with vaseline), and have now switched permanently to Lush shampoo and conditioner bars. I also invested in a metal safety razor to replace disposable plastic ones.

GCH: What’s been the most challenging aspect of the challenge so far?

LK: Snacks. Everything in the shop bar fruit is wrapped in plastic! There’s only so much fruit you can eat! Once I found cashews, pistachios and almonds loose in a local Asian shop together with dates it got a bit better, and I have made quite a few cakes, biscuits, and my mum did make a batch of homemade crisps for my birthday party!

I didn’t manage to find pasta or noodles not in plastic anywhere so went without one of my favourite meals – pad thai in June!

GCH: Do you think it will be easy to continue once the 30 days are over?

LK: A lot of things now seem so easy. The first few weeks giving up Singe Use Plastics were really hard trying to find alternatives to my normal shop but now I have figured out a lot of it, I am going to continue with switching away from plastics as far as possible.

GCH: Any hints or tips for people looking to do the same challenge, or to even simply reduce the amount of single-use plastic they use?

LK: The four big nasties ending up in the oceans are Plastic Bags, Plastic Bottles, Plastics Straws, and Plastic Coffee Cups. I ask everyone to really try and unless an emergency, find alternatives or just do-without.

  • Make it fun and not a chore, spend a Sunday exploring your local shops and see what plastic free products you can find. Find a how-to online and make your own soap or lipbalm.
  • Stock up on glass jars and containers for all your lovely homemade products.
  • Talk to people about what you’re doing, You will feel empowered, people can be inquisitive and perhaps defensive about their habits to begin with but once you sow the seed in their minds, you will get a lot of respect and more

GCH: What other things have you done/will you do to minimise your carbon footprint?

LK: Cycle as much as possible and not just for recreation. Since I bought a second hand bike with a pannier rack (I am a big fan of bungee cords now!) I can go on adventures around Greater Manchester and do my shopping. You can travel through parks and along canal towpaths – something which you definitely can’t do in a car.

GCH: You’ve travelled extensively. Has seeing how different countries approach recycling and refuse disposal influenced you?

LK: It was sad to see the state of some of the laybys and waterways in Cambodia and Phillipines filled with rubbish but they are some of the loveliest people I have ever met and also some of the poorest. If they had access to the same infrastructure and education we have here in the UK, they and their environment would benefit in so many ways.

In the flip side, I don’t know how England is so far behind some of our European neighbours who pay a deposit for plastic bottles and on their return, the bottles are re-used. Knowledge and awareness around packaging and recycling, and the benefits of the basics of reducing and reusing could be so much better here!

GCH: We’re constantly asked if we have a favourite country and it’s always so difficult to choose because everywhere we’ve visited has been special. Do you have a favourite country or place?

LK:
• Cambodia for beaches and rivers
• Barcelona for its architecture
• Bangkok for its amazing buzz
• Manchester – my home
• Greece – for the food and friendly people

GCH: You’ve lived abroad. Any hints for people planning to move to a foreign country? How do you integrate yourself with the locals?

LK:
• Speak the native language at every opportunity
• A smile will help overcome what may seem like many barriers in communication and will make you so many friends along the way
• Admit when you need help or even just a hug.

GCH: Where would you like to visit again?

LK: Budapest in summer! I visited in December, and the -8 temperature made sightseeing a little tricky. I’v also heard in summer they have amazing roof terrace bars. That said, one of my most memorable travel experiences was sitting in the dark in an outdoor 30 degree pool in Budapest whilst snow fell around me.

 

Have you done the plastic challenge? Let us know in the comments below.

Make it Monday: Room On The Broom inspired Quiet Book


We’re HUGE fans of Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler’s books here at Beagle HQ. So much so that the toddler’s last birthday was themed around some of their more famous books, but that’s a post for another day.

A zipper for a mouth
What’s inside? Some other characters!

I wanted to make the toddler something a bit different, so I combined some of her favourite characters with different openers and fasteners to help her improve her dexterity and coordination. The product was ‘Evie’s Quiet Book’.

Bird’s wing has a magnetic which helps it move. There’s also plenty of ribbon to practice tying bows

Quiet books seem to be hugely popular and it’s easy to see why: soft to touch for little hands, they are only limited by your imagination and can keep little people occupied for ages. 

Help Dog count bones

I created a page for each of the main characters: Witch, Cat, Dog, Bird, Frog, Dragon plus all of them on the broom.

What’s in Cat’s cauldron?
All the ingredients fro a witches brew! Each item is sewn onto a popper so can be removed for an endless mix of spells

I tried to use a mix of fabrics and materials to make it interesting to touch as well as various colours. Some worked better than others, with some of the coarser fabric fraying, however I think this adds to the characters. 

The Dragon isn’t too gruff here – he has a squeaker for a voice

There are also different fasteners including zips, poppers, buttons and clips, all of which encourage to toddler to explore and learn how to use them. They’ve helped her improve her manual dexterity while also teaching her some key skills for getting dressed. 

Help the Witch button her cardigan and plait her hair, but be careful not to lose her ribbon!

I think the Witch is my favourite page. Her long ginger hair is a mix of different wools, from very soft, to slightly more coarse and even a few strands from my rag doll I had as a baby! Perfect for learning how to plait, and to tie a ribbon! Her cardigan also needs buttoning. This was the only page where I used my sewing machine (for the cardigan), all the rest was sewn by hand.

And out flew, a magnificent broom!

The last page is the broom with all the characters sat safely in their seats. I made the finger puppets as a fun accompaniment when reading the book, but they can be used for reenactment while out and about, or for creating new adventures!

Endless fun with the finger puppets

Have you made a quiet book? Do you like the characters from the Gruffalo and Room on the Broom? Let me know in the comments below.